Troperville

Tools

What's Happening

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Most entries in this article are written with the mistaken notion that the mental condition of sociopaths is synonymous with a tolerance for violence. Willingness to enjoy, perform, encourage, or allow violence does not make a character sociopathic.

Nitcho: As far as Ciel Phantomhive is concerned, there's nothing about in the trope about having to be a sociopath with your own two hands. But if Ciel Phantomhive doesn't belong there then it's more because he does (hypocritically) angst over stuff, so yeah.
MidaMint Tricky Pacifist, I've moved our discourse to the bottom of the page so folks who'ren't interested don't've't scroll past it.

Tricky Pacifist: Good idea.
Jefepato: Wait, what's with the Ender example? Pretty much every time he killed anything, either he had little choice in the matter or he had no idea he was doing it, and either way he angsted over it afterward. He's not evil and not remotely a sociopath.
Unknown Troper: Removed Gaara, Lucy and Alex from the lists — not only is the idea of the heroic sociopath the complete karmic opposite of that of the woobie, but none of them are ever, to my knowledge, played for comedy.
Meems: What's John Simms' version of The Master doing here? We're not remotely supposed to be rooting for him. He's a major antagonist for heaven's sake.
Proginoskes: I'm sorry, but the bit about Sweeney Todd not having motive or Freudian Excuse in the play is utter bull. I am going to remove it.
In Hogan's Heroes, Stalag 13 is not a concentration camp, it is a prisoner of war camp for Western Allied prisoners. Compared to the death camps, regular concentration camps and pow camps for enemy prisoners from the Russian Front, the Nazis treated the prisoners from the West like UK, USA and Canada with kid gloves.
Uknown Troper: The next person who attempts to add 'real life' examples to this trope — let alone trying to use it as a political mouthpiece — gets a boot to the head. The Heroic Sociopath is an intentional 'cannot exist in real life' trope, because anyone acting like that in real life would first of all not get away with it and would secondly not be funny.

Krid: Are you kidding? I can think of several real life examples that fit it better than half the stuff on the page. The James brothers (There were series of books GLORIFYING them), Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, etc... They may not have been heroic in nature, but people sure as heck treated them like heroes.
Zephid: Is it just me, or is the picture too big?

Uknown Troper: Only one I could find. If anyone would like to resize it, be my guest.
Roland: Why is Dante listed here? There is no- absolutely no- way that he can even be categorized as remotely sociopathic. He has a reasonably strong moral center, and despite talking a big game about how he's only doing what he is for personal reasons he always does the right thing.

Bisected8 I'd say the same about Dr. McNinja. He hasn't been shown to kill anyone who wasn't a villain, plus in one arc he was pretty upset about having to kill all the people he killed in the previous arc.

Krid: Dr. McNinja's not a sociopath at all. He's actually a lot more of a philanthropist, what with deciding to try and find a cure for death instead of helping wipe-out a ninja-drug conspiracy. If he were a sociopath, then he would have chosen killing over un-killing any day of the week.
Paul Power: Nice image, shame about the JPEG compression.
Twin Bird: Is Dexter really a sociopath? I was under the impression that he had a fairly strong moral code. Sure, he's thanatostastic, but he only goes after people he can justify killing to himself; a sociopath, by my understanding of the word, has no need for such justifications.


Krid: Baron Klaus Wulfenbach isn't a villain. He's vicious, quick to violence, and rules with an iron fist, but it's pretty plain to see that it's because he basically undid the end of the world and his way of doing things is the only reason why the mad scientists he keeps in check haven't killed everyone. This is stated rather explicitly in these two comics -> http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20080303 http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20080305 . He's also shown to be forgiving, have a definite soft side, and most notably hates being a tyrant ( http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20040114 ). So, yea, Klaus isn't a villain. However, Dupree still fits this trope to a T.

Avrom: A Heroic Sociopath isn't *strictly* a villain, though. I agree, Klaus' ruling of Europa with an iron fist doesn't make him a sociopath. The joy he takes in dissecting the brains of live sparks, however, arguably does. But I kind of agree with you that, while he might match the strict definitions of the terms "heroic" and "sociopath," I'm not sure he really has the happy-go-lucky love of carnage that seems to be the central idea of the trope. Dupree is a much better example...although she sometimes comes close to being a Villain Protagonist instead. (And I don't even know if she qualifies for that. Does the reader really root for her? The sequence when she had the broken jaw was pretty funny, actually—I didn't feel at all bad for her the way I did for, say, sick Belkar.)
Semi-Known Troper:The trope here seems to be slightly buried. Almost all the examples seem to refer to the 'technically good' variation mentioned in the text.

Shale: That's because the "outright evil but the viewer still roots for them" version has been shunted over to Villain Protagonist.
Uknown Troper: Removed the Heroic Mime example. Call me a stuck-me-up if you will, I have a hard time finding any person completely lacking in a personality of his own 'badass'.
Large Blunt Object: Cut
"I don't know what effect they're going to have on the enemy, but they sure scare the hell out of me."

because that's bullshit. The correct wording of the quote generally attributed to Wellington is is "I don't know what these men will do to the enemy; but, by God, they frighten me" (you think Arthur Wellesley said "they sure scare the hell out of me"? Beg pardon, but reactionary though he may have been, he wasn't a stupid hick...) And whether or not he said it, this trope is clearly about the individual psychotic hero, rather than scary troops.

Also, Uknown, please stop removing the indent for quotes, it's fucking wrong.
Zef: Removed Nabiki from the Anime examples. The contribution mentions what would make her a sociopath, but not how she would be heroic. Probably because she's in no way, shape, or form, the least bit heroic.
Wascally Wabbit: As discussed above, have modified the opening to clarify that this not Pyscho For Hire only more so.
Smokie: Deleted Haruhi Suzumiya, again, from the examples. Newsflash: Having socopathic tendencies doesn't make you fit in the Heroic Sociopath page, maybe you should read what this ill-defined thing is about. If you wanna make a reasonable description of Haruhi as an example here, fine. But if you want to whine and bitch about how mean she is, do it in the Darth Wiki.

Taelor: If being a hero and a sociopath does not qualify one for inclusion on a page entitled heroic sociopath, then maybe the page should have a different name.
Auraseer: Some of these examples seem not to match the description. The description talks about the character being "played for laughs" and "causing wacky hijinks." But I don't think "hijinks" when I think about Rorschach, or Marv from Sin City, etc. Should we clarify the examples or the description?

Some Guy: The description. A sociopath doesn't have to be funny but a writer can make jokes about his actions as a distraction.

Avrom: I disagree. For one thing, I don't remember the author even making jokes about Rorschach—he's played as a fairly serious character (there's not all that much humor in Watchmen, period, and what there is is not supplied by Rorschach). I also think that there is a really distinct feel to the characters that cause "wacky hijinks" (even if such "hijinks" involve a lot of blood) that characters like that don't share, even if they *are* used as a source of some black humor; they deserve their own trope, and it might as well be this one. There's Villain Protagonist or Byronic Hero for the darker characters.
Avrom: I wonder if there's actually a distinct subtrope of this—heroic sociopaths that are also cute, small, furry animals. From TV: Woody Woodpecker (although I suppose he's not fuzzy) and Slappy Squirrel. From webcomics: Fuzzy, Bun-Bun, Chicken (again, not really fuzzy), Pintsize (well, neither fuzzy nor an animal, but cute and small)—this seems to be a *really* popular trope in webcomics. From traditional comics: Dogbert and Catbert. One could even make the claim that small, cute humans (e.g., Stewie) were of a "type" with these non-human examples. This is especially notable in situations where there's only one cute little caharacter, only one heroic sociopath, and they overlap (true of Family Guy and all the webcomics referred to above, except Goats). If people think this counts as a distinct subtrope, I propose the name "Nasty, Cutish, and Short."

Is there a reason River Tam isn't on here? She's practically Axe Crazy

The Original Some Guy: Because she isn't funny. Or a sociopath. Or a villain. Or because she didn't get away with it.

Roland: Is there a reason Mal's on here?

Tricky Pacifist: Because he verbally abuses crew and passengers, frequently displaying his contempt for them and/or disregarding their personal space. Not to mention punching them out, shutting them in an airlock and threatening (in all sincerity) to kill them. And that's how he treats the people who are ostensibly his friends. He derives amusement from inflicting psychological 1(telling Simon that Kaylee was dead, especially egregious when he'd previously threatened to kill Simon ad River if she died) and physical 2(Atherton Wing) damage to others. And, oh, yes, he 3 kicks people into engines for the crime of making blustering threats when they're tied up and helpless. And yet, the fans still love him, hence the "Heroic" part. So my question is, is there a reason he's not here anymore?

The Original Some Guy: @Tricky Pacifist 1)it's a joke. Some harmless ribbing. A bit of locker room humor. 2)Atherton Wing challenged Mal to a duel. 3)Is one of Mal's character-defining moments that make him and Firefly superior to most characters/shows. Usually a hero character in modern stories irrationally suffers his enemies to live no matter how often they try to kill him. Comic superheroes are the most egregious example. Mal's response was a rational one: kill your mortal enemy, make an example for the other captives to gain their cooperation, and eliminate the chain-of-command member unwilling to act as an emissary. As a friend said, "it's like an RPG where he's making the decisions I'd choose".

Tricky Pacifist: 1) yes, it's a joke, and a pretty good one on the audience. It's a pretty sadistic joke played on the character though. 2) Yes, but it was still sadistic. Mal even admitted that he only continued poking holes in Wing because it was "fun." Not as bad as 3, I'll grant you, he's making people suffer for the sake of his own enjoyment. 3) Yeah well, the difference between Mal and an RPG player is that Mal doesn't know his enemies aren't real. Sure it was a character-defining moment. It defined the character as a complete asshole. I hear what you're saying about the naivete of comic book heroes, but there's a very good reason for that—it's to differentiate them from the villains. None of those reasons you list come close to justifying murder (unless you're a villain), with the possible exception of the likelihood that the guy would come back again. In which case, Mal had plenty of less extreme options open to him than killing the guy. At worst, I suppose, he could've amputated his arms. Plus, from the episode, it seems less like Mal did it out of rational preemptive defense, and more because the guy had metaphorically spit in his face. The other thing about those comic book heroes is that when they do decide it's necessary to kill someone (especially someone who can't presently defend themselves) there's usually at least some acknowledgment that killing another human being (especially a helpless one) is not right, even if they do believe it to be necessary. For Mal, it's all in good fun. Add to that the way he verbally abuses his crew and disrespects their personal space on a routine basis. And the way he knocked Jayne out and shoved him in an airlock after his betrayal on Ariel. Now compare that with the way Simon handled Jayne's betrayal. Mal consistently employs unnecessarily violent methods to get what he wants, often for no other reason than that he enjoys it. Yeah, I'm still sticking with the Heroic Sociopath label.

The Original Some Guy: I don't know what moral context is implicit in your arguments but a defining trait of Firefly's setting is that people's spirits haven't been broken, they live sans state. 2)Rational reference points for comparison in this situation are what Atherton was willing to do to Mal and what was expected of Mal. Atherton challenged Mal to a duel; that's a fight to the death. Sentimentally, they're fighting over Inara. A rational response to "fight to the death w/me to defend your claim" is to kill the challenger. Bucking the methodology the culture would impose on him Mal was merciful and spared Atherton's life. Everyone takes pleasure in triumph and even hurting others. But stabbing Atherton wasn't an end-in-itself. It was a measure of vengeance meted out for having to fight and the insults paid Inara. Do you agree someone must be sadistic for sadism's sake to be appropriately labeled a sadist? B/c laughing at slapstick humor, enjoying tackling someone in football, the satisfaction of winning a fight, smiling at explosions that kill people in an action movie, all contain portions of sadism. But sadism isn't sufficiently dominant in these acts I'd consider it appropriate to call people performing them sadists. 3)Simon doesn't want to worry about watching his back and so reminds Jayne he'll be at his mercy regularly to gain an armistice. Simon and Jayne are shipmates and coworkers. Mal's the captain. He bought the ship and is paying Jayne to work for him. Simon+River are under his protection. Mutinously, Jayne attempted to sell the siblings. Imagine one of your employees tries to sell two of the others. He has disobeyed your orders and disregarded human life. Had his attempt succeeded two lives would be lost to you. If all lives are equal he tried to deduct his worth twice-over. You can't rely on cops to take care of you. How do you solve the problem? Jayne has attempted mutiny in the past and Simon anesthetized him to help return Mal to power. Everyone on the ship has accepted Mal's authority to some degree. What response would you write's the most forceful acceptable to Jayne's egregious breach? Mal threatens his life but he doesn't take it. He could find another tracker-soldier. How would you attempt to convince Jayne not to attempt mutiny again? The greatest difference between Mal and Superman isn't morality but power. Letting his enemies survive is a much lower risk to Superman's life than Mal's. There's little threat to most superheroes lives but Jayne could cut Mal's throat while he's sleeping, just down the hall. Superman doesn't have to rely on other people. If Darkseid kills a hundred Metropolis citizens Superman will still zip around in the sky. But Mal needs Simon to help keep the crew's health, Kaley to keep the engine running, Wash to fly the ship, Zoe to watch his back on jobs etc. They stay together because he affords them an amount of freedom and safety they appreciate. How's he to hold them together if he lets Jayne sell off crew members?

Tricky Pacifist: Original Some Guy, you're right that enjoying pain in others does not automatically make us sadists, even if it is sadistic. But Mal constantly goes out of his way to hurt others. He played a joke on Simon which would be exceptionally cruel in real life (how would you feel if somebody told you that someone you'd recently met, someone who's life you'd tried to save, was dead, and incidentally told you earlier that if that person died, you and your sibling would as well); he torments Wing after having already beaten him because he "makes funny noises" ("I could kill you, but instead I'm only going to blow your arm off" is not exactly the last word in compassion), in other words, employs more-than-necessary force, apparently for his own amusement; he terrorizes Jayne when the other betrays him (you really think knocking him out, throwing him in the airlock, and threatening to kill him was the only way to make him shape up? He could've had Jayne restrained, or thrown him off the ship if he really didn't care about keeping him around, or gotten him therapy or—heaven forbid—tried reasoning with him or a hundred other things, but none of them would've been as much fun as inflicting physical and mental violence); he kicks a helpless prisoner into an engine intake when, as I already pointed out, he had other options; he also chronically insults Inara and invades her personal space, and probably mildly abuses the rest of the crew as well, though I'd have to go back and watch the series again to cite specific examples. In all of these cases he employs more-than-necessary amounts of violence to achieve his goals, and in some cases appears to employ violence primarily for his own amusement (As does Doctor Gregory House, incidentally; he's a character that I actually like, but I certainly wouldn't argue that he doesn't belong on this list).

On a slightly different note, I find it intriguing that you put your arguments about Mal's (and Superman's) motives purely in terms of utility. You say that Mal needs the various members of his crew because of the function they serve for him, not as human beings with their own intrinsic value. People are not inherently valuable, only if they continue to further my own self-interests? Yep, that definitely sounds like dangerously sociopathic reasoning to me. (Of course, it's also the stance of some free-market ideologues. Objectivists for one, as best I can tell.)

The Original Some Guy: This one would rather be though of as a [free-market-lover] than a sociopath. Are people onboard as friends Mal's hosting or as crew-members (in Inara's case a renter)? Friendship and business blend but whether the character Mal thinks so or not, he must rely on his crewmates skills and so act to keep their reliability from jeopardy. Inara and Mal are awkward w/each other b/c they love each other y otros traits. The same survivalist context that justifies Mal's actions during the Ares episode justifies his whole life and in reality all lives. A faultless society is without violence and we measure ours by how closely we approximate that perfection. The appropriateness of degrees-of-molestation are referenced against the persons, things, and other contextualizing facts involved. Facts are obscured by human perception and language. Language is the first synthetic standard. Through its' faults our attempts at improvement are flawed. Was Mal's treatment of Simon funny depends on what's funny. Closely evaluated, it's revealed our consensus reality is a glamor on observable reality; we aren't synched. Throwing Jayne off the ship is sentimentally similar to killing him. "I don't want your presence". Binding him? The alternative you present would be an ongoing fight instead of a finite event. It would be a continual humiliation instead of a few minutes w/one witness. Tying Jayne to a chair or locking him in a room is less tolerant a solution than throwing him in the airlock and threatening his life. The airlock exchange is Mal's reason assisted by fear-of-death. It treats Jayne as someone who may be converted, an equal. To have Mal's hand endlessly heavy on Jayne, restricting his movements, treats Jayne as an inferior/enemy. How is it less peaceful to fight a man and settle the contention than oppose him henceforth? How is a locked door a softer dominance than a mind's agreement?

