Experiment 2, continued.

To those of you who responded to my request for comments on “Experiment 2,” I thank you. I was hoping for hundreds of thousands of responses, but twenty-something will do just fine. Here’s the explanation, which is really just step two of what I want to do.

I wanted to make a poll to see what people think might be the most “fair” way to distribute money throughout a population. It occurred to me that I probably wasn’t going to think of every conceivable method, and I probably wasn’t going to think of all the methods people would most commonly suggest… thus, the sniveling plea for responses.

I counted 31 suggestions, and divided them into five categories:

1. EARN (11 responses). Give the money to those who earn it, however you define earning the money. I like the idea of giving it to those with the best entrepreneurial plans (four or five folks had that idea). I liked the observation from Noutheteo (who is supposed to be on his honeymoon, congratulations) that some folks would simply realize the marginal effort wasn’t worth the marginal dollar. I counted Davout’s insane response as giving money to those who earn it because his group leaders have to convince him to give them the money. That’ll take some doing.

2. EVEN (8 responses). Give one dollar to each person. Simple enough. I counted the responses from “jimmy rustles” and Blonde as EVEN, even though they gave permission to the recipients to distribute their dollars based on need. I counted Root’s third suggestion (burn the money) as EVEN because $0 to everybody is, technically, even.

3. KEEP (7 responses). The person controlling the money keeps all the money. I didn’t get six responses that actually said that—there were only three—but Doc twice suggested giving the money to his kids, which actually means giving the money to him, which actually actually means giving the money to Mrs. Hmnhmna, and “that guy” essentially said I should keep the money.

4. NEED (3 responses). Give the money to those who need it, however you define needing the money.

5. RANDOM (2 responses). Randomly distribute the money via lottery.

Perhaps these categories are overbroad, but that’s what I’m going to work with.

In the top right corner of this blog is the first ever poll on this august journal, and I’d appreciate your participation. The poll will be open through 11:59 PM on March 21st, and then I’ll comment on the distribution fairness thing. Please don’t vote more than once. Thank you for your participation and support.

18 comments

  1. Sticks and stones…sticks and stones…

    Anyways, I’m going to assume you’re going beyond earning this $100 to earning a living in general.

    Let’s go ahead and point out, a very small population lacks the ability to earn. Stephen hawking, a quadriplegic, is capable of earning a living. Children around the world are responsible for helping their family earn a living. So short of being in a vegetative state, most people have the ability to earn. (Sorry, I couldn’t find exact statistics)

    Now, before I sound like a heartless “capitalist swine,” let me tell you I DO care about the poor. But I encourage all others who care, don’t just through money and services at them through the government, take the time to actually consider, “What’s the MOST EFFETIVE and EFFICIENT way to care for them?” I say that because, caring for them inefficiently means you won’t be able to help as many people as well as you could/should. I won’t tell you what that way is, but someone who cares is going to consider both the typical government solutions as well as the not so typical capitalist solutions and follow them out to both the obvious outcomes, as well as possible unintended consequences.

    As a final note, I can’t speak for other religions, but us Christians believe it is the Church’s responsibility to care for the poor, the widows, and the orphans. I believe it is a huge failure on the part of the Church that the care of individuals has been given up to the government while many Christians go on caring less…and less…Start emptying your pockets first, not others.

    TLDR:
    1)Name calling doesn’t mean much
    2)Few people are truly incapable of earning a living
    3)Completely and honestly evaluate both government and capitalistic solutions
    4)Us Christians are slacking

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  2. Noutheteo, my comment was intended with tongue-in-cheek. It was more in reference to the overwhelming poll response to give the $100 to those of the 100 who could earn them. I’m actually rather accepting of liberal economic policies. But since you’ve opened the door, and I love a good internet debate debacle, I’ll entertain the two of us.

    1. While world wide, the number that do not have the physical ability to earn is admittedly a small portion, many of those in the world population do not have the opportunity to earn, or to earn a fair wage, if you want to look at TNCs based in the US or other core countries which utilize exploitive periphery labor to keep consumer costs down (and here is the end to the longest sentence, ever).

    If you want to focus on the US as a case study alone, I think you’ll find that there are quite a number of people on disability, and those that are abusing the system aside, these people are positioned in a precarious state wherein they cannot, in fact, earn. According to the CDC, 20% of Americans have a disability (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/documents/Disability%20tip%20sheet%20_PHPa_1.pdf). If we’re going to put physical ability aside, and delve into the controversial can-of-worms of education, many more are not equipped intellectually to earn more than minimum wage, which frankly is a wage that can hardly support an individual, let alone a family. Not to mention the 25% of Americans that do not even graduate high school. (http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/03/how-u-s-graduation-rates-compare-with-the-rest-of-the-world/).

    I can see myself going off on a huge tangent about the failures of the U.S. education system and the socioeconomic factors which contribute to the abhorrent graduation and earning statistics… but I’ll spare you and VDV, and move on.

