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  1. #121
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Zephro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RandomTangent View Post
    One's accumulated wealth - which, as in the example I gave, might simply be in home ownership - is, at least in part, representative of the sum-total of their life's efforts thus far. With the exceptions of investments and interest, it is just the unspent share of their labour.
    A staggering amount is inherited. Which neatly brings you back to the horrid income gap. Though of course there is also the fact that was already touched on, that actual wealth currently doesn't even relate to the effort or value added by labour anyway.

    Also for wherever it came up using Marx' analysis as a tool doesn't mean you're going to become a radical communist.

  2. #122
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    Well I have been thinking what is wrong with a company that can pay all its employees and even its manager safely to make a game but doesn't make a profit.

  3. #123
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gundato's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xercies View Post
    Well I have been thinking what is wrong with a company that can pay all its employees and even its manager safely to make a game but doesn't make a profit.
    Because those profits encourage/allow for growth and to provide a safety net.

    Using the video game scenario as it is the easiest: Company A releases Medal of Warfare 5. The game (including advertising) cost 4 million to make, and made 6 million. That gives 2 million of "profit".
    The developers/CEO wants to make a nifty game (let's just call it "Shiny Reflective Surface's Edge"). They aren't sure if that will sell all that well as it isn't what is currently "hip". But they have 2 million of "profit" that they can use to help absorb any losses. So as long as the game doesn't post losses greater than 2 million, they are at least coming out even.
    Or maybe, instead, that extra 2 million is used to invest in a larger studio or better software or something else that costs money.

    If you are just making enough to squeak by, a single loss or cancelled project will kill you (look at Gas Powered Games and THQ). And then, of course, you have the concept of incentives. Through whatever esoteric system, the Evil Upper Class DO make investments in companies. But they do that because they expect returns. If they don't get those returns, there is no reason for them to invest.
    And those Evil Upper Class investments allow losses to be absorbed to a degree (obviously, if you have too many losses you lose your investors) and also allow for the start-up capital needed to start a large project.
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  4. #124
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Hypernetic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RandomTangent View Post
    One's accumulated wealth - which, as in the example I gave, might simply be in home ownership - is, at least in part, representative of the sum-total of their life's efforts thus far. With the exceptions of investments and interest, it is just the unspent share of their labour. You could see it as deferred labour. In other words, define "efforts" above. At least in part, your wealth is a consequence of your effort. By investing it in a risky proposition, you risk writing off that effort; having nothing to show for it.

    And I'm not assuming an end goal. I don't think there exists a common end goal which applies, or should apply, to every individual. In the context of the example under discussion, I was just attempting to flesh out the "evil mill owner" caricature. In order for a business to create useful products and therefore to survive, it requires more than just labour. In other words, most owners are not just exploiting other people's labour for profit. The are contributing something to the company, usually financially, and therefore to the prospects and personal wealth of the employees of that company.
    But their contributions to the company are usually towards expansion. You hire more under paid laborers or build a second factory or pay for more advertisements. The large role that workers had in the growth of the company is not usually rewarded at all (or it is in the form a very modest stipend) whereas the owner is now a multi-millionaire yacht owner.

    The owner's contribution was simply having money to start with and that's it. Reinvesting money into the business isn't labor and an owner could even hire someone to do that. He could have told the original manager he hired to "send me x% of the profits every month and put the rest in this account to be used for a second factory".

    The point is that it's an exploitative system.

  5. #125
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus soldant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    At least in the US, amounts invested into stocks - both in terms of real dollars and in terms of percentage of income - is negligible for the bottom 90%. For all intents and purposes, it pretty much is the domain of cigar-chomping tycoons, who may or may not wear top hats.
    Well again I won't comment on the US because I don't really have an appreciation for how things are over there, but again the tone in this thread is "all investors are bad and they're killing us all because money!" and I was just pointing out that not every investor is Donald Trump's ballsack. Which incidentally I hear comes with its own combover.


