perhaps because of the outsized influence they have as individuals on the rest of the economy and society? how can you not care about Jeff Bezos with the impact that Amazon has on the retail sector, unless you simply don’t care about having independent retailers anymore? I’m admittedly biased as my current income depends on one, but Bezos is not my friend.

many vehement capitalists hate the idea of government control of anything, but for whatever reason, they support private control of everything, even when that control is highly centralized, and over which they have no say (unless they’re rich and thereby own that control).


Here’s an overview of his research. After he introduces parameters corresponding to taxation and redistribution, he has been able to—strikingly accurately!—model actual recently-measured wealth distributions in various countries. In talks of his I’ve seen he’s described the distance between an average agent in his model and one of the fantastically wealthy as a “phase transition”—i.e. effectively under certain parameters (such as the US today) the model seems to indicate completely different dynamics for the wealth of the richest agents (going up up up up) versus the others (trending gently downward).

As a caveat, his research atm has mostly been used to model snapshots of an economy, rather than aim to predict the evolution of the wealth distribution. I think that’s something he’s working on currently.


Understanding these issues are fundamentally about increasing happiness and minimizing suffering, I wonder why we so often reduce the question to one of economics or political systems. Surely, the word “happy” means something more and greater that “not currently suffering too much”. And certainly, the mechanisms that create happiness are more and greater than our enconomic situation.
Clearly, the poorest often suffer the most and we have a huge obligation to address that. Most of society’s resources should go hey way.
Otherwise, it seems our society would be served to deprecate economics in favor of growth or wisdom in areas that are actually capable of producing happiness. I think this starts with how we discuss economics and how high we put it on the shelf.
Personally, I am one of Mr. Bezos many employees, earning much less that $100k/yr. However, I suspect that Mr Bezos and are very similar in how we experience personal happiness and precieved suffering. I’m certain neither of our minds can look at our situations and experience actual happiness. I’m positive we both suffer greatly from the humanness of our existence.
If Mr Bezos were so inspired, I doubt there is much he could do with his checkbook to make significant improvements to my personal happiness or reduce my perception of suffering. In a fundamental way, human nature is to suffer and economics can rarely change that. I aspire to start talking about and building a society that can have actual impact.


I’m with you on happiness being the goal, but there’s a lot of space between someone making, say, $70k/year (roughly the point at which income stops correlating with happiness) and someone who is sick and without healthcare, homeless, or just in poverty. I make ~$35k/year and I am definitely happier than when I was poor, but I still make plenty of decisions that sacrifice my own happiness for practical concerns given my limited wealth and income.

I think helping people in the zone between <$0/year net income and $70k/year, which is more than half of the US. is mostly who people are talking about when proposing changes to help lower through middle classes.

one can’t really worry about happiness for its own sake when they’re sick or can’t easily eat.


Has anyone raised the subject of Bhutan?


There’s no need for name-calling or labeling.

As for your comments about untangling the past; I’d be happy if we could stop killing people in wars, and start respecting individuals. If we could do that, I wouldn’t feel too bad about the difficulties or even complete failure to undo the sins of the past.


That article is based on an article from The Economist (link), which has some pretty squirlly text around how they arrived to that chart.

Ever diplomatic, the OECD does not provide a score for countries, though you can see their rankings here. The Economist has crunched the numbers for 10 indicators for which the OECD provide data to place countries in a range of how the best off and least well-off in society fare, measured as the top and bottom 10% of the population by income and education. It conforms to stereotype. The better-off Americans enjoy the best lives, but the country has the widest inequality. In fact, for all the fancy metrics, the Better-Life Index does not look too different from classic GDP rankings.

As many commenters point out, the graph not only shows the widest income inequality of any of the countries, but more significantly, it suggests that the lowest 10% of Americans live better lives than the top 10% Italians. I probably don’t need to poke too much to point out how absurd that is.

That Forbes article is part of this Pinker-ism (is that a word? it should be) that says that everything is awesome now, and has only been getting better.

I wonder why Forbes would be pushing that angle. Can you think of a reason? I can think of many.

The reality is much more complex.

Have a read of this:

On the topic of charts and ranking, here are two rankings of the highest quality of life:

The US doesn’t look too hot on those. Also, something in common with the countries on the top. Not sure what it is.


