Does the United States need to become more Scandinavian to be more egalitarian?

I don’t necessarily subscribe to liberal views and populist rhetoric, but there is some truth in what United States Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent, Vermont) is pointing out — that America’s middle class is progressively being eroded, presumably by (1) advances in technology that progressively and intelligently automate work done by white collar workers, and (2) icreasing outsourcing of work to the Third World (also facilitated by advances in technology).

This simply means that the competition for decent-paying work in the US will only get more intense because not only will humans compete with one another for employment, they will also be competing against intelligent systems. Indeed, Sanders’s proposals to explore an increase in the minimum wage will only more likely have the effect of increasing the economic viability of the development and take-up of human replacement technologies by businesses. Minimum wage increases are a short term solution at best, not a long-term one.

Businesses increasingly see human workers as an unnecessary waste of space.

Businesses increasingly see human workers as an unnecessary waste of space.

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Technology will surely drive growth but there is strong cause to be worried that most of this growth will be enjoyed by the tiny elite who will harvest the “productivity” gains delivered by the human-replacement systems they will be deploying in their businesses. It is no surprise, for example, that Silicon Valley is the engine room of California’s “booming” economy. This is where much of the technology that is replacing American jobs and “disrupting” the “status quo” is being developed. The “digital economy” it seems will be one where the bulk of economic value is generated by the operations of app stores, robots, and artificial intelligences inhabiting the Net.

All of the above describes the certainty in the future America faces. The debatable aspect of the discussion is what to do about this looming future.

A free market is premised on competition. In its most brutal form it invokes the principle of survival of the fittest. The smartest and strongest workers get the best jobs while the not-so-smart and the not-so-strong get all the rest. In the old days, one can become a more competitive worker in the job market through education and better health. The result is an overall more productive human economy, but not necessarily a more egalitarian one as those who fail to achieve those gains in employability are left behind.

The trouble is, the definition of “fittest” is progressively becoming narrower. Strength, which was once a highly-valued human trait is no longer held to a premium in highly-mechanised societies. Being “good at numbers” no longer cuts it either since old whiz kids are no longer any match for even the cheapest computing devices. Soon, being the most organised, most analytical, and even the most knowledgeable fellow will draw mere ho-hums from recruiters (assuming future recruiters will even be human!). Unless new types of work where humans can be better than machines form the foundation of future employment opportunities, people will be facing an increasingly difficult battle for jobs ahead of them.

So should America continue to allow the free market to run its course? Or do we look to government to intervene in the market and implement measures to artificially re-distribute wealth through taxation and regulation?

Obviously, not everyone can be technology-savvy capitalists whose personal bottomline will, in part, be determined by how many human jobs they are able to replace with robots. Most ordinary people depend on the creation of job roles that require warm analogue bodies to fill. And that is the hard reality Americans need to confront over the near- to long-term future.

51 Replies to “Does the United States need to become more Scandinavian to be more egalitarian?”

  1. So what’s this “Scandinavia” that you are proposing exactly? A more socialistic society with a government that actually looks out for its citizens while giving a hefty pension even to those who are willing to exploit it such as welfare queens and immigrants? I think you weren’t very clear on that part.

    1. “Skandinavia” is located in Europa and usually means Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland.

      In these countries the wealthiest 1% of the population owns just 25% of the countrie’s wealth while it is in the US 38% and Philippines 43%.

    2. You’re missing the point. Stop focusing on Scandinavia or any other Northern European country. None of these nations are the issue.

      The reference to ‘Scandinavia’ should be treated as a metaphor for the ideal political condition, a ‘utopia’ where there is a strong state, the rule of law and accountable government — a perception which happens to typify Denmark and its fellow Scandinavian countries. The prevailing notion is that, compared to the United States and the rest of Western Europe, modern ‘Denmark’ has good, functioning political and economic institutions. As a result, the society is stable, peaceful and democratic. It allows for inclusive growth (as defined by James A. Robinson in ‘Why Nations Fail’), is prosperous and has low levels of political corruption.

      The question posed by the essay would probably be better framed as whether or not the United States (as well as the rest of Western Europe and the developing world) should adopt the seemingly successful ‘Scandinavian’ model for development. This formula manages to combine a social welfare regime with a capitalist free market economy that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship. These are societies where most men and women work, where health care is widely implemented, where good quality public education is available, and where the public debt to GDP is low despite the comprehensive welfare state.

      1. Johnny,
        what is wrong with aspiration and ambition? Having the ambition, the goal, the objective to be as good as Denmark (or any other country with similar traits), whats wrong with that?

        Suppose that I am a singer and I really worship/admire Michael Jackson (but only for his singing/vocal talents). Then why cant I do any- or everything to try to equal him? (the emphasis here is on the verb “try”)

        1. Robert,

          I don’t believe I was disparaging Denmark’s achievements in terms of being able to provide a welfare state as well as creating better opportunities for intergenerational social mobility (as compared to the United States). We should all be lucky to live in a country where one does not have to worry about providing for their family’s health care or getting an education.

          What I emphasised is that the discussion should be about the IDEAL ATTRIBUTES epitomized by the Nordic model and how to achieve them. It isn’t necessarily about emulating any one country in particular.

          Moreover, I am wary about so-called intellectuals making the assumption that this formula can simply be transplanted and implemented in the United States or the developing world (much as we would all like to solve the problem of places like Iraq and Afghanistan). The problem is that even if we were to develop a prescription for development based on ‘Denmark,’ you would still have to contend with a multitude of cultural values across various societies. There is no guarantee that the institutions which are responsible for political order and economic prosperity in Scandinavia will successfully take root in very different cultural contexts.