    But it is worth mentioning that your example of Stephen Hawking made the most of his success, both in career building and education, long before his disease became so debilitating, and his incredible intellect, which the overwhelming majority of Americans (and the world in general) do not have, contributed to his continued success.

    2. You cannot propose a solution other than government assistance. That is all I got from that, honestly. I do not assert that “throwing money and services” at those who cannot earn is the only part of the solution. But helping to carry your fellow Americans who can no longer carry themselves, like our disabled Veterans and civilians alike, is an important civic duty that we cannot ignore. There is no capitalist solution to creating an efficient and effective way to care for them that is actually CARING, because it is capitalism, and not even Capitalism’s greatest proponents will ever tell you that it is a perfect system, let a lone a caring and generous one. Capitalism expects you to carry your weight and bring something else to the table in return. It is a positive-sum game. But what happens when people cannot contribute? Capitalism is no charity, and will discard them accordingly. There IS an answer to caring for people, but I am incredibly skeptical to believe that capitalism is a willing participant in the solution.

    3. To this I can offer no unbiased opinion. As an Atheist, I think it is humanity’s responsibility, not the Church’s, in helping the underprivileged and short-straw-drawing of the bunch. The widows, the orphans, and the poor, as you put it, are still people regardless of religious belief or superstition. Churches which only offer help, whether in the form of missionaries or poverty outreach, on the condition that the people they help “accept their Lord and Savior” are pretty despicable in my eyes. They should be helped because they should be helped. Churches which practice this aside, I think charitable doings by Churches, Mosques, and Temples are incredible generous. But, I do not think that they should have to shoulder the burden themselves. It is still all of our responsibility.

    TLDR:
    1. Meant as tongue-in-cheek, relax kiddo! 🙂
    2. But since you asked….
    3. More people are incapable than you may realize.
    4. Concession that government solutions may not be the only solution, but skepticism on capitalism’s willingness to play the role
    5. Everyone is slacking, not just Christians.

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  3. 4 readers of this blog believe keeping all the money themselves is the most fair way to distribute the $100. I have no quarrel with their choice, but I do wonder how they genuinely consider that a “fair” option.

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  4. @Blonde:

    1. Federal minimum wage is $7.25/hr. What do you say to a non-college-bound teenager, fresh out of high school (whether through graduation or dropping out), whose current skill set is only worth $5/hr or $6/hr?

    2. What do you say to those unemployed people in dirt poor countries who don’t have the opportunity to work for one of those exploitative TNCs? (This reminds me… I wonder how Peru is doing sans Monsanto.)

    3. “There is no capitalist solution to creating an efficient and effective way to care for them that is actually CARING, because it is capitalism, and not even Capitalism’s greatest proponents will ever tell you that it is a perfect system, let a lone a caring and generous one. […] There IS an answer to caring for people, but I am incredibly skeptical to believe that capitalism is a willing participant in the solution.” Perhaps (though you’d have to explain all the charitable donations from individuals, businesses, unions, churches, interest groups, etc., in capitalist nations, over and above what is given to the needy via welfare transfer). You just have to be careful not to kill the goose that lays those golden eggs. Wealth has to be created before it’s redistributed. And remember: if a “solution” doesn’t actually solve a problem, it doesn’t matter how caring it is.

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  5. @Noutheteo: “I believe it is a huge failure on the part of the Church that the care of individuals has been given up to the government while many Christians go on caring less…and less…Start emptying your pockets first, not others.” Go back far enough and you’ll find that a lot of that change was driven by Christian churches (often northeastern and midwestern progressive churches). It wasn’t a failure, it was intentional.

    There’s something to the argument that free markets provide a socially sub-optimal (in the economics-ese sense) amount of aid to the needy. But redistribution can get real scary real fast, and there’s a risk of doling out growing slices of shrinking pies.

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  6. 1. How do you determine that their skill set is worth less than minimum wage?

    2. This is too broad. Your point, I assume, is to say that those without the ability to work for an exploitive TNC are worse off. This is sometimes true, but it is sometimes not. I would have no issue with TNCs if they followed through with the promises they seduce states with, like helping to improve community, education, water quality, etc (Starbucks has actually done this for many small communities in Latin America, but they’ve fallen incredibly short in, say, Ethiopia, for example).

    3. I didn’t mean to insinuate that capitalism doesn’t play a role in reducing poverty. I just don’t think that it’s a system that’s geared toward taking care of “those that cannot earn.”

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  7. 1. “How do you determine that their skill set is worth less than minimum wage?” The same way you decide not to buy anything that’s too expensive. So, again, what do you say to the kid who can’t get hired at a minimum wage?