Normally that sort of “analysis” wouldn’t warrant much response, but this is a different kind of place so I feel that it’s worth talking about.

  • Any article that starts by calling people “whining” when they talk about human rights in their own country is clearly not an objective analysis of the data. This is “lying with statistics” 101.

  • He offers no evidence to support his analysis of the data or the chart, which makes an enourmous number of assumptions in comparing the countries.

Here is a better (though not perfect) analisys of that same data set but from 2017:

The US has the second-highest rate of poverty among rich countries (poverty here measured by the percentage of people earning less than half the national median income.)

And some more charts that show how things have changed over time:

And finally, if we take what the Forbes article says as true, it still points out that there is huge inequality and poverty in the richest country on earth, regardless of how that compares to other countries it is a problem and we can do better. Just because other places might be worse means that the USA is good? That is a dubious conclusition, at best.


Capital, its optimizing agency (ROI; or the money-commodity-money cycle), and its myth of scarcity are the real agents and they’re making all of us miserable. The drive to locate agency within individuals rather than acknowledge systemic effects leads only to conspiracy theories, and always specific ones. Even Bezos, Zuckerberg and Pichai are claimed. Are any of them actually happy? If economy is predicated upon lack, the rich become those who lack the most. They drive themselves and everyone under them even harder so they can acquire more just to soothe the pain. Their very concept of desire is founded upon lack, upon abject poverty that makes us all poorer. Also, what they acquire becomes taken out of circulation (as it it has no meaning other than to be acquired, other than to fill this "lack), and in this way the economy of lack becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The only truly “rich” people have been those in general (gift) economies, not capitalist or (state) socialist economies. Positive-sum socialism is possible but it has to proceed from the bottom up, from a fundamental situation of embeddedness in which the very idea of agency or freedom is founded upon associations and social ties. If this is socialism, then “state” socialism is a contradiction in terms, and already DOA. Even the concept of the individual soul which prefigured the “rational economic agent” developed in the Axial Age only after the collapse of general economies and the introduction of private property:

In some of the earliest documents we possess from Indo-European cultures – the Rg Veda and the Homeric poems – the human beings depicted do not have ‘souls’. That is to say, they have organs of what we might call different types of consciousness, but there is no indication that there is a unifying principle which knits all the different organs together. Then, at the beginning of the sixth century BCE, something rather startling happens: in both Indian texts (the Brahmanas , Upanishads , and others) and in Greece (in the movement known as Pre-Socratic philosophy) the notion arises that there is indeed a unifying, bounded, and possibly immortal soul.

Richard Seaford has a provocative theory, based in a sociological / anthropological approach, as to why this new and revolutionary idea comes into being at just this time in just these places. Whether you agree with him or not, you will not want to miss Professor Seaford’s masterful survey of the Greek and Sanskritic evidence for the first appearance of that most essential entity, the soul.
In some of the earliest documents we possess from Indo-European cultures – the Rg Veda and the Homeric poems – the human beings depicted do not have ‘souls’. That is to say, they have organs of what we might call different types of consciousness, but there is no indication that there is a unifying principle which knits all the different organs together. Then, at the beginning of the sixth century BCE, something rather startling happens: in both Indian texts (the Brahmanas , Upanishads , and others) and in Greece (in the movement known as Pre-Socratic philosophy) the notion arises that there is indeed a unifying, bounded, and possibly immortal soul.

Other fascinating themes touched on:

  • What is the ‘Axial Age’, and what makes it so ‘axial’?
  • The problems of dating the Homeric poems and the Rg Veda
  • The origins of the concept of the incorporeal in Greece and India
  • What money and private property have to do with the rise of the soul

All of this of became modernized, but the basic idea of the individual remains. If private property is already presupposed in the very arguments used to defend private property, on what basis can one take these arguments seriously? In what respect are they sound? If the essential sociality and embeddedness of the individual is already denied – a situation in which the boundary or limit of the individual gets taken as a mechanism for isolation rather than an interface across which mutually defining relations become possible then of course, isolation merely reproduces itself. As no positive-sum interactions can be thought, the question of economy only then becomes a question of lack.