          Taking up singing lessons as a hobby can hardly compare to developing a community. When we fail at development efforts, we do not risk momentary embarrassment in front of our family and/or friends. When efforts to achieve a Denmark-like society fail, we risk CIVIL WAR; we risk FAMINE; we risk ECONOMIC COLLAPSE and EXTREME POVERTY; we risk a country degenerating into ANARCHY. I am certain that the people in those failed states will NOT accept the excuse, ‘Sorry, it didn’t work out. But at least we tried.’

        2. Johnny,
          “The problem is that even if we were to develop a prescription for development based on ‘Denmark,’ you would still have to contend with a multitude of cultural values across various societies.” => I totally agree with you on this aspect.

          Exactly that argument is used today to keep Germany German (you can replace Germany by any other European country). The more different cultures a country has, the more difficult it will be to get everyone on the same track. Yes we all are very tolerant but when push comes to shove …

          “When we fail at development efforts, we do not risk momentary embarrassment in front of our family and/or friends.” => Now, I disagree with you. Here in my neck of the woods, we use a proverb, saying: “at least you tried (and thats better then doing nothing at all)”. One learns far more from making mistakes then learning from doing nothing.

          Trying and doing something gives more respect, fulfilment and satisfaction then doing nothing.

          “When efforts to achieve a Denmark-like society fail, we risk CIVIL WAR; we risk FAMINE; we risk ECONOMIC COLLAPSE and EXTREME POVERTY; we risk a country degenerating into ANARCHY. I am certain that the people in those failed states will NOT accept the excuse, ‘Sorry, it didn’t work out. But at least we tried.’” => I wont try to achieve the same as Michael Jackson, if my singing talents were null. That would be stupid and a waste of time, effort and (probably) money.

          If I had to choose where to live (USA or Denmark) then I would pick Denmark hands down.
          I visited USA three times now and Denmark only once. What I dont like about USA is their double standards. And the best big city so far that I have visited is San Francisco (very laid back and relaxed).

        3. Robert,

          I think you misunderstand. I am not advocating that people with means should not ‘try.’ Wilfully turning a blind eye when we have the means and the opportunity to alleviate suffering is morally reprehensible. Especially when it is done for selfish, narrow-minded, short-term political gain.

          However, the international community, given the past fifteen years of ‘nation building’ in various parts of the world, should be more circumspect in formulating prescriptions for development and economic reform. The one thing we are certain of is that there are any number of problems with the ‘Denmark’ agenda. At the forefront is the fact that it is highly unlikely that chaotic countries, experiencing high rates of debilitating poverty, will be able to put into place complex institutions in short order, given how long it took such institutions to evolve in the first place. And should the ‘Denmark’ agenda fail, the result could be worse than the original conditions on the ground. Haiti, Somalia, Nigeria, Iraq and Afghanistan are extreme examples of how seemingly good intentions can quickly devolve into catastrophe.

          The bottom line is, we shouldn’t be trying for the sake of trying, or because it will be a ‘learning experience,’ or because it will afford us personal esteem. It will be a disservice to the lives that will be ruined (or lost) in the event of failure.

        4. John,
          People without means should also try. Without trying to get out of poverty, one will stay poor (grab the opportunity, the momentum).

          I agree with your middle part. The countries you mention are tribe-countries. Tribe countries give me jeebbies. It sounds and looks so much like barangay chiefs (a concept unfamilair in my country).

          What is wrong with personal esteem? You deny me a singing career?

          Or do I really miss your point (again)? Or do we both have different personal objectives in life? I am not here (on this planet) to please others (not when I am poor; not when I am rich). And pls dont confuse that with being selfish.

        5. Robert,

          Sorry, I wasn’t able to answer your post right away. Day job’s been busier than usual.

          “People without means should also try.”

          If the opportunity exists, there really is no reason for people in poorer precincts to refrain from improving their personal circumstances as well as that of their community.

          In my experience, there are two reasons a person remains in a state of ‘social inertia.’ On the one hand, that individual has a ‘dole-out mentality’ and refuses to work, relying instead on family assistance, government welfare and public charity to get by.

          The second (equally troubling) reason the poor remain poor is if certain segments of society are (either actively or unconciously) denying them the opportunities for intergenerational social mobility. We see this condition in countries ruled by oligarchies that allocate political power and economic advantages to themselves.

          Your comment dovetails with my original point. International development efforts MUST give due consideration to the social, political, economic and cultural conditions on the ground when formulating their solutions rather than blindly working to meet a checklist of attributes from the ‘Denmark’ agenda. They should involve the (poor) people who are the primary recipients of their ‘aid.’ Otherwise, they risk catastrophic failure, especially in countries already devastated by the chaos of warring tribes.

          “You deny me a singing career?”

          I believe artistic endeavours — music, dance, sculpture, painting, literature, poetry, film, etc. — are noble pursuits. They embody the achievements which inspire us, our struggles in the present, and our aspirations for the future. To me, art represents the soul of humanity.

          While man’s aesthetic works are intimately related to the evolution of our political and economic institutions — art has, throughout history, drawn upon human struggles for inspiration and in turn influenced social movements — I don’t believe they should be treated the way we would treat politics or economics or the physical sciences. Rather, any (artistic) endeavour should be evaluated in the context of the society, and at the point in history, which it was undertaken. (It should be noted that humans begin to produce art once relative stability has been achieved in the political and economic institutions of the society in which they currently abide.)