Tricky Pacifist: I did say some free-market ideologues. I happen to believe that free-market ideology is inherently sociopathic, though most people don't realize it, but that's a completely different discussion. I don't see how your argument negates the fact that a healthy, nonsociopathic person respects other people primarily for their intrinsic worth in human beings (whether or not they happen to be one's friends), and only secondarily as means to achieving one's own personal goals. I'm not sure Mal's behavior towards Inara can all be put down to his attraction to her, but for the sake of argument, let's say that it is. Then it's telling that the way in which he manifests his attraction (his "awkwardness, as you put it) is by continually insulting her, invading her private space, and disrespecting her expressed wishes. Simon, by contrast, only insults Kaylee by accident, because he can be a thoughtless idiot sometimes, and she's too immature just to sit him down and explain why his behavior is insulting, leaving him puzzled as to how he's offended her. But Inara constantly reminds Mal exactly how and why his behavior is unacceptable, and he keeps doing it anyway. This doesn't mean he doesn't love Inara. I'll let you in on a little secret: Most abusers love the people they abuse, yet for whatever reason they're so screwed up that they continue the abuse anyway. Unlike Mal, in their quieter moments, abusers often recognize that their actions are wrong, and feel remorse, even if they can't seem to break themselves of their abusive habits. (I speak from experience, I used to mistreat my little sister when we were kids.) As for you argument about Mal's joke: I can't tell what you're trying to say. My point is that Mal did something to cause Simon severe (if temporary) mental trauma, purely for his [Mal's] own amusement. Whether or not it was funny, it was incredibly cruel. As for Jayne, you're missing the point: I was just throwing out some examples to illustrate the point that Mal had many other options open to him, most of them less violent than the one he chose. You seem to be operating on the assumption that Mal never intended to murder Jayne, and that it was his intention all along to convince Jayne to shape up. I'm not convinced that was the plan, but I'll accept that viewpoint for the sake of argument. Then you're right, restraining Jayne or putting him off the ship would've been counter-productive. However, he could've just talked to Jayne, maybe even threatened him, without knocking him out and almost killing him with the airlock. There are numerous ways he could've tried to convince Jayne that his behavior was unacceptable and not to be tolerated. Again, Simon provides a perfect example of how someone could deal with Jayne's misbehavior without resorting to violent abuse. Sure, his method—and all the other ones—carried the risk that Jayne would do his own thing anyway later on, and get someone hurt or killed. But then again, Mal's method carried the exact same risk, with the added risk that Jayne would carry a grudge against Mal. Fortunately, Jayne's a better person than that. But the point remains that there is no reason either stated or implied why Mal had no other choice than to mistreat Jayne as badly as he did. Just as there's no indication in Mal's other abuses that there weren't equally effective, less violent options open to him. The conclusion I draw from this is that since Mal's excesses are by no means necessary (and because he's been shown to enjoy inflicting pain in others), it must be that he enjoys inflicting physical and psychological violence against others. Obviously, you don't read him the same way, but do you still contend that there is no case whatsoever for the claim that he fits the trope of Heroic Sociopath?

The Original Some Guy: Restore Mal Reynolds to the entries for Heroic Sociopath if you want to see him here. I'm convinced the entry's layers of busted. A reparable fault is the inclusion of humor as a defining trait. Sociopaths needn't be funny. But the basic concept of sociopaths existence relies on falsities taken for granted. It takes someone w/moral myopia in real life to think the criminal robbing people evil and the cops arresting him upright. Cops are funded by fiat currency, Ponzi schemes defrauding people and forcing the use of depreciating tender. An ill of merit you see in the character is cruelty as a personality trait. The only examples of Mal doing something hurtful unnecessarily though are negligibly harmful. How was Simon hurt by Mal's lie that his patient was dying, implying he may soon die? Some moments worry and it's over. Feelings come and go. You wrote "Mal did something to cause Simon" and I want to know how you became convinced the purpose of Mal's action was to traumatize Simon. The manipulation of feelings is necessary to comedy. True cruelty has some lasting effect like "she cut off his leg to watch him hobble" because a sadist is indifferent to folks suffering. Was there a later episode showing Simon had been damaged by the experience? Should there have been? Mal isn't a sadist; he stays out of folks way for the most part. How many rules does Serenity have? I can't think of any beyond common courtesy and pulling your weight. You've accurately described how an abuser may feel towards the person wronged. Now consider some possible feelings of the person wronged. Any treatment a person's given tends to be accepted as deserved. It is iconoclasts, other cultures, differentiated peer-groups, or our indomitable self-respect that assures us we could vote, not have to commit hari-kari, etc. The kidnapee develops Stockholm Syndrome. The citizen develops patriotism. A ruler's treatment of his subjects is initiated and maintained by evil, conduct ordered under threat of violence. A ruler is an oppressor. The freer a society is the closer it is to a free market. Amongst a pacifist people all exchanges would be made by agreement, w/out theft. Because man is capable of theft there will always be theft but the more the damage of theft is minimalized the closer man comes to the perfection of capitalism. The perfect man is a capitalist. But none of us live as capitalists. We trade w/liars and thieves, give to bandits and kings, are inextricably tied to the worst members of mankind. In your writing it's implicit we are to operate morally individually, being pacifist no matter the abuses suffered. But if one punch stops two punches that one punch decreases violence. If self-sacrifice is admirable to you than praise the man who corrupts himself so there is less evil in the world. Thank the gunman who interrupts a shooter's spree w/a bullet through the head. If you maintain each of us should act as pacifists, ignoring the fact of our violent reality I presume you appeal to some God, a final judge to validate your death at the hands of someone you wouldn't raise your fist against. Pride in principles is absurd and Joss Whedon's an absurdist. Much of Firefly demonstrates the contextual absurdity of characters' motivations. Mal's clumsy attempts at holding a crew together on the fringe w/out Alliance interference are representative of man's means of keeping counsel while the 'verse unravels. Mal is an oppressor to avoid a greater oppressor (The Alliance) and he does evil (like shooting the fed in episode one) to prevent greater evil (the fed killing people).

Tricky Pacifist (incidentally, are there two of us with that name wandering around? Because I don't remember creating a Troper page. Should I be switching my Troper name?): You seem to be making three separate arguments here: 1 that Mal is not a Sociopath (and I could believe he isn't in the strict clinical sense, I've been arguing the looser TV tropes definition), 2: that capitalism is good for humanity rather than harmful, and 3: that pacifism is unrealistic and counter-productive. The second two points have absolutely nothing to do with the first, which was my main argument in the first point, but I'll address them anyway. (My original point about free-market ideologues only referred to some free-market thinkers, not a generalization of capitalist theory as a whole. I myself have issues with many communist theorists, as well as feminists, civil rights activists, queer rights activists, and other progressive thinkers.) 1 Mal: I think that you downplay the trauma of Mal's trick with Simon, but I broadly agree that by itself, it only signifies that he has a slightly sadistic sense of humor, which is a long shot from actual sadism. Likewise, his frequent mistreatment of Inara only makes him a chronic asshole by itself. But these things are coupled with each other and more importantly, coupled with more extreme behavior such as kicking The Dragon into an engine, repeatedly stabbing Wing because its fun, and knocking out Jayne and throwing him in an airlock point to something worse. Probably not a clinical sociopath, or that mythological beast the Complete Monster, but at the very least, someone unhealthily sadistic. I'm not saying this because Mal is not a pacifist, you understand. (With the exception of Jayne, I don't view any of the Serenity's other crew as Heroic Sociopaths, or even particularly objectionable within the context of the show.) I can accept Mal's violence, but my point is that—unlike the other violent characters (most of the time)—he constantly employs a disproportionate amount of violence and/or employs violence simply for his own entertainment, as in the cases cited above. I actually don't have a problem as such with Mal shooting the alliance agent in the pilot, although I do have a problem with the offhand, comedic way the production team treated that whole sequence: as if killing off a human being was light and humorous. 2: maybe this isn't the place for a capitalism versus socialism argument—or even for a critique of capitalism and never mind alternatives—and if any administrators find this inappropriate I will delete the following comments and drop the matter. Till then, though, since you have advanced your own argument, I feel it is my right to make my rebuttal. Your defense of capitalism presupposes one of the pillars of capitalist theory: private property. You say that in an ideal society "people make exchanges (i.e. trade) by agreement." This assumes that some people will own things other people need (food, water, clothes, medicine if they are sick etc.), things which, since they are needed by everybody, by rights belong to everybody. If one person owns what another needs, then they have power over that person, for they can withhold what they have, or demand an extortionate amount for it, as they see fit. If for whatever reason the "have" is indisposed to trade with the "have-not" or to weigh the trade too heavily in the "haves" favor, the "have-not" either goes without or loses something equally needful, to their detriment and often death. There can be no "free" market because as long as some people can own what others need (the commodification of the means of life) these inequalities will appear, and once started, they will grow. 3: Actually, we're to do more than remain pacifist no matter the abuses suffered: we are actively to confront our abusers, to expose their abuse by deliberately exposing ourselves to it. At least, that is what I believe, that is my message and my argument. I won't try to force it on you, but I will explain my position. Sure, one thrown punch which stops two would be a good thing, and at that low level, probably acceptable as well. But when is one punch more likely to prevent two punches, as opposed to provoking them? More often, one punch leads to further punches, and that's a best case scenario. But wouldn't not throwing a punch at all and still averting two punches cause even less violence than throwing one punch? In Real Life situations, there are often a variety of ways of averting a punch besides throwing one yourself. I don't ignore our violent reality—anything but. Which is precisely why I refuse to perpetuate the cycle of violence by being violent in turn. Why I meet violence with nonviolent direct action: action calculated to avert or minimize violence in others as well as myself. As for the Complete Monster on a killing spree—this is a very rare individual: the vast bulk of humanity can be reasoned with (everybody cares about something, if you can find a way of pointing out how their violence ultimately hurts the things they care about, you have a way that you can convince them to end their violence—if you play your cards right.) As for those rare individuals—well, as a Quaker, I happen to believe that Rousseau Was Right and even they can be cured one way or another—but even if not, there are plenty of ways they can and have been stopped without deliberately resorting to killing them. If you have the skill and equipment and leisure deliberately to shoot a killer in the head, then presumably you could fire a nonfatal disabling shot with little greater difficulty, and that's not even considering what other options might be available to you. That's the problem with hypothetical situations—they're too nebulous. So tell you what, next time I'm in a situation with a killer on the loose and somebody on hand with a gun and an opportunity to shoot said killer, I'll get back to you afterward and let you know how it went. Assuming I survive, of course. The Original Some Guy: I made your troper page for fun. If our dialog is banned from here is there another place you'd like to continue it? I'm enjoying the discourse. 2) "since they are needed by everybody, by rights belong to everybody." need=right, ignoring how items come to be and are transferred, is a communist definition of goods that doesn't correspond to reality. I want everyone to have medicine if they're sick to get better, food to eat when hungry, etc. But my want is moot. There is not enough food to go around. I could subsist on roots, berries and other natural foodstuff. But I opt to eat doughnuts which must be baked from flour which is ground from grains. People make doughnuts. Nobody owes me a dognut b/c I need to eat. My need entitles me to nothing. Need is as relative a term as want. Its' conditions could be anything. I need _____ to: survive, be happy, smell good, feel clean, be warm, etc. I want you to look at what communism dutifully ignores. If I want supplied doughnuts b/c I need them what must happen? Some other people must make the doughnuts and give them to me. What gets these people to work so I may be fed? They must believe I am more deserving of doughnuts than they are b/c I'm eating doughnuts without giving them anything in return. What instills/maintains this belief? Violence. Someone must be whupping those doughnut-makers asses to get them to make doughnuts for me at their expense.

Now incorporating elements of your argument: if the doughnut-makers tell me, "give us two bars of gold per doughnut" and I tell them "fuck you" what then? If they would rather have gold than doughnuts and I'm sitting on gold untarnished while their doughnuts mold the value of what they have is depreciating while mine remains. I have gold and they have doughnuts; there are no have-nots. Everyone has something useful if only his body. Well...I guess you could be a vegetable but nearly-all people possess something useful (it doesn't have to be an item).

As to the gulf inherently widening between the guy who has more and the guy who has less, this situation is possible but not an inherent development of one guy having more and another having less. I might have more fish than you today but how long will they last? I have more to invest from my fishing business than you do from what I pay you but what are the rates-of-increase of our holdings? Some good things to have are valued more by quality than numbers. How much is your family worth? Your photo albums? The fun you've had watching tv? I may be a miser who puts most of my time and earnings into my business and you an employee putting his earnings into family, tv, and travel. Years later I may have a bigger business but is that as good as your family, pictures, and fun-w/tv? Why should you get a family and some of my factories as well? If I envy your kids will you split them w/me so I may have a child of my own? If you gave me your family album would I remember the holidays? If I gave you my factory would you know how to run it?

3) Thank you for identifying yourself as a Quaker. (Please don't be offended) but I thought a difference between Mennonites and Quakers had to do w/pacifism. In whipping money-changers to drive them from the temple, Jesus proved perfection is not pacifism. Only God is perfect and judges us individually so we must attempt perfection, help others, and not corrupt ourselves for the fallen world's sake. An example of the world's fall is in the poor (who are not created by the wealthy). Consider Deuteronomy 15:11, Mark 14:7, and John 12:8. In a Christian mindset, I would think "as the blind man was provided so God could demonstrate his glory so the poor are provided so we may demonstrate our righteousness".

Tricky Pacifist: Thanks for creating the troper page. I've been enjoying it. Sorry for taking so long to reply, I've been busy. As for continuing the discourse ... well, if we're simply deleted (which admittedly hasn't happened yet) we could continue on the discussion sections of one of our troper pages.

2) It's interesting you should say that about communism, as it draws heavily on the works of Karl Marx, and his analysis of how items (specifically commodities) come to be and are transferred. You're right that the communist definition of goods doesn't correspond to (capitalist) reality; but then the whole Marxist critique is that the capitalist definition of goods is neither natural—or, to be less inflammatory, we'll say “inevitable”—nor healthy.

"There is not enough food to go around." This is a very interesting statement, and I wonder in what exact context you make it. Do you mean that there literally are not enough natural resources to feed and support all 6 billion+ human beings of the world? All the reports I hear—not just the ones made by "crazy" Marxists—say differently. We do have the resources to feed, water, clothe and house the entire world's population—if we had proper coordination and distribution (this would probably include convincing more affluent societies such as my own to be less wasteful).

But even if we didn't have enough resources to feed everyone, we could still feed more people if we didn't lose so much to wastage produced by the most affluent members of global society (again, self definitely included). If we truly love our neighbors as ourselves (I seem to recall trifling allusions to such ideals in one or two religious contexts) then we must recognize our present predicament as an unconscionable state of affairs, just as in France in 1789.

"If I want supplied dougnuts b/c I need them what must happen? Some other people must make the doughnuts and give them to me. What gets these people to work so I may be fed? They must believe I am more deserving of doughnuts than they are b/c I'm eating doughnuts without giving them anything in return. What instills/maintains this belief? Violence. Someone must be whupping those doughnut-makers asses to get them to make doughnuts for me at their expense."

This assertion is nothing short of hilarious. Allow me to substitute cookies for doughnuts in your story. Well, my family really likes cookies; we bake them a lot. Last month for Valentine's Day my family sent me a big box of cookies my father baked. For the next two weeks I was eating cookies … and handing them out to friends and professors. This is what I did last year when my family sent me cookies, and when I baked them myself.

Now what motivated my family to send me cookies? What motivated me to give them out to other people? Certainly not that they or I thought I/my friends were more deserving than them/me. And there sure as hell wasn't anybody whupping anybody's ass, even metaphorically.

Shall I tell you why, then? Love, friendship, community. The very motivations which in my personal experience, capitalist ideas of profit-motive tend to stifle on a larger scale. ('Well, I could do this really cool thing which would probably be of great benefit to the community ... but nobody's paying for it, and I don't have time both to pursue this project, and hold down a job which will provide me food and pay my bills.') Maybe I've missed the point of your remark, but the apparent argument was too laughable to pass up.

Now allow me to adjust your gold-for-doughnuts scenario. Supposing, first of all, that what you want is not a luxury item like doughnuts (we can survive without doughnuts, even if we're not very happy about having to do without). Let's suppose that what they have is say ... water.

Let's say you live in a semi-remote village, and your main source of water is a river which runs by the village. Without access to that river, you will not have sufficient hydration to survive. Now the people who own drinking rights to this river (because even rivers are commodities under free-market ideology) can charge you … anything they want. You may have what they want … but they have what you need. Now, of course, they may be generous and charge you a fair price, or even give it to you for free (though how they're to make a living from that if everybody else isn't so generous poses a question), but it's entirely their choice. If they so choose, they can charge you much more than you can afford; that would be the capitalist thing to do, for it would be maximizing their own profit-motivated self-interests.

Now the democratic ideal posits that people are capable of making intelligent decisions about their own lives. If this is true (and I think it is), then the people who need that water should be able to reach a collective agreement on how the water will be distributed, without some elitist owner making the decision for them.

"nearly-all people possess something useful (it doesn't have to be an item)." They also possess something far more important than mere usefulness/utility (and I think we're tying back here into the original comments which sparked this economic debate): they have intrinsic worth as human beings, as their own subjects. Think about yourself: surely you have value beyond the utilitarian contribution you can provide for your group, however you choose to define that group. (This also brings up the interesting question: if all value is strictly utilitarian, what is it valuable for? What value does a group have, if not either a) inherent value, b) aggregate inherent value of all its members or c) both?) Hence we have the Marxist aphorism "From each according to their abilities, to each, according to their needs."

