PostHeaderIcon The Maker / Taker Paradox

In many articles in this blog, we rightly bemoan the fact that we have far too many people in our society who take much while offering little or nothing in return. From most perspectives, this is an appropriate complaint because our liberty, to a very great extent, is little more than an extension of our free-market economy. As we drift toward the bottomless pit called “socialism”, this becomes ever more apparent because a top-down planned economy offers freedom only to the planners.

This is important because a free-market economy depends on a free exchange between two willing participants. Such a free-market economy cannot survive in an environment where some of the participants simply take with little or nothing offered in exchange. The obvious reason such an economy cannot survive is that the makers must cease to pump goods and services into the market if they do not receive the exchange of corresponding values that incents / allows them to continue or even increase their production.

So far, so good. But… to what point? Possibly to this point: what if we have reached that point where the combination of science and technology have raised human productivity to a level where we actually need more consumers than producers (that is, more takers than makers)?

(Dear readers, please forgive me if I seem to be supporting a point of view that the Obamanation recently used to try to justify his job-killing policies (ATMs replacing bank tellers) – I assure you I am not intentionally headed for the same conclusion – that being that anti-poverty programs becoming our largest “growth industry” is acceptable.)

My plea for forgiveness notwithstanding, what if we are actually at or near such a situation? And, if we have, or soon will, does our free-market economic model somehow comes unraveled? Several problems immediately suggest themselves:

First is the one mentioned above… the producers must have an adequate exchange of value in order to keep producing. If large segments of the population consume without producing, how is such value obtained?

Second, all human experience has shown that humans with little or no sense of