          On “personal esteem” and being “selfish.”

          Perhaps ‘self-aggrandizement’ rather than ‘esteem’ would have better described the point I was trying to impart. In any case, I consider efforts designed primarily to elevate a person’s emotional evaluation of his or her own worth as being selfish. ‘Selfishness’ is characterised as being concerned exclusively with oneself; focusing on one’s own advantage, pleasure or welfare without regard for others.

          Compare that with acting in one’s ‘self-interest’ i.e. out of concern for one’s own well being. Selfish individuals tend to be exclusively concerned with themselves. Also, they are more likely to behave in a manner which is detrimental, even harmful, to others. On the other hand, having a healthy self-interest doesn’t preclude caring about others. In fact, it is a core component of those who are concerned about others’ welfare. Ask yourself this: If you are not concerned about yourself, who will be? If you do not care about yourself, how can you care about others?

          Often, people use the terms ‘selfish’ and ‘self-interest’ interchangeably. This erroneous usage can lead to confusion and can convey a drastically different idea from what was intended.

          GRP’s webmaster, benign0, described English barons as acting out of ‘selfish interests’ when they forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, limiting his own authority over them. Contrary to this incorrect characterisation, the barons were not acting as individual warlords looking to exempt themselves from English law.

          To put this event into historical perspective, it should be noted that in Mediaeval Europe, the legitimacy of the state depended on its ability to dispense justice. Of all the European polities, England was the most centralised and powerful. By 1200, the King’s Court had permanent institutions, staffed by professional and quasi-professional officials, very capable of offering justice across the realm. It was able to tax the citizenry and was able to adjudicate cases concerning individual (property) rights. The cohesion and stability this offered gave rise to a growing sense of English national identity.

          When the barons confronted King John at Runnymeade, it was to ensure that a unified national government would better protect their rights through the king’s courts. In this respect, they saw themselves as representatives of a larger community, acting in SELF-INTEREST, NOT, as benign0’s statement implies, selfish individuals seeking to circumvent the law.

          The same self-interest holds sway when we attempt to implement development solutions to-day. One of the critical reasons behind the effort is to prevent humanitarian crises from overwhelming other countries and to limit the formation of sociopathic extremist groups fuelled by the hatred of anything different from them. And should the development effort prove successful, it creates another potential partner for world trade.

        6. Johnny,
          Maybe, just maybe I start to think that the whole scenery (especially the PH government not being really pro-citizens) makes the PH population numb (and “frozen”). Thinking, we cant change anything so lets accept it.

          If that is the case then, unfortunataely, it will lead to more de-advancedment.

          I also had set high hopes on the OFWs bec they are able to (literally) look outside the box (when being in a foreign country. But this idea has already been dismissed by Ilda or Kate (or somebody else).

          In my personal experiences dealing with pinays, I was even shocked to learn that one Filipina told me that she had to become (as profession) what her dad told her to become (I think the profession was teacher).
          I didnt know that PH parents (or the dads) were so powerfull over their own off-spring.

          In another case, it also seems the rule that women (girlfriends/wives) follow the man (boyfriends/husband).
          This was also the case in my country, but thank god, we abolished this many decades ago. Maybe I shouldnt say “we”, but I should say the women abolished this practise.

          Johnny, lets assume both you and I are up for a promotion. Then I will do anything and everything to make sure I will get that promotion, even if that means (example) I have to have sex with the boss’s wife/girlfriend (just used as a metaphor). Is that selfishness or wanting to get the most out of my life? Or should I give the promotion straight to you without a “fight”? I dont want to become the loser between you and myself. Or should I say “bahala na”?

          Johnny, how often and when is there a need to care for others in a life time?
          Do you really think, I will call someone every day bec I need him/her?
          I will call you bec I know you are an expert with computers and bec now I have a computer problem. You cant help me, okay then I have to bring my PC to the store. Its as easy as that. You may fix my computer for nothing and otherwise it cost me money. I just cant always rely on friends that they can help me even if they want to. And for me personally it doesnt feel good to always need to call you for help. It makes me feel dependent and embarrassed.

          “If you do not care about yourself, how can you care about others?”
          I care so much about myself that I will do everything within my power to stay independent.
          I do care so much about myself that I wont do stupid things.

          To be very honest, I dont see that in your country. It seems people dont care very much about themselves.
          – They keep on procreating (even when they cant afford it).
          – I just read an article that the number of HIV cases are still high in PH (is that caring about one-self??).

          Johnny, people have to learn that in today’s modern technological advanced era, they cant get away with “I didnt know”. If you keep on pampering those guys, they are encouraged to not change their attitude and mentality. In the end, the good guys have to abondone (leave behind) the bad guys.
          As long as the PH culture is so obsessed with “no one should be left behind”, you end up (and you already are in this stage) with a dysfunctional society.

          You have to get rid of the losers in order to flourish and grow. Bec the losers will hinder you from growing (its a hidden and implicit crab mentality).

          And because of this hidden and implicit crab mentality, the only “party” that gains and benefits from it is the PH government (and it officials, president and senators even at the level of barangay chiefs/captains).

        7. Robert,

          Sorry this response comes in much later than anticipated. I haven’t been able to visit GRP as often as I once did.