    Quote Originally Posted by gundato View Post
    If you are just making enough to squeak by, a single loss or cancelled project will kill you (look at Gas Powered Games and THQ).
    Off topic, but GPG deserved to die. Making shit games and then begging for money on Kickstarter while knowing your business is up shit's creek in the hopes that you can exploit an emotional line to gain more is worthy of death.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hypernetic View Post
    The owner's contribution was simply having money to start with and that's it. Reinvesting money into the business isn't labor and an owner could even hire someone to do that. [...] The point is that it's an exploitative system.
    Unless you're the Monopoly guy though you probably did undertake labor somewhere else in the economy to acquire the funds to start up or invest, or took out a loan and are in debt to a third party which must be paid off. The thing is that under the attempts at communism with command economies (since "do what you feel like" Anarchism apparently doesn't actually work) the workers weren't any better off, and the idea that you can make a system like that with our finite resources is absurd.

    I don't disagree that there are insane salaries being handed out to owners but to suggest that every investor or owner is an evil tycoon exploiting the workers is a bit short-sighted. I don't disagree that the system needs to change but I doubt you'd be willing to find many employees who are willing to shoulder the full risk of the enterprise if it goes tits up versus "Here, you're fired." Hell look at Kickstarter, game devs are out to transfer the financial risk onto you and maybe deliver a game at the end of it.
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  6. #126
    Quote Originally Posted by Zephro View Post
    A staggering amount is inherited. Which neatly brings you back to the horrid income gap. Though of course there is also the fact that was already touched on, that actual wealth currently doesn't even relate to the effort or value added by labour anyway.

    Also for wherever it came up using Marx' analysis as a tool doesn't mean you're going to become a radical communist.
    Not all inherited wealth is about entrenched, dynastic, super-wealth though, and hence isn't necessarily about supporting the income gap. Someone might inherit a modest sum from an elderly relative which might allow them to put down a deposit on their first house, for example. And on the second point, most of most people's wealth is the product of their labour. Mine is, for example. Indeed, inherited wealth is still someone else's unspent labour - they worked for that money, and it hasn't gone back into the economy yet. It's just not the original person who earned it, spending it. That doesn't mean it isn't rooted in labour. That said, I share what I would interpret as your distaste for the super rich passing on wealth to future generations who never have to work. I'm not defending all aspects of the system, just attempting to add balance to the discussion. I.e. it's not all bad.

    Arguing about how well wealth/remuneration relates to the value a person's labour has added is extraordinarily complex, imo. In a labour market, with a healthy - but not over-powerful - collective bargaining mechanism, and healthy - but not over-powerful - shareholder representation, it should be possible to achieve a fair deal for everyone.

    In terms of how to calculate the "real" value of someone's labour, I'd love to hear an objective method for it, because I believe it's extremely difficult. Define the worth of an activity. Some would say the only real test of value is what someone is prepared to pay. In many cases, how novel your skills are impacts how well you're remunerated. In other words, the value of the hours you labour are weighted according to the novelty of the thing you're doing. If something is rare and in demand, it is naturally more valuable. For me, this isn't about economics, it's about nature. As a physicist, I would tend to take a reductionist view - everything is about energy, which is finite (finite in particular forms, I should say).

  7. #127
    Quote Originally Posted by Hypernetic View Post
    But their contributions to the company are usually towards expansion. You hire more under paid laborers or build a second factory or pay for more advertisements. The large role that workers had in the growth of the company is not usually rewarded at all (or it is in the form a very modest stipend) whereas the owner is now a multi-millionaire yacht owner.

    The owner's contribution was simply having money to start with and that's it. Reinvesting money into the business isn't labor and an owner could even hire someone to do that. He could have told the original manager he hired to "send me x% of the profits every month and put the rest in this account to be used for a second factory".
    If the definition of the labour force being underpaid is that there is any money left in the company in order for investors to extract a profit, then we probably don't enjoy agreement over it. You're casting the debate in extremely polarising terms. Not every business owner is a millionaire yacht owner, and not all employees are struggling on the poverty line. There are plenty of normal people who own shares in large companies, and plenty of things like pension funds, which have taken a risk with someone's future - effectively leant money to someone - in order to add value for their members. Indeed, the majority of businesses are small or medium sized companies where the owner is also a member of staff.

