Are billionaires rich enough yet?

Elixir

How dare you introduce such inconvenient facts?!

Hermit

Cantankerous grump
So is it good or bad that one American has performed services for others that they appreciate more than $230 billion? No one billionaire has performed services for others that they appreciate more than$230 billion. They acquired their wealth by creaming off the difference between the value others have created by their labour and what they have been paid for.

Bomb#20

Contributor
Since Mao's golden age of non-oppression ended, the amount of oppression in China must have been shooting through the roof.
They're pretty hard on dissidents, yeah. And currently committing genocide.
And they weren't hard on dissidents and committing genocide in Mao's time? What's the body count of the current genocide, and how many people did Mao murder? The theory that it's oppression that makes billionaires is without empirical support.

Bomb#20

@Bomb#20

No one billionaire has performed services for others that they appreciate more than $230 billion. They acquired their wealth by creaming off the difference between the value others have created by their labour and what they have been paid for. Do you have any empirical evidence that "value" is a thing any more than "qi" is a thing? In empirical terms the value of a product is what consumers pay for it. Elixir Made in America your theory that the Chinese people are impoverished and it's only because they call people making over$2.30 a day non-impoverished that it looks like 99% are out of poverty, but back when 10% were earning over $2.30 a day, they weren't a lot more impoverished? My how those goalposts can run. Your theory is that the China model is good because it raised everyone “up” to the$2.30/day level of affluence, so we should emulate that model.
Got it.
Now you can reinforce that utopian vision by showing how the magnanimity of billionaires was an essential component in raising people from shit-poor to dirt-poor.

Politesse

Lux Aeterna
Fred Phelps was a bigoted homophobe. I'm not. But that's irrelevant anyway. I haven't asked you to accept anything on my say-so.
And the difference between a bigoted homophobe and a bigoted billionairophobe is that the one has a theory for why his outgroup deserve to be hated, while the other has a theory for why his outgroup deserve to be eaten.
Billionaires are not a discriminated class.

Indeed, if you think that people who by definition want for nothing could be considered an object of discrimination because people criticize the social cost of their extreme wealth, the only thing you're proving here is that you have no idea what it is like to be in a discriminated class.

And as I have said, I don't give a shit about billionaires anyway. They are the symptom, not the disease.