          With regards to the notion that certain elements of Philippine society and/or the Philippine government are involved in some vast conspiracy to make the majority of Filipinos “numb” — I take the position that those who believe this theory give the government too much credit. One of the most common arguments used to prove this is the so-called poor quality of Philippine media and entertainment programmes. The entertainment industry uses the same themes over and over again precisely because they are utterly familiar and easily relatable. It’s because they are proven formulas for a successful and profitable (remember it is SHOW BUSINESS) venture. NOT because they are purposely intended to condition the public.

          “In my personal experiences dealing with pinays, I was even shocked to learn that one Filipina told me that she had to become (as profession) what her dad told her to become (I think the profession was teacher).

          “I didnt know that PH parents (or the dads) were so powerfull over their own off-spring.”

          I don’t understand why this is surprising to you, Robert. Regardless of where you live in the world, regardless of the culture you were raised in, regardless of your socioeconomic status, there will ALWAYS be social and familial pressures that influence your decision making. That includes the friends you associate with, your (lack of) religion, and even your career. It’s the same whether you live in America or Europe or Southeast Asia.

          “…it also seems the rule that women (girlfriends/wives) follow the man”

          I’m certain that there are women in America and Europe who are involved in what are unhealthy — and potentially dangerous — relationships. It isn’t an exclusive failing of Filipinos. It has more to do with the human need for social interaction and the meaning that it affords our existence that causes people to enter into an emotional and/or sexual association that is harmful.

          “…I will do anything and everything to make sure I will get that promotion, even if that means (example) I have to have sex with the boss’s wife/girlfriend (just used as a metaphor).”

          Now that amoral behaviour makes me question your morality. Robert, it is the very definition of SELFISHNESS. As I defined it earlier, ‘selfishness’ is characterised as being concerned exclusively with oneself; focusing on one’s own advantage, pleasure or welfare without regard for others.

          You are willing to sleep with the boss/the boss’s girlfriend/the boss’s wife/(daughter?) not only to advance your interests but to deny your rival the opportunity to compete. Worse, you have shown no concern for how your actions may affect, even harm, the others you involved — namely the boss/the boss’s girlfriend/the boss’s wife/(daughter). Moreover, you undermined the company you work for. Since you cheated to get ahead, the promotion was not achieved through merit; the company now has someone who may be unqualified in the position that was filled.

          “I will call you bec I know you are an expert with computers and bec now I have a computer problem.”

          Robert, if you decide to call me, I can assure you that I will be able to help. It just so happens, IT consulting IS my line of business. There is no reason for you to be embarrassed or emasculated.

          And as a businessman looking after MY SELF INTEREST, it behooves me to ensure that I do an EXCELLENT job resolving your computer-related problem. Delivering the best possible service is necessary for me to maintain an outstanding reputation. Assuring customer satisfaction not only guarantees repeat business but also opens up new business via recommendations from existing clients. Bad-mouthing my competition rarely succeeds in creating lasting relationships with clients.

          “I care so much about myself that I will do everything within my power to stay independent.

          “I do care so much about myself that I wont do stupid things.”

          NO one is trying to divest you of that perspective, Robert.

          You misunderstood my statement. The point I was trying to make is ‘reciprocal altruism,’ i.e. the ‘Golden Rule.’ Remember the maxim ‘One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself?’ Its cautionary form states ‘One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.’

          Humans are social creatures. We engage in reciprocal interactions with one another that involves both sides equally, in a mutual fashion. This means that from the point of view of both parties, we each come out ahead at the end of the exchange. Such relationships allow me to empathize with others. Because of this I can perform an act of charity with the expectation that should the need arise, I can expect to receive charity in turn. Again — its about SELF INTEREST.

          Robert, unchecked population growth and the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases are social dysfunctions which are symptoms of deeper problems in society. There is no question that comprehensive, long-term solutions need to be developed.

          You were rather vague with respect to abandoning the ‘bad guys.’ Would you have us neuter women with more than two children? Or inter people with HIV on prison ships and wait for them to expire?

          We started this discussion with the ideal ‘Denmark’ — a society that combines a social welfare regime with a capitalist free market economy that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship; a world that is prosperous, and with low levels of political corruption. That has always been the goal.

        8. Johnny,
          Maybe I should explain myself better with regard to “numbness”. Let me try. In a way I can understand that when a government from high to low from central (national) up to the barangay chief/captain is rotten (by corruption) that a society sees and feels itself that nothing matters (so why bother, so why get annoyed and irritated). You can also translate “numbness” with getting paralyzed. Maybe thats why I often read (especially) here that PH people are lazy.
          Personally I never experienced it, although I was a victim of “Juan time” a few times.

          I really dont think that Dutch parents will tell their kids what they must become. My mom always wanted (would like to see) me to become an F-16 pilot. But I had others plans for myself.

          Two people up for promotion already implies that both have more or less the same merits, qualifications, expertise. And then it becomes a “fight” between him/her and me. I (we) live in a society oftentimes refered to as a rat-race (survival of the fittest). We do not live in a harmonious, holistic society. Its either eat or to be eaten.

          Usually and normally this rat race brings the best into an individual. He/she needs to be creative, pro-active, competitive and sharp.

          What do you think will happen, if I tell my wife/friends and/or family members, that I gave away the promotion to a collegue of mine without a “fight”? Do you really think, they will say “you are a good person”? Forget it.
          One last think, I will never discredit my collegue to get that promotion. Maybe, I will do something extra. But all this can also boomerang to me. If the DM (decision maker) is completely insensitive for my moves, then I will lose out on the prommotion.

