The Self-Made Myth (in Debates)


AdminQBVerifex [Serenity In Chaos] April 27 2012 1:50 PM EDT

The Self-Made Myth: Debunking Conservatives' Favorite -- And Most Dangerous -- Fiction

I just came across this today, and it seems to describe a lot of things that I've understood for a while, but these guys do a much better job of describing the situation using the term the "Built-together" reality.

I think there are some points here that people might disagree, so I wanted to post this here in hopes of some constructive discussion about it.

QBRanger April 27 2012 2:35 PM EDT

Yep,

The government puts a nice foundation here in the US to try to allow anyone to succeed.

But is it your choices you make that determine how far you go in life.

Of course there are inadequacies in life, life is just not fair for everyone.

But in a country of 330 million, we are the best country in the world at trying to make things equal for everyone and give people the chance to succeed and reap the fruits of their labor.

Are people like Trump entirely self-made? Of course not. But they have done so much more than I ever will due to decisions and risks and sacrifice they have made.

Again, I strongly believe that a rising tide raises all ships instead of trying to drag the "rich" down to make everyone "equal". The "poor" now have more luxuries than the "rich" had even 20 years ago. The "poor" quality of life, IMO, is so much better now than 20 years ago.

QBsutekh137 April 27 2012 3:57 PM EDT

Verifex,

Thanks for the link, a good read (if a bit blatant in the bias/editorializing...)

In various debates, as things wind into more philosophical territory, I usually have ended up asking: "Name one thing in your life that wasn't given to you (or you were born with), or based on something you were given (or born with)." This also goes well with, "If you had to be re-born, and had no idea who or where you would end up in America, what sort of social and economic policies would you like to have in place?"

I don't usually get any answers, but that could be because the question is a bit reductionist. One can deconstruct and intellectualize just about any viewpoint. Me, I like that sort of thing. A long time ago I realized how lucky I was to simply have been born a straight, while, healthy male in Midwest America. That right there put me in the top 0.001% (maybe even higher) in the world as far as opportunity. Right out of the gate, only the work to breathe coming from me.

Yes, I still have had to make choices. But that is where the work <> worth algorithm comes in. I have also asked that if two people of similar race, gender, and background work the same amount, yet they end up with vastly different worths, how can one really talk about choice as an end-all be-all as far as how we end up? (This is where the Right will conjure up the laziest piece of entitlement-thinking filth to act as a poster child against welfare, and the Left will demonize the most ruthless, silver-spooned rich guy in its defense).

That covers opportunity and choice. I like how the article uses the "together" idea for both. Our choices are always built on the shoulders of that which came before, all the way down to foundations that cannot possibly have anything "self-made" about them. And our opportunities also come from this "together" concept.

Still, philosophies are going to vary from there. If we go all the way with "together", then don't we inherently approach strict socialism? That not only can we not have made ourselves, that NOTHING is our own. We must imperatively build communes and share the wealth until we are all exactly the same? And from the other side, Ranger still thinks (I assume) people are "self-made" due to the risks they have taken (not sure how he accounts for the "together" nature of that risk nor the luck factor, but that isn't really the point).

I think what the article points out is that no system is a "slam dunk" in terms of matching humanity. Hobbes contended that life is brutish and short, and based his ideas on that. Other philosophers (Voltaire, maybe?) believed in life and light and certain wholes being greater than the sums. Idealism vs. realism. Half-full vs. half-empty... These contrasting viewpoints have always existed and will always exist.

About the only thing one can look for is consistency. There have been times when I perceive inconsistencies within capitalism, often when Ranger and I have been having discussions. For example -- risk. In my opinion, risk is one of the biggest things Ranger sees as needing to be rewarded for folks like Trump. The problem is, if someone has millions of dollars, and can afford to put huge portions of that cash into risky endeavors (with no cause for worry as far as what remains and the lifestyle it affords), how can one call that "risk"?

Next up about risk: I have also been told, repeatedly, that Obama is killing the economy due to uncertainty, e.g. the health care bill and alleged "anti-oil" energy policy. This uncertainty is killing jobs because the "job creators" don't want to risk growing in these turbulent times. Fact is, times are ALWAYS turbulent, so where is this famed risk-taking? It would appear that some wealthy folks want the coin to come up heads and tails at the same time:

-- Can't take risks in troubled times or downward turns...but I get to keep all my wealth when things recover because look at all the risk I took!
-- I'm really putting myself at risk on buying this real estate...even though I have enough money left over still to live out the rest of my life in abject opulence ten times over.
-- Get rid of all regulations...except those which keep quality standards high and end up being barriers to entry for new competition.
-- Gimme my patents to protect my ideas...and when the rules already on the books run out, the rules that have already netted me billions, I'll get the rules changed so I can hold onto my ideas even longer (see Disney).

