Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Life, The Universe & Everything, or, 42

...Another reader, following on, chastised James for stating that nobody is worth $300 million a year. What about the great heroes of capitalism—the innovators? he wanted to know. Surely someone who cures cancer is worth $300 million. James's reply here is worth quoting in full.
If you discovered a cure for cancers in one year, the executive who runs your research company would make far more money from the discovery than you would. How do you feel about that? People who work for large companies, many large companies, not all, but people who work for these companies that have sold out to superstar executives... those people know very well that if they do something important from which the company makes a lot of money, the country club set will steal the profits and pay them off with a pittance. This is the reality of the current system. It DISCOURAGES innovation, it discourages creativity, it discourages hard work, on the theory that this is merely a free enterprise system at work. It is not a free enterprise system at work at all; it is a travesty of a free enterprise system. 120 years ago, companies built monopolies to control markets, and claimed that this was merely free enterprise at work. It wasn't, of course; monopolies are not the free operation of the market, they are the destruction of the market, the blockage of the market. I believe in free enterprise, I believe in capitalism, and I believe in Milton Friedman, but this is NOT capitalism and it is not free enterprise; it is organized theft.
Stating that our present economic system is an arbitrary arrangement organized largely around the principle that powerful people should be able to extract a lot of money from society irritated various readers. This led to good things like James lighting one reader's straw man on fire ...

As many of you have pointed out, there are manifest dangers inherent in trying to regulate income. I'm not trying to regulate income; I'm trying to prohibit the Country Club set from stealing the labor of working people. Also, didn't you promise to stop e-mailing me about this?
... and responding as follows to another who suggested that executives are just working people like anyone else:
No, they aren't. People being paid a million dollars a year are not "working" people... executives who are paid a million dollars a year to run hospitals are not "working people"; they are common thieves. All of them. The fact that there is no law prohibiting what they are doing is a mere oversight.

It should be noted that James is less advocating for a specific law than against a kind of greed that has clear, harmful effects on society and which isn't illegal mainly because acting on it was, until fairly recently, so strongly against prevailing norms.