          Only if you are a good friend of mine I will give you a call to help me with my computer problem(s). BUT if I can never repay you (in whatever way equalling your effort) then I rather prefer to bring my PC to a computer shop. And if and when you do look at my computer problem, I hope you can say what I did that caused the problem. So I will not do it again.

          I do know – by now – that the Philippine society is build completely different than most modern western societies. And I also think that I understand it. But I also see that it wont work. Its not the way to make a society flourish and bloom.

          I do understand your Golden Rule and I am standing firm behind that rule. However, unfortunately, we are NOT living in an ideal, perfect world (Utopia). So, I have to adjust to the real world.

          When it comes to the PH population (in numbers) then I expect a vast and steady increase for years to come. And personally, I dont think and I know that that is not good for any country.
          I think and know by now (2015) that people just cant get away with I didnt know (or bahala na). By that attitude they already accept the role as loser in a society where others are far more showing responsible behavior by procreating within one’s means.
          Send those in exile to St Helena (like Napoleon)? No, of course not.
          BTW: I was shocked to hear this week that that the number of AIDS/HIV cases in my country are on the rise. It probably had to do according to the news item, with gay people having unsafe sex. I find that behavior quite stupid bec they (and I) only have one body and one life.

        9. Johnny,
          “We started this discussion with the ideal ‘Denmark’ – a society that combines a social welfare regime with a capitalist free market economy that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship; a world that is prosperous, and with low levels of political corruption. That has always been the goal.”

          (I hate to say this =>) Your country will never reach the status of Denmark, never!

          Pls find me a country that equals the current situation (mindset etc) of the Philippines and with a non-corrupt and social government.
          The Philippines can (and maybe will) reach such a status ONLY when they totally give up on the holistic and harmonious view on the world.
          If your government changes all the laws tomorrow and allows you to legally divorce, have legal abortions, have same-sex marriages, stops with being corrupt and all that, do you really think your country is rich the day after? Come on, pls give me a break. It doesnt work that way.
          The fact that USA now allows same-sex marriages nationwide, is to be thanked to the gay and lesbian people. They fought for it. And they fought for it bec it is an individual right. In a holistic country, there is no individualsm. Individualism is a concept of the SELF. And that contradicts the PH concept of holism, harmony and being family-centered.

          All PH people care about is the obsessive need to help and look after other people where the individual effaces her/himself in favor of the masses (direct family, extended family).

  2. I don’t think it’s the strongest or the fittest that survives, rather those who can adapt better and faster survives.

    Global economy affects USA by outsourcing work to other countries where wages and salaries are lower than the counterpart in US. I believe Americans should adapt and find opportunities in the globalized economy.

  3. I guess I see the benefits for minimum wage increase differently. By increasing the minimum wage, you lower the financial power held by millionaires or billionaires. That limit on salary of many workers makes the few who holds the business richer. The big and successful companies can give bigger salaries or incentives but they stick with the minimum salary because what they can save from there can add to their profit, profit that they use in building more businesses. Here in the Philippines, many companies chose to transfer some projects to provinces with lower minimum wages. Unlike with salaries with provincial and manila rate, prices of goods are the same everywhere but the farther the province, the lower the salary rate (with little buying power, everything would appear expensive, small entrepreneurs would have few demands or product sales). So companies still get the usual payment by clients, but companies still give low payments to their employees. Sometimes they would give lower bidding to win a client and cut down on their employee’s incentives. There are also companies that think of cost cutting to earn more but it’s the regular employee’s that gets affected while there’s no improvement in their income.

    For regular employees with low or average income, even if you work more, render an overtime, you still earn just enough to spend for you and your family’s basic needs. A little savings is normally spend to emergencies or a once a year vacation. People got stuck to mediocre living having little money and no time to explore every possibility on how to be successful in a chosen field. Even if you’re talented or hard working, opportunities are still important. And given the right amount of power, you can make an opportunity for your self. Anybody who has the talent to create good things should be able to create those things and sell their own products. A single or a group of person should be able to have their own business or offer specific services depending on their skill. There would only be few opportunities if there are only few people who can start and own businesses and are greedy for profit. If one live in a world with equal opportunities and one’s life depended on his skills and ideas, it’ll be a competitive world where people could only think of how to get better or outdo oneself or the others.

    1. I think “greed” is an overly judgmental word to use in this context. The very nature of the capitalist/investor role in the economy presupposes their behaving in a manner that maximises the yield of the resources they put at risk in their business operation. In short, acting in that “greedy” manner is just business sense within the context of a ‘free market’ that in the bigger scheme of things presumably will apply corrective mechanisms to naturally regulate that behaviour and that of all the other elements in the economy within which said elements (including them ‘greedy’ capitalists) interact.

      1. Yes, you’re right. It’s just that my definition of greed is simple by freedictionary “Greed is an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves” For a single capitalist to keep on maximizing to the point of monopoly of a certain trade shutting down other business operations or blocking up the rise of more small entrepreneurs, that’s what I call greed. But then obviously they are under unregulated capitalism that does not fall within the context of a “free market”.

      2. I suppose monopoly is the likely eventual outcome when one of the players emerges as the clear winner in a competition to dominate a finite market – like how Microsoft, Google, and Facebook now each lord it over their domains.

        Perhaps this is one of a number of possible natural outcomes of competition in a free market requires eventual regulatory intervention.

