[lbo-talk] wealth is not a zero sum game

Shag Carpet Bomb gracehinchcliff at gmail.com
Fri Mar 14 03:41:46 PDT 2014

Out of curiosity, what do they mean? What's a concrete example, to them? I'd ask for concrete illustrations.

I ask because I suspect it's a boundary problem. If you put a boundary around time, f'rinstance, and only look at, say, 5 years it might look like it's not zero sum. Or if you put a boundary around space, same thing. It might look like wealth is a zero sum game in, say, Manhattan. But let's include West Virginia in that analysis... Or Bangalore.

then there is the boundary problem as to who exactly is included in the population of beneficiaries: just humans?

they will, of course, accuse you of moving the goal posts, I suppose. But, for me, I usually think it's good to get them to defend what they mean. If all they can say is, "not a zero sum game" and have no evidence, they are just yapping. They got nuthin'.

SECOND, of course, is something someone else alluded to, what it means to be "wealthy" is always experienced as relative in this society.

I always used the example of grades. I'm a teacher at a college and I say, "Hey, everyone in this class gets As". They all brighten.

Then I say, you know, everyone who majors in econ should get As, too. The econ majors are ecstatic.

Aw, hell, why don't we give As to everyone who attends this college.

Cheers. Except then ask them what they think the reputation of the school will be? not much if it's easy to get an A, right.

Now, of course they will respond to say that, sure, there will always be great disparities. Those are necessary. It's just that all boats must rise with the tide. And then they will jabber on about how the poor in Appalachia have running water, flat screen TVs, and Martha Steward cookware or some crap.

And then you say, "Really guys? Really? Flat screen TVs are the measure of wealth?"

Nevermind just showing them the freaking numbers from the Luxembourg income studies.

and then ask them why the percentage of wealthy who 10% own something like 90% of the wealth has stayed the same or there abouts since we've been studying it. How is that not zero sum? They will keep jabbering on about "rising tides".

None of them will talk about wanting to living in Appalachia with a flat screen TV, a doublewide, and a Martha Stewart rice cooker.


At 10:02 AM 3/11/2014, charlie herbert wrote:

I'm mostly not very confident of my grasp of left criticism of the economy and yet am a long time subscriber here, happily gleaning what I can glean.

I'm in a conversation right now where I'm being hit with "wealth is not a zero sum game." Because I had a superficial understanding of it at first I did a teeny bit of googling and found it is a major talking point with apologists all over.

My point in the conversation is basically that our current system is incredibly exploitative both of natural resources and labor. They repeat the wealth is not a zero sum game. Is this just wrong, a red herring?? any pointers.

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