Bomb#20

Contributor
your theory that the Chinese people are impoverished and it's only because they call people making over $2.30 a day non-impoverished that it looks like 99% are out of poverty, but back when 10% were earning over$2.30 a day, they weren't a lot more impoverished?
My how those goalposts can run.
No one billionaire has performed services for others that they appreciate more than $230 billion. They acquired their wealth by creaming off the difference between the value others have created by their labour and what they have been paid for. Do you have any empirical evidence that "value" is a thing any more than "qi" is a thing? In empirical terms the value of a product is what consumers pay for it. In which case, the value of all the Teslas is what car consumers pay Musk for them, and the value of the labor Musk bought in the process of creating those cars is what the labor consumer -- Musk -- pays for it. Call that amount "X". Then figuring out a way to turn labor with value X into cars with value X+$230 billion is a service that Musk has performed for car buyers -- a service without which the laborers and the car buyers would never have cooperated on a get laborers to work on cars venture. And it's a service that has value $230 billion*, since that's what consumers paid for it. Your definition of "value" in empirical terms refutes your claim. (* The$230 billion is of course just a verbal stand-in for whatever Musk's actual income is. We're only pretending it's $230 billion to simplify the discussion; the correct figure is far lower. His net worth isn't that high because people have given him that much; it's that high because people would hypothetically give him that much if he hypothetically gave them all his stock. Calling all that hypothetical money "income" is rather like saying a waitress has an income of$500,000 because that's what her unsold sexual favors would bring her if she hypothetically quit waitressing and became a sex worker, so her unsold sexual favors count as an asset that has appreciated to $500,000.) Bomb#20 Contributor And I apologize if I've misused the word "morality." I always thought that it dealt with matters of good and evil, but now realize that it apparently can be applied also to matters of economic science, laws of nature like gravity, and so on! You know the statement "Reducing income inequality is good because it makes for a better happier society." asserts something to be good, don't you? You know that "better" is the comparative form of "good", don't you? You know that "good" is a matter of good and evil and not a matter of economic science, don't you? If you had said only "Reducing income inequality makes for a happier society.", that might arguably* be a matter of economic science. The extra moral judgments you padded it with move it firmly into the moral realm. (* Or maybe not. As noted upthread, "Reducing income inequality" contains a conflation, which scientific statements eschew. Moreover, a society is not a mind. An attribution of happiness to a non-mind is a metaphor, which scientific statements eschew. Any given change to a society will typically make some members happier and other members unhappier; to describe such a situation as "a happier society" is therefore an implicit judgment that the increased happiness of the former group is more significant than the decreased happiness of the latter group. If there is a way to make such a judgment scientifically, it has not been clarified. Unclarity is yet other thing scientific statements eschew.) Swammerdami Squadron Leader Staff member And I apologize if I've misused the word "morality." I always thought that it dealt with matters of good and evil, but now realize that it apparently can be applied also to matters of economic science, laws of nature like gravity, and so on! You know the statement "Reducing income inequality is good because it makes for a better happier society." asserts something to be good, don't you? You know that "better" is the comparative form of "good", don't you? I fell down due to gravity and bruised my arms. Therefore that gravity was BAD, and therefore a matter of morality. You know that "bad" is the antonym of "good," don't you? PLEASE! We're arguing pointlessly. I plan to desist now. Can you? Swammerdami Squadron Leader Staff member Are billionaires rich enough yet? No. They deserve better than a return of$5000 per second for the sweat of their brows. It's only fair, because in The Free World™ anybody could do that, but only the hard workers could be bothered to put the effort in.
The figure $5000 per second rather astounded me, so I checked your arithmetic. Elon Musk reported more than$26 billion in income in the latest year; these are not hypothetical dollars; they are the profit on actual shares of Tesla that he actually sold. Assuming wages are paid on 8/5 labor rather than 24/7 (and allowing for 22 days of vacation, holidays and sick leave) this works out to a net wage of $3850 per second. But this income was NOT subject to payroll tax withholdings so is equivalent to gross pay of about$4200 per second.

Rounding Mr. Musk's actual wage of $4200 per second all the way up to a humongous$5000 per second is the sort of anti-capitalist exaggerations which are rightfully condemned. Shame on you, Hermit!

(* The $230 billion is of course just a verbal stand-in for whatever Musk's actual income is. We're only pretending it's$230 billion to simplify the discussion; the correct figure is far lower.
Yes his income was only $4200 per second in 2021, and was much lower in previous years. Calling all that hypothetical money "income" is rather like saying a waitress has an income of$500,000 because that's what her unsold sexual favors would bring her if she hypothetically quit waitressing and became a sex worker, so her unsold sexual favors count as an asset that has appreciated to $500,000.) I remember that waitress! I went on a date with her and, after a very pleasant time, was taken aback when she insisted she'd need$50 to go all the way. She'd already teased me into such frenzied eagerness that I'd be able to endure only half a minute or so before la petite mort. She did lower the price slightly when I pointed out that her price worked out to $6000/hour, even more than Elon Musk's$4200.

Oh wait. Musk didn't make $4200 per hour; he made$4200 per second! People really love those EVs!

Bomb#20

Contributor
Are billionaires rich enough yet?
No. They deserve better than a return of $5000 per second for the sweat of their brows. It's only fair, because in The Free World™ anybody could do that, but only the hard workers could be bothered to put the effort in. You appear to be trying to mock somebody's position; but all you're actually doing is imagining what an opposing argument might look like if it were composed by someone who came to an opposing conclusion from yours even though he accepted all your unproven premises. Bomb#20 Contributor Assuming wages are paid on 8/5 labor rather than 24/7 (and allowing for 22 days of vacation, holidays and sick leave) this works out to a net wage of$3850 per second. But this income was NOT subject to payroll tax withholdings so is equivalent to gross pay of about $4200 per second. No it isn't -- actual gross pay of$4200 per second wouldn't be subject to much payroll tax withholdings either -- Social Security maxes out at $143K because Social Security benefits stop rising beyond that level. Social Security tax mostly isn't a real tax but rather a compulsory pension plan. Rounding Mr. Musk's actual wage of$4200 per second all the way up to a humongous $5000 per second is the sort of anti-capitalist exaggerations which are rightfully condemned. Shame on you, Hermit! Your plan to desist from arguing pointlessly sure lasted a long time. I remember that waitress! I went on a date with her and, after a very pleasant time, was taken aback when she insisted she'd need$50 to go all the way. She'd already teased me into such frenzied eagerness that I'd be able to endure only half a minute or so before la petite mort. She did lower the price slightly when I pointed out that her price worked out to $6000/hour, even more than Elon Musk's$4200.