        1. My ideas must be crazy but the one way I see of regulating it is through taxes. Say, an 8-digit net worth max is fine but more than that is too much. How is having more millionaire or upper class sound than having few billionaires? And it’s a fact that opulence result to oligarchy. Stopping oligarchy by having their excesses contributed to the national budget could be a way for them to put their noses where the government spend their money and if the government restricts them on becoming more than P100M rich, they can’t be buddy-buddy with them instead concentrate on the competition other millionaire or rising businessmen poses. The lack of control where there’s no ceiling on how the, for example, the Lopezes gain profit and in how many businesses they invest into and they find that ignoring media accountability gives them more profit throw them to the path of oligarchy.

          About the human replacement system, science and technology or scientist or inventors err in that innovations or inventions such as machines or robots should not be created in replacement for human. Inventions such as these should only be for task impossible for humans to perform.

          My apology, Benign0, if my thoughts are jumbled.

        2. Sick_Amore,
          pls allow me to be the devil’s advocate.

          So in your version I cant earn a 9 digit salary, right? So here is what either I or the company will do.
          I will get that 8 digit salary and the rest will be paid to me as expenses or the company will buy a new house for me every year to compoensate the difference.
          Or the company’s HQ will move to the nearest country adjacent to PH where there is no such law/rule/regulation. Its not tax evasion but tax avoidance.

        3. To be honest, Robert, I did not consider tax avoidance in my equation. There should be this anti-avoidance rule then or perhaps putting it under tax fraud. Of course it’s not that simple hehe

        4. To make it more complete, I guess you have to include tax evasion/avoidance/fraud laws.

          You can also include taxing material wealth (so not only income) but also taxing (owning) luxurious boats, taxing houses that are worth above a certain value/amount, taxing paid dividends on owning shares.

          On the other hand if the wealth is re-distributed to the poor (by the government), the government can finally set up requiremnets/conditions of who gets what. Ex: big families gets less of the re-distributed wealth. In order to encourage future adults/parents to procreate less.

          But maybe its better to invest in better quality education and maybe lower tuition for less fortunate/poorer families.

          But no matter what: there must be a certain balance in the total number of jobs (supply) and total number of workforce (demand).

    2. Those are good points, Robert. And yes. Tax them, tax them, TAX THEM WITH EVERY VALUABLE THING! If they can afford that much, means they have the way if not the vast wealth to pay for maintaining it in their possession unless they’re just show offs or they knew they can evade paying taxes (by having cronies in the government who make “lagay” a business). If there’s one thing I can applaud Henares with she made sure those who earn big pay their rightful taxes. I remember there’s this time when highly paid celebrities are charged with tax evasion. Henares also made sure even Pacquiao pay his due because Pacman’s followers wanted to relieve him of paying taxes because they said he work hard for his titles and brought honor to the country. If it’s about working hard and making the country proud, even factory workers do that working 12/7 on big production days especially when they pay bigger taxes after their salary increase since increase in their minimum pay is normally below ten pesos. But my point about taxation though is to use it in fighting oligarchy and to increase tax collection for national budget that will support large scale projects especially the most important ones like for disaster rescue and preparation, high education, job creation, and military and navy advancement. The problem is the corruption in the government. Foreign investors are appalled by that corruption (so there should be stricter law for foreign ownership that will protect them from corruption) and there are Filipinos who don’t want foreigners doing business in the country even when they could give more jobs and better incentives. That’s MLQ pride for you. This whole “I would rather have a country run like hell by Filipinos than a country run like heaven by the Americans” it’s just too prideful yet it’s obvious how he lack faith with what the Filipinos can do because he knew Filipinos aren’t ready for independence for their lack of love for their country and for their lack of discipline. Lets’ go ask, can Filipinos even produce a state of the art technology for their airlines or trains? Three decades and counting the answer is still NO. So why not those who can do that? Because they have to be foreigners? Also, government think giving dole outs assist people in getting out of poverty; they seem to align their thinking to Filipinos with victim mentality. Learning how to stand on their own or having work that can earn them a living is what will get them out of poverty. Jobs, jobs, jobs are what the poor Filipinos need.

      1. Sick_Amore,
        I live in a country where the Dutch IRS (Internal Revenue Service) knows everything about me (financially).
        So if and when I own 5 houses then the IRS will tax me for owning all those 5 houses with property tax.
        I live in a country where almost everything is taxed (VAT (21%), income tax (varies with a max of +/- 50%), property tax (fixed). If I own a dog, I have to pay dog tax (no kidding).
        The only thing that is not taxed is the air that I breathe.

        1. You don’t sound like you’re complaining though. 😀

          Here in the Philippines, both legal and illegal activities make the economy work. Poor, middle class and the rich don’t pay all their taxes, there are even those who profit and acquire things without paying taxes. Since you’ve been here you probably know about sari-sari store, street vendors and sidewalk vendors. There are also these home eatery and ice/ice candy vendors, vendors on buses, acquiring free pets through friends and neighbor no need to register either, buying and selling stuffs via social network, freelance online jobs, boarding house, room or house rental with no contract and receipts when you pay your rent. Those are samples of the little things here that get away with not paying taxes. And then you have the government officials like Binay and Erap who gained properties by using the name of nonexistent person. And there are also those who have properties that their salary or personal income can’t really cover. I know people will complain about being taxed with everything. It’s either they earn little or they benefit in acquiring something illegally or they don’t trust their corrupt government (I even doubt if anybody really trusted govph). Also, there’s thievery within and outside the government (small time would be illegal installation of water and electrical connection). It made me wonder why Filipinos can still find it to be more fun in the Philippines when the democratic and government system is really chaotic. And everything is like these because the people who’re supposed to put everything in order are busier staging their popularity or achievement, blaming other people for undesirable results, or thinking of ways how to pocket government funds that came from people’s taxes.

