| Friday, June 27, 2008 - 10:08 am |
Moonbox: "For 2007 when the top 10 countries' standards of living were calculated, the US was ranked 6th. What's funny is that the USA is by FAR number #1 in terms of GDP per capita."
Not true. The US's nominal GDP is far higher than any other country, but per capita (per head of population), it just scrapes into the top ten narrowly ahead of the Netherlands and the UK. The countries above it in the list are largely European and include four of the five Scandinavian countries (Finland is 13) which are all socialist countries.
Moonbox: "Finally, if you think that publicly held companies should somehow be more ethical than a privately held corp, you're sadly mistaken. Publicly held corporations (especially with no majority ownership) are by far the worst offenders. Why? Because a CEO's bonus and salary is based on short term STOCK performance. If share prices rise and good dividends are issued, CEO's make money. That's all there is to it. Shareholders are not concerned with fair wages, just share performance."
Agreed. The CEO is there to return a profit to investors. He has minimal interest in the welfare of his workers (short of ensuring that they are reasonably productive) and no interest in acting ethically (trading with Asian sweatshops counts as unethical in my book, but they're so cheap that it is in a CEO's interest to purchase their goods).
It is the CONSUMERS who can act ethical by choosing not to buy from companies that trade unethically thus forcing a company to act ethically. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to motivate large enough numbers of people to boycott a company to make a difference, particularly when a T-shirt costs under 3GBP (3.80EUR or 6USD).
Often the most ethical companies are Co-operatives, either worker- or consumer-coops as these are driven by an ideology (see The Co-operative Group in the UK, Coop Norden in Scandinavia, Coop in Switzerland and the PCC in the USA). Here in the UK, the Co-operative Group is specifically targeting the ethical consumer with its products and services.
Davepat: "Socialism is about taking away to give to others, not by volunteering to do so, but by mandate by the state. If you can not see the evil in that then I feel sorry for you, you deserve what you get!"
Socialism is about making sure that no-one is left behind. It should aim to eliminate poverty and ensure that everyone has access to basic healthcare and education. To do this, everyone must contribute - from each according to means, to each according to need. In other words, higher earners must pay proportionately more.
Here in the UK, our healthcare system is funded partly by a separate income tax known as "National Insurance". It is there precisely to make sure that people who can't afford basic healthcare are provided for by those who can. In practice, higher earners tend to take out private health insurance or pay for private healthcare. They still have to contribute to the National Insurance scheme.
Our system isn't perfect; we still have people in poverty and our National Health Service is creaking after years of under-investment. But the system is there to reduce the numbers in poverty, and ensure that those who find themselves out of work through no fault of their own, still have a basic income to cover essentials until they find more work.
If it is evil to care that nobody is prevented from getting healthcare, education or other essential services due to being unable to afford it, then I am content and proud to say that I support this kind of evil.
Phatz: "Capitalism is far from perfect [...] If these people had been born in a socialist or communist country, no one would have ever heard of them"
I agree that capitalism is usually the best way of motivating employees and enabling significant economic growth.
However, I hope you are not equating socialism with communism. Socialist European countries harness the power of capitalism to provide for the social services in their countries. The support for socialism in Europe partly came about because of the proximity to communism. It was thought that worker unrest might have led to communist revolution across much of Western Europe if basic social services were not provided to all free at the point of use.
Finally, have you heard of Tim Berners-Lee? Brit who invented the Web? He's from a socialist country. Linus Torvalds? Finn who developed Linux (which might have served as a widely used OS if Gates hadn't released Windows)? Neither of these guys are obscenely rich, but despite giving their inventions freely to the World, both make a more-than-comfortable living.
Incidentally, I do use Windows (but dual-boot Linux) and Microsoft Office. Microsoft have something of a monopoly when it comes to Office and OS software and I often need to exchange files with colleagues who use Office. I do, however, try to use OpenOffice.org whenever possible and I always use Firefox in preference to Internet Explorer.
Again, Microsoft exploited their dominance in the OS market to bundle IE with Windows limiting consumer choice. This led to lawsuits in both the US and Europe - evidence that Monopolies are definitely a bad thing, in my opinion.