These are glaring inconsistencies that can be seen by even the most casual observer. I think the article puts a nice, fine point on just how inconsistent these things are when one digs a little deeper in regards to opportunity and choice.

As far as whether or not America is the "best in the world" at making those opportunities and choices a nice petri dish for success -- I really have no idea if that is true. Last I heard, Germany has a killer economy, and they have some fairly overt "socialist" practices there. For example, in regards to one of Ranger's favorite topics (unions), Germany _requires_ worker representatives to be half of board members of companies (at least according to one source I found, correct me if I am wrong). Yet, in spite of this disgusting worker's rights facet, Germany has the second highest trade surplus in the world (second to China)... Other arguably socialist countries (at least more socialist than the US) like Norway and Denmark have a higher gross national product (per capita) than the US.

How can this be?

Anyway, even if the USA is deemed "simply the best" (if we just keep saying it, it must be true, yes?) in the world, I'm not sure what that has to do with the article. Even something that is the best can still be made better by dispelling myths and fallacies and taking a good hard look at the facts behind human nature and society.

Gunny Pew Pew [Red Permanent Assurance] April 27 2012 5:22 PM EDT

Are people like Trump entirely self-made? Of course not. But they have done so much more than I ever will due to decisions and risks and sacrifice they have made.
Are you feeling something akin to inadequate or awestruck when talking about richer persons such The Donald? That's how I'm reading this. Trump's decisions(reality tv), risk(four times bankrupt), and sacrifice(his father's name?) shouldn't have you feeling anything but remorse.
He was a democrat! ;)
Ranger still thinks (I assume) people are "self-made" due to the risks they have taken
Think he knows it's a myth, but went with praising richie for what they have done, so it seems like he's a believer went he isn't. His finger pointing at the poor didn't help.
If we go all the way with "together", then don't we inherently approach strict socialism?
Pretty sure the authors of the book were myth busting and preaching a step back to the center while the article writer went Lenin with the idea.
It would appear that some wealthy folks want the coin to come up heads and tails at the same time:
They do this with stock consistently. =/

I'll cut myself short of a long rant about how believing in "self-made" eschews good in a person's moral compass, like how stereotypical new-age vegans think their Volt is the Sword of Omens entrusted to them for pillaging ears at Dillards, and say the myth is a "together-built" sect among the religions of egotism. Another delusion which can never to be proven to the rational world.

Gunny Pew Pew [Red Permanent Assurance] April 27 2012 5:26 PM EDT

Oh and a rising tide can bury a beach in jellyfish.

Sickone April 27 2012 6:47 PM EDT

But in a country of 330 million, we are the best country in the world at trying to make things equal for everyone and give people the chance to succeed and reap the fruits of their labor.

Totally and completely wrong.
For what you can call developed countries, the USofA has an abysmally bad vertical intergenerational mobility.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/05/us/harder-for-americans-to-rise-from-lower-rungs.html?_r=1&sq=mobility&st=cse&scp=1&pagewanted=all

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2006/04/b1579981.html

http://www.economicmobility.org/assets/pdfs/EMP%20American%20Dream%20Report.pdf

So, no, you're NOT the best country in the world at trying to make things equal for everyone and give people the chance to succeed. You're not even one of the best. You're actually ONE OF THE WORST.

Sickone April 27 2012 6:59 PM EDT

Last one seems to have been renamed, redirects to general hosting site, but google cache still available on old location:

google cache for www.economicmobility.org/assets/pdfs/EMP American Dream Report.pdf

AdminTitan [The Sky Forge] April 27 2012 9:28 PM EDT

What I'd be interested in seeing statistics behind hard-work->success. But, since that's nearly impossible to determine how hard someone worked and when they worked in their life, and to normalize it all, and then compare. It's pretty much a pipe dream.

I do know that if you work hard enough in high school in the US and have at least an average intelligence, you can easily be very successful.

The main problem I see with America is that if you don't do well in HS and you're not a genius, you're in a lot of trouble.

QBsutekh137 April 27 2012 10:54 PM EDT

I do know that if you work hard enough in high school in the US and have at least an average intelligence, you can easily be very successful.

