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  1. #1
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    Oct 2008
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    Redistribution is NOT a Four Letter Word

    “The tradition of the classical economists, who attempted to base the law of the market on the alleged propensities of man in the state of nature, was replaced by an abandonment of all interest in the cultures of “uncivilized” man as irrelevant to an understanding of the problems of our age.”

    It is my opinion that God created classical economists so that they might create justification for the desires of CA (Corporate America). Needless to say, I have never been taught classical economy in any college and university.

    The gap between the propensities of “uncivilized” and civilized sapiens has been vastly exaggerated, in the economic sphere especially, because, I suspect, it serves the purpose of classical economy. If we citizens have faith that our modern society is more natural and God given, we will be less likely to cast a critical eye upon our economic and moral culture. Like the Matador and the bull in the ring, our policy makers seek to attract the eye of the adversary to something other than the cape handler.

    “The role played by markets in the internal economy of the various countries, it will appear, was insignificant up to recent times...In its economics, medieval Europe was on the level with ancient Persia, India, or China…Max Weber was the first among modern economic historians to protest against the brushing aside of primitive economics as irrelevant to the question of the motives and mechanisms of civilized society…For one conclusion stands out…it is the changelessness of man as a social being…the survival of human society appear to be immutably the same.”

    Anthropological research has discovered that primitive peoples acted first to safeguard their social position; the economic system did not drive social behavior but social interests drove economic considerations. Primitive people valued material goods primarily as a means and not as an end in it self. The maintenance of social ties was number one.


    Imagine the terrible consequences heaped upon the social outcast in primitive societies. In such societies obligations are reciprocal because it serves both the social needs and because it best serves the individual’s give-and-take needs best.

    Not to allow reason for jealousy was an accepted principle. Human passions were directed principally toward noneconomic ends. “It is on this one negative point that modern ethnographers agree: the absence of the motive of gain: the absence of the principle of laboring for remuneration; the absence of the principle of least effort; and, especially, the absence of any separate and distinct institution based on economic motives.”

    The two principles of behavior of primitive societies, not primarily focused on economics, was reciprocity and redistribution.

    Reciprocity worked primarily in matters organized around family and kinship. The male who, through slackness, fails to provide for his family suffers in his reputation. The broad “principle of reciprocity helps to safeguard both production and family sustenance”.

    The principle of redistribution is likewise effective in matters that involve the common chief. A substantial portion of all wealth is distributed by the chief. This matter of storage and distribution is overwhelmingly important; to existing divisions of labor, in trading with other communities, taxation, and public defense.

    Both of these factors “cannot become effective unless existing institutional patterns lend themselves to their application. Reciprocity and distribution are able to ensure the working of an economic system without the help of written records and elaborate administration only because the organization of the societies in question meets the requirements…”

    Quotes from “The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time” by Karl Polanyi

    Market Economies Demand Subordinated Market Societies

    “A market economy is an economic system controlled, regulated, and directed by market prices; order in the production and distribution of goods is entrusted to this self-regulating mechanism.”

    Such a system contains the following assumptions:
    1) Human behavior is such as to seek maximum money gains
    2) The supply of goods and services are available based on demand at market prices
    3) Money, functioning as buying power, is in the hands of prospective buyers
    4) Nothing beyond prices must interfere with markets
    5) All incomes are supplied through markets
    6) Prices, supply, and demand respond only to market forces

    Production and distribution will thus depend upon market prices alone. “Self-regulation implies that all production is for sale on the market and all incomes derive from such sales.”

    Under feudalism and the guild system land and labor formed a part of the social organization: the status and function of land were determined by legal and provincial rules, all questions about land were removed from any organized market of buying and selling and subjected to various institutional regulations; the same was true regarding matters of labor, the relations between journeymen and apprentice, the terms of craft, and the wages were regulated by the custom and rule of the guild and the town.