Oh wait. Musk didn't make $4200 per hour; he made$4200 per second! People really love those EVs!
I once played chess with an international grandmaster. It took him half an hour to kick my ass. Pretty good, huh? (Sorry, I forgot to mention, he was also playing against fifty other people in one of those simultaneous exhibitions.)

That waitress was good, sure -- but she was only doing one customer at a time.

Elixir

"they" started making sure people weren’t quite literally starving in the 1970s and 1980s, and started making baby steps toward deinstitutionalizing poverty on a massive scale.
Lol!
Yah - de-institutionalizing by re-defining the word “poverty” to mean “living on less than $2.30USD /day” instead of “”starving to death”. Now you are holding them up as … heroes? Economic progressives? I really don’t know what you’re on about, but the fact remains that the Chinese economic oppression of the masses is, contrary to what you seem to be trying to posit, a huge billionaire factory. Making sure the masses aren’t starving is just step one, like making sure there’s some gas in the tank. Last edited: Bomb#20 Contributor "they" started making sure people weren’t quite literally starving in the 1970s and 1980s, and started making baby steps toward deinstitutionalizing poverty on a massive scale. Lol! Yah - de-institutionalizing by re-defining the word “poverty” to mean “living on less than$2.30USD /day” instead of “”starving to death”.
Um, in the first place, don't you think changing it from "starving to death" would qualify as an improvement? In the second place, the de-institutionalizers didn't redefine it. That's not a Chinese definition. Definitions like that are used by NGOs and the World Bank. And in the third place, the number is that low because that reflects the reality of life in the third world through most of the 20th century. You're ridiculing it from the blinkered perspective of an American. But you can pick whatever number you please as your personal "poverty" definition and you'll see a parallel line of improvement in the Chinese poverty rate since Mao's death.

Now you are holding them up as … heroes? Economic progressives?
Why do you keep trying to shove your made-up narrative into my mouth? I'm holding them up as reducers of oppression. Deng was a Communist, and he was a serial killer massively-parallel killer; but he was still the best thing that could have happened to the country in the state Mao drove it into. Cometh the hour cometh the man. What, you think handing the People's Republic of China over to the Dalai Lama was a viable option?

I really don’t know what you’re on about, but the fact remains that the Chinese economic oppression of the masses is, contrary to what you seem to be trying to posit, a huge billionaire factory.
Even after all its reforms, China is still generating billionaires at 25% below the world's average rate. The numbers look high only because China has 1.4 billion people. Some billionaire factory. Lack of oppression makes billionaires.

Canard DuJour

Veteran Member
China's economic liberalisation resulted in more billionaires and less dire poverty.

Russia's economic liberalisation resulted in more billionaires and more dire poverty.

Globally, economic liberalisation resulted in more billionaires and slower economic growth.
Slower growth + more inequality = most folks worse off than they'd otherwise have been.

China did its own version of economic liberalisation, which was not western neoliberalism and actually quite authoritarian.

Russia accepted the western neoliberal model which has made most folks in the west worse off, pushed millions of Russians into dire poverty and resulted in an authoritarian/nationalist backlash - AKA Putin.

I won't point out the Western parallels with Trump, Brexit, Le Pen.. oops I have pointed it out.

As others point out, the billionaires are symptom, not disease.

Elixir

Um, in the first place, don't you think changing it from "starving to death" would qualify as an improvement?