Let's say that's true, Titan, and let's say we can even agree on what "successful" means (you'd have to agree I am giving great creedence to some very sticky wickets, already).

It still doesn't mean a thing.

TO say on CAN be successful doesn't matter. Can you GUARANTEE me that the same amount of work will generate the same amount of wealth? If you can't, then don't you have to do the work = wealth idea what one does to any theory that has been disproven (even just once)? Disregard it. It doesn't hold water.

If work != wealth, then what does this whole discussion of opportunity and choice have to do with it? Don't we have to move to the next level (realization) and act accordingly? Or are you simply going to quote the age-old saw: "life ain't fair" and leave it at that?

If the latter, then fine. Life ain't fair. So pay up, rich folk. Progressively. Because let me reiterate -- consistency is the only truth, and you can't have it both ways. If life ain't fair, tax the "built-together" wealth progressively (and then let the rich them keep the riches that could fund shower several lives over in affluence). What can't happen, from a point of consistency, is for the rich to be able to say "mine all mine!" and then still benefit from the petri dish of "built-together" that gave then the wealth in the first place.

Does that make sense?

QBRanger April 27 2012 11:20 PM EDT

I have to clear just 1 point up.

The rich are not saying "what is mine is mine".

The "rich" are saying "you have taken enough through federal tax, city tax, state tax, payroll tax, sales tax. In fact in some areas the governments take over 50% of income. Enough is enough. Especially when we are paying 500k for the first lady to have a lavish vacation in Spain and we are having our GSA employing having 800k parties in Las Vegas."

Beyond this point, I am going to stay away from this thread so not to be called a racist.

QBsutekh137 April 27 2012 11:56 PM EDT

Good points, Ranger.

But I believe you are against a progressive tax entirely, yes? (Last I can recall?) So this 50 percent you speak of would go away if you had your druthers.

Then the rich would be saying "mine", and eating it, too.

All I am for is a progressive tax with no end runs where someone like Romney, once he reaches "critical wealth mass" can be taxed at 18% capital gains for the rest of his life.

Even a racist like you can agree that 18% is way, way less than 50%, right? (you know I'm joking, right -- I know you aren't a racist, at least not any more than I am, aversively *smile* )

AdminTitan [The Sky Forge] April 28 2012 12:38 AM EDT

Can you GUARANTEE me that the same amount of work will generate the same amount of wealth?

No, I don't think you read the paragraph before that one. I basically said that would be a cool research project; but basically impossible. And let me be clear; my tax ideas aren't based around who "earned" the money or not, it based around what I think would be best for produce the best result for all the people paying them.

AdminTitan [The Sky Forge] April 28 2012 12:41 AM EDT

Also, I do think that if 2 people worked very hard at the same times in life, and made very similar decisions I think that their lives would turn out fairly close to the same level of "success."

But, like I said, there's no proving that one way or the other.

Gunny Pew Pew [Red Permanent Assurance] April 28 2012 1:14 AM EDT

"you have taken enough through federal tax, city tax, state tax, payroll tax, sales tax. In fact in some areas the governments take over 50% of income. Enough is enough. Especially when we are paying 500k for the first lady to have a lavish vacation in Spain and we are having our GSA employing having 800k parties in Las Vegas."
The rich aren't saying that. Two rich guys wrote the book this article was commenting on. Now you are putting words in richie's mouth! Bonk!

Knew you'd go for a 6th(?)thread advocating my mislabeling system. Know you too well. All reading know I'm going to say something too. So! Here's the entire post of me directly calling R-word an r-word so everyone can play. Also because I'm probably still on /ignore we have to air the dirty laundry in public. =/
_____________________________________
Yes you do. That was a five post spray of madness.
Since I got time reading Natty's Drunk Tales I'll give you what your kind words were obviously asking for. ;)
But now you are being downright nasty.
Was quite polite in bestowing the history you've given us. =/ Think we've covered your name calling but not the potentially racist outlook towards your patients & president. Never been a good time to bring that up so let's get this over with while we mud wrestle. Unless you want to try your hand at staying on topic? Which could be a debate as to what the topic is at this point.
Getting away from the topic and getting into personal accusations and lies.
All you babe. That big post was on topic. Took to the events in question and denying your group assertions. Again. If explaining how such blows might have come to pass was not the topic then I'm guessing the topic is proving something to yourself or so I'm re-reading.
I knew you were upset when I said you could dish it out but not take it.
O.M.J. Must be a year since your uncovering and you STILL think that got my goat? By Jon, man. Got tiger blood in ya. I'll take this as an admittance to guilt. *grins*
However, you are now going well out of your way to attack me and my points of view no matter what they are.
Touche! Wasn't so out of my way to push your terms which were in the way. Look up. Were you trying to cultivate rage on such a simple matter we all are likely to agree on? Then, I call you out on behavior BOOM Gunny is the criminal! Dare say you have a fixation for self fulling prophecies. Think we are practically the same guy at this point. What say you liberals? Am I Maher to his Limbaugh?
---------------------------------------
Delicious. :) Funny part was this is the nastiest I got in that thread, had been lighthearted til that point, and the posts before that included me making fun of myself then going on to sing a Whitesnake song.