    The point is, if I invest in a company, I am taking a risk. Not everyone is prepared to take that risk. There is novelty in finding people who are prepared to risk their savings to expand your business. Therefore, that willingness and capability has value. Your perspective appears to be that the only commodity worth talking about is labour - that's the only thing someone should be remunerated or rewarded for. The problem with that is, people won't do the other things if they can't make money out of it. And they won't take big risks, if there isn't a big potential reward. Why should anyone expend valuable resources to create a new factory, which might well be a complete failure in which they stand to lose everything, if there isn't the possibility of some compensation for taking that risk? What about innovation? Why should a person spend years of their life creating innovative new technology if all they will be paid for is the hours they put in? What motivation is there to spend years training and learning, acquiring the skills necessary to innovate, if it's simply the hours they eventually spend working which earn them reward? Maybe that sounds selfish or cynical, but not to me. It is just human nature. It is how life works, and it is the product of the fact that resources (energy) are finite. It is responsible not to waste those resources, because in nature, it could mean the difference between life and death.

    I'm not defending the entirety of the system as we see it today. You and I would likely agree on many of the injustices in society. The wealth equality gap is one we have already mentioned. The fact that once a person has become super rich, it is trivial for them to make more money than most people earn in a life time every year, simply by investing that fortune wisely. It should be harder to make more money the richer you get, not easier. I like workers cooperatives, where everyone has a stake in the success of the company. People are exploited in the world today. The distribution of wealth is not fair as it stands - it is not purely apportioned according to dedication, effort and skill. That said, I think the basic principle of market economics is the best way to determine how to use, trade and share our limited resources.
    Last edited by RandomTangent; 23-04-2013 at 10:11 AM.

  8. #128
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus soldant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RandomTangent View Post
    In terms of how to calculate the "real" value of someone's labour, I'd love to hear an objective method for it, because I believe it's extremely difficult.
    Exactly. The only objective method I could come up with focuses on utility, and it'd involve all the artists going into utilitarian jobs instead of sitting there debating the artistic merits of white paint on white canvas. I don't doubt that Nalano would find that disagreeable...
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  9. #129
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus thegooseking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soldant View Post
    Exactly. The only objective method I could come up with focuses on utility, and it'd involve all the artists going into utilitarian jobs instead of sitting there debating the artistic merits of white paint on white canvas. I don't doubt that Nalano would find that disagreeable...
    Well, of course there are other factors that feed into it, but there's even another main factor besides utility, and that's scarcity (or what RandomTangent called 'novelty'): The more people that can do your job, the less your job is worth. We've already discussed that in this thread when we were talking about how difficult it is to unionise in an industry where employees are eminently replaceable. Really, scarcity and utility are sort of like the labour market equivalents of supply and demand respectively (except that greater scarcity increases value while greater supply decreases it).

    However, I'd prefer Marx's term 'use-value' rather than 'utility', for precisely that reason you mentioned about artists: people can get value from things that are not strictly utilitarian.
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  10. #130
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    Why should a person spend years of their life creating innovative new technology if all they will be paid for is the hours they put in? What motivation is there to spend years training and learning, acquiring the skills necessary to innovate, if it's simply the hours they eventually spend working which earn them reward?


    I think that your forgetting that for some people the creating something is the reward in itself really and money just distorts that value. In fact incentives make you less likely do do something in the future because we have this weird thing in the brain that says i've done that and got the reward so why do i need to do it again? Artists can say that these skills and work is not all in vain because we enjoy making art it could be the same for making a business.

  11. #131
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus soldant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thegooseking View Post
    However, I'd prefer Marx's term 'use-value' rather than 'utility', for precisely that reason you mentioned about artists: people can get value from things that are not strictly utilitarian.
    But that's moving away from an objective measurement very rapidly, because art is entirely subjective. Something like building a house, or operating a nuclear powerplant, or providing food is inherently more useful and valuable in terms of use-value to everybody because they're universal needs. When you start talking about how art has a use-value then you fall into a large pit of subjectivity where there's no clear ground. How can you measure that? And if the answer is "Well if people like it they'll acquire it" then... what exactly are we trying to solve again?
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  12. #132
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xercies View Post
    I think that your forgetting that for some people the creating something is the reward in itself really and money just distorts that value. In fact incentives make you less likely do do something in the future because we have this weird thing in the brain that says i've done that and got the reward so why do i need to do it again? Artists can say that these skills and work is not all in vain because we enjoy making art it could be the same for making a business. [/COLOR]
    Barring the fact that artists have unions too (I worked in one for a year) because they also want to get paid for their efforts, the most common adjective appended to "artist" is "starving." Your point?
    Last edited by Nalano; 23-04-2013 at 01:31 PM.
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  13. #133
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus gundato's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soldant View Post
    Off topic, but GPG deserved to die. Making shit games and then begging for money on Kickstarter while knowing your business is up shit's creek in the hopes that you can exploit an emotional line to gain more is worthy of death.
    Oh, GPG definitely died because of years of mismanagement and bad decisions. But they were also largely the gold standard for "making games that just squeak by".