As for the gulf inherently widening between the person who has more and the person who has less, first of all, I was speaking strictly of material, tradeable wealth, which I'll get back to in a second. Secondly, I didn't mean that the (tradeable) wealth gap between any two given people inherently widens. Just that when one group of people owns a sizable amount of the means of producing necessary wealth tokens and the rest do not, then the owners have the power to dictate over the dependent nonowners. So long as this dynamic remains, some number of the owners are going to use this power inequality to advance their own interests at the expense of the dependent nonowners. Weather or not there is upward and downward social mobility for specific persons, the economic inequality between the two groups will continue to widen.

(By wealth tokens, I mean both necessary survival goods such as water, food, medicine, clothing etc.; luxury goods like television sets and gaming consoles and desserts; and items which may not be necessary survival goods per se but are considered necessary for unhampered functioning in specific societies, such as cars, refrigerators, computers, telephones and so on. The “means of producing” such wealth tokens are things like rivers, lakes, oceans, farmlands, forests, factories ... basically anywhere raw materials are harvested and/or synthesized into wealth tokens.)

Measurable and acknowledge wealth are entirely different matters. I can give you my blood, which decreases my health and increases yours, but I cannot give you my health itself—it is not tradeable. Similarly, while I can give you a TV, or a photo album, or even a child, I cannot give you the memories, relationships and emotions that I associate with them.

One of the key differences between tradeable wealth on the one hand, and measurable and acknowledgeable wealth on the other is that while the first is finite, the second two are not. We can think of tradeable resources like a massive pool of items; at present population, it is possible for everyone to take enough to sustain themselves, but if some take too much, there is not enough for others. You do not get this kind of situation with measurable and acknowledgeable wealth. My increased health, intelligence and happiness in no way limits your ability to access these same types of wealth.

If you own the only factory in the district which produces cars, then I am dependent on you if I want to obtain a car. But if I have good health, good education, and loving relationships, you are in no way dependent on me to obtain these for yourself. (Of course, another problem with capitalism is that it does expand some people's access to measurable and acknowledgeable wealth at the expense of others, through the manipulation of tradeable wealth. By privileging the rich with food stuffs, medicines and material teaching aids, it does insure that the poor have worse access to the necessities for health and and education, even though these things cost the rich nothing. Give it another couple hundred years, and maybe the free market will find a way to do the same for loving relationships.)

So anyway, the point is that if the tradeable wealth is fairly distributed, then everybody has an equal opportunity to pursue measurable and acknowledgeable wealth—or not, as they choose. (Well, there would probably be some need of altruism in the case of those born with some types of physical or mental handicaps, but nowhere near as much our present society makes necessary.)

“If I gave you my factory would you know how to run it?” If I'd been working in it for the past decade or so? Probably better than you do.

3) You're welcome. Of course, I can't speak for all Quakers. At best I can point to some concepts and principles that Quakers (in my experience) generally adhere to. I'm not offended, but I admit I don't know enough about Mennonites to understand your reference.

I know that there are a lot of people who consider that Jesus was a pacifist, but not having ever read the Bible, I have no way of assessing your argument as opposed to theirs.

However, for me, it's a moot point. Many Quakers do not consider the Bible to be definitive, this deriving from the traditional Quaker belief that all human beings are equally capable of experiencing God directly, without mediation through priest or book or anything else. I don't know if it would be true to say that Quakers as a group view the Bible as the work of human beings rather than holy writ, but that is certainly the view of many Quakers, myself among them. Furthermore, many Quakers (again, self included) consider Jesus a great person, but a human being and not God or even the son thereof (well, except maybe in the sense that all human beings are God's children). Therefore, whether or not I believe that Jesus was a pacifist, I do not believe that he was divine and therefore perfect. So your example of “whipping the money-lenders out of the temple” does not, for me, constitute sufficient proof that “perfection is not pacifism.”

I agree that while we humans cannot achieve perfection, we must always strive for it. I happen to believe that pacifism and nonviolent direct action are necessary components of our quest for perfection.

My argument is not quite that the poor are created by the wealthy. What I'm saying is that the socio-politico-economic-juridical-cultural (probably leaving something out) system which we live in creates social stratification and the institutions of wealth and poverty. As long as we live in this system, of course, we sustain that economic inequality, but that's not the same as saying that any of us actually create it.

“In a Christian mindset, I would think 'as the blind man was provided so God could demonstrate his glory so the poor are provided so we may demonstrate our righteousness'.” It's debatable whether Quakerism counts as a “Christian mindset,” but I'm pretty sure there are a lot of Quakers who believe that it does who would utterly reject your view of the poor (and the blind, for that matter), as I also do, incidentally.

I find your argument highly problematic because, bluntly, it objectifies the people who live in poverty. Whether the poor exist to provide “us” non-poor people with cheap labor or so that “we may demonstrate our righteousness,” the argument still comes back to “the poor exist for our benefit.” Once again, we are denying a group of people their inherent value as human beings, and only allowing them use-value in relation to other humans. (This is also the ultimate concept of patriarchy/sexism, another odious social phenomenon.)

Coincidentally enough, Dan Hemmens of ferretbrain addressed this very question in a recent article, referring specifically to poverty in Africa, but his point applies universally: “On some level we all believe that starvation and suffering are what Africa is for. It’s nobody’s fault that millions of people starve to death despite the fact that there is, in fact, enough food to go around, it’s just the way of the world and anyway, if people stopped dropping dead in Ethiopia, what would Lenny Henry do with his time. 'Make Poverty History' [is] a way of saying that our usual way of thinking about poverty is, in fact, totally fucked up.”

Which, frankly, it is. If poverty exists so that human beings may demonstrate our righteousness, then we can only do so by each doing our part to make poverty (and its logical corollary, overbloated wealth) history.

MidasMint I'll take over for The Original Some Guy. I thought you'd lost interest in our discussion.

2) I mean there are not enough resources to satisfy man. It is man's nature to adapt. We get used to whatever conditions we're in and alter. A man given a chicken sandwich will find a day he doesn't want to eat a chicken sandwich, he'll skip the meal, he'd like some Tabasco sauce, or he has otherwise changed. There is no perfect balance of provision for men. No man can be satisfied. No provision will satisfy man. The essence you allude to varies between people. By the absolutes I lay down you can deduce why utility is moral and the alternative (oppression) immoral. Exchanges based on merit multiply man's prosperity, multiply man, and exchanges based on violence decrease man. The sorts of men in existence have been, are, and will be too many to list. One man is happy to fish, another likes reading stories, another enjoys keeping the surface of his table clean, etc. The more these men get along the better things go for them. The story-reader may tell the fisher of fish-related stories; the table cleaner may sell some of his old tables for books and fish to be put on. The ideology your economic view is tied to is evil. You must ignore the implications of what it holds true, the practices derived from its' prepositions and their influence in reality, to not know this. I don't think I know anything you don't already. I think you're in denial. For every man to be rightly valued as a human being what must pass?

In one place I see the farm yields enough food for the locality to be without hunger. In another village the crops are dry and children starve to death. There is no solution to men sickening, dying, weakening, starving, etc. The best we can do is multiply as much as we can and improve the world as much as we can. Could the town with a good yield save the town with dry crops? Maybe. It can't be known without testing. Would that be an improvement? Maybe. It can't be known without testing. Do I condemn kindness? No. There's nothing wrong with your family giving you cookies, you giving the cookies to other people, etc. Would I call withheld kindness meanness? No. You identify your motive as love. It may be. But your parents didn't hate you for every cookie they didn't bake; you didn't hate friends for every cookie you ate. Keeping/using what you have is morally neutral. I give moral sanction to the eating village to not attempt to feed the starving village. Their community may grow over generations as their farming technique provides excess until they have made more people than were lost by the other village starving. The other village might not starve to death. People may move from the starving village to the one with food if there's work. The fed village may've employed better techniques that the surviving members of the starving village adopt so superior farming techniques propagate. The better-fed villagers may be able to devote more work to pursuits unrelated to farming (which allows for many potential developments: making up entertaining stories and dances, hunting animals, raising children better, having more children, traveling farther from the village, etc.) I condone the fed village witholding kindness from the starving village with foreknowledge of the possibilities. The greatest likelihood is their strength will let them add unto themselves greater strengths, totaling in excess of the dead neighboring village. Does the father watching the other village's children starve hate them? No. He loves himself and his family. He keeps their food not to spite starving people but to feed himself and those he cares about.

Dually, my condoning is as much in support of withholding kindness's results as in opposition to the consequences of a counterthesis. If every man has a static, identical worth making a certain amount of food due him then it is wrong for a man to withhold food he has in excess of his due from a man who has less food than he's due. For clarity, let's say D=the amount of food per day a man is due. If D is a real value than any man who's F*>D should F-D=E** and give to a man who's F<D. (How do I get some subscript 1s and 2s to distinguish the Fs of man 1 and man 2?) A popular counterthesis to condoning witheld kindness is forced kindness (an oxymoron?). By your principles you condone the starving village in taking food from the fed village. What's wrong with that? Maybe the fed village will become a second starving village. Maybe the villages statuses will reverse. Instead of the strength of the fed villages works being plied up so man may multiply and improve the weakness of the fed village's strength is alloyed with the starving village's weakness so man stagnates and dwindles. Optional charity (redundant?) acknowledges the relativity of our values. It respects man's judgment, letting people have what they agree to. Man is then not at war with himself but the external world. Theft as you propose is justified by an imaginary equality of man. How much is D? 5,000 calories? The standard is completely made up. Who knows if he has had his due? I say it is good to create you've implied it's good to destroy. I've wrote it's good to trade you've implied it's good to steal. I write it's ok to keep or give you imply it's ok to take.

  • F=food
    • E=excess

I deny greed exists. How can you want more than you need? You must know what you need. What do you need? For what purpose? Say to live. How would you know you had less than you needed to live? Only by dying. Wealth is a buffer against death. To deny a man his wealth is to deny his want to live. To say abundance beyond a value is evil is to say a man can want to live too much.

We both want what's best for man. I say let man get as powerful as he can without hurting himself. If one man hoards his wealth just wait until he dies and it's up for grabs (barring a will). If a man has a family atleast they're starting off with his wealth and if it's more than the deceased-wealthy-man grew up with the newer generation's standard of living has went up. Isn't that good? To want your children to have a better life than you did? That's a common phrasing. Put another way it means, "I want my children to be wealthier than I was". Does that sound crude or noble when read in your mind? Remember I don't write "wealth" to indicate units of a currency but all good (even smiling). If most families succeed in having kids who're better-off than they were or a minority raises a sum greater in total than the static/loss of other families then generation by generation man's healthier.

Making a charge does not mean an equivalent payment exists. I might want 8 of those cookies you mentioned. I may charge you 8 of those cookies. You don't have 8 of those cookies to pay me. I won't receive 8 cookies. These're basic facts of reality people usually don't phrase b/c they're so lucid. It's in a seller's interest to lower his price, not raise it. Capitalists who don't know this are stupid. For instance: 1 out of 5 bushmen buy yearly rights to drink from my river for 2 diamonds each. I lower the price to 1 diamond a year. After word spreads I'm selling rights to 3 out of 5 bushmen a year at 1 diamond a pop. I've increased profits by 50%. Even isolated communities can only be charged so much. Eventually folks go, "the next village might be a week's travel but it's worth the risk.". There's also a risk of a competitor. "I hear old man Midas Mint is charging villagers 2 diamonds a year to drink. With my truck we can sell water for 5 pieces of mining scrip a bottle. We'll make a 200% profit!" These're 3 trends that work against a situation of "I can hardly live with what's left over after I buy [necessity]."

"Now the democratic ideal posits that people are capable of making intelligent decisions about their own lives. If this is true (and I think it is), then the people who need that water should be able to reach a collective agreement on how the water will be distributed, without some elitist owner making the decision for them."

Who's getting paid for what? I'll familiarize you quick with The Tragedy of the Commons: you'd rather your wife be a virgin than a cheap prostitute for the same reasons it's better somebody owns ______ than "it's the communities".

Wealth-token holders have the power to dictate what? If I make the first pokiki I've all the pokiki wealth-tokens. You've all the wealth-tokens you'd before I got the pokiki wealth token. You've all the options you had before I made the first pokiki. You also have a new option. I'll give you a pokiki for your firstborn son. Do you accept that deal? I'm not dictating anything. I haven't presented you with an ultimatum. If you don't agree to my offer nothing changes for you. But pokiki's are really great so how about your firstborn son?

"Secondly, I didn't mean that the (tradeable) wealth gap between any two given people inherently widens."

contradicts

"We can think of tradeable resources like a massive pool of items; at present population, it is possible for everyone to take enough to sustain themselves, but if some take too much, there is not enough for others."

if you took my meaning. What I meant is that one guy growing richer does not inherently make anyone else poorer. If I find a coconut tree and eat a coconut no one else has lost a coconut. In real life there's no fixed pool of coconuts, one for each human, that we're all pulling from. Damn where's my coconut! Some bastard must've taken 2 from the worldtree (pool). There're coconuts from coconut trees. If you want a coconut you need a coconut tree. If you want more coconuts you need healthier/more coconut trees. In the real world man is wrestling with external reality, working to get the world to make more coconuts. But some commonly-accepted nonsense-economics describe a fantasy world where the supply of coconuts is eternal (I guess it replenishes at a regular rate?) and if anyone's a glutton for coconuts he's ruining it for somebody else. There's no evidence of this magic taking place in the real world -hey! Where'd my coconut go? I'd one sitting right here but it disappeared! You didn't just eat a coconut did you?

If I've been working in a factory for the last decade as the guy running it I'll run it better than you, Assemblyline man # 57, unless I've gotten Alzheimer or you're cleverer than me or something. If you think you'll run a factory better go start your own. Or tell me and maybe I'll promote you. But what The Original Some Guy was getting at is possessing an object doesn't imbue familiarity with it's function. You'd have agreed Muchikeeboo of the clik-clik tribe is just as deprived of factories as my neighbors. I've been hoarding factories by paying people to build them and employing people to run them. Seriously though, I hope you're honest enough to admit a savage from the clik-clik tribe wouldn't know what to do with "the means of production*".
  • again phrased as if factories where in the Garden of Eden and new ones can't be made.

Tricky Pacifist: It's true that people have varying tastes—although less so if they are routinely malnourished, as I believe, oh, about 1/3 of the human population presently is, maybe more. But the point is that we currently have the resources to provide everything they need and as much as they want within reason and we don't. And that, my friend, is evil by any sane standards.

“Exchanges based on merit multiply man's (sic) prosperity, multiply man (sic), and exchanges based on violence decrease man (sic)” I don't see why free market apologists are so obsessed with property, something so totally irrelevant to people's real needs, but as to that last point, I completely agree. That's why I'm critical of an economic system which necessitates psychological, emotional, and physical violence in order to maintain itself.

“The ideology your economic view is tied to is evil … I don't think I know anything you don't already. I think you're in denial.” That's funny, because I would say to you the exact same thing. As one of my classmates so aptly put it: “Because capitalism is based on commodities and profit, there’s no consideration of what is truly valuable and what is truly worthy of investment (i.e. human labor, human effort, human love).”

Your example of the two towns is much too vague. Does one town have a significantly better yield than another? Then we can probably tell with some certainty that it can both feed the other village and itself. Or maybe it has a little more than it needs, and a couple other towns in the area also do, and they can work together because Hey, these are our friends, our fellow human beings in need, let's help 'em out.

Or, y'know, we could let 'em all starve because one of the survivors just might develop a wonderful new agricultural method. Does that sound right to you?

We must also consider the question of why one town's harvest failed an the other succeeded. Maybe it was just bad luck on the second town's side. Or maybe it's because decades/centuries earlier, the ancestors of the white residents of the lucky town forced the people of color who used to live on it onto much poorer cropland. In which case, the town with the good yield is benefiting from the continued effects of injustice, while the town with the bad yield is suffering the continued effects of said injustice.

Your proposal that property in itself is morally neutral is incorrect for two reasons. First, because it tends to make people selfish and spiteful (that's just in general); and second, because in the world in which we live, the people who have the most property only accumulated it through some past or present injustice. (e.g. Their ancestors grew wealthy by exploiting workers or slave labor to boost their own wealth.)

Sure, on a small, personal scale, the moral issues of property and ownership are too minuscule to matter. So long as coconuts are plentiful, taking one off a tree isn't realistically going to hurt anyone, nor is swapping it for an ornament.

It's only when ownership extends to big things like entire coconut plantations that the trouble begins.

“The greatest likelihood is their strength will let them add unto themselves greater strengths, totaling in excess of the dead neighboring village.” And here, my friends, we have conclusive proof of the shortcomings of utilitarianism as a moral philosophy, because that is just sick. “Yeah, sure, we could help you guys, but if we don't, we'll grow even wealthier while you'll grow even poorer, and so long as there are more of us than there are of you, then we've increased the overall happiness, which is the important thing.”

“A popular counterthesis to condoning withheld kindness is forced kindness (an oxymoron?). By your principles you condone the starving village in taking food from the fed village.” Ah, except I never said that, nor really implied it. What I condone (demand in fact) is not so much “forced kindness” as an elimination of the factors which force “withheld kindness” or even flat-out “unkindness.” Many managers, for instance, feel bad about having to “downsize,” but what can they do? They can look after the well-being of their workers, or they can pursue greater profits. Well, of course, the drive to accumulate more wealth must supersede the needs of mere employees. They're in the way of greater profits, after all.