          I know I’m off topic. Sorry for that, benign0. Thanks, Robert, for bearing with me.

        2. Amore
          I am not complaining at all. I can leave my country and go to a tax-haven. I can set up a fake company and dotch taxes.
          No, but I will try to lower my gross tax income as much as possible but in a legal way (using loop holes that havent been closed yet)

      2. Sick_Amore,
        You mention good points. And I still dont understand the Philippines (which was part of the reason for me to join GRP hoping to find the answers).
        If I look at soccer in Europe all or almost all – famous and less famous – soccer players come from (very) poor backgrounds. But I dont see any Asian/Filipino soccer player here in Europe making big money. As far as I know, the only Asian soccer players are from Japan making name for themselves here in Europe.
        Even people like Bill Gates started in a garage.

        Talking about pride. Am I a dutch guy proud to be Dutch (Pinoy pride vs Dutch pride)? No, not really. I am just glad and happy to be born in this country. Compared to many (or even most other countries), I do believe we have a good set of laws. And I also like the Dutch culture. But it was a hard fight to get where we are now. And that is what I really miss in the Philippines. I dont see people fighting (not physically) for their personal freedom. They are very accepting the situation and stop moving forward.

  4. You are referring to “free market” as if it still exists today.
    There are no Bail outs in a free market and no Market Manipulations. Overregulation and insanely bloated Governments just couldn’t allow the Market forces to act freely.
    I only know the Free Market from books.. but I sure would love to experience one someday.


    1. That’s why I believe “survival of the fittest” isn’t about the most competent anymore (if ever it was). It’s about who has the best connections in this “free market.”

      1. That is why I think the most adaptable survives. For your case, we can interpret it as a company, instead competing directly, will use it’s connections (government, other business, etc.) to win, as long as it’s within the bounds of law (or hidden from the law)

    2. Overregulation was definitely not the reason of the subprime crisis in 2007. The crisis was the result of deregulation by the Clinton and Bush administration.

      Due to lack of regulation the power of creating and issuing money was shifted from the central banks to regular banks. Also did the banks organise the money transactions. If a bank gets bankrupt means that all accounts of their clients are closed. They are not able to pay their bills anymore which causes a chain reaction. Many businesses rely on their clients paying bills on time and suddenly many can’t pay anymore because their accounts are closed. They go bankrupt and can’t pay their bills anymore themselves.

      If is possible to change the laws governing banks so that the accounts of clients remain open in case of brantruptcy. But just one government is planning to do that.

  5. Benign0,
    I like your article, I really do. But I think you forgot to mention 1 (one) issue.

    The total number of jobs (worldwide) will decrease enormously but the global population keeps on growing (especially in poor 3rd world countries).

    As an entrepreneur you cant expect me to be social and create jobs (that may not even exist) at minimum wage while a robot can do the same job for almost no cost.
    Unless of course you want to be served in a restaurant by 10 people. One placing the fork on your table, another places the knife, yet another the spoon, the plate etc. That is hidden unemployment.

    1. Indeed that, ultimately, is the most fundamental issue of all, an oversupply of people puts downward pressure on the value of their individual contribution to the economy.

      1. I also miss that issue in your previous article in which you showed the full program of Saunders. An overpopulated population has also effect on the environment (waste/garbage management etc) and not only creates a dis-balance in number of jobs and matching number of workforce.
        Future parents that want kids, should also look at the kids’s future as workers. Unless we all want to procreate to become unemployed citizens.

        The government has nothing to say about what I can and cant do in my bedroom but they (the government) can point out to the current population to be responsible about what I do in the bedroom. Although personally, I dont need a government to tell me that. Its not a rocket science.
        Personally, I really dont understand why – especially poor people – keep on procreating while ruining the kids’ future in the process.

    2. Robert, I don’t think you live in the Philippines (?) but you described the situation that already exists with superfluous sales staff in department stores. They’re cheap to hire and pressured to hit sales targets, so it’s probably cost-effective for the employer to just keep throwing excess human resources in there and see what happens (what happens is, you try to browse some clothes or appliances and find yourself surrounded by six people).

      Not to mention there’s already so much supply in unskilled labour, the bosses can specify ridiculously precise criteria even for the lowliest jobs – single female university graduate under 30 years old is a common requirement. And don’t forget to include a photo on your resume so they can hire the pretty ones!

      I don’t think even the call center industry is going to hold out for long, considering many companies have already effectively replaced humans with robots by using pre-recorded dialogue. For cold calls and the like, call center agents just have to press keyboard shortcuts to make a native English speaker say the right things, because people would rather talk to a goddamn robot than hear a foreign accent. That must be great for morale on those night shifts.

      With countries like Nigeria experiencing even greater population growth than the Philippines, being “number 1 in English” won’t matter any more. Just choose the cheapest country to press the buttons.

      1. Dave,
        I dont live in the Philippines but spent 2.5 years there.

        I personally experienced the fact that I was served by 10 different people in a restaurant. It was in Budapest, Hungary in 1986. We call that “hidden unemployment”.

        What you describe is also happening in my own country. University graduates working at a level below their analytical skills and at a lower income or even working in/at a complete different field (Ex: engineer working in bookkeeping).

        Furthermore, I do think and see that most communication is done by the internet (even by Twitter which is a very powerful tool) between consumers and companies. So the need for call centers will also decline.