    That's the thing. Applying economic theory and focusing on "worker's rights" is great. Until you have to actually run a company and need to make sure that those workers have somewhere to express their right to work and be paid (while hopefully lining your pockets like the dictator in a tropico game).
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  14. #134
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus thegooseking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soldant View Post
    But that's moving away from an objective measurement very rapidly, because art is entirely subjective. Something like building a house, or operating a nuclear powerplant, or providing food is inherently more useful and valuable in terms of use-value to everybody because they're universal needs. When you start talking about how art has a use-value then you fall into a large pit of subjectivity where there's no clear ground. How can you measure that? And if the answer is "Well if people like it they'll acquire it" then... what exactly are we trying to solve again?
    Yeah, it's not objective, but we are talking about markets here, not people. On a macro level, aggregate subjectivity shows a lot less variance than individual subjectivity. It's basic science: if you don't know whether or not your measurement is objective, you can reduce the effect of subjectivity by measuring a sample of the population rather than just measuring it once and calling it a day.
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  15. #135
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soldant View Post
    Exactly. The only objective method I could come up with focuses on utility, and it'd involve all the artists going into utilitarian jobs instead of sitting there debating the artistic merits of white paint on white canvas. I don't doubt that Nalano would find that disagreeable...
    Three things:

    1) Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it.

    2) It's funny that you'd argue the subjectivity of artistic labor - likening it to digging and filling ditches - when so much of our consumer economy is effectively just that: Digging and filling ditches. Planned Obsolescence should be your daily mantra.

    3) You're mocking employment programs when, effectively, at least in this country we have the materials to feed, house and transport everybody in the country anyway. That we don't is purely a product of our economic system. Just how many widgets and baubles do you think we actually need to make?
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  16. #136
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus soldant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    1) Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it.
    Yay capitalism, let the market decide?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    2) It's funny that you'd argue the subjectivity of artistic labor - likening it to digging and filling ditches - when so much of our consumer economy is effectively just that: Digging and filling ditches. Planned Obsolescence should be your daily mantra.
    I was unaware that life-saving neurosurgery or nuclear power research is equivalent to digging ditches. I'm not 100% certain what you're reaching for with planned obsolescence but I'm guessing it's referring to the fact that the low level jobs will eventually be replaced by machine slaves or similar? I have no doubt of that. But we're also not in a state of infinite resources or adequate management, so the idea that there's always going to be a massive surplus to feed a civilisation of artists isn't going to work out so well. There's going to be a line drawn somewhere, and the artists wouldn't win out over utilitarian posts with tangible benefit. If you are going down the path I think you're going down then I acknowledge it because you can demonstrate it with historical progression, but if you're extrapolating that to mean we're all going to end up as great artists with machines doing everything I think you're dreaming of a utopia that won't come to fruition.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    3) You're mocking employment programs when, effectively, at least in this country we have the materials to feed, house and transport everybody in the country anyway. That we don't is purely a product of our economic system. Just how many widgets and baubles do you think we actually need to make?
    This seems like a strawman, care to explain?

    All I said was that I agree with Random in that it's hard to apply an objective measure of "worth" is going to be difficult to determine but one of the more objective methods is based on utility. Art is so subjective that it's difficult to suggest its 'worth' without resorting to "Oh let people sort it out" which isn't necessarily logical. I didn't state that art is worth less to society as a whole or that it should be eliminated in preference of "digging ditches", just that in terms of actual utility it's going to fall behind the hard sciences and physical jobs, whatever that may turn out to be.
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  17. #137
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Zephro's Avatar
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    Just as a quick note as this tangent was in reply to something I said, but I didn't actually say there was/could/should be an objective measure of labour.