“I say it is good to create you've implied it's good to destroy. I've wrote it's good to trade you've implied it's good to steal. I write it's ok to keep or give you imply it's ok to take.” Yoo-hoo, you done talking to the Straw Debater yet? Good, I'm the one over here.

I mean, is it theft to reclaim what was already stolen? If some imperialist jerk comes into your home and makes off with your possessions, is it stealing to take them back? If somebody takes over your home, which you've lived in all your life, and tries to evict you, is it stealing to stay? If someone puts you to work in the grape fields for ten years, paying you only in bread crumbs, while they grow fat on the grapes you harvested, is it stealing to take back some portion of the wealth which you yourself have created?

Maybe in that case, I support theft. And I do support creation of things like relationships, communities, art, culture, medicines, scientific knowledge, etc.* When it comes to say, weapons of war, instruments of pollution, and economic systems which create and/or magnify inequalities ... well, that's the sort of creation we can do without. I wouldn't say it's good to destroy them exactly, but definitely to dismantle them.
  • I also don't think people's livelihoods should be dependent on what or how they create, or, to put it another way, how they best express their own innate creativity. So long as that expression doesn't harm anyone else, obviously.

What I support is not principally theft, though, it is cooperation. I've seen firsthand the wonders human beings can create when they stop putting their own selfishness ahead of the needs of everyone else in the group and just work together for the benefit of the whole. I've also seen what sorrow is wrought when those same people fail to get over their own selfishness and fail to cooperate with everyone else.

One of the prerequisites to cooperation, though, is that one side stops screwing the other over, and this can be difficult when the people a) view their position of overprivilege vis a vis the people they're screwing over as natural and b) don't even recognize that they are participating in the system which is screwing the other people in question over (e.g. white southern slave owners before the Civil War). In that case, what's the underprivileged population to do? Wait for the people who're screwing them over to recognize their own wicked ways and voluntarily agree to stop and pay recompense?

“I want my children to be wealthier than I was.” Yes, in the contexts of emotional and spiritual wealth that is a beautiful sentiment, and one I wholeheartedly ascribe to. But I also want other people's children to be wealthier than they are or I am. The children of people who are already starving and suffering all over the world. It is their underconsumption which feeds our material overconsumption, and that relationship has to change for anyone to live a better life.

Its in the seller's interest to lower prices sufficiently that the majority can afford it, if only just. If the poorest can't afford it and die of dehydration, they're still making more money than lowering the price far enough to accommodate everybody. (Remember, something like 1 billion people worldwide subsist on less than $2US a day. If you lowered your prices to cater to that crowd, you wouldn't be making much money.)

The argument for mobility assumes there is mobility. In some places there is, in others ... less so. Again, the poorest are the least mobile of any group. They can't afford public transportation, let alone private, so they have to walk. Let's say the only drinking water within a days' walk of the village is owned by TropeCo, which has just bought the rights to the river and hiked the price. People can pay, its just that many of them have to stop visiting the doctor, or they have to go from three meals a day to just two, or they have to work an extra two or three hours a day, or take riskier work, or the like.

Now, they could spend a whole day walking to your store and a whole day walking back, but then that's a whole day of work wasted, and they have other bills to pay. Plus, they wouldn't be able to carry much water back, so they'd have to make frequent one-day trips. The other option is to abandon the village entirely, go somewhere else. Sometimes, this is practical, but remember they don't have public or private transportation, so they can't bring many possessions with them. So now they're in a new town with no home, little money, and no real prospects. They might get a job somewhere, but since unemployment is a staple of capitalism, there's likely to be a lot of competition for work—and a lot of resentment about “Outsiders coming into our town and stealing our jobs.” This, essentially, is the immigration “problem,” and as you can see, it doesn't work out to well for the people fleeing economic problems at home.

And finally there's the competition argument. In theory this should work—so long as TropeCo plays by the rules. But why should it? It's big, it's powerful, it's on to a lucrative business, and suddenly this Midas Mint pops up and tries to steal its' customers? It's going to want to hold onto its cash cow, if possible. If it's big enough and powerful enough, it may just buy you out, lock stock and barrel. That's how corporations grow. Or it might try to cut you in on the deal, make an informal partnership. Sure, you could make some money by competing with TropeCo and lowering your prices, or you could make even more money by working with TropeCo and both of you maintaining higher prices. If TropeCo is particularly underhanded, it may hire mercenaries to shut you down by force, or see if they can get the government to shut you down. (If there is no government, as libertarian capitalists would have it, there's even less incentive not to be underhanded.) Nothing personal, mate, it's just business.

“I'll familiarize you quick with The Tragedy of the Commons: you'd rather your wife be a virgin than a cheap prostitute for the same reasons it's better somebody owns ______ than 'it's the community's'.” Okay, this is obscene. To compare a profound emotional human relationship with management of material resources is nothing short of vile. (And your particular example is also misogynistic.) Then again, it fits right in with the free-market ideology that everything should be a commodity, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

I'm aware of the tragedy of the commons (more accurately known as the tragedy of open-access), which has nothing to do with human relationships and everything to do with mismanagement of resources. However, the Commons is only a tragedy if you assume that people aren't cooperating with each other, and that everybody's trying to grab the most for themselves. This can indeed happen, but the answer is not for one person to own the Commons and dictate how it can and can't be used (even though, often, it's other people who work in the Commons and thus create its wealth). In that situation, the community becomes hostage to the whims of the owner—this remains the case, even if the owner is the government. But if the members of the community come together and cooperate on a solution they can form a collective which manages the Commons and serves the needs of everyone. That is the democratic process.

(Also, if I and my partner(s) decide to engage in an open relationship, I don't see that it's anybody's business but our own.)

Yes, but out of curiosity, what did you make the first pokiki out of? Nothing comes out of thin air.

Anyway, nobody will actually die without access to a pokiki. Remember, I said “when one group of people owns a sizable amount of the means of producing necessary wealth tokens and the rest do not.” Necessary wealth tokens such as food, clothing, houses, books, medicines and the like. Things people need for their continued bodily, mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being. If you have control of all of those things and I do not, and you ask me for my first born child in exchange for the necessities of living, what am I to do?

“If I've been working in a factory for the last decade as the guy running it I'll run it better than you, Assemblyline man # 57, unless I've gotten Alzheimer or you're cleverer than me or something.” See, thing is, you won't because—and this is the key point—you're not the one who's been doing all the work. The point of a factory is to take a bunch of raw materials and create a product, let's say a computer. Now what do the workers do? They assemble the computers. What do the managers do? They tell the workers how to assemble the computers. But the workers know how to assemble the computers, because they're the ones doing it all the time. The manager is like someone who's spent years studying the theory of “how to drive a car.” The worker is like someone who's spent just one year actually driving an actual car. Which one would you trust to drive you home? (Awesome by Analysis rarely if ever works that way in Real Life.)

In fact, managers are so incompetent at running factories that one of the most effective methods workers use to fight mistreatment by managers or capitalist or government owners is by working to the rules. By following the bureaucratic regulations to the letter, workers can bring production crashing down! In terms of creating a product, managers are wholly irrelevant to factories—their real job is to maintain the hierarchy of worker < manager < owner and continue the illusion that workers need managers and owners to run their factories.

“If you think you'll run a factory better go start your own.” Ah, and now we come to the age old retort. In the fantasyland capitalists live in maybe, but in the real world there isn't such a level playing field. It takes a lot of resources in terms of raw materials, in terms of time, and in terms of capital to start up a whole new factory. Capitalists and governments and other overbloated institutions have the funds necessary to secure and expend those resources and build a factory. Factory workers (even collectively), do not.

... However, I did hear a story on the radio a couple weeks ago about computer programmers who got tired of their soul-destroying jobs and authoritarian managers and decided to start their own company where they'd be the bosses. Monday through Thursday they'd gather and work on their laptops and do all the stuff they usually did, and they'd reserve Friday to make all the decisions about how to run their company—collectively, by agreement. Presumably, they'd never read Marx because they're Republicans. As the guy who was telling the story (I think it was Richard Wolf) put it: “Some of the biggest innovations to come out of Silicon Valley in the last couple years were made by a semi-Socialist operation staffed by Republicans in Bermuda shorts.” They've done very well without bosses so far.

“Seriously though, I hope you're honest enough to admit a savage from the clik-clik tribe wouldn't know what to do with 'the means of production'. “again phrased as if factories where in the Garden of Eden and new ones can't be made.” Mm, first misogyny and now racism. You're kinda piling on the slurs here. But anyway, no, if the clik-clik tribe hasn't been colonized yet it probably wouldn't know what to do with a factory, which is just as well because even though new ones can't be made, again, they do not have the resources to build one. Unless they're sitting on a gold mine or an oil field, in which case they've already been displaced and their land stolen by the government or some corporation which has bought the rights to their land from that government (but not from the clik-cliks).

But, as I've pointed out, the “means of production” include fields to cultivate crops and forests to harvest wood and hunt game and gather fruits and vegetables. I hope you're honest enough to admit a savage (sic) from the clik-clik tribe would know what to do with a field or a forest or a river.

MidasMint In all our examples two ideological systems poke through clearly, like a penny through graphite. Like John Galt says, reality decides between us.

In your latest reply government's included among abusers and cooperation is equated w/Marxism.

I am not opposed to a group of people making decisions or voting on what they'll do.

Earlier you wrote of pacifist ideas. Putting your premises together I conclude (though I await your approval) that in a conflict between owner and objector you would protestingly yield w/out violence to the owner. If you walked on a guy's grass and he said, "GIT OFF MY LAWN!" I suspect you would step off the lawn though thinking it 'the people's'. If your boss said, "you're fired" you wouldn't show up to work and refuse to leave or fight security as they tried to escort/drag you out. But I await your confirmation.

You believe that there's enough material for everybody and everyone would be content save some men are greedy and have been unjust and so set the world out-of-balance. I believe man is not supplied his daily bread yet reshapes the world to better suit him and though inevitably one violent body will govern by its' dominance every step it takes to grow impoverishes men and moves man further from an ideal status.

When did the first injustice occur to starve a man and how did it imbalance all of humanity? How could there always be enough food for people though humanity increases in number?

" I also don't think people's livelihoods should be dependent on what or how they create, or, to put it another way, how they best express their own innate creativity. So long as that expression doesn't harm anyone else, obviously."

Creating is a form of work. My livelihood is what I afford my sustenance with. In this quote you've said what work a man does shouldn't decide if he lives. Do you judge existence and say reality should be different? If I decided to "best express [my] own innate creativity" through digging holes at the shoreline of a beach every day I would starve to death. It doesn't matter if you object. The facts are works or "means of expression" vary in productivity and it is as just for one man to evaluate how worthy he considers someone else's works before trading w/him as it is for one man to decide if he likes or wants to associate with another or not. No man can work hard enough to gurantee he'll live another day. We must reason what our best odds are. To demand one man sustain another's life is to deny him his own life. If I say to you, "I'm expressing myself digging holes along the shoreline. Don't be greedy, share some of your food w/me" I demand you live as a servant to me.

Because (again I await your confirmation) you won't resort to violence and therefore'll respect ownership you wouldn't impede my business. Because I'm not opposed to groups voting to decide their course I wouldn't impede your collective.

Tricky Pacifist: (Sorry again about the wait ...) I agree that reality decides between us. Unfortunately, we can both cite examples from real life which support our arguments, and I kinda doubt that they'll be enough to convince the other, though we can but try.

“In your latest reply government's included among abusers and cooperation is equated w/Marxism.” That's right, and I stand by what I've said. Centralized government to any degree equates to centralized power, and even a good person with that sort of decision-making position over lots of other people is guaranteed to abuse it—by making a mistake (as everyone does) if nothing else.

I also said that cooperation is consistent with Marxism. Not all Marxists would agree to that statement, but show me one statement that any group of people could universally agree on. The goal of Marxism though is to create a classless, egalitarian society, and it seems obvious to me, at least, that cooperation is essential to creating and maintaining such a society.

Ah-ha, I see we have fallen into the old trap of equating pacifism with passivity and inaction, and a general avoidance of conflict. Hardly. If I see an armed fighter attacking a helpless prisoner and I do nothing, that is not being a pacifist, that is being a coward, an enabler, or a dolt. As a pacifist, I carry a commitment to fight injustice wherever I see it—without creating additional injustices myself. If a do harm to another human being in my mission to stop them harming others, then I have committed an injustice myself, which is ultimately counterproductive. If and only if I stop them from harming others without harming them in return am I laying the foundations for a better world. That is pacifism, that is nonviolent direct action.

I don't give much of a care for lawns. Lawns have little to do with the means of production. But if the “owner” is a lumber baron who has stolen many acres of land from local farmers and village folk and deprived them of their livelihood, or who employs the locals in sweatshop labor, or who pollutes their drinking water with byproducts of his (and it's usually a “he”) logging, then I will stand in solidarity with the farmers and villagers to resist the lumber baron and confiscate “his” land. I just won't employ violence against either the baron or any minions thereof.

If I thought I was fired unjustly, and that I could do some good by resisting, I probably would—I just wouldn't use violence against my boss or the guards who tried to throw me out (or anyone else).

“How could there always be enough food for people though humanity increases in number?” But you see, population size is not the only factor, or even the primary factor, in human starvation at this time. If it were, then we wouldn't have an obesity problem along with an undernourishment problem.

The industrialized and overdeveloped Western countries actually have a very low rate of population growth. Once people stop having to depend on their kids to keep the farm running and their heads above water, and once the kids start having a better than 20% chance of surviving to adulthood, big families become more of a hassle than a help, and people stop having so many kids.

Population growth is highest in the poor and underdeveloped nations because poor people in those countries depend on their kids to keep them going, and if they have many kids, the better chance a few will survive to adulthood. Once their standard of living improves, the incentives to have many children go down, while the incentives not to do so go up—population growth stabilizes.

Now, your theory posits that resources are insufficiently available to some people because there just isn't enough to go around, this would suggest that there is a fairly equal distribution of resources, until the supplies run out. If so, then we would expect the countries with the biggest populations and biggest population growth in Africa and Asia to be the biggest consumers of resources, while the industrial countries with smaller populations and much lower population growth consume a much smaller fraction of the available resources.

The reality is exactly opposite. A couple years ago, one group working for the United Nations calculated that if every single human being on the planet subsisted on no more than 1.7 acres' (or maybe hectares) worth of resources, everybody in the world would be well (if not luxuriously) accommodated, and nobody would be left out. What's more, they ran a study to see in which countries the population per capita was living within its means, and in which countries the population was living beyond its fair allotment.

Care to guess what they found? In the poorest countries (the ones with the biggest population growth) the populations were almost universally living well within their means, many of them under 1 acre/hectare per capita. In the overdeveloped nations with low populations and low population growth, the people were consuming four or fives times their fair share of the resources.

Starvation is not a problem of availability. It is a problem of distribution. Famines come about now not because food is scarce, but because the tiny minority of people who own all the food are unwilling to sell low enough for poor people to afford. If that kind of situation isn't criminal, nothing is.

You say some work is more productive than others. But who decides what's productive? Going by our current economic system, one would have to conclude that creating and developing weapons of mass destruction is highly productive, while raising a baby to be happy and healthy and loving is not. Sitting behind a desk all day telling other people what to do is incredibly productive, but growing food is hardly helpful at all. Treating affluent people for colds and stomach aches and improving their sexual performance is productive. Curing low income people of deadly diseases or preventing people from getting sick in the first place is not productive. In fact, improving people's health by cutting down pollution and cracking down on toxic chemicals in food and other products is counterproductive because it reduces corporate profits, and thus economic growth.

If I'm depressed and you tell me a story to cheer me up, that's nonproductive. If somebody else treats me in therapy and charges me or my insurance company $500 for it, that's productive. If I help out a friend set up their DVD player, that's not productive. If a technical expert sells their services in setting up the DVD player, that's productive. If you and your spouse feed, play with, and nurture your child, that's not productive. If you get a daycare center to do it for you, that's productive. If I write a story, and decide to put it up on the internet for everybody to see, free of charge, that's not productive. If I get a publishing house to charge everybody $17.99 for reading my story, that's productive. If you happen to stumble upon someone preparing to jump off a bridge and talk them out of it, that's not productive. If a skilled police psychologist talks them out of jumping, that's productive. Or if a police officers tackles them and arrests them for attempted suicide (seriously), that's productive. If I give people helpful advice on request because I care about their wellbeing, that's not productive. If I give them helpful advice because they pay me $10 an hour for it, that's productive. If you talk a friend out of murdering a colleague because s/he is mad at them, that's not productive. If private security catches your friend ex post facto and they get thrown in jail for life, that's productive.

There are so many things we do for each other that increase our wellbeing, but which you cannot put a dollar amount to—and the very idea of making such an attempt would be sick. (I'm pretty introverted and lonely, and I treasure every hour I spend just hanging out with my friends. But just how twisted would I have be to pay them for spending time with me?)