Discarding individuation along with notions of property is a very long row to hoe. Buddhism is the only non-indigenous culture I’m aware of that supports this. Are there others?


Interesting, thanks! Seaford gets way into this (how Buddhism emerged as a counter-tendency, returning to pre-Axial notions of non-self) and no I don’t know of anything else that’s both non-indigenous and mainstream.

I don’t think it’s a matter of discarding individuation so much as rethinking it.

The thing to avoid is the solipsistic self-relation, where all knowledge must be internal to the self and absolutely certain. (i.e. Descartes’ cogito; the fundamentum inconcussum veritatis). Kirkegaard meant this when he said “the self is a relation which relates itself to its own self…”

The fully inward or autopoeitic self posits the boundary of the self as a hard wall, across which nothing may permeate. In other words, Trump’s idea of boundary.

A rethinking of the self as embedded keeps the boundary, but tears down the wall. The boundary becomes not the end of the self, but its beginning. It also becomes the beginning of world. It becomes an interface; an occasion for self and world to inter-relate, to “ex-ist” by extending out beyond one another into one another. Thinking self is thinking interface, no longer an inward relation.

So there’s still a self but it’s no longer a self-relating self. It’s no longer self-grounding. It’s radically finite, dependent, relational, and so is the world to which the self relates. Self and world need each other and come to constitute one another. The boundary is the interface or scaffolding for this co-constitution.

Also a long row to hoe. But no way in which we understand things ever becomes complete. The fact we even understand ancient practices attests to their continuing presence in oral traditions, in popular and non-mainstream cultures, in the forgotten yet still dormant meanings of common words.

The ever looming disasters may yet shine more light on marginal practices which begin to gather and vie for central position. These practices become instituted by way of the paradigm, not abstract theories as you and I are discussing, theories which can at best only shine a light. I see much of our essential work, as artists, as magicians, as whatever, as bringing forth the paradigm. In the meantime all sorts of ugly politics assail us, and we have to deal with the world as it is not as we want it to be.


Thank you for that. I wasn’t really relishing the idea of going straight back to pre-platonic ways of being without gathering some of the best of what has come along since then.

The challenge is to be discerning as we pick and choose…

And it’s probably wise to linger a bit in that pre-platonic place before we rush back to modernity. We are so lacking in any familiar frame of reference for the experience of being a member of a society where one’s place in the tribe is everything and one’s self image is so ephemeral it can hardly be detected. Our experiences of gift economy are isolated to specific events and we can scarcely fathom what it would feel like to live it year round.


cohen’s testimony was riveting and historic in many ways (not in a positive light)

so much to unpack


I don’t usually comment in this thread but wow, Cumming’s closing remarks were inspiring. Felt like watching history.


it was history!

  • cohen’s opening and closing statements and his resistance against the right’s obstruction

  • cumming’s closing statement

  • the democrats calling out the right’s weak tactics of talking over michael cohen and calling him names that he has already plead guilty and admitted to being and is clearly in repentance over (being a liar, perjurer, etc)

  • AOC getting hella names from cohen

  • Rashida Tlaib calling out the racist actions of republican mark meadows

theres so much more god what a day


It’s worth watching AOC.

I was listening all day and you had people back and forth attacking or defending Cohen’s credibility. AOC doesn’t fall for that, instead introducing a line of questioning that actually furthers the ability to investigate the truth.


I feel like this is the moment when Congress, and the mainstream media and pretty much everyone, have to stop pretending that Trump is legitimate in any way.


There were several on the Dem side who opened up or strengthened investigative lines. As well as identifying others who need to be questioned.

GOP did not help their cause as they did not refute a single claim Cohen made against DJT.

Over all, it was a good start.


Anytime I have a moment of optimism, it’s important to remember this timeless tweet.
Ultimately, it’s been clear that the truth hasn’t mattered for some time to a lot of Americans (well before Trump’s election - so I always worry about him becoming a scapegoat for serious systemic issues that can’t be brushed away so easily). I’ll be curious how the Cohen stuff impacts anything at all in any meaningful way. The optimism is purely a result of having a divided legislature, but will it be enough for any accountability? We shall see.


it was a disgusting circus, so par for the course for this country at present