    “The self-regulating market demands nothing less than the institutional separation of society into an economic and a political sphere…It might be argued that the separateness of the two spheres obtains in every type of society at all times. Such an inference, however, would be based on a fallacy…normally, the economic order is merely a function of the social order…Nineteenth-century society, in which economic activity was isolated and imputed to a distinctive economic motive, was a singular departure.”

    A self-regulating market cannot exist unless society is subordinated to its requirements; a market economy can exist only in a market society.

    Quotes from “The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time” by Karl Polanyi

    Rawls’ Metaphor “Justice as Fairness”

    What is Justice?

    What is fairness?

    What means do we have to discover, to criticize, and to modify our biases, our prejudices, and our ideologies that guide our everyday performance in the world?

    I have discovered that an analysis of our speaking is a guide to the manner in which our consciousness and unconsciousness are structured. Our speaking—the words we use can indicate the nature of the ideas that we have. Speech is a guide to the structure of our beliefs, knowledge, and our ideologies, which are the product of our past experiences and understanding, which in many cases is the result of many unconscious developments.

    We use such metaphorical expressions as: Tomorrow is a big day. I’m feeling up today. We’ve been close for years, but we’re beginning to drift apart. It is smooth sailing from here on in. It has been uphill all the way. Get off my back. We are moving ahead. He’s a dirty old man. That was a disgusting thing to do. I’m not myself today. He is afraid to reveal his inner self. You need to be kind to your self.

    All of us use metaphors constantly and we all recognize the meaning of these metaphors when others speak them. This leads me to the inference that our everyday speech is a means for insight into our comprehension of what we really ‘know’. Most of these metaphors can be a guide to what our conscious and unconscious has stored up in our brain regarding the nature of reality. These metaphors can guide us into a comprehension of where we are and perhaps why we are there (notice all the metaphors I use in trying to convey my conceptions). Metaphors provide insight to the self.

    John Rawls in A Theory of Justice attempts to accentuate and define the principles of ‘justice as fairness’.

    Rawls develops the concept ‘veil of ignorance’ as a means to develop the abstract substance of justice. From this beginning he developed the fundamental principles of social justice. Under the ‘veil of ignorance’ there exists no self-interest there exists only common interest because all under the veil are ignorant of any individual reality i.e. social position, wealth, intelligence etc.

    Rawls empathizes, through the veiled eyes of the hypothetical Everyman, the rational choices for the first principles of justice. “Among the essential features of this situation is that no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does anyone know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, strength, and the like. I shall even assume that the parties do not know their conceptions of the good or their special psychological propensities. The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance."


    In this hypothetical position of a “veil of ignorance” Rawls assumes that we would agree that “Justice is Fairness” is an appropriate metaphor in our search for principles of justice.

    Why does Rawls use the concept of fairness as a means to comprehend the concept of justice? He does so because we use metaphor both in its linguistic and in its conceptual mode almost always to clarify an unknown by comparing it to a known.

    How have we developed our comprehension, i.e. our concept, of fairness? We have developed the concept of fairness beginning very early in our life. We learned very early that we could use the word ‘fair’ to convince our mother that our sibling had mistreated us. “Bobby is not being fair, he is eating my cookies!”

    Constantly throughout our life we have constructed, via numerous different experiences, many aspects of our concept of fairness. If we could look into our brain we might see a group of neuron networks all clustered together all of which is our concept of fairness. I recognize that science can tell us that these clusters are not in one location but are scattered about the grey matter.

    What Rawls is saying is that we can take our great cluster of concepts that together make up our concept of fairness and remove those component concepts that relate fairness to our place in society, our class position or social status, our distribution of natural assets and abilities, our intelligence, strength and the like, and from what remains we can examine in the effort to determine what fairness is and thus what the principles of justice are.

    Essentially Rawls is suggesting that we can abstract a concept of fairness, stripped of those concepts that are related to our social and financial situation, and thus derive the fundamental comprehension of our concept of fairness and use this concept to develop principles of justice.

    My ideas about the nature of concepts and metaphors come primarily from “Philosophy in the Flesh” by Lakoff and Johnson.
    Last edited by Soapboxmom; 04-05-2009 at 12:36 PM.

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