Everybody cares about somebody, and therefore improves that person's life, if only by squeezing their hand every once in a while. And so long as you're improving somebody else's life, and you're not doing harm to anybody else, then as far as I'm concerned, you're being productive.

I object to livelihood being reliant on “productivity” because all human beings are inherently productive in their own way. When people try to rate productivity, they are artificially elevating some productive activities over others—and as I've pointed out above, their definitions of what is more and less productive and “unproductive” are highly dubious.

In a community that cares about all of the people who live within it rather than profits or similar balderdash, people contribute as they see fit, and they get back what they need. So long as most people participate, it doesn't matter much if some are shirking their duties and spending most of their time digging holes on the beach (although there might be environmental concerns). If some people aren't getting what they need, or some people aren't contributing as much as they should be, then the community (not politicians, managers, police, bishops, labor leaders, or any other authority figures) get together with the parties in question and try to work something out with them. I fail to see the problem with this scenario.

“Because (again I await your confirmation) you won't resort to violence and therefore'll respect ownership you wouldn't impede my business. Because I'm not opposed to groups voting to decide their course I wouldn't impede your collective.”

I won't resort to violence, no. I never said I won't resort to force. When one person or group's private ownership curtails another individual or group's freedom and right to self-determination, damn right I'll impede it.

There are many types of private ownership which are intrinsically immoral because they directly threaten the wellbeing of others, and those I will oppose to my last breath. Ownership of other human beings (slavery) is an obvious example. Factories are a less obvious (to some people) but equally crucial example, because the owners, their lackeys, and their shareholders wield all the power. If the factory pays workers well below living wage, or makes them work overtime, or gives them insufficient medical or maternity/paternity leave, or forces them to work like mindless drones instead of creative human beings (a phenomenon which is next to universal in our society), or if it dumps toxic chemicals into the community's soil and water supply, leading to increased rates of cancer and other health problems, the workers/locals have little or no recourse to fight this assault on their wellbeing. (Their potential recourses grow less and less the poorer the neighborhood is.) Oh, and if the factory manufactures rockets which then get lobbed at Afghani and Pakistani civilians, well, exactly what can they do about that, either?

Now, an owner/manager might theoretically give workers and townsfolk more say in how the factory is run, maybe even an equal say. But it's still the owner's choice to give that decision-making power to the community. Their self-determination is a gift from the owner, not a right which must be respected regardless of the owner's personal virtuosity. Also, in the real world, our hypothetical democratic owner would quickly be replaced as manager by their shareholders, or have their factory taken over by a larger company for being financially irresponsible. (Having too much of a conscience about workers and communities and the unfortunate byproducts of your product inevitably undermines the most sacrosanct goal of capitalism: maximum financial profits.)

Private ownership of a community's food or water supply is equally problematic, as it obviously conflicts with the right to self-determination of that community and everyone in it. Ditto healthcare, media, education, transportation, and communication. That last item illustrates the dangers of centralized ownership, whether it's by Big Government, Big Business, Big Religion, Big Labor, or anything else you care to name. State ownership of communications means that the state can censor and/or eavesdrop on communication they consider to be subversive (like people saying that war is evil and we need to abolish it) or on communication between people they have overzealously labeled “enemies/potential enemies of the state” for no better reason than that, say, the people in question happen to be Muslim. Any centralized power structure is going to do that, with privately owned communication throwing in exorbitant prices and turning over their records to Big Government without authorization because Big Government and Big Business are more buddy-buddy than they'd like you to think. Only if the people who use the communications (all of them) have a direct say in how their communications are run are their rights assured.

I thank you for deigning not to interfere in another group's right to self-determination. Unfortunately, if like me you participate in the capitalist system (willingly or otherwise) you already interfere a lot (again, whether we like it or not). And that's going to have to change for both of us if humanity is ever to achieve a civilization worthy of the name. (“Modern civilization? That would be a good idea.”)

By the by, I'm also a pretty harsh critic of voting. Voting is majority rule, not democracy (literally, “rule by the people”). By that simple-minded conflation of ideas, a lynch mob is one of the most democratic forces on Earth. I trust you see the problem. I'm much more interested in discussion and consensus-building, thanks.

Midas Mint

"that is nonviolent direct action."

Pacifism's the belief that violence is inherently wrong. Sweeping bugs off your porch so you don't inadvertently smoosh them under your feet is pacifist. Attacking 1 guy b/c he's attacking someone else is violent. Don't backtread and try to make some fine distinction like you'd yell at him, call for assistance, be assertive but not brutal/cruel, or some other semantic games. You are not a pacifist.

"(and it's usually a “he”)"

An aside to let me know you're sexist?

"I will stand in solidarity with the farmers and villagers to resist the lumber baron and confiscate “his” land."

You're a communalist and a coward avoiding personal accountability. In the stepping on a lawn example the confrontation would be personal: mano a mano. But in your example you're

1) not acting out of self interest

2) not acting alone

so you like the idea of self-sacrifice to a group. You'd mob up and raid a baron's house, rip chandeliers from the ceilings to take home, etc. You've let me know a scenario in which you would be violent but you've avoided the scenario I presented. Replace the transgression (in my original scenario it was stepping on a lawn) with whatever you want. The important presmises are

1) a guy owns something

2) he wants you to leave his property alone

conclusion=?

Would you respect his wishes or ignore them? If you leave his property alone as he tells you to you recognize the thing as his (you acknowledge property). If you disregard his wishes you deny property rights.

"I just won't employ violence against either the baron or any minions thereof."

Then how would you confiscate his land? If you won't help the locals carry televisions out when they're looting the baron's place you're not showing solidarity. If you don't fight back against minions who hit you you'll surely be beaten.

"If I thought I was fired unjustly, and that I could do some good by resisting, I probably would—I just wouldn't use violence against my boss or the guards who tried to throw me out (or anyone else)."

Finally a clear decision. We are as I wrote we were in my last response.

"population size is not the only factor, or even the primary factor, in human starvation at this time. If it were, then we wouldn't have an obesity problem along with an undernourishment problem. "

Red herrings. I did not claim an increase in population caused starvation. I asked you how there could consistently be enough food for everybody as the number of people increased.

Increasing populations are not unstable they're healthy and the norm for humanity. Families have shrunken in industrialized countries b/c states have broken families. America's federal government funded a third of its' new citizens murders through abortion. The government robs parents to fund their indoctrination centers and requires children be indoctrinated. Divorce is incentivized for women b/c they're given more than half what their husband produced.

"Now, your theory posits that resources are insufficiently available to some people because there just isn't enough to go around, this would suggest that there is a fairly equal distribution of resources, until the supplies run out."

I've never claimed there's an equal distribution of resources. We compete for what resources there are. The claim's that there're finite resources and these place an unknown and malleable population cap on man. You don't know if your kid's the 5th born over the limit. The limit can change too. Industrialization, medical, and agricultural improvements have allowed more people to live.

"Starvation is not a problem of availability. It is a problem of distribution. Famines come about now not because food is scarce, but because the tiny minority of people who own all the food are unwilling to sell low enough for poor people to afford. If that kind of situation isn't criminal, nothing is. "

Famine comes when rain doesn't fall, the soil's fallow, it's too sunny so plants wilt, locusts or other plagues degrade the food, etc. Ground zero for food development is where folks grow thier grub and sometimes grub doesn't grow. When it's a bad season people starve. The alternative you offer is wealthy people have enough food for everyone and are holding back. Do you have stockpiles of food you don't eat? I don't. Do you know anyone who does? Wealthy people are not the source of food: farmers are. Farmers produce food. A guy being rich doesn't mean he has infinite edibles for whoever's hungry.

I did not equate productivity w/$ amounts.

"And so long as you're improving somebody else's life, and you're not doing harm to anybody else, then as far as I'm concerned, you're being productive."

Doesn't your life have value? If all human life is valuable than it is just as good for you to improve your life as it is to improve somebody else's life w/the caveat you'ren't hurting anyone.

"When people try to rate productivity, they are artificially elevating some productive activities over others—and as I've pointed out above, their definitions of what is more and less productive and “unproductive” are highly dubious. "

We evaluate whatever we intake. We (personally, you and me) must enjoy this exchange b/c we've continued it at length. But these judgements are arbitrary. Do you prefer strawberry or carrot cake? Would you like to eat at 5 or 7? So long as we are intakes to one another (exist in the same reality) we will evaluate each other's worth. This process is innate, automatic, unavoidable. You feel bad for folks you reckon are understimated. Simulataneously you think less of the folks doin' the under-estimatin.

"In a community that cares about all of the people who live within it rather than profits or similar balderdash, people contribute as they see fit, and they get back what they need."

You don't know everybody. Neither do I. We can't know everybody. We can't care about what we don't know. Therefore we can't care about everyone. Conceptually, as an abstract you can care about people but not individually. We know each other by our works. We may not know who coded the page we're using or designed the keyboards we're typing w/but we inadvertently appreciate him b/c we enjoy the fruits of his labor. In wanting to partake of what these folks have put their work into and working ourselves to be able we have cared as best we can.

"If some people aren't getting what they need, or some people aren't contributing as much as they should be, then the community get together with the parties in question and try to work something out with them."

How do you determine need and what work someone should do? According to what the community says? We already have a system of social pressures including currencies as a form of communication. If you like what a guy does you're willing to give of your labor to continue his labor. Also, why must everyone be involved in your ideal? Ron keeps lazing about while Kimchi works to feed him. Kimchi's sister Ayehka yells at Ron to get off his lazy ass. Do their neighbors have to talk to Ron too? Does every person in the world have to confront Ron b/c Ayehka's bothered? Or is it the opposite: everyone else has to be bothered before Ron's confronted?

violence=force

The scientific term force is misappropriated as a euphemism for violence.

Are you an outlaw? If you submit to any law you agree the law-issuer has command over you. He owns you.

A community getting the products of a factory is a privelaged bestowal from the factory creator. It is not the community's right to have a factory.

How do you get people to act with one will? You can't completly but the nearest you can do is create a power structure. The more control you have over people and the more people you control the more you may prevent other men's ideal societies (if not approach your own).

Tricky Pacifist: I'm not backtreading in the slightest. You're the one proffering a patently ridiculous absolutist definition for pacifism and then expecting me to adhere to it. Your suggestion is as absurd as my telling a moderate Christian that ultra-fundamentalism is the only legitimate form of Christianity.

Pacifism means that I reject all forms of violent coercion (which admittedly is hard to define precisely, but then so are such concepts as “planet” or “alive”). It is true that violence = force, but it is assuredly not true that force = violence. People who tie themselves to trees to prevent loggers from cutting them down (or if you prefer, who blockade abortion clinics to prevent women from getting abortions) are doing no violence to the loggers or women in question, but they are engaging in direct action. Likewise, workers striking against intolerable work conditions are doing no violence to owners or administrators, but they are taking action.

“An aside to let me know you're sexist?” No, this is me letting you know I'm a sexist. Of course, living in a patriarchal society, it's next to impossible to avoid. It's something I'm working on.

The aside, though, was precisely to point out the sexism at work in the fact that the majority of people who benefit most from inequality in this society are not just the capitalist class, but more specifically, white male capitalists.

I'm sorry, I did not intend to dodge the lawn question. I provided a different scenario because the one you offered is immaterial for me. My problem with private property does not come from an absolutist rejection of the concept of ownership but rather from my understanding that institution of private property as it currently exists benefits the few at the expense of the many. My priority is human freedom and wellbeing, not confronting all forms of property rights for the confrontation's sake.

So long as nobody else is being disenfranchised by the hypothetical person's claim to own the lawn, I don't give a damn if they want to say it's theirs. Let them have it, if that's what makes them happy. Do I make my point yet?

“Then how would you confiscate his land? If you won't help the locals carry televisions out when they're looting the baron's place you're not showing solidarity.” With all due respect, don't tell me how to run a revolution. Looting may be acceptable so long as there's no violence involved, but it's also one of the crudest tactics at a progressive movement's disposal.

How do we confiscate land “legally” owned by a robber baron or megacorporation. Well, if it's unused land, by organizing the people who need it but can't afford to pay for it and setting up shop. Or if it is being used, by organizing the workers who are creating all this wealth and getting only a tiny fraction of it back. Those in power can only continue to exploit the population at large if a certain percentage of that population participates in its exploitation. This is as true in any capitalist or state socialist or patriarchal country as it was in, say, British India. Get enough of the population to stop participating in their oppression and ... well, you know what happened to British control in India.

“If you don't fight back against minions who hit you you'll surely be beaten.” Better me than them. I have the right to choose if I get hurt or not. I do not have the right to make that decision about anyone else.

Now tell me, what does it say about these bosses and barons of commerce and what they stand for if they have to beat me for resisting them even though I am specifically not engaged in violence. Again, in India, members of the independence movement often provoked beatings by agents of the British raj to expose the violence Inherent in the System and mobilize the previously apathetic masses to resist their exploitation.

"America's federal government funded a third of its' new citizens murders through abortion." I beg to differ: legalized abortion does not mean women are dragged kicking and screaming into clinics to have an abortion. It means that the government does not put restrictions on women walking into such clinics of their own free will. It is they who are enacting population control, not the government. This is why, if you want to reduce the number of abortions, the best plan is to help set up measures to prevent unwanted pregnancies, as merely outlawing abortion does not address the underlying problem. (Most of the women who get an abortion are poor women who do not have the resources to support raising a baby. Gee, I wonder how they got to be in that position ...)

Your other arguments are equally spurious, but here is the truly critical point: in order for the human race to survive, it must exercise some form of population control, whether voluntary or otherwise. Your “natural” system of population control, if I read you correctly, is for human beings to have many, many children, and then to have all those human beings compete savagely over resources in a giant free-for-all, with the winners getting continued survival and the losers dying out.

That does sound like a Crap Sack World to me, and entirely unlike the founding vision of any religion I've ever heard of. Still, even that bleak vision of society looks nothing like the real world to me, so I don't see what it has to do with anything.

Do you know how many famines there were in India before the British came and introduced capitalism? On average, one every hundred-and-twenty years. Do you know how many there have been since then? On average, one every four years.

In more primitive times, famines were indeed the result of fickle weather conditions. But now we have the benefits of safety nets such as food storage and preservation, and an ability to mass-produce foodstuffs.

It's true, neither you nor I stockpile our food, but the corporations which “own” the majority of farms and other food production facilities do exactly that. They stockpile so that they can sell at a sufficiently high price (the financially responsible thing to do), and to big buyers like restaurants and chain grocery stores well stocked. And if a large quantity of that food spoils in the warehouse or restaurant store, or in transit, or if a lot of it gets thrown away as leftovers, that's still more profitable than selling the food to all those poor people who, by definition, don't have any money.

Again, if there weren't enough food made to feed everyone, how on Earth did we come to have an obesity epidemic here in the United States?

“Doesn't your life have value? If all human life is valuable than it is just as good for you to improve your life as it is to improve somebody else's life w/the caveat you'ren't hurting anyone.” Exactly. Next logical step: doesn't that mean a person should receive the resources necessary to continue improving their own life, even if it's by digging holes on the beach all day? My community can spare them the resources they need to continue their productive labor, because they're human beings and therefore have an inherent right to live. (I can never understand pro-life absolutists who think it's immoral to kill a fetus before it grows into a baby, but see nothing wrong in letting the resulting babies die by the thousands later on due to economic neglect.)

You're right that we, as individual human beings, tend to rate the things we come into contact with, and that's perfectly all right. When I said it was problematic, I was referring to when “we” as a society rate sitting in Senate seats or behind manager's desks as more productive than raising a child or growing food or nurturing our fellow human beings. That's when discrimination comes into the picture, and it's never a pleasant sight.

I did say “In a community that cares about all the people who live within it.” That doesn't mean every individual has to care individually about every other individual. Collective caring is sufficient. (I'm really not sure what you were trying to say with this paragraph.)

“How do you determine need and what work someone should do?” The first one is easy. You can generally tell when somebody isn't getting enough to eat, isn't getting enough sleep, etc. For those occasions when you're not sure, a good doctor or psychiatrist can usually clear the matter up (“you need to exercise more,” “you need to stop working so hard”).

The second is a bit trickier. It sorta depends on what the person in question has committed to do. That's your problem, though, not mine, seeing as you're the one who objects so strenuously to anything that sounds vaguely like welfare for anyone who (for whatever reason) isn't “contributing” enough.

“If you like what a guy does you're willing to give of your labor to continue his labor.” While this is true, it is not democratic. The reason? People who have more money can afford to pay more for people who's labor they like than others can.

For instance, to become President of the United States, you have to get a lot of popular attention, and that means you need a lot of campaign money to get the word out about who you are and what you stand for. Now supposing I find a candidate I really like: I can afford to give maybe, a hundred dollars to their campaign. A corporation can afford to give tens of thousands of dollars to the campaigns of people they really like.

The bulk of Presidential campaign contributions (or any other campaign for high office, for that matter) comes from the capitalist minority. That means that civil servants such as Presidents are obligated to further the interests of Big Business or lose all their funding, and their career along with it. They're obligated to do this, even if the interests of the wealthy elite are diametrically opposite to the best interests of the rest of the populace. (Which is a pretty scary thought, even if you don't accept my assertion that their best interests are diametrically opposed pretty much all the time.)