    2. Of course TNCs (and everyone else, including the governments of the nations they expand into) should keep their word, honor their contracts, and not make promises they aren’t going to keep. Lying is bad. My point, if I may cut to the chase, was that international trade expands opportunities to work, but insisting that TNCs pay some outsider’s idea of a “fair” wage restricts opportunities. Insisting that they follow rules that domestic businesses wouldn’t have to follow also restricts opportunities. And the longer you restrict opportunities– at whatever wages– the longer it takes for the underdeveloped countries to develop.

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  8. The money that unregulated TNCs pour into the periphery do not result in actual opportunities or wealth for 99% of the people who slave away for them. The money is put into the pockets of the already affluent, and government officials so that they can stay unregulated.

    You can’t seriously be suggesting that we shouldn’t give the girl a diamond necklace because otherwise she won’t sleep with us. TNCs should pay a fair, livable wage to the people who’s land the government has allowed them to come in and take, who’s pasture they’ve ruined, who’s livestock they’ve now pushed out. And these are people who cannot just pick up and move. They don’t have mobility, because they don’t have money. And the money they receive by working for the TNC remains unfair because it doesn’t give them any opportunity at all, except to continue to be tied to that land and to be tied to that company’s labor force, or else they and their family will starve to death.

    And yes, a lot of the blame is on the governments who accept the money and incentive that TNCs offer, and the corrupt domestic officials who line their own pockets instead of actually pushing for regulation. But that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be international trade laws which attempts to regulate TNC activities in developing and underdeveloped countries.

    Sure profit margins would, god forbid, decrease; consumer costs could, god forbid, increase, but it’s the right thing to do – and if you were born an impoverished, malnourished, and underprivileged inhabitant of the periphery you’d probably realize that, too.

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  9. And further, if your hypothesis was correct, that unregulated TNCs can provide development for countries, the entire continent of Africa would be as developed as Europe. India and China may have some of the largest economies in the world, but they certainly have one of the highest wealth disparities, too.

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  10. I think I see the problem here, which is in our jumbled use of the word “exploitive/exploitative” and of your new word “unregulated.”

    If by “exploitive” and “unregulated” you mean “uses the government to violate private property rights,” I am 100% on board with you. Governments should not take property from A and give it to B for B’s private use. There is nothing in my comments to the contrary. We might differ on the solution– I think these countries need to convert to actual free market capitalism that welcomes foreign trade and protects property rights, and I think any international action should push in that direction first. Straighten out the governments first. (I recommended The Mystery of Capital to my friend edavout, I recommend it to you, too.)

    However, if by “exploitive” and “unregulated” you mean “pays a lower wage than I’d like,” I’ve got some bad news for you– the competitive (i.e., free market) wages in the countries would not be too much higher than the artificial monopsony (i.e., McMultinational bribed the dictator of the banana republic) wages currently paid in your worst-case-scenarios. And if you try to force them to pay more than the competitive wage (which will eat into their profits, or their stockholders’ shares, or their customers’ prices), the TNCs will pack up and leave. Or they won’t build there in the first place. Opportunity disappears.

    That said, I would love to see anything resembling a citation for your 99% figure, even if we’re just talking about the evil TNCs that are bribing everybody left and right. Does that figure come from somewhere, or are you essentially saying “all” while technically dodging any accusation of absolutism?

    Speaking of citations, you said: “And further, if your hypothesis was correct, that unregulated TNCs can provide development for countries, the entire continent of Africa would be as developed as Europe.” Note that this map shows that Africa is not getting as much foreign investment as Europe. Same for this table and this sliding thingy here. I don’t have numbers, but I think you’d agree that it’s very safe to assume that historically, Africa has had nowhere near as much money invested in it as Europe has.

    If you’re trying to prove me wrong, comparing two areas that are not even remotely close to having as much total historical foreign or domestic investment, whether total or per capita, is not the way to go. Can you really not think of any examples throughout history of countries that developed with the aid of “unregulated TNCs,” even the bad ones? British Empire? European expansionism? Open Door policy?

    “India and China may have some of the largest economies in the world, but they certainly have one of the highest wealth disparities, too.” Are India and China not watching their economies grow as they welcome more investment, or did I miss something?

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  11. I will reply to all these points when I’m no longer in class and/or buried under finals research and work – but I wanted to respond to one thing in particular at the moment:

    “That said, I would love to see anything resembling a citation for your 99% figure, even if we’re just talking about the evil TNCs that are bribing everybody left and right. Does that figure come from somewhere, or are you essentially saying “all” while technically dodging any accusation of absolutism?”

    Yes, I am essentially saying “all” while technically dodging any accusation of absolutism. Hah.

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  12. @VDV “Go back far enough and you’ll find that a lot of that change was driven by Christian churches (often northeastern and midwestern progressive churches). It wasn’t a failure, it was intentional.”

    I meant to imply failure in the moral/biblical sense. In that the Church isn’t doing what it’s been called to do, intentionally or not.

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