24 Aug ’14 ~question of the day~ Entitlements or Handouts

“We should stop calling them all ‘Entitlements’
Get it straight: Welfare, food stamps, WIC, …. ad nauseum are not entitlements. They are tax payer funded handouts, and shouldn’t be called entitlements at all. Social Security and Veterans Benefits are entitlements because the people receiving them are entitled to them. They were earned and paid for by the recipients.”

How do you view this?
What are the differences
between “pensions” for veteran’s and the elderly – and
assistance to those in unfortunate circumstances?

I disagree with the graphic.
Why is it that those with money don’t have to work and many of those without money cannot get work?
Once one has a certain level of money, one can live off the “interest”.

Our market based value system is seriously distorted.
The incentives of the market are to maintain a level of unemployment, and to keep the majority of people at or near subsistence.
The market actively denies the majority access to the abundance that is enjoyed by the few.
Why do we allow this?
It makes no sense, in human terms, to shut down production facilities when people need the products – but we do so because the people who need the products have no token to pay for it with.

We could easily meet the needs all of humanity.
We could feed the world easily.
We can give everyone access to shelter and education and communication and power and transport.
These things are technically easy, yet economically impossible.

We now have automated means of production that mean that very few people actually need to work to produce what goods and services are needed.
There is no shortage of things that people could do, to help to fix the damage we have done to the environment, but there is no market value in such work, so very little of it actually gets done.

The harsh reality is that we live in an economic system designed for scarcity, and we now have the technical capacity to deliver abundance, but our economic system cannot handle it.
So we get the sort of nonsense written above, that people have to earn their living. We are all living on the combined mental activity of all those who have gone before us – they did the hard work and we enjoy their bounty.

It is generally not the fault of the poor or the unemployed that they are in that situation – it is the fault of the system which we still tolerate.

[followed by]


There is certainly much truth in the notion that the historical reality was one of scarcity much of the time for many goods and services.
It is also certainly true that in the first instance markets evolved in that reality of scarcity and met a real need.

It is also true to say that in more recent times there has been a great deal of intellectual effort go into the design on many of the higher level structures within our market based system – and these systems are designed “for” the perceived reality of scarcity that is real within the context of the market.

So there is certainly much truth in the notion that markets and the many levels of our modern market based economic system have evolved from a historical reality of a scarcity (of many items at many times); and it is also true that many of the structures within the system we currently exist within are designed for scarcity (and actually promote scarcity, rather than abundance – copyright and patent laws are obvious examples- there are many others that are more subtle in nature).

As to systems transcending themselves, that is a very interesting topic.
It seems clear that the history of life is actually precisely just that.
It seems that the emerging levels of life are defined precisely by emerging sets of associated strategies that stabilise new levels of cooperative behaviour between diverse system.
It seems to be precisely this ability to “transcend the conditions which gave rise to them” that defines the essence of what it is to be a living system.

I look forward to your response – whenever you find the bandwidth to generate one 😉

[followed by]


You wrote “Your own thinking, it seems to me, shows that an economic system rooted in scarcity, cannot function in, cannot even give rise to, a system of nonscarcity. ?????” – which is not at all how I see it.

What I see is that a system of market values will always have an inbuilt tendency to destroy any abundance that emerges, or exists.
I see that this tendency of the system is clearly contrary to the needs of a set of entities that are attempting to maximise their own freedom and capacities.
What I see is that currently very few people are able to distinguish that their own long term self interest might not involve the market based values of money.
I certainly see that it is entirely possible for abundance based systems of value to emerge from a scarcity based market system; once people become clearly aware of the distinction between market values and human values.
It is clear to me that human beings are very complex entities at many different levels. We are capable of displaying many different modes of behaviour, that can be broadly classified into competitive and cooperative set of strategies. Which sort of strategies get subconsciously triggered at different levels of awareness depend very much on the context we perceive. The external inputs from reality are one set of influences on context, and our internal sets of percepts, concepts, habits and paradigms are another set of major influences.
It is clear to me that human beings are highly evolved for cooperative behaviours in appropriate contexts.

It is also clear to me that we are now developing technologies that allow us to deliver abundance of a vast (and exponentially increasing) range of goods and services.
In history, the only way that citizens could enjoy freedom to use a large surplus was to have a society based upon slave labour (in some sense). Our own society has created a class of “voluntary slaves” with notions like those encapsulated in this Question Of The Day in the term “earned”. No one has to earn the oxygen in the air – it is simply present in abundance for all to enjoy.
We now have the ability to produce sets of technologies that can produce all the necessities of human life (food, water, housing, sanitation, communication, education, transportation, medical technology) in similar levels of abundance to oxygen in the air. No one needs to be enslaved to do so. No one needs to earn anything, any more than anyone needs to earn a breath of air. The result of this is a potential for freedom and security that is impossible in any market based system.
All that is stopping us is our addiction to markets. This addiction is firmly embedded in the neural networks of most people today.
We all have our conservative streaks.
We all like to see things working before we try them ourselves.
Most of us are comfortable testing novelty in certain domains, and not in others.
All of us accept many things in culture without serious question at some point in our lives.
Some of us develop questioning and testing to a level that many would find unsettling, as it removes all certainty, all security of knowledge in the sense of our original simple binary distinctions of true/false, right/wrong.

For me, I can easily see how technology can empower a new level of emergent human values and behaviours that emerge from and replace the market based set of values within which they formed.
And I acknowledge that there has always been a strong tension at several levels of philosophy and theology with market values.
And what I am pointing to is something based on a distinctly different foundation (that is in some aspects compatible with the older sets of values).

So the short answer is, that I see it entirely possible that this abundance can emerge from a market based system, by people becoming aware that market values are not necessary human values. Once people choose a change of value sets, the technology will emerge. The process is in fact happening, there are many open source, and commons movements. And currently these movements face direct systemic threat from the market systems (as the tone of this question of the day clearly demonstrates).

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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