In capitalism we all vote with our dollars (keeping in mind what I've said previously about voting not being democratic either) but both of our votes are insignificantly small when compared to, say, Disney's.

“If you submit to any law you agree the law-issuer has command over you. He owns you.” Your point being ...?

“A community getting the products of a factory is a privelaged bestowal from the factory creator. It is not the community's right to have a factory.” Oh yes? And who bestows the privilege of factory ownership and by what right and authority and under what criteria? It is not an individual or small collective's right to own a factory. Nor should they have the privilege of doing so if it means (as it invariably does) that they are not accountable to the people who contribute to—by either buying from, selling to, working in, or choking on the toxic waste of—the factory.

“How do you get people to act with one will?” Well, you can, indeed, create a power structure that manipulates people into acting certain ways. That's the only way you can make people act the same ways. It's the way capitalism or state socialism or religious nationalism does things, and there's always a hint of fascism behind it.

You can also, however, build awareness among people, and then let them decide to act with one will. Martin Luther King Jr. didn't impose the Birmingham bus boycott on the blacks of that city. He was drafted into leading the boycott because the black people of Birmingham had decided collectively that there would be a boycott, and once it was underway, felt they needed someone to lead them.

When people realize they're being collectively screwed over, and that they have the power to resist, you don't need to “get them” to act with one will. They'll figure it out just fine without your help, thanks all the same.

Wascally Wabbit: Tl'Dr

MidasMint: Without a shared definition words become divergent in their references so statements become unintelligible. People tying themselves to trees or standing in front of abortion clinic doors have moved to position themselves better for preventing the action's of other. They've maneuvered but they'ven't acted directly against anyone yet. Now what happens when the logger comes to cut down the tree? If the man who has chained himself to the tree makes no attempt to stop a chainsaw from cutting through him or (less dramatically) bolt cutters from snipping the chain he has used then he's acting by a different standard of confrontation than the logger and trying to convince him to feel guilty, like a bully, and yield to the protester to attain forgiveness. If the protester fights the logger, kicking at the logger's arms to keep him from cutting the chains or something, then his positioning was done to give him an advantage in a violent confrontation. Standing somewhere isn't an act of violence (unless you're standing on someone or something...) but it may better prepare for violence (the purpose of all military movements).

So WASP men are the enemy? I contend jews have more influence as represented by the Rothschilds, the heads of the Majors, America's military fighting for Israel, etc. But what would you propose be done about it? I may say "kill him!" for what an individual has done but I wouldn't condemn every member of groups he's a member of.

You've made your point :)

I'm trying to frame your premises into a supportive matrix. Workers are to claim whatever wealth they help produce as their's but should not beat anyone. A condition that satisfies both premises is a strike. The problem with strikes is unskilled laborers can readily be replaced. Skilled workers can form their own companies (like programmers from Atari did to make Activision or freelance artists did to form Image).

Letting an enforcer hurt you to display his meanness may effect no consciences. Nonviolent protests have never worked in the history of humanity. In real life some men quite the CIA because they can't bear to kill children or blow their brains out after what they did in wetworks operations. But there're always new recruits and not everyone's so bothered by hurting people. The evils cops commit get more of them to kill themselves than most laborers but most cops still don't commit suicide. There're always men who find fresh reserves of, "it's my job/duty". Just like learning to ride a bicycle, you can learn to be comfortable performing any wickedness. Other people develop into sadists to enjoy the tortures they inflict.

Various states, like America's government, fund abortion clinics. Therefore they're paying to kill their citizens offspring.

If you understood what I wrote you would know it was not spurious.

"Population control" is just a euphemism for, "I hate you and want your family dead." Rulers don't castrate themselves for their hatred of humanity, they enact policies like, "you may only have 1 child". States sometimes make war with each other; they're in a constant state of war against their subjects.

The alternative I presented is that the limiting factors on human population are altered at such a rate it can't be calculated how many men may live on Earth. Better to allow folks to fight against the world, to tame it for our survival, than that we fight amongst ourselves.

"On average, one every hundred-and-twenty years." Bullshit. Who made up that figure?

"Again, if there weren't enough food made to feed everyone, how on Earth did we come to have an obesity epidemic here in the United States?" TP, if need be slow your thoughts for a second and run this idea through your mind again. The amount of food it'd take to feed every man on earth is an unknown. There is no reason to conclude the amount of food consumed by fat americans equals the amount missing from the diets of folks starving to death. You've trapped your mind in a loop of circular reasoning: 1)There is a fixed amount of food on earth. 2) There's just enough food on earth for everyone to eat (and survive? and weigh 80 pounds? vague here). 3) Some people are fat. 4) Some people are starving. Conclusion The fat people took the starving people's food. You're taking premises 1&2 for granted but they're both false. You know that 1) Food can be created or destroyed. Which contradicts the first premise necessary to the above conclusion. 2) The total amount of food and people on earth at any given time are unknowns. Which contradicts the second premise necessary to the above conclusion. We've no means at our disposal to know how many men are on Earth or how many edibles there are. Without these figures we can't know if there's excess food, not enough food, or just enough food. Also, just enough food for what state in man? A healthy athletic physique? Skinny bodies? Mildly fat bodies? Spine showing through the stomach thin bodies? Everyone's body is different. Some people have to eat more for the same amount of weight (have faster metabolisms). 3) Metabolisms and bodies vary from man to man. Contradicts the second premise needed to support the above conclusion. Hopefully you've escaped that thought-loop.

"Exact opposite: doesn't that mean a person should receive the resources necessary to continue improving their own life, even if it's by digging holes on the beach all day?" ... ....A) Trickypacifist works hard to feed himself. B)Trickypacifist works hard to feed me. These are two different situations. The second does not proceed from the first.

"My community can spare them the resources they need to continue their productive labor, because they're human beings and therefore have an inherent right to live." Valuing something does not give you the ability to support it. 1) The amount of food a man needs to survive is unknown. 2) The amount of food a man needs to survive is fixed. Conclusion: Wanting to help someone does not allow you to survive on less.

"I was referring to when “we” as a society" Society is an aggregate of individuals. Principles which apply to an individual also apply to society.

My point in the latter part of that paragraph is that through trading wealth and using things we show appreciation for each other without meeting each other. We've both seen movies. Even though we've never met one of the guys who worked on a movie we've communicated our approval through ticket purchases. He doesn't know those he could afford those sneakers for his daughter b/c of Tricky Pacifist and Midas Mint but he knows someone appreciates his work. Economics communicate appreciation impersonally.

You misunderstood my need question. I didn't mean, "how do you determine a man is getting less than he needs?". I meant, "how do you determine how much a man needs?". If you're setting a standard for how many calories a day people get I want to know how you figured out what that # will be.

"....that's your problem, though, not mine..." I asked you to specify the workings of your ideal society. But if it's what you want I'll make up your answer for you. "The work a person should do is whatever he wants that allows him to get what he wants. Let the man who can't afford to warm himself when winter frost spare us his complaints. He makes poetry that no one buys. Other people have jobs for him. He could keep himself warm if he'd only work with us."

"People who have more money" These are people with more votes. Nobody generates wealth from nothing (gold bars appearing in the air around his head).

Did you vote for the current president?

"who bestows the privilege of factory ownership and by what right and authority and under what criteria?" Nobody. There is no god of factories who's handing them out. People get together and make factories where there were none before. Who owns it when it's built depends on what agreements those people made.

"It is not an individual or small collective's right to own a factory." How many people must a factory be divvied between before it's said, "they own it."? 1,000? 10 million? Factories are made by few (in the context of humanity) people. When a construction worker agrees to work on the creation of a building for a certain payment it would be wrong for him, upon the building's completion, to claim he owns it. A man is only owed what someone else agreed to give him. It's the thief who says, "I'm taking what you have though you don't want to give it to me and have not promised it to me."

"They'll figure it out just fine without your help" every man who has paid taxes or used defrauded currency to the contrary.

My point being the concluding idea: you're a subject.

Tricky Pacifist: I agree that we need a shared definition in order to understand each other. Indeed, a lot of miscommunication comes from not working from the same definition. That doesn't mean I have to accept whatever crackpot definition someone offers for any given word in the language. If somebody were to use the word “Christian” exclusively to denote ultra-fundamentalist Christians, would I not be right to correct them?

True, a person tied to a tree or blockading an abortion clinic (any building at all, really) can fight if attacked, or just stand there and be mowed down, or can run away. But they could also say to their attackers “God loves you,” or “Think of the children,” or, if they're more imaginative or whimsically minded “I love what you've done with your hair,” or “Do you play chess?” or “Excuse me, do you have the time, I seem to have dropped my watch?” They could also sing to their attackers, or (again, not tied-down) hug them, or offer them an apple, or really numerous different things which are not violent, but are resisting the attackers' pursuit of their mission.

Aha, no, WASP men are not the enemy. People are not the enemy. People are the victims. Men are the victims of patriarchy too, just as whites are the victims of white supremacy and the rich are the victims of financial inequality. Overprivilege comes at a heavy toll. This doesn't excuse the privileged from continuing to exploit the underprivileged, nor does it mean that they are victimized in the same way. But it means that they are not themselves the problem.

The enemy is the system of patriarchy, the system of racism, the system of poverty and overbloated wealth. It is these systems of social inequality which need fixing, not people.

Oh, and while the Zionist lobby (which includes many Christian Zionists) does have an unfortunate amount of clout in the United States, make no mistake—it's still very much a Christian nation.

Striking is one way to fight unfair treatment without violence. And it can work in the case of unskilled laborers if they have a sit-down strike or factory takeover, or if they can organize in solidarity with their “competition.” One of the geniuses of capitalism has always been to play the most exploited off against each other for relative advantage, distracting their attention from the fact that with all those enormous profits the companies are making, they could easily afford to pay everybody much more if they would only abandon their precious “bottom line.”

“Nonviolent protests have never worked in the history of humanity.” That's a pretty strong statement, and even in the narrow sense of “nonviolent protests by themselves have never worked in the history of humanity” probably untrue.

Organized nonviolent action, however, has toppled dictators, driven out foreign colonial powers, defeated potential invasions, averted coups, reformed blatantly xenophobic societal systems, and even thwarted the Nazis a time or two.

Oppressive regimes only maintain their power because a majority of the population they rule consents to be ruled by that regime, if only by not openly resisting it. Awareness raising is principally aimed not at officials of the oppressive regime, but to the everyday people who buy its products, pay its taxes, obey its curfew regulations, and do all those little things which make life continue on a day-to-day basis.

When a critical mass of the population withdraws its support from an oppressive regime (in the end, this does include many of the regime's own enforcers), the regime crumbles. It's happened in the past, and will happen again in the future.

If a specific act does not raise awareness among the apathetic followers or regime officials, well, there are some people who think that while living comfortably for a just cause is of course the best scenario, suffering for a just cause is still a better option than living comfortably for an unjust cause or making somebody else suffer for their cause.

Okay, now I'm probably guilty of using a definition out of sync with yours. Let me put it this way. You assume that the natural tendency for human population is to increase exponentially. Well then, if the resources necessary to sustain an exponentially increasing human population exist, that's fine (although it immediately raises the question of why we need competition in the first place, and why some people aren't getting their share of the resources already).

If however, there are not sufficient resources to sustain an exponentially increasing population, then there must be some mechanism to decide which people get the resources they need, and which don't. That is “population control” in the sense that it keeps the population from overconsuming its resources to such an extent that there is very quickly nothing left to sustain anyone, and the entire species dies out. (The tragedy of open-access.)

Under that definition of “population control,” voluntarily restraining oneself to 0-3 children also counts and is, in my mind, much more desirable.

Your argument about the United States funding abortion clinics was (I presume, I'll await your confirmation) intended as evidence of your hypothesis that human population inherently tends toward increase unless interfered with by some powerful entity such as the state. My reply is that unlike, say, China's 1 child only policy, refraining from outlawing abortion, or even funding abortion clinics, is not interfering in population growth. The United States government isn't forcing its citizens to do anything (in this regard), and thus you cannot blame the state for the slow growth in population.

The term you are looking for is “eugenics.” It differs from population control under this definition in that, a) it is always forced by the ruling elite onto an unwilling and sometimes unknowing population and b) it targets specific, “undesirable” groups (which is where your “I don't like you,” comes in) rather than applying equally to the entire population.

“The alternative I presented is that the limiting factors on human population are altered at such a rate it can't be calculated how many men [sic] may live on Earth.” I don't get it. Would you care to expound on this point?

“Better to allow folks to fight against the world, to tame it for our survival, than that we fight amongst ourselves.” I think you will find that we do better when we're not fighting against either the world or each other. But maybe we're just caught up in another confusion over definitions here.

“'On average, one every hundred-and-twenty years.' Bullshit. Who made up that figure?” Allow me to turn that question around: how do you know it's bullshit, and where are your alternative figures, and who made them up?

The figure comes from Raj Patel, giving a lecture on his recent book “Stuffed and Starved.” I haven't read the book yet, but I imagine the statistics may be in there, along with an explanation of how he acquired them.

Um, sorry, no. I know you would like to reduce my position to a simple, straightforward set of false assumptions which keep playing over and over again like a broken record, but I'm afraid it's not as simple as that. Just because I put forward an argument, even multiple times, does not mean that it's central to my understanding of the world.

“1) There is a fixed amount of food on earth.” This is an oversimplification. Of course foodstuffs are a semi-renewable resources, so it's not a zero-sum game (if it were, the next generation would be in big trouble). At the same time, we can and do calculate with reasonable accuracy the amount of foodstuffs which are produced and which can be produced without overtaxing the land and wearing out its ability to renew those resources.

“2) There's just enough food on earth for everyone to eat (and survive? and weigh 80 pounds? vague here)” I never said just. There is enough food in the world to, in Frances Moore-Lappé's words, “Make us all chubby.” And I seem to recall she was referring to the food we produce now, and not what we could produce with more efficiency. The fact is that there is more than enough food right now to go around (i.e. maintain a healthy body weight, for most people >> 80 pounds)—and it doesn't.

It's not just that some people are fat: a great many people in the United States at least are much, much too fat. They're clearly getting much more food than is healthy for them. (Plus, there's all that food spoiling in storage and transportation, plus all the stuff we throw away ourselves.) Meanwhile, over here, we have an even larger number of people who are starving. Let's see: on one side of this equation we have a group of people getting much more food than they could possibly need, much more than is healthy for them, and on the other side we have a group of people getting much less food than is healthy for them. You're telling me that you see nothing wrong with this picture? (If I keep harping on this question, it's because I have yet to receive a straight answer.)

Yes, foodstuffs can be created or destroyed. However, they cannot be created from nothing, you need cropland to create food, and cropland is a knowable quantity. Crops can be destroyed, too, but if you factor in the probability that X amount of crops will be destroyed by storms or floods, you can factor that in. Of course, a lot more crops and foodstuffs now are destroyed or left to idle (or in the case of milk, poured out on the ground) for financial reasons of keeping the prices high than by kinks in the weather.

We cannot know the exact amount of food in existence in the world at any one time, or the exact number of human beings, or the metabolism of each and every one of those human beings. But shall I let you in on a little secret? At a large enough scale, those variations become statistically negligible.

People have been calculating how many human beings you could feed for X days on Y amount of foodstuffs for millennia; it isn't the big, unfathomable mystery you make out.

The human population of the Earth today is known to be something in excess of 6 billion. Let's be generous and say 6.5 billion, give or take 300 million (meaning our margin of error is the same size as the entire population of the United States). Now let's say we know it takes 13 billion pounds of foodstuffs per day to feed that many people at a healthy but not too overfed bodyweight, maybe 180 pounds for men, 150 for women. (I'm making up the numbers here, but the point is that they can be and have been calculated, this is just for illustrative purposes.) Factoring in metabolism and other variables, let's make the margin of error on this one something larger: 2 billion pounds of foodstuffs. Now, let's say that we know the human race produces 19 billion pounds of foodstuffs per day, give or take 1.5 billion. Then we know that whatever the exact numbers are, we certainly produce more than enough food on this planet to “make us all chubby.”

(Again, apart from 6+ billion Earth inhabitants, I made up these numbers, and the margins for error, for that matter. My intention was only to illustrate how yes, we can determine that there is or is not enough food in existence for everyone to have a healthy diet, and using actual numbers is easier to follow than x, x+1, 2x, et cetera.)

“Conclusion: Wanting to help someone does not allow you to survive on less.” No, but I don't need to. If a majority of the community puts in enough work (growing food, fixing houses, etc.) to keep the community functioning, we end up with a surplus. If two or three people in our community are not engaged in what you would define as “productive labor,” well, the community can afford to sustain them with that surplus. Far from supporting these people all by myself, as you seem to suggest, I'm contributing a small fraction personally. And hey, so long as the community provides for my needs, too—which, as I've already pointed out, it does—I'm not losing anything on the deal, so I'm happy if it provides for everybody else, too.

“Society is an aggregate of individuals. Principles which apply to an individual also apply to society.” In some ways they do. In others, not so much. In a society where all individuals are truly valued equally, I guess I could see that some vocations (e.g. medical) might be more valued than most others, but I can't see how any vocation that didn't involve harming other people could be seriously undervalued.