Of course. An incremental improvement in the Ives of hundreds of millions and multiplied amounts of wealth for a relatively very few multimillionaires, results in what we see; lots of billionaires.
The trick that Chinese are “good” at is getting max labor for min cost. Once you have that, you can entice foreign manufacturers to let you do the job, and once nobody else is willing to underbid you, your labor is a required element for a foreign - say American - company to be competitive in production. Then, if the product is successful, they steal the intellectual property and make it for themselves.
Don’t fool yourself that they made things real good for anyone other than the elites.

Bomb#20

Contributor
Then, if the product is successful, they steal the intellectual property and make it for themselves.
[rant]
There's no such thing as intellectual property. Patents and copyrights are contract rights, not property rights. It's right there in the Constitution: "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." Congress has offered a deal to American authors and inventors -- "You write/invent and we'll stop Americans from copying you for a while, quid pro quo." You don't get to stop people from copying you because you own the idea; you get to do it because American society promised you you could, because we're getting what we want out of the deal.

Point being, China was not a party to that contract. They can't be stealing because it isn't property; they can't be breaching because they aren't the ones who made the promise; and refraining from copying American ideas does not promote the progress of science and useful arts in China. Quite the reverse -- in a third-world country, copying outside ideas is the quickest and surest path to promoting progress. It's how you become first-world. What, you think Americans didn't pirate British and French and German inventions with wild abandon in the 18th and 19th centuries? The U.S. government had zero interest in enforcing European "intellectual property" claims here until after the U.S. had a body of inventions of its own so large that it did us more good for the Europeans to reciprocate than for us to make free copies of their inventions. China is where we were 200 years ago. There is no rational or moral reason for them not to "steal the intellectual property". Complaining about it is just complaining that poor people aren't volunteering to subsidize rich people.
[/rant]

Elixir

China was not a party to that contract. They can't be stealing because it isn't property; they can't be breaching because they aren't the ones who made the promise
The mfr is usually the party to the contract. And the Party is the party that ends up supporting ostensibly unrelated companies’ manufacture of the product that was subject to contractual agreement.
“Intellectual property theft” is indeed a colloquialism.

BTW Amazon is just as predatory, but they are a little more constrained by the rules since they only make some of the rules, not all of them like the CCP.

Loren Pechtel

Super Moderator
Staff member
So is it good or bad that one American has performed services for others that they appreciate more than $230 billion? No one billionaire has performed services for others that they appreciate more than$230 billion. They acquired their wealth by creaming off the difference between the value others have created by their labour and what they have been paid for.
They created that wealth by doing something better and creaming off a portion of the additional value they created. Remove the billionaire and the only ones who benefit are their competitors.
They have not created that wealth. They and Musk's 100,000+ and Bezos' 1.3 million employees have created that wealth. I am not at all opposed to profit making. What I object to is the obscene imbalance of wealth distribution and the conditions the shop floor workers endure for wages that rarely rise above making ends meet.
SpaceX has created incredible wealth by doing what was thought impossible--making a practical reusable space booster. He's the one that bet a ton of money on it, he's the one that should get the rewards from that bet paying off. Note that an awful lot of such bets do not pay off and the investor loses everything they put into it.

Loren Pechtel

Super Moderator
Staff member
And they weren't hard on dissidents and committing genocide in Mao's time? What's the body count of the current genocide, and how many people did Mao murder? The theory that it's oppression that makes billionaires is without empirical support.
Disagree. Mao didn't commit genocide. Lots died under his watch but by incompetence, not intent.
Well, in the first place, "under his watch but by incompetence" implies a level of arms-length-ness and a level of well-meaning-ness that isn't supportable. While the famine Mao caused that starved thirty-five million-odd people was underway, China was a net grain exporter and Mao refused foreign offers of food relief.
The problem was corruption at the low levels. As usual for a totalitarian regime the people at the top don't know what's really happening.

In the second place, Mao ordered millions of people to be executed as "landlords" or "counterrevolutionaries". He delegated this task to armies of underlings, and he set quotas for how many were to be killed. In places so poor nobody was a landlord, peasants were arbitrarily declared to be landlords in order to meet the quotas. There's no way policies like that wouldn't prompt local officials to take the opportunity to target whatever ethnic minorities they felt like getting rid of.

