[FoRK] The bee sting theory of poverty

Jeff Bone jbone at place.org
Tue Jun 29 05:41:46 PDT 2010

On Jun 29, 2010, at 1:30, "Stephen D. Williams" <sdw at lig.net> wrote:

> You're saying that some will just have to go without the basics,  
> even though we have a surplus of land, food, and cheap manufactured  
> goods?


First, it's only surplus because the manufacturer cannot find even a  
cost-neutral way to distribute it.  Force its distribution anyway and  
you have confiscated its manufacturer's sunk costs (i.e., stored  
utility) as well as expending "borrowed" utility to do so.  Pay for  
it, and --- where did you get the funds to do so, and how did you  
justify that? (DMU is the usual argument, and it is a myth.)

You inevitably must violate Pareto efficiency and / or non- 
coerciveness in doing so.  EVEN IF in general the goods would  
otherwise be "wasted" (i.e., perish unused even as there are folks who  
could use them.)

And the very moment you succeed in  completely allocating any supposed  
surplus, two things will happen:  the supply side will spontaneously  
readjust to attempt to avoid creating future surpluses in these goods,  
and the expectations about any minimum "poverty line" will jump (even  
as you lose the ability to fulfill the previous expectations through  
whatever present mechanism you have concocted.)

This is true of the most basic good, food.  It is even more true the  
further away from "mere survival" any notion of the baseline gets.

> ...schools should teach.  (Oh, we have, except someone keeps trying  
> to hack it in Texas.)

Does that somehow support your argument?


There is an escape hatch.  You've almost made it there several times  
now, but I'm getting impatient waiting for you to fumble your way to  
opening it.

The above is true, universally and inviolably, for universal, socially- 
aggregative systems.  It's like a social second law of thermodynamics,  
with which it bears a close relationship.  But like the 2LT, it does  
not necessarily apply under both open-world and closed-world  
assumptions or at all levels of scale.  Divide and conquer; smaller,  
self-selected, closed social units may avoid the trap to some extent,  
given some level of induced stasis.  Your communitarian idea is headed  
in the right direction, though you still do not understand why or  
quite how.

Having taken you that far, I will let you attempt to take that point  
to its logical conclusion and work out the implications on your own.


In the limit, post-scarcity is an unrealistic fantasy.  Resouce  
constraints are a fact of life. Improvement re any instantaneous  
status quo is possible, but eliminating want (aka "need") in any  
general and durable way is a unicorn, absent unrealistic "magic  
happens here."


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