“Economics communicate appreciation impersonally.” Well yes, but also very badly, because people have hundreds of possible reasons for buying a product, and not all of them are because they like the product or approve of the person/group/corporation which produced it. But that's just an observation. Thanks for clarifying, but I still don't understand what point you were trying to counterargue here.

I'm not setting a standard for how many calories per day any specific person needs. That would be ridiculous. But just as you can determine (possibly with the help of a doctor) that someone is getting too little to eat, you can also determine that she is eating too much. So we can know in each individual case approximately how much any given person should be eating.

Obviously, your ideal society is much unlike our real one, where most people are jobless not because they don't work (even in soul-crushing, dehumanizing jobs which alienate them from themselves and everything else) but because of eternal job shortages.

And the “getting what you need” part being dependent on “doing work that someone else labels 'productive'” is obviously your ideal society, not mine. Letting another human being freeze and starve when they need not for any reason is far, far removed from my idea of a good society.

I have already pointed out what I would do about people who you would define as “unproductive” (I keep saying “you would define” because the truly unproductive human being is a fictional construct; an impossible thought experiment). If you and some of the other community members want to do something about it, fine, but you'll have to restrict yourselves to trying to convince them to contribute more (by your standards). Threatening them or punishing them by cutting off their food and shelter is not an option. In my ideal society, you understand.

Also, the beauty of democracy is that it's collectively built. I can't know all the minutiae of how the good society would work, because it wouldn't come solely from my vision. It would be built by everybody together, because that's the only way to ensure that it's a society that works for everybody. It's what “rule by the people” means. All I can do is offer some suggestions, with the understanding that things need not necessarily go that way.

“'People who have more money' These are people with more votes. Nobody generates wealth from nothing.” No, but how is it democratic, even by voting standards, for some people to have vastly more votes than others, even if they had done something special to “earn” all those extra votes (which they didn't)? Maybe I'm missing your point here.

“Did you vote for the current president?” On the “lesser of two evils” principle, yes. I think it was Noam Chomsky who pointed out that historically, the majority of the American underclass does somewhat better (i.e. is oppressed relatively less) under the Democratic Party than the Republican Party.

That doesn't mean I believe Obama is a good candidate, or even that he was the least awful among the candidates who ran, or that any of the candidates were preferable to a more decentralized power structure that does not have a single “great leader” at its head. Unfortunately, Gravel and Kucinich and Paul and Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader and Bob Barr were no more realistic options than the decentralized power structure (not that I necessarily would've voted for some of those people over Obama—I'm just pointing out that it isn't only left-wing candidates who get excluded). So, among the two—count 'em, two out of 20+ candidates in a population of 300 million—I voted for the one who would do a relatively better job. (Which, keep in mind, means his administration is probably a little less oppressive than a McCain Administration would've been.)

“A community getting the products of a factory is a privileged bestowal from the factory creator.” And who is this factory creator? The person(s) who provide(s) the land the factory is built upon? And how did they acquire this land and from whom and by what right? The person(s) who provided the raw materials? Again, how did they get them? How about the people who actually built the factory? That was a major creative effort. Or the people who work in the factory? They could be said to be continuously “creating” the factory, since a disused factory is not really a factory—more like a disused shed. Or how about the community which sustains a factory with food and homes and transportation for the workers and managers and education for their families and more raw materials for their products?

“People get together and make factories where there were none before. Who owns it when it's built depends on what agreements those people made.” The problem here is that when there's an imbalance of economic and political power (e.g. under capitalism), the people with the power tend to dictate the proceedings, because by definition, they have more clout. And they, naturally, dictate terms which are disadvantageous to everybody else to maximize their own personal benefit. (Good old Adam Smith, eh?)

“It's the thief who says, 'I'm taking what you have though you don't want to give it to me and have not promised it to me.'” How very true. But thieves higher up the scale of privilege can also say “you're going to give me what you have though you don't want to give it to me and have not promised it to me because otherwise, you'll starve” or “otherwise, I'll fire you,” or “otherwise, I'll have my hired thugs come to your house and beat you up/burn it down/shoot you dead” or “otherwise, I'll have my government contacts evict you/take what's yours from you.” This happens all the time and on a massive scale. And once the thief has made off with the loot, is it thievery in turn to repossess it?

“A man is only owed what someone else agreed to give him.” So a worker who produces $70 of wealth an hour (for instance) is only owed $8 an hour and no say in how they go about their work or the risks they take because that was the only job they could get—i.e., that is what their employer “agreed” to give them. If you're drowning and I say you can have my hundredth spare life jacket in exchange for $1,000, are you only owed that life jacket if you pay me $1,000? Or how about if I demanded your soul?

“'They'll figure it out just fine without your help' every man who has paid taxes or used defrauded currency to the contrary.” sigh. Not everybody, everywhere, all the time. Human beings have a truly astounding capacity to put up with being collectively screwed over. It can go on for centuries; millennia, even. But eventually, people learn collective action. It happened in India and Russia and Beijing and the American South and Chile and Argentina and Poland and the Philipines ... just to name a few. From the 20th Century. And that's mostly just counting collective actions which succeeded.

Collective action has happened before, is happening now, and will happen again. That's when we'll see real democracy in action.

Midas Mint: Saying something to a man with the intention of causing his thoughts to stray from their intended path is an attempt at confounding his reasoning to postpone his action. It is not resistance of his action. I am frustrated by this pattern. 1) You say such-and-such should be done or can work. It’s something that entails violence. 2) I repeatedly question your meaning b/c you’ve claimed pacifism. 3) Eventually you write you didn’t mean such-and-such in a violent way yet don’t abandon terms that imply violence. To avoid wasting time asking you I’ll presume henceforth that when you write resistance you mean something else.

Your talk of systems is nonsense. You want to hate impersonally but there is no patriarchy without men. All of these systems live through people. Talk of “hate the system not the practitioner” is akin to “hate the sin not the sinner”. Either the trait is odious or not and it defines the man. He chose to be a cop beating rioters with a baton or whatever. The most sympathetic I can be to such a statement is acknowledging degrees of culpability and how practical someone’s influence is. The man who says he supports the war is not as at fault as the man who enlists to be a soldier.

A strike is simply refusing to work out of protest. It is ineffectual when the men refusing to work can readily be replaced. Strikes by unskilled workers are categorically ineffectual. Unions only function b/c state gunmen enforce laws like, “every electrician in x state must belong to a union”.A takeover of a factory is not a strike it is violent theft. Likewise ex-workers acting as a barricade to new workers entry into the building is trespassing and violent embargo. If you think on the implications of what you’ve written for even a few seconds you’ll realize the distinction. You are purposefully stupid for the sake of innocence. Admit reality. How may workers “takeover” a factory? Do they stand by the assembly line and declare “it’s ours now”? They must fight their former boss and anyone he employs to remove them. Pinkertons were employed to break up worker-mobs with guns, dynamite, etc. Your beliefs concerning reality should pertain to the facts of reality. Otherwise we may as well discuss whether orcs are better than elves.

“Nonviolent protests have never worked in the history of humanity.” “Organized nonviolent action, however, has toppled dictators, driven out foreign colonial powers, defeated potential invasions, averted coups, reformed blatantly xenophobic societal systems, and even thwarted the Nazis a time or two.” I’ve stated an absolute negative. 1 example to the contrary proves me wrong. Can you provide 1 example? Don’t just say it has happened; tell me the story of who, what, when, & where.

“Well then, if the resources necessary to sustain an exponentially increasing human population exist, that's fine” You’re thinking about the situation wrong. For the only changing factor to be the amount of people and man to be continuously supplied food would have to expand in synch with man by default. It doesn’t. What I mean is that there’re multiple factors that make food more available: better agricultural techniques (making food grow faster, bigger, protecting crops so more food survives, preserving food so it decays slower, storing excess food for later, harvesting more of a crop at a time so harvesting takes less time and larger crops may be harvested, etc.), better distribution (flatbed trucks, planes, trains, etc. moving faster, hauling more, etc. so food sooner arrives from where it’s grown to the people who eat it), better storage/packaging (so the end-user may reseal a package, what he bought keeps longer, it’s more protected from bacteria, fungi, insects, etc. refrigeration and freezing so the food decays slower, salt-based preservatives that help spoilables keep, packing tighter or reducing to meal to be recombined with water by the consumer, etc.) and factors I’ven’t thought of. There’re many ways our diet may be improved. Do you better understand now how the limiting factors (how often you can get food, how long the food keeps you filled, how long excess food lasts, etc.) are malleable? We may improve our condition so more and more people may live. That’s man’s way: to alter his surroundings for his fecundity.

TP I ask you to review the facts and explain how you reach a different conclusion. According to this source http://www.statemaster.com/graph/hea_rat_of_abo_to_liv_bir-health-ratio-abortions-live-births#PostComment in 2001 more than a 5th of all American babies were murdered. That’s more than a 20% decrease in potential population growth in 1 year. The federal government pays men to kill babes. You have the figures. You have the facts. The rational conclusion is America’s rulers want to reduce their peasantry via killing. I can and do blame the state for reducing the growth of its’ citizenry. Why do you deny rulers’ culpability in funding the murder of babes?

The point you requested expanded: there’s too much going on to keep track of how many men may survive on Earth at any given time. The best modern census data isn’t accurate. How would you gather the data needed to calculate how many men may survive? You’d need to know how many men already live, how much food is being produced, what illness’s are about, etc. Such a degree of knowledge is unattainable but man constantly strives to live and finds he can flourish more than he ever did before.

There are not documents recording every famine in Indian history from before they came under British rule. I deny such records exist. I offer no counter-records. The burden of proof is on you to provide such documents and thereby prove their existence. I give Raj Patel no more of the benefit of the doubt than I give to you.

1)Foodstuffs can be created and multiplied. What “the land” are you referencing? Individual farmers reckon how much there crops’ll yield. More farmland can be created from grasslands and forests. As better terraformation techniques are invented man may discover how to grow corn in deserts or potatoes in the artic.

2) I don’t add any more default weight “Faces Moore-Lappé's words” than I do your own. How do you know there has been/is enough food to make everybody chubby? Straight answer: I see nothing wrong w/wealth variance between men. It does not bother me one man sits in a mansion while another is homeless. It does not bother me that one man has a harem while another’s a virgin. It is not to my gain to hate reality. You may as well hate that some places are lit and others are shaded.

Man tends to produce in excess of his need but can and does fail in his attempts to do so. The best survival strategy is to allow the men who can do better than others to do better than others and gain from their productivity what we can. The ideal community you describe never has or will exist. Attempts to create such a communist society (see Russia, China, Cuba, etc.) have wasted more human life than any other endeavor’s in man’s history. More people died from the bolshevik revolution, Mao’s revolutions, and these revolutionaries subsequent rule than any other human action. Communism is the vilest thing yet attempted by man.

“I can't see how any vocation that didn't involve harming other people could be seriously undervalued.” The definition you gave of a vocation is whatever somebody wants to do! I even gave digging hole on a beach as an example and you deemed it an acceptable job. You’re not crazy enough to spend give all your earnings to bums you see working at finishing bottles of liquor or dimebags. You espouse a system of belief you don’t live by because you know it’s bullshit. Some works are more valuable than others. An unproductive effort deemed worthless is rightly valued. What does a braindead man kept alive on life support produce, carbon dioxide?

Noam Chomsky is a socialist.

“At a large enough scale, those variations become statistically negligible.” You don’t know the meaning of what you’ve written. A premise you’ve continually pretended to uphold is that all people are equal, can and should be provided for equally. Earlier in your latest response you cited Faces Moore-Lappé's from a belief we’d all be of chubby health. Only 3 paragraphs later you wrote the quote above. It amazes me your mind can be so compartmentalized as to turn against itself that soon. In a calculation accounting for the food allotted everyone the percentage of people who are underfed by the average allotment will have any sufferance from hunger pangs to death b/c the average does not account for their variance. In neglecting outlyers any formula made to feed man neglects people. It leaves them to starve. But any attempt to consolidate food distribution is futile. Folks will always save what they can, some of what’s received will be wasted, and trade continues outside of rulers’ supervision. The more people such a calculation attempted to take into account the more holes in its’ data it would accrue. Rather than its’ mistakes being negligible its’ mistakes would be more massive. You can organize a meal for your family but you can’t organize a meal for humanity. You can only propose such management is functional through willful ignorance. For a time you can feed the troops but there’re food shortages and rationing at home.

I entered this discourse with you to discover why you believed as you did and in the hopes of persuading you to correctly understand economics. I leave this discourse with the knowledge it isn’t for lack of witnessing the truth you don’t harbor it but for love of ignorance. You’d rather fantasize about a world in which all men are equally wealthy than be happy you live in a world where man can become wealthier.

Tricky Pacifist: Ah, now I see why your definition of “pacifism” is so rigid and ridiculous. Your definition of violence is much too broad. You conflate “violence” with “conflict.” I do not. Violence inflicts harm upon the victim, although this is too glib a definition. A surgeon harms a patient by cutting into them, but only in order to alleviate further suffering. (Or to perform an unnecessary appendectomy because they get paid for performing procedures, rather than for taking care of people. Because that's the capitalist way to go about it.) And you would argue that taking a river away from a developer who did not earn and does not need its ownership to be a happy, healthy human being (though the developer may think so) is harmful, which I do not.

Seeking to change people's minds is the essence of nonviolence. A person standing in front of a freight train carrying munitions does no violence to it. I reject any definition of “violence” which says otherwise as categorically absurd. Yet if this person is of firm resolve, then they are engaging in resistance. They are forcing the people in charge of the train either to change their minds, or to run this person down, and accept whatever consequences this entails.

Some pacifists, Gandhi among them, have even advocated the destruction of nonliving objects such as munitions shipments. While some such destruction (e.g. an astronaut's oxygen tank) is unquestionably violent, others may well be nonviolent if they prevent harm to people rather than causing it.

True, there is no patriarchy without men. It is also true that there are some men out there who actively seek to oppress women. However, they are in the extreme minority and mostly outside the halls of social power and—no matter what Joss Whedon may think—they are not the problem. They are a symptom.

The men and women who—without malice—assume boys are aggressive and girls are sensitive, that a female doctor is less competent than a male, the people who refer to men who sleep around as “players” and women who do the same as “sluts”—these are the people who perpetuate patriarchy. When they tell a little boy that he shouldn't cry, that he needs to “stay tough,” “be a man,” “suck it up”—in other words, deny any vulnerability—they are perpetuating patriarchy. When they assume men cannot be raped, and therefore blame a man who is raped. When they objectify women's bodies in magazines, billboards, movies, television screens and gods-know-what-else because “sex sells,” they are perpetuating patriarchy.

In some ways, it would be easier to have an evil cabal of misogynist (and misandrist) patriarchs to blame for all this. Instead, what we have is a vast number of mostly blameless human beings, working along certain socially prescribed modes of behavior which are as ubiquitous (and make as much sense) as throwing salt over your shoulder in a bygone era.

People are highly suggestible. That was the whole point of the Milgram experiment. As Noam Chomsky (again) points out, many Americans were duped by the Establishment media to believing Bush's lies about the threat of Iraq, which is why they supported the war. Doesn't make them bad people—it makes them the victim of lies and pressure from positions of authority, just like Milgram's subjects.

Indeed, hate the sin, love the sinner. (Fun fact: the original word in the Bible commonly translated as “sinner,” means literally “one who has missed the target.” Which strikes me as incredibly appropriate.)

A factory takeover would only be violent if the workers attacked the “owner” or their minions. Or, if the “owner” depended on that factory to maintain their livelihood—and people that poor do not own factories.

Many takeovers take place when the “owner” has closed the factory and abandoned it. This “owner” is not putting the factory to productive use, so why shouldn't the workers? Sometimes the owner comes back, not because they have any need or use for the factory, but because they think they have some sort of right to it, regardless of how that effects the workers. In such cases, I would urge the workers and their allies to defend themselves nonviolently from the “owner's” violence. This may succeed or it may not—we can never be sure ahead of time.

But you're so keen on seeing violence, how about this? How about a situation where hundreds or thousands of workers are forced into a relationship of unequal power with a factory “owner,” where the owner calls all the shots because they have all the power? How about a situation where workers are forced into this kind of predicament because all the other jobs available to them have the same power imbalance, and because they live in a system which demands they earn the ability to remain alive and healthy. (Even though, because of the unequal power relationship and the owner's incentive to save as much money as possible, they risk muth by going to work in unsafe working conditions.) Now that's violence for you.

As for strikes by unskilled workers? Numerous in US history (and elsewhere, I'm sure). The Lawrence Textile Strike of 1916 included unskilled workers, though it might've had skilled, too.

Oh, and whenever there have been state gunmen involved in labor disputes, whether it was skilled or unskilled, they've always been deployed against the workers. Read your history, and you'll discover that unions have survived in capitalist countries despite, rather than because of, government interference.

The Communist (In Name Only) countries may have instituted mandatory union membership, but during labor movements such as Solidarity in Poland, it was state gunmen sent out to suppress, not to defend, workers' rights.