And in the third place, during the Cultural Revolution tens of thousands of people were murdered just for being Mongols. Looks kind of genocidal to me.
Executed? This is the first time I've heard this allegation. The elites were sent to the farms, they weren't executed. And I'm sure it was exploited--that's bound to happen in a system like theirs. My wife is from a "black" family, what she has told me of those times is unpleasant enough that I avoid asking her about it because I do not want to stir up memories, but she's never mentioned any fear of execution or even serious violence.

Loren Pechtel

Super Moderator
Staff member
Forbes shows 27 billionaires in Thailand but omits His Majesty, whose personal wealth is surely in 11 digits.
I've since learned that Monarchs are deliberately excluded from Forbes' List. Wikipedia offers, from a different source, a ; and the present King of Siam does indeed occupy the #1 slot on that List. Eleven Monarchs are billionaires, or twelve if Elizabeth Regina's holdings are broadened to include those of her family members like the Prince of Wales. But I hope those who begrudge Her Majesty's wealth do bear in mind that she ranks behind Kim Kardashian and thousands of other billionaires!
They exclude such figures because the line between personal wealth and wealth they control but do not actually own is hard to draw.

Elixir

Doing the “impossible” is not an objective reason to confer vast wealth upon someone until and unless the impossible yields otherwise impossible benefits.
Space tourism seems to be the low hanging fruit for reusable rocket boosters, what with billionaires everywhere now that the post COVID economy is so great.
Nice, but not any big direct benefit to me. Not like they invented Tang™ or something.

Loren Pechtel

Super Moderator
Staff member
China's economic liberalisation resulted in more billionaires and less dire poverty.

Russia's economic liberalisation resulted in more billionaires and more dire poverty.

Globally, economic liberalisation resulted in more billionaires and slower economic growth.
Slower growth + more inequality = most folks worse off than they'd otherwise have been.

China did its own version of economic liberalisation, which was not western neoliberalism and actually quite authoritarian.

Russia accepted the western neoliberal model which has made most folks in the west worse off, pushed millions of Russians into dire poverty and resulted in an authoritarian/nationalist backlash - AKA Putin.

I won't point out the Western parallels with Trump, Brexit, Le Pen.. oops I have pointed it out.

As others point out, the billionaires are symptom, not disease.
The problem here is that you are discounting the biggest factor: corruption.

China went with a basically capitalist model. There are now a lot of little fish that reap the rewards of their own work, reducing the corruption factor. Russia is basically a kleptocracy. Of course Russia did worse.

And note that economic growth leads to slower economic growth--the farther behind a country is the easier it is for the economy to grow. There's more low-hanging fruit to take advantage of.

Canard DuJour

Veteran Member
China's economic liberalisation resulted in more billionaires and less dire poverty.

Russia's economic liberalisation resulted in more billionaires and more dire poverty.

Globally, economic liberalisation resulted in more billionaires and slower economic growth.
Slower growth + more inequality = most folks worse off than they'd otherwise have been.

China did its own version of economic liberalisation, which was not western neoliberalism and actually quite authoritarian.

Russia accepted the western neoliberal model which has made most folks in the west worse off, pushed millions of Russians into dire poverty and resulted in an authoritarian/nationalist backlash - AKA Putin.

I won't point out the Western parallels with Trump, Brexit, Le Pen.. oops I have pointed it out.

As others point out, the billionaires are symptom, not disease.
The problem here is that you are discounting the biggest factor: corruption.

China went with a basically capitalist model. There are now a lot of little fish that reap the rewards of their own work, reducing the corruption factor. Russia is basically a kleptocracy. Of course Russia did worse.

No, that was kinda the point. More billionaires does not mean more liberty and free market goodness. More billionaires can also come with corruption, kleptocracy and slower growth.

And note that economic growth leads to slower economic growth--the farther behind a country is the easier it is for the economy to grow. There's more low-hanging fruit to take advantage of.

