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Could Do Better

Entry 870, on 2008-10-16 at 21:29:42 (Rating 4, Politics)

I remember many years ago when I was at school I would often get comments on my report saying something like "could do better". Well duh, obviously that's true because no one works to 100% of their potential so they could always do better. I guess the real message was that I was slacking around and if I did a bit of work I could do a lot better, but that's ancient history now. The reason I mention the phrase is that I think the world as a whole could do better.

Many people have noted the obscene amounts of money which have magically appeared to prop up the world's financial and banking system which has been run down by a bunch of incompetents who seem to have the primary attributes of stupidity and greed. I was thinking about what the world would be like if that money was spent on something useful instead.

I read various reports which said that world hunger could be abolished through an estimated expenditure of between $20 billion and $60 billion (source: approximate estimates from UN reports, FAO, Dietetic Association). Humanities greatest adventure, the Apollo space program, cost (in today's currency) about $90 billion (source: Wikipedia). The world's biggest and most complex machine, the Large Hadron Collider, cost about 6 billion euros (source: Wikipedia). Budgets for humanitarian projects, science and technological development are being cut all around the world because "there isn't enough money" to support them. Well if the money doesn't exist where have the trillions thrown at this bunch of worthless parasites come from?

I'm beginning to notice a change in attitude to executives and business people recently. Many people would have looked at them with admiration in the past. I personally always despised them because they really do nothing and still demand huge salaries as well as public adulation. Before I go any further I should say that there are occasional business people who do have a moderately useful function. Calling them all worthless scum is an oversimplification but I'll just stick with that idea with the understanding that it isn't always 100% true.

An article in the local paper this morning was very critical of business people, accusing them of travelling all over the world to attend meetings of doubtful value and wasting the world's resources. Many articles on mainstream web based media recently were critical of financial companies and their directors. It seems that perhaps people are beginning to see the light and realise that the "emperor has no clothes". Those fancy suits seem to be just a disguise to hide a total lack of substance.

OK, maybe I've got a little bit carried away in the rant above, but I think the business model we are currently controlled by is the fundamental reason that we are underachieving as a civilisation. We could abolish world hunger. We could eradicate many diseases which affect millions of people around the world. We could have a reasonable standard of living for every person on the planet. We could have a permanent base on the Moon. We could have an energy production system which provides unlimited energy to everyone without producing excessive greenhouse gases. We could have all of these things if we used the worlds resources in a sane and fair way.

But we don't. So the world's report card continues to read: could do better.

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Comment 7 (1754) by SBFL on 2008-10-19 at 22:35:17: (view earlier comments)

Yes, I am sure they did research the matter more than me, but like I said in comment 3 "Now I haven't read the reports you refer to as they are not linked, but is the money spent on food, or is is spent on eliminating the root causes of hunger? (topic for a separate post one day maybe?)"

Because I believe you are deluded to actually think that "just a few percent" would eliminate the issue. You are right about one thing though, a lot more could be done. A lot.

Actually it's taking something off the rich (say working class in safety net NZ) and giving it to the poor (the working class in no safety net emerging nations). Isn't it funny how this philosophy doesn't apply when suddenly "the left" find themselves in the category of the rich...? Amazing.

I notice you avoid answering again. So again I ask: Apollo Space Program or End world hunger?

How did we go from business people to banks on this particular point all of a sudden? You are very good at twisting the path of a debate to avoid the questions that might expose a weakness in your argument (IMHO of course, I don't expect you to agree with this!). Debating with you can sometimes be like pulling teeth!

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Comment 8 (1755) by OJB on 2008-10-20 at 07:55:59:

I read several reports which had figures ranging from 20 to 60 billion. I couldn't link them all but just Google the subject. The money was for a short term solution, not a permanent resolution of the underlying problems which would obviously be preferable.

The reports said 20 to 60 billion, which is a few percent of the several trillion spent on helping the banks. Simple maths.

Taking jobs away from one group and making them poor so that another group are less poor is not the answer, especially when its done for the sole reason of making the shareholders even more rich.

The question of choosing between a space program and ending world hunger is a tricky one. My point was that the question isn't relevant because we can easily afford both for a few percent (times 2) of the bank bail out. But if I had to choose I would say the space program (I can justify that).

The financial crisis and the behaviour of the banks seems to me to be the most extreme example of capitalism gone wrong. The post was about spending the money given to the banks and other financial institutions to more worthwhile projects.

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Comment 9 (1756) by SBFL on 2008-10-20 at 23:31:03:

Simple maths? But you just agreed that amount doesn't solve the problem.

Fact is alternative opportunities and safety nets exist here, so I doubt the impact would be so bad here, compared to the places where real poverty exists. Greed and selfishness exists everywhere, even amongst those who pretend they are free of it.

At least you made a call now. Maybe you will make a new post one day on that justification.

So? We were specifically talking about one part of your post, but you twisted it. I wonder why...another classic distortion, sigh.

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Comment 10 (1759) by OJB on 2008-10-21 at 09:14:58:

I said that solving the underlying causes of the problems would be better but I specifically said that organisations who work in this area (UN, etc) have said that the money would solve the immediate problem. The maths is simple.

I agree that everyone suffers from an element of greed and selfishness. The point I was trying to make (but you seem to keep avoiding) is that such a small part of the bank bail out money would solve so many problems and that small part would barely be noticed.

A post on justifying the space program would be a good idea. I'll work on that one.

I think we both might be guilty of being less than totally sincere occasionally. I recognise that I am sometimes guilty of extending the faults of the extreme cases to the more general case. And I think you are guilty of avoiding questions by giving vague and meaningless answers (more in the area of religion than politics). We should both work on improving this maybe?

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Comment 11 (1760) by SBFL on 2008-10-25 at 08:57:19:

If you think I am avoiding a topic because of being vague and meaningless then actually perhaps it is that you just don't understand. I mean you often display that human tendency to rationalise in order to make sense of matters. Your final comments (#75-85) in the post "Convoluted Rationalisations" is a classic example of this. You absolutely demanded a nice and neat executive summary to a complex issue we had spent many words discussing. Even in this latest comment you say 'The point I was trying to make (but you seem to keep avoiding)...when in fact at least one section in every comment made so far in this thread covers your point, my argument being that no, it wouldn't solve the so many problems that you and your vaguely referred to reports claim. Why would you say I am avoiding the point when the opposite is so blatantly true? Why? Some parts of our discussions may digress as the thread wears on but is that not normal? Apparently they all reach the point of referring to the Nazis or Hitler anyway!

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