        Street shops in my country are facing hard times because we order from internet webshops nowadays. I can even order my daily needs (food, beverages, toilet paper etc) online and they are brought at/to my doorstep the same day (no kidding). Same for buying/purchasing clothes and shoes. All happening online. So I dont have to visit a mall anymore, nor a grocery shop, fashion outlet. I do everything sitting on a chair behind my computer, tablet, laptop or even smart phone. The question is: Will I buy a car online without doing a test drive one day soon? Or in other words: where/what is the line where we still need to go outside for buying/purchasing things? A partner (lol), a car, a house.

        Can you still remember the days you had to go to a bank building to get cash money? Can you remember the days you didnt have a cell phone?
        Technology is to make our lives more comfortable but it also results that the manufacturer will make a profit.
        This is an unstoppable process whether we like it or not.
        But it will also lead to making the gap between rich and poor countries wider/broader.

        I have said many times, that today’s Philippine mindset is the same as our mindset 50, 60, 70 years ago. Even that gap will become wider. And again that is no rocket science.

        And your PH government will not change it bec they will not gain from it. Only the people in the street can change it by changing their own attitude, behavior, mindset and culture.
        Unfortunately, I dont see the latter happen very soon. At least not in my life time.

      2. I can remember being in a mall in Cebu City where I saw 5 (or more) young girls standing in the casher’s booth. So, I asked my partner why there are so many. She told me that there are so many so each can keep an eye out on the other for not putting a hand in the cash register (steal money). I was in “shock” when she said that. I would have fired 4 of them and give the remaining person a considerable raise. Problem solved, case closed. And I would also train that specific person so that she can get a promotion after x-months or x-years (loyalty and good efficient work must be rewarded)

  6. Robots and Artificial Intelligence are being developed at a fast pace. Low class assembly jobs, are being outsourced to foreign countries, like :China, Vietnam , Thailand, Philippines, etc…
    Corporations want PROFITS. Wherever you can find “Cheap Labor”…you go to that country.

    Innovative people, who can advance our Planet Earth Technology are the ones, that are needed by most corporations. So, Corporations go “Head Hunting” (looking for new graduates in universities), that are the “Cream of the Crops” (top 10% of the graduates)…offer them jobs , perks and benefits. The fittest/smartest survive…the remaining graduates have to find jobs for themselves.

    There is a good cooperation in the advancement of technology of technologically advanced countries.

    For Research and Development of a Project; Technical people from: Japan, Germany, China, Korea…etc…help each other to come up with new products. So, your American car; have different parts, developed and manufactured from technologically advanced countries…it is not fully American made…

    Egalitarianism will only be a hindrance in the advancement of technology. Human progress in technology is advancing fast.Robots will replace Humans. And, we cannot stop this technological trend. In all aspects of human needs. Filipino OFWs will be replaced by Robots.

    1. In the advancement of Military Technical Products. Research and Development is not shared. They are kept secret by the country, who owns the product patent. These Military Products are the most profitable products , for corporations that manufactures and sell them. This may be the reason, we have too many wars.

      1. Robots , with Artificial Intelligence , don’t get paid…they can work 24 hours per day. They need only good maintenance. They do not : have health benefits, retirement benefits, vacations, they don’t ask for pay raises,etc…

        Japan is investing much money for the Research and Development of Robots and Artificial Intelligence. It is because of its older population. People are living longer.

        1. I think humans are still applicable even in automated systems: they supervise and maintain the automation. And supervising and maintenance needs money. Let’s see how automation works in application, and whether it does save money over human workers. Let’s see if the glitches and errors in automation are worth ditching people for.

        2. Let’s also not forget that robots are leagues below humans when it comes to the arts. Music, paintings, literature and drama can only be poor replications if done by the mechanical hand.

  7. One good business model that realistically distributes wealth is worker cooperative.

    In this type of set-up, the worker themselves are the shareholders of the company *with* one vote per worker. Workers will meet, discuss, and vote whether to implement or not some polices or allow raise in salary. Mondragon Corporation is a good example of a working worker cooperative.

    Nonetheless, these type of companies are few as compare to corporate companies, where very few people owns stake in the company and the weigh of the vote is proportional to the ownership to the company.

    The government should at least set laws that facilitates the creation of these companies. Simply put, companies create value, government will find ways to keep the value stream flowing.

    1. Worker cooperatives, in its purest form, is a really good concept. However, taken into the Filipino setting – where exploitation is the name of the game – it can be used as a means to blur the lines between cooperatives and agencies. More often than not, members of these so called workers coop like Mondragon uses the privileges of being a cooperative to escape the responsibilities normally imposed on agencies as employers.

      For example, members of worker coops cannot form a union because they are all “owner-members” thus making the concept of bargaining almost futile. They do have “general assemblies” but in my experience, these assemblies are far from being avenues of open discussions.

      Another example is how members of worker coops get their income. They are often sent to the clients of the coop to do jobs from back office functions to janitorial services and that is on a fixed term. After which they get replaced. Smells like agency much? And the coop does not look for another client to place their “members”.

  8. We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors. We put our money where our mouths were. And we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it, it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in our last election. And we didn’t… we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things, and to do all these things, because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one.

  9. Democracy is not philanthropy; it is not even altruism or social reform. Democracy is not founded on pity for the common man; democracy is founded on reverence for the common man, or, if you will, even on fear of him. It does not champion man because man is so miserable, but because man is so sublime. It does not object so much to the ordinary man being a slave as to his not being a king, for its dream is always the dream of the first Roman republic, a nation of kings. — GK CHESTERTON

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