  18. #138
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sabrage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soldant View Post
    I was unaware that life-saving neurosurgery or nuclear power research is equivalent to digging ditches. I'm not 100% certain what you're reaching for with planned obsolescence but I'm guessing it's referring to the fact that the low level jobs will eventually be replaced by machine slaves or similar? I have no doubt of that. But we're also not in a state of infinite resources or adequate management, so the idea that there's always going to be a massive surplus to feed a civilisation of artists isn't going to work out so well. There's going to be a line drawn somewhere, and the artists wouldn't win out over utilitarian posts with tangible benefit. If you are going down the path I think you're going down then I acknowledge it because you can demonstrate it with historical progression, but if you're extrapolating that to mean we're all going to end up as great artists with machines doing everything I think you're dreaming of a utopia that won't come to fruition.
    I don't think it's necessarily going to start at the bottom. Why spend $50,000 on a robotic worker to make your pizzas when a teenager (or five) costs a fraction of that? No, the doctors will be the first to go. It makes sense in a factory setting, because they have the volume to merit the increased efficiency of a machine. When it comes to margin of error, the returns are much greater in the medical field than the service industry.

  19. #139
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus soldant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabrage View Post
    I don't think it's necessarily going to start at the bottom. Why spend $50,000 on a robotic worker to make your pizzas when a teenager (or five) costs a fraction of that? No, the doctors will be the first to go. It makes sense in a factory setting, because they have the volume to merit the increased efficiency of a machine. When it comes to margin of error, the returns are much greater in the medical field than the service industry.
    If you want to turn healthcare into a dispassionate factory of surgery then sure. But funnily enough healthcare is so remarkably dynamic such that expecting a machine to properly diagnose and treat is going to require an incredibly powerful AI which is a long way off yet.

    Also that $50,000 robot will become progressively cheaper, won't ask for leave, never gets sick, never goes on strike, never wants a raise, and never sleeps. It can pump out pizzas 24/7 at a consistent quality.

    Machines are going to replace a lot of things but they'll be seen in the "simpler" jobs first where they can operate without much supervision. We're a very long way away from letting machines diagnose and treat patients, because there are too many variables for them to consider. Just because X says Y it doesn't necessarily mean it's an MI or whatever, and getting machines to understand the difference is going to be a massive challenge.
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  20. #140
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sabrage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soldant View Post
    If you want to turn healthcare into a dispassionate factory of surgery then sure. But funnily enough healthcare is so remarkably dynamic such that expecting a machine to properly diagnose and treat is going to require an incredibly powerful AI which is a long way off yet.

    Also that $50,000 robot will become progressively cheaper, won't ask for leave, never gets sick, never goes on strike, never wants a raise, and never sleeps. It can pump out pizzas 24/7 at a consistent quality.

    Machines are going to replace a lot of things but they'll be seen in the "simpler" jobs first where they can operate without much supervision. We're a very long way away from letting machines diagnose and treat patients, because there are too many variables for them to consider. Just because X says Y it doesn't necessarily mean it's an MI or whatever, and getting machines to understand the difference is going to be a massive challenge.
    You're right, and I should have put "surgeons" rather than "doctors" as that was what I specifically had in mind. The human element doesn't enter the equation if a machine could (theoretically) perform a risky surgery with a lower margin of error, for less than the surgeon's salary, without the necessity for 8 years of medical school. The obvious real-world example of this is laser eye surgery, which isn't even possible with a human surgeon. I think that, to the degree that the margin of error can be removed from fast food preparation via industrialization, it already has. The next step would just be into prohibitively expensive Pee Wee Herman Rube Goldberg machines. Like I said, I don't think that most restaurants receive the sort of volume to necessitate the comparative tirelessness of a machine. Dense urban areas are another problem unto themselves.

    And I apologize for spinning this into a case-by-case analysis of the benefits of mechanization, because that conversation isn't really going anywhere. Should our new robot overlords replace us in the workforce, the balance of power would just be increasingly shifted towards those who already have the capital to invest in industry.

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