However, the slowdown in growth has been global. Without China, there's barely even been a reduction in global poverty rates.

DBT

Contributor
Trickle down economics? Surely not.

Bomb#20

Contributor
Executed? This is the first time I've heard this allegation. The elites were sent to the farms, they weren't executed. And I'm sure it was exploited--that's bound to happen in a system like theirs. My wife is from a "black" family, what she has told me of those times is unpleasant enough that I avoid asking her about it because I do not want to stir up memories, but she's never mentioned any fear of execution or even serious violence.
Is your wife old enough to remember the early fifties?

Height of the landlord purge (1949–1953)

Shortly after the founding of the PRC in 1949, land reform, according to Mao biographer Philip Short, "lurched violently to the left" with Mao Zedong laying down new guidelines for "not correcting excesses prematurely."[1] Beatings, while not officially promoted by the party, were not prohibited either. While landlords had no protection, those who were branded "rich peasants" received moderate protections from violence and those who were on the lower end were fully protected.[21] In this vein, Mao insisted that the people themselves, not the secret police's security organs, should become involved in enacting the Land Reform Law and killing the landlords who had oppressed them, in contrast to the Soviet practice of dekulakization.[1] Mao thought that peasants who killed landlords would become permanently linked to the revolutionary process in a way that passive spectators could not be.[1]

Jean-Louis Margolin argues that the killings were not a pre-condition for land reform, because in Taiwan and Japan, land reforms were launched with little violence. Rather the violence was a result of the fact that the land reform was less about redistribution (because within a few years of the reforms, most of the land had to be surrendered to collective farms) than it was about eliminating "rural class enemies" and the assumption of local power by the communists. Margolin observes that even in very poor villages (which covered half of Northern China) where nobody could qualify as a landlord, some landlords were "manufactured" so they could be persecuted. In Wugong village, 70 households (out of a total of 387 households) were converted from middle peasants into rich peasants, making them acceptable targets for class struggle.[22] There were policies in certain regions of China (not necessarily obeyed)[citation needed] which required the selection of "at least one landlord, and usually several, in virtually every village for public execution".[4] An official reported 180 to 190 thousand landlords were executed in the Kwangsi province alone, in addition a Catholic school teacher reported 2.5% of his village was executed.[11] Some condemned as landlords were buried alive, dismembered, strangled or shot.[21] In many villages, landlords' women were "redistributed" as concubines or daughters for peasants or pressured into marrying their husband's persecutors.

Estimated number of deaths

Estimates for the number of deaths range from a lower estimate of 200,000 to 800,000,[25][3][4] and higher estimates of 2,000,000[3][26][27] to 5 million[28][26] executions for the years 1949–1953, along with 1.5 million[12] to 6 million[13] sent to "reform through labour" (Laogai) camps, where many perished.[13] Philip Short wrote that such estimates exclude the hundreds of thousands driven to suicide during "struggle sessions" of the three-anti/five-anti campaigns, which also occurred around the same time.[29] Zhou Enlai estimated 830,000 had been killed, while Mao Zedong estimated as many as 2 to 3 million were killed.[6] Deng Zihui, Vice Chairman of the Central South Military and Administrative Council, estimated that 15% of China's 50,000,000 landlords and rich peasants had been "sentenced to death", 25% had been "sent to labor reform camps for remolding through manual work" and 60% to "participation in production work under supervision".[11] Not all of those sentenced to death were actually executed and therefore there is no way of knowing the exact number of performed executions.

Loren Pechtel

Super Moderator
Staff member
Executed? This is the first time I've heard this allegation. The elites were sent to the farms, they weren't executed. And I'm sure it was exploited--that's bound to happen in a system like theirs. My wife is from a "black" family, what she has told me of those times is unpleasant enough that I avoid asking her about it because I do not want to stir up memories, but she's never mentioned any fear of execution or even serious violence.
Is your wife old enough to remember the early fifties?

The later part of that she would probably remember, but everything she's told me has been from the cultural revolution time. Her family were not landlords AFIAK and she has mentioned lots of intimidation but never said anything about actual violence other than to property. (Although you have got me wondering if some of it might actually have been earlier.)