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How Much Profit is Enough?

52 replies on 4 pages. Most recent reply: Sep 12, 2005 1:37 PM by oswaldosalcedo

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Daniel Yokomizo

Posts: 22
Nickname: dyokomiso
Registered: Sep, 2002

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 1, 2003 2:58 PM
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Nice post. It's always nice to see people posting any kind of criticism to greedy corporativism and being flamed by being "communist" or "unamerican". I don't agree with your political inclinations, but I agree with the general feeling that current state of capitalism harms individuals and small companies.

Also it's funny to see people saying that being poor isn't excuse and everyone has equal oportunities. I guess nobody in this forum, heck nobody with an account in artima.com, has ever been struck by real poverty (not like "I was unable to buy a playstation 2 and had to move back to my parents house because of dot com crash."). Yesterday I was reading about a "small" investor who took 3 million, created a startup and 18 months later sold it by 300 million. And he's a small investor. Almost nobody poor will ever have, or can get a loan of, this amount. It's not a option.

Don't even get me started on "free" market, because it doesn't work when corporations get together and start lobbying for laws (RIAA and DMCA anyone?) or trying to fix prices. Today's market it's big enough to make the five largest corporations share without competition, and everyone (owning shares in them) win. People said that Skylarov's case was an exception, not the rule, but today we have more and suits of intelectual "property" and copyright "theft".

I'll end with some remarks. First, I'm brazilian, so all this red scare is meaningless and funny. Second I know what the real capitalism looks like, and it's not pretty. Mostly it's about corporations pissing in their "human resources", and selling their shit as pieces of gold to their customers, disrespecting laws whenever they can't get caught. Third, I'm not a communist or socialist, so don't flame me for being something that I'm not. I'll leave figuring out my political inclinations as an exercise to the reader. And last, but not the least, keep posting mr. Holden, because what the people who "get sick" of criticism, different ideas or even plain stupid opinions (we're all entitled to have our opinions, even if they're contradictory, but I'm not talking about you here) is just a mindless dance to oblivion. Paraphrasing Voltaire, I don't have to agree with your beliefs, but I'll fight to death for your right to have them.

Steve Holden

Posts: 42
Nickname: holdenweb
Registered: Apr, 2003

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 1, 2003 8:35 PM
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> And last, but not the least, keep
> posting mr. Holden, because what the people who "get sick"
> of criticism, different ideas or even plain stupid
> opinions (we're all entitled to have our opinions, even if
> they're contradictory, but I'm not talking about you here)
> is just a mindless dance to oblivion. Paraphrasing
> Voltaire, I don't have to agree with your beliefs, but
> I'll fight to death for your right to have them.

Well, it's finally nice to have a dissenting opinion that isn't expressed with vitriol. Thanks for the encouragement!

I agree that it's easy to blame the poor for their poverty, and that equailty of opportunity will always be a myth no matter what societal structures evolve. Mostly what we need is tolerance and understanding, but in my experience this is more likely to come from the disadvantaged than the privileged.

Steve Holden

Posts: 42
Nickname: holdenweb
Registered: Apr, 2003

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 1, 2003 8:45 PM
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I'm glad to see an acknowledgement that some people need assistance through no fault of their own.

Nothing I say is an attempt to nullify that fact that the USA does indeed offer far more opportunity to its inhabitants than many other countries, and that you are correct in pointing out that many have risen from below the breadline without assistance. I don't think, either, that you'll find anything I said was promoting government assistance (people equate socialism and state control far too closely).

The original post was an attempt to elucidate my feelings about how human nature tends to ensure that those who rise to the top will tend to exploit those who haven't, and that capitalist economics (which effectively reward the possession of wealth beyond a critical mass with more wealth) tend to reinforce this darker side of human nature.

I'm not going to dignify your attempt to bait this dialog with race.

That's fine by me. Presumably the reason that six percent of the US population contributes over 50% of its prison inmates is just a statistical accident. Clearly it can't be that the six percent are in any way disadvantaged, or can it?

Matt Gerrans

Posts: 1152
Nickname: matt
Registered: Feb, 2002

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 2, 2003 2:10 AM
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> Some arose from dire circumstances against impossible odds.

Hmm... I would imagine it is impossible to rise against "impossible odds." Otherwise the odds were not impossible, now were they?

Ernie Varitimos

Posts: 38
Nickname: erntheburn
Registered: May, 2003

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 2, 2003 8:44 AM
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>> Some arose from dire circumstances against impossible odds.

Matt Gerrans wrote:
Hmm... I would imagine it is impossible to rise against "impossible odds." Otherwise the odds were not impossible, now were they?


Permit me editorial license to revise my statement...

"Some arose from dire circumstances against seemingly impossible odds."

-ernie
javachief.org

Daniel Yokomizo

Posts: 22
Nickname: dyokomiso
Registered: Sep, 2002

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 2, 2003 9:30 AM
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> > Some arose from dire circumstances against impossible
> odds.
>
> Hmm... I would imagine it is impossible to rise
> against "impossible odds." Otherwise the odds were not
> impossible, now were they?