“Your beliefs concerning reality should pertain to the facts of reality.” I could give you similar advice.

Again, it is only your incomprehensible insistence on confusing “violence” with “conflict” and “anything which causes any sort of pain to anybody under any circumstances” which leads you to assume I am advocating violence.

1 example? I can do better than that. I've mentioned Solidarity in Poland already. To that we can add the Velvet Revolution, the Singing Revolution in Estonia, and pretty much all the revolutions which brought down the Soviet Union. Plus the one in Serbia, though that didn't take place till 2000. Then there's the one which ousted Marcos from the Philippines, or brought down Pinochet in Chile, or the junta in Argentina. Or how about kicking the British out of India? Or preventing a coup by Soviet hardliners in Russia in 1991?

In the US, while the Civil Rights Movement had Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, its large-scale victories were won with negligible violence (on the part of the civil rights activists, anyway). In the late 1800s, there were a number of railroad and even town takeovers by workers and citizen groups, and another in Seattle Washington in 1919, although admittedly, the long-term accomplishment of these actions are somewhat dubious. (I never said nonviolence was a magic bullet, it's amazing they worked at all.) Or there's the peace movement of the 60s and 70s which ended the Vietnam War.

The Danes used nonviolence to resist the Nazis and save a vast majority of Danish Jews. On a smaller scale, non-Jewish German women used nonviolent tactics to save their Jewish husbands from the Final Roundup in the Rosenstrasse, Berlin. And while the US media only ever seems to notice instances of Palestinian terrorism, Palestinian resistance to the Israeli Occupation is now and has historically been overwhelmingly nonviolent.

Ah, but by your definition, I suppose, voting against a dictator is committing violence against him, since you're trying to take away something he thinks is his and that he wants to keep. Or inciting people to vote against him. Or taking to the streets (without weapons or threat of violence) to force him out when he lies about the results. Soldiers refusing his orders to attack civilians or telling him outright that they will not do so before he can suggest it, too, I must assume. Again, though, this is only due to your hideously unrealistic definition of “violence,” which I cannot and will not be held accountable for, no matter how much you attempt to put that burden on me.

You have a point about there being numerous factors to increase food production and distribution. Correct me if I'm wrong, but is it your position then that hunger is a supply problem which can be fixed by more sophisticated technology? (If so, how can you know the increased food supply will go to the hungry, instead of to the overfed, affluent classes who, unlike the starving can afford to pay for it?)

If you accept my proposition, that hunger is a problem of unequal distribution, then no amount of technological innovation will cure it, as the above question illustrates. Even if you take the more conservative position that only some of the problem is of unequal distribution, then we still have the problem of abundant food and hungry people somewhere down the line, technological innovation or no.

I'm not even going to bother following the link. I'll accept the statistics on face value. However, I have never agreed that aborting a fetus is comparable to killing a baby. A brainless zygote is not a person. It is potential. To me, killing that potential is no more murder than killing it at the egg and sperm stages (female ovulation/male masturbation). The burden is on you to convince me otherwise.

But the point you continually overlook is that whatever we think of legalized abortion and public funding for abortion, it was demanded by a coalitions of activists, who built up a huge movement around a woman's right to have an abortion if she so chooses.

Now you don't have to agree with this mass movement. I daresay there are a number of people's movements in the US that I don't agree with, either. But it is a people's movement, and this is how it pertains to our argument. Because it means that a whole helluva a lot of people have chosen not to breed gigantic families, rather than being forced into small families, as you claim.

Not that the number of abortions in industrialized countries would be anywhere near enough to explain the huge disparities in birth rates between overdeveloped and underdeveloped countries. Poland is one overdeveloped country where abortion is outlawed, and what's their birthrate again? 3.1? Lower? Suuuure, it's all state-funded abortion preventing human populations from exponential expansion.

But if you want to talk about the rulers' culpability in the murder of babies, I'm all for it. What about sanctions in Iraq in the 90s, along with bombing and eventual invasion? Or arming both Iraq and Iran in the 80s? Or really, every military intervention and all the arms dealing in US history? What about lavish subsidies to military contractors, diverting money that could be used to save babies at home in order to kill babies abroad? Or subsidies for corporations which employ sweatshop labor in underdeveloped countries and dump toxic waste in poor neighborhoods and privatize public utilities and force farmers into indentured servitude by getting them dependent on genetically modified crops (e.g. “Roundup”), which are controlled by corporations?

More at home, what about cutting public spending for help for the poor, education, health care? What about blocking initiatives to institute universal health care and universal job creation? What about bailing out giant financial companies when they get into trouble, but not the families who are still losing their jobs, losing their houses, losing their health insurance, going bankrupt?

In all these instances, the US government is quite culpable in the murder of babies by the million.

“there’s too much going on to keep track of how many men may survive on Earth at any given time.” Only if you want your figures correct to the tenth decimal. Statistically, 6,015,200,000 people is indistinguishable from 6,015,750,000 people, if we have enough food to feed 9,500,000,000 with abnormally fas metabolisms (again, these numbers are random). Likewise, enough food to feed 9,500,000,000 people with fast metabolisms is not statistically different from only enough to feed 9,250,000,000 people with fast metabolisms (not that metabolism or body mass or other such factors probably make much difference at that scale, anyway). Census and other data can't give us absolutely exact numbers, but they can put us close enough to make no difference, statistically speaking.

You don't have to take his word for it or mine, you just asked where I got my figures from. When I get around to reading Stuffed and Starved, I'll be sure to let you know how he arrived at them.

On the other hand, if this is the way you want to play it, the burden of proof is equally on you to demonstrate that India had no paper records before the British, and furthermore that they had no accurate non-paper method of recording famines. Your task should still be much easier than mine.

1) “The land?” The environment, I suppose. Sure, we can increase productivity (somewhat), and we can expand into grasslands and forests and possibly deserts and the arctic through terraforming, though maybe not (you up on the latest news in terraforming technology? I'm not). We risk serious degradation of biodiversity at some point, but we'll ignore that for the moment. Biodiversity aside, there's only so much expansion we can do before we run out of planet.

Plus, there's the other little matter that if we in the richer countries were not so horribly, horribly wasteful, there would be no need for such expansion of food production in the first place.

2) (oops, I appear to have knocked a few letters off her name, *fixed*); unfortunately, the evidence I've seen and heard is not in electronic or book form, and I'll have to search it out. Will let you know when I find it.

“It does not bother me one man sits in a mansion while another is homeless. It does not bother me that one man has a harem while another’s a virgin.” Once again, your penchant for employing repulsive analogies rears its ugly head. There are so many things wrong with this statement it boggles my mind, but let's start with the fact that a house is a thing, an object for people to live in, whereas sex is a process between two or more people. Looking for a house to live in and looking for a partner to share a sexual experience are two very different things.

Availability is another key difference. The availability of housing depends primarily on economic factors (“Do I have enough money to buy/rent this place to stay”). The availability of sexual partners depends primarily on people's personalities.

And then there's the fact that sex, while a great thing, is not a right or an entitlement, since it requires someone else's willing participation. It is not necessary for physical, emotional, or spiritual health and survival, unlike adequate shelter.

You say it does not bother you that people suffer needlessly. That people starve when there is ample food to feed them. That people live on the streets when there is ample room for them to live in. That they get sick and die when there is ample medicine to save them, and—better yet—ample capability to prevent their illness.

If this is indeed your position then (as an atheist) I have to call into question the existence of your soul.

“You may as well hate that some places are lit and others are shaded.” Light and shade are inevitable. They also harm no one. Social inequities fit neither criterion.

“The best survival strategy is to allow the men who can do better than others to do better than others and gain from their productivity what we can.” In that case, I'm sure you will not complain—indeed, you should rejoice—when these Great Men defraud you and your friends and family of your access to food, water, clothing, housing, education, medicine, productive labor, and all the other things that make life livable/meaningful.

And the real problem with government-sponsored abortion clinics? They're not-for-profit, of course! Now if they privatized the abortion clinics and found a way to run a profit of them, then “murdering babies” (aborting fetuses) would be a good thing, because it's all part of Doing Better Than Others. It's all in the name of profit and productivity.

(One must also question exactly how “productive” it is to produce five different brands of the same basic drug all to keep the patents up-to-date and prices high, and then foist those drugs onto thousands of people, half of whom would be better served taking up jogging or taking a vacation or drinking more liquids anyway. Not to mention 15 grillion cars on the road, wrecking the environment and killing thousands each year in accidents, when a public transportation system could cut down environmental degradation and fatal collisions enormously. And I won't even go into the issue of mines, machineguns and enough nuclear warheads to kill off the whole human race eight times over. Capitalism produces all right; among other things, it produces metric arseloads of junk.)

Best survival strategy = help the people who're exploiting you exploit you even more? My ass.

Clearly, your ideal society does not correspond to our own world either, as people here achieve greatness more through inheritance and social privilege than “merit.”

“The ideal community you describe never has or will exist.” You know this how, given that paper and other written records only go back what, 10, 15 thousand years? Which in the history of human evolution is comparable to ... the time it takes to brush your teeth for bed, maybe? Fact is, we can't really know what society was like before a certain stage of development ... best we can do is speculate. And as for “never will,” I know you don't have access to written records of the future, so how can you claim to know that, again?

“Attempts to create such a communist society (see Russia, China, Cuba, etc.) have wasted more human life than any other endeavor’s in man’s history. More people died from the bolshevik revolution, Mao’s revolutions, and these revolutionaries subsequent rule than any other human action.” This, unfortunately, is true. Well, the first two, anyway. As for Cuba ... I don't know all the details, but I do know they've got us trounced when it comes to health care coverage and the percentage of political prisoners, at least.

In Russia and China, though, there were among many others, two crucial ingredients missing: Communism and Democracy. (They were only Communist in the sense that a self-styled Christian who violates practically all of Jesus' teachings is a Christian.) The revolutions were co-opted at or near the beginning, and they consequently had even less democracy than in the United States. Result: ruination.

It is my belief that an upsurge of democracy—created out of collective action rather than led by forerunners, as in the cases you mention—will necessarily create a classless, egalitarian society which does not foster the exploitation of one group of people by another.

True, it hasn't happened yet, despite efforts. Then again, there were people who said we'd never achieve powered flight or walk on the moon. That we'd never eliminate slavery or achieve women's suffrage, or see a peaceful end to the Cold War. What we don't have already is always impossible—until it happens.

I take comfort in knowing that in societies which preach love, peace, equality, liberty, and coexistence while teaching fear, hatred, cruelty, exploitation, slavery and violence, people still have the courage and compassion to treat each other decently, and to struggle for the right of all people to be treated decently. The very fact that these societies feel the need to preach love, peace, equality, liberty and coexistence, no matter how dishonestly, says a great deal. They know people want to treat each other decently and be treated decently in return, so they have to make it look like that's their agenda, too.

Also, if we look at countries with market-based economies which have integrated some socialist programs (not socialism for the rich, like bailouts, but stuff like free health care and education and maternity leave and welfare and the like) we find that the standard of living for the majority of citizens is much better than in more market fundamentalist countries like the US.

You pointedly avoid a crucial aspect of my argument in order to counter it. You assume the present system in arguing why mine is unworkable. I've already said that it's not just me providing for other people. It's the entire community. Everybody contributes as they see fit, and everybody gets back what they need and a reasonable amount of what they want, too.

The reason I don't live by this system is that I can't do it by myself. It takes an entire society to make such a community work, and so far, our society is not at all arranged around anything approaching those lines. (Which is not to say that you can't get there from here, see above.) In an ideal society, if you find personal fulfillment in digging holes on the beach, more power to you. The community (not just me) will support you, because as a human being you're intrinsically worthy of being supported.

Being brain dead and on life support is not productive, though. It's not a vocation, either. My standards do not apply to corpses, whether they're kept artificially alive or not.

On the other hand, somebody physically paralyzed but still able to think is entitled to treatment like a human being because that's what they are. Of course, historically, some people have thought differently. (On the third hand, humane treatment in my book does include the right to suicide, because being paralyzed probably isn't a great way to live. But that's not germane to this discussion.)

“Noam Chomsky is a socialist.” No, really?

By a staggering coincidence, he's also a humanist. Not in the sense of his stance on the existence of God (which I don't know), but in the sense that he cares about the wellbeing of humans. All humans, not just the ones who are Better Than Others. Funny how those two stances so often go together. It's almost as if there were some sort of causal link between the latter and the former.

As such, he's spent several decades longer than I've been alive learning what policies do and don't work for the bottom 90%. Not that you'd need more than to spend an hour or two reading Congressional voting records ...

As to the opening of your final paragraph ... this only makes sense if you've been raised on the Newspeak dictionary. I said all people are equal, not that all people are the same.

When it comes to resources, “equality” would not mean an equal portion of supplies for everyone but equal access for everyone. Some people need more food because of their metabolism and other bodily factors. That's all right, some people need less, and anyway, food is plentiful.

Or hospital access. Some people may only need to stay in the hospital three days out of a year. Now suppose somebody comes in who's very sick and needs to be kept in the hospital for two weeks. Does the staff shove Person B out of the hospital after three days? No, because that's sameness, not equality. Equality means everyone gets as much as they need, not that everyone gets as much as everyone else gets.

This works out, because no one person's physical, spiritual, or emotional needs are that much greater than anyone else's. Nobody needs their own jumbo jets to fly them to one of eight mansions each with a three-cars-and-a-limo garage. Those come under the category of “luxuries,” which is quite a different matter entirely.

As to statistics, there are a number of ways around this problem. The crudest would be to take the person with the fastest metabolism on the planet, and use them as a baseline for calculations. Then you'll know if you can make this person chubby, you can certainly do the same for everyone else on the planet. You can also establish the variation in people's needs to maintain a healthy bodyweight at the outset, as well as what percentage needs to eat how much, and factor all those into your calculations. It's simple mathematics. And no doubt there are other ways.

“But any attempt to consolidate food distribution is futile. Folks will always save what they can, some of what’s received will be wasted, and trade continues outside of ruler’s supervision.” Now you're talking about consolidation and about rulers, two things I have not advocated (and, indeed, I have advocated strongly against the latter). Yes, centralized planning is not ideal for food distribution (though I do recall that one of the few advantages of feudalism over capitalism is that feudalism did manage to keep all the peasants fed). The solution, then, is don't centralize. Not more than say, the town warehouse. That isn't so far to transport, and people keep it stocked because it's to their benefit and the rest of the community's to do so. Win-win. Sorta like a more technologically advanced hunter-gatherer society.

“I leave this discourse with the knowledge it isn’t for lack of witnessing the truth you don’t harbor it but for love of ignorance.” Takes one to know one, I guess.

“You’d rather fantasize about a world in which all men are equally wealthy than be happy you live in a world where man can become wealthier.” ... By stealing wealth from people who need it more. Oh joy! He who dies with the most toys wins! And meanwhile, the bottom 90% keep getting poorer! Truly this is the best of all possible worlds.

Speaking of the most toys, we seem to be back to defining “wealth” as strictly “material wealth.” I don't see much spiritual wealth where the objective is to bulldoze everyone else in a race to the top (that's what competition means). If “wealth” means being so desensitized to the suffering of those without the basic necessities of life, or those bonded into semi-slavery in order to get them that we think their plight only proper then, well, there's something very wrong with our dictionary.

But I'll go on fantasizing about building a world in which all human beings are equal and free, and leave you to go on fantasizing about living in a world in which (to quote John Maynard Keynes, a capitalist himself, oddly enough) “the most wickedest [sic] of men, will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”

tl;dr here: Wascally Wabbit: Brevity is the soul of wit.

Tricky Pacifist: Quite true. Unfortunately, my esteemed colleague and I are engaged in a protracted duel of wits over the minutiae of economic theory. My argument, in brief, is that capitalist theory is fundamentally flawed, as it encourages all human beings to compete with one another to accumulate the maximum amount of material resources. According to Adam Smith, this would somehow create an egalitarian society. More cynical capitalist thinkers argue that free markets will not make everybody equal, but that they will insure the people with the most "merit" (how this is gauged I don't know) will get rich and their spending will raise the standard of living for everyone else. Either way, free market ideology only works if everybody plays fair, and putting profit ahead of everything else (another key ingredient of capitalism) means that there is the inherent motivation to cheat, steal, lie, and exploit, and this is precisely what happens.

To summarize the summary of the summary: Capitalism is the economy of the thief. Democracy (by which I mean, every individual being directly involved in making decisions on their own lives, not voting on a small number of dictators to make those decisions for them) is the economy of the ... well, I don't have as good a word for this one, but let's say citizen (someone who is an active community member, somebody who through their action cooperates with, shares with, and supports the rest of their community).

Kersey475: Why the hell are you guys talking about economics in a page about a comedically psychopathic protagonist?
What is with the wall of text?
Wascally Wabbit: I've made a few changes to try to seperate this from Villian Protagonist. Stop me if I'm making a mistake here.
Kersey475: I don't know about you guys, but I'm pretty sure that Heroic Sociopath is undergoing Trope Decay. It was supposed to mean a protagonist who is Ax-Crazy in a comedic way, but now most people are just adding any Ninetie Anti Hero or some other over-the-top Anti-Hero. All in favor of a name change say "aye".