QBRanger April 28 2012 2:05 AM EDT

Gun,

My response that you took quite offense with was directed to Sut's post, specifically:

'What can't happen, from a point of consistency, is for the rich to be able to say "mine all mine!'

I was not responding to your post in any way. In fact, I do not read yours or Sickone's posts anymore, aside from a cursory glance to correct stupid slurs in my direction.

Gunny Pew Pew [Red Permanent Assurance] April 28 2012 2:39 AM EDT

It's cause we're black isn't it?

Sickone April 28 2012 8:07 AM EDT

I do think that if 2 people worked very hard at the same times in life, and made very similar decisions I think that their lives would turn out fairly close to the same level of "success."

Do you REALLY think that while being aware of the situation, or is it something you just like to believe it might be true without digging much into it ?

Imagine two different guys, one with poor uneducated and probably unemployed parents, another with rich decently educated parents with plenty of connections.
You can't possibly honestly tell me that the same amount of work and dedication from both kids (let alone similar amounts of willpower and other motivating factors, which is actually what you should mean) will have on average about the same chance to result in even remotely similar outcomes, or can you ?

The poor-parents kid will struggle to succeed even if his actual school results are similar, and if he drops below a certain performance level, he'll most likely be unable to continue his studies (which the rich kid will take for granted) due to financial issues. The rich parents kid gets all the assistance he can possibly get, and even if he is reluctant to learn and performs badly most of the time, he still has a pretty good chance of graduating (even if just barely) because their parents pay for it.
After graduation, the poor kid is more likely to have a crippling debt which will keep his standard of living horrible, leading to a more difficult work experience (plus, he has less of a choice in what to do, because he can't afford NOT to work ASAP, whichever damn job he might find), and he can only draw on certain sources of jobs (publicly advertised ones). On the other hand, the rich kid will not only NOT have any debts and therefore not be forced to work at all, but he can take his sweet time picking a more appropriate job or even interning unpaid for as long as he wants without fear of starving, plus he'll probably get access to better job offers that are not even mentioned to people without the right connections.

And that's all just the tip of the iceberg.
So, really, don't tell me that equal amounts of work/effort will generally result in roughly the same success, because it's clearly not even close to true.
Sure, outliers might exist (very poor people struggling like mad and managing to get rich, or rich people blowing away their family fortune), but those are infrequent counterexamples, not the general rule.

QBsutekh137 April 28 2012 9:09 AM EDT

Also, I do think that if 2 people worked very hard at the same times in life, and made very similar decisions I think that their lives would turn out fairly close to the same level of "success."

I see Sickone has already commented on this...

You are right, Titan, in that such things are hard to prove, but look at from the other direction to immediately dismiss this "fairly close" idea.

Are you saying at the time Donald Trump was growing his wealth, there were no other educated, ruthless, white men making similar (if not exactly the same) sorts of decisions? I guarantee you that as his wealth grew, there were HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS of people doing the exact same thing at the exact same time. A little less luck here or a little bit too much risk there (but still essentially "similar" decisions), and thousands of dudes ended up not rich while the Donald ended up rich beyond his dreams.

Do you honestly believe Donald Trump simply made better decisions and didn't get any luckier than anyone else? Do you not recognize chaos as a very applicable aspect to all of this?

AdminQBGentlemanLoser [{END}] April 28 2012 12:25 PM EDT

It's cause we're black isn't it?

Me Juli!!!

Rubberduck[T] [Hell Blenders] April 28 2012 12:56 PM EDT

success = talent + work + luck

great success = a bit more talent/work + a lot more luck

QBsutekh137 April 28 2012 11:22 PM EDT

Ne'er a truer set of words...
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