Isn't it just an improvement over "The Heart of Gold" engine? ;)

b'b

Posts: 7
Nickname: bawjaws
Registered: May, 2003

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 2, 2003 12:20 PM
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I'd like to add my support for having personal political opinion in weblogs. I think we're all adult enough to recognize that people have different opinions on matters such as the so-called 'intellectual property' rights and corporate regulation and that such matters often touch on issues in software development.

An interesting read on the weblog's subject is "The World We're In" by Will Hutton, which examines the different approaches taken in post-war America and Europe to the public realm and responsibility of individuals and corporations to society (and no this is not about 'socialism').

P.S. I think the book is released in the US under a different title, "State of Interdependence" perhaps.

Ian Rae

Posts: 21
Nickname: ianrae
Registered: May, 2003

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 2, 2003 3:51 PM
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> Voltaire, I don't have to agree with your beliefs, but
> I'll fight to death for your right to have them.

Agreed. However, as with most critiques of capitalism, Mr Holden offers no alternatives. It's fine to have beliefs that profits are too high, or that ads manipulate people but what should we do about it? By offering no actual solutions, the simplest rebuttal is a Churchill-style remark that modern capitalism is the worst form of economics, except all the others!

Ernie Varitimos

Posts: 38
Nickname: erntheburn
Registered: May, 2003

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 2, 2003 7:33 PM
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> Voltaire, I don't have to agree with your beliefs, but
> I'll fight to death for your right to have them.

Agreed. However, as with most critiques of capitalism, Mr Holden offers no alternatives. It's fine to have beliefs that profits are too high, or that ads manipulate people but what should we do about it? By offering no actual solutions, the simplest rebuttal is a Churchill-style remark that modern capitalism is the worst form of economics, except all the others.

Being a glass half full type of person. I would restate that by saying, "Our system of government is not perfect, however it is the most perfect on the face of the Earth."

-ernie

Peter Kidson

Posts: 15
Nickname: peterkid
Registered: Jun, 2003

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 3, 2003 9:02 AM
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> as with most critiques of capitalism, Mr Holden offers
> no alternatives. It's fine to have beliefs that profits
> are too high, or that ads manipulate people but what
> should we do about it?

Although he seems reluctant to come out and say it, Mr Holden's implicit alternative is a totalitarian state.
The ~state~ will seize excessive profits, the ~state~ will ban advestising .... the state will control every aspect of your life.

Tasos Zervos

Posts: 17
Nickname: tzervos
Registered: May, 2003

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 3, 2003 9:31 AM
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I have a feeling that this discussion is getting a bit silly in term of polarisation...

A little moderation would be better.
I have to disagree that since you don't have alternatives to current systems you shouldn't raise you concern(s).

Do you suggest that the current system is perfect?
If the answer is no, then we should be looking for ways
to make it better.
It's not about a revolution, it's about evolution.

A key word that was mentioned, is greed.
Another key word is balance.

It is not just Black or White...
[end of clich├ęs... :-) ]

Daniel Yokomizo

Posts: 22
Nickname: dyokomiso
Registered: Sep, 2002

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 3, 2003 10:57 AM
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> > Voltaire, I don't have to agree with your beliefs, but
> > I'll fight to death for your right to have them.
>
> Agreed. However, as with most critiques of capitalism, Mr
> Holden offers no alternatives. It's fine to have beliefs
> that profits are too high, or that ads manipulate people
> but what should we do about it? By offering no actual
> solutions, the simplest rebuttal is a Churchill-style
> remark that modern capitalism is the worst form of
> economics, except all the others!

It's really difficult to make a real critique of something that is subjective or the status quo. First we need to define which are the grounds of the discussion and how can we measure an alternative. Next we need to verify which are the basic postulates behind each alternative. Then we need to verify the validity of our arguments, their consistency and interdependency so we can stablish a useful conclusion (including a "Insufficient data" result).

The primary critique people say about capitalism is: its base hypothesis are wrong. But what are they? Free market (should it include armies, police and government?), profit over selling of goods and services (and the question of this blog, how much profit is enough?), competition (how can we block monopolies or cartels without protecting incompetent business? perhaps Microsoft was using its power to destroy its competitors, but how come this action can be bad or good if they're a monopoly or not?), what else? When people saying capitalism they don't define what does it mean, so they can stablish quick rebuttals to anything. If the critique doesn't suggest alternatives it isn't true that the critique's target is incorrect.

Saying that, there are some good capitalism critiques available by the so called "anarcho-capitalists" (I don't agree with their postulates but some of their expositions are very good). There's also other written by economists following other schools of thought. I won't bother posting book names because, my personal belief, any non-scientific discussion is unable to teach people. If there's someone really interested, they'll research them, read and make their own judgements.

We can compare this critique to an imaginary dialogue between two pre-historic parents.

<flame mode='satire'>
stranger: I don't think you should beat the crap out of your kids whenever they do wrong things.
parent: Huh! So, what you're supposed to do when they misbehave?
stranger: Well, you could punish him by not letting him do the things he like, or showing the error in his ways.
parent: But what if he disobbeys you, and escape his punishments, don't listen to what you're saying and misbehave again.
stranger: Hmmm, I don't think it'll happen most of the times. I believe children aren't evil.
parent: Hah! So you can give a working alternative, just a lame excuse that can work only sometimes. I say beat him and if he doesn't learn kill him. My system always works and doesn't require beliefs on the human nature.
</flame>

P.S.: My position about this issue is, the government should interfere less, including not enforcing IP-protecting laws. Contracts and laws should be simple, with more rules and less exceptions. Any time the goverment mess with things we have less freedom and more headaches. But this is my opinion, it doesn't have to be coeherent or rational, so don't flame me if you disagree.

Daniel Yokomizo

Posts: 22
Nickname: dyokomiso
Registered: Sep, 2002

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 3, 2003 11:11 AM
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> > as with most critiques of capitalism, Mr Holden offers
> > no alternatives. It's fine to have beliefs that
> profits
> > are too high, or that ads manipulate people but what
> > should we do about it?
>
> Although he seems reluctant to come out and say it, Mr
> Holden's implicit alternative is a totalitarian state.
> The ~state~ will seize excessive profits, the ~state~
> ~ will ban advestising .... the state will control every
> aspect of your life.

AFAICT he states he's a socialist, but that doesn't mean he's a totalitarist. In the early 1800 century anyone who believed in the government for the social wellfare was a socialist, including anarchists like Proudhon (who coined the term anarchist). There are lot's of social-democrats around the world, my country (Brazil) had a two-term run from a social-democrat president.

Also some forms of marxists believe in small communities instead of huge states, only resorting to larger forms of government for truly large issues, like wars and natural disasters.

Note that I don't like totalitarian states, as much as I don't like ruthless corporations. If the governmet taxed according to your income, be you a citizen or a corporation, with higher taxes for higher incomes, we could limit profits simply making them undesirable. We don't need to say "You can have more than 50% profit", instead we just need to say "For each zero over two in your annual income add 10% more of taxes". It would be nice, good for small business and bad for large monopolies. This is some top-of-the-head idea, it may have undesirable side-effects.

Peter Kidson

Posts: 15
Nickname: peterkid
Registered: Jun, 2003

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 3, 2003 12:41 PM
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> Mr Holden's implicit alternative is a totalitarian state.
> The ~state~ will seize excessive profits, the ~state~
> ~ will ban advestising .... the ~state~ will control
> every aspect of your life.

> ... he states he's a socialist, but that doesn't mean
> he's a totalitarian.

Yes it does. Socialism can only work by coercion, and only the state has the power to coerce (use or threaten aggressive violence). Socialism is inherently a highly statist (totalitarian) doctrine. Social democracy is also highly statist/totalitarian.


> 1. Note that I don't like totalitarian states
> 2. If the governmet taxed according to your income, be
> you a citizen or a corporation, with higher taxes
> for higher incomes,

Statement (2) contradicts statement (1). High taxes mean high state interference, ie totalitarianism.

Daniel Yokomizo

Posts: 22
Nickname: dyokomiso
Registered: Sep, 2002

Re: How Much Profit is Enough? Posted: Jul 4, 2003 11:21 AM
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> > Mr Holden's implicit alternative is a totalitarian
> state.
> > The ~state~ will seize excessive profits, the ~state~
> > ~ will ban advestising .... the ~state~ will control
> > every aspect of your life.
>
> > ... he states he's a socialist, but that doesn't mean
> > he's a totalitarian.
>
> Yes it does. Socialism can only work by coercion, and
> only the state has the power to coerce (use or threaten
> aggressive violence). Socialism is inherently a highly
> statist (totalitarian) doctrine. Social democracy is also
> highly statist/totalitarian.

Hmmm, I don't seen to understand what are you trying to say here. How come that social democracy is highly totalitarian? If democracy is totalitarian and absolutism (e.g. monarchy, dictatorship) is, by definition, totalitarian, what isn't? A totalitarian state tries to regulate every possible part of it's citizens life. It decides what is right and what is wrong. It's orthogonal to how the decisions are based, and how the goverment expected outcome is (e.g. dictators expects to rule everything, while democracy expects to do what most of people want/need).

> > 1. Note that I don't like totalitarian states
> > 2. If the governmet taxed according to your income, be
> > you a citizen or a corporation, with higher taxes
> > for higher incomes,
>
> Statement (2) contradicts statement (1). High taxes mean
> high state interference, ie totalitarianism.

Let's do a little thought experiment: ten individuals form a state in an imaginary island. They agree to decide how much they'll give for common good each year, based on a unanimous voting. If any given individual doesn't agree with a given tax formula it's rejected. How comes it's totalitarianism? If everyone agrees with the taxes, how comes it's interference? I'm trying to understand which are the definitions (AFAICT unstated) you're using to totalitarism and interference, what are the propositions you're basing your argument so we can discover your disagreement. It's simple logic, only with a huge set of initial definitions. I think this is getting really OT so if you don't want to reply this I'll assume we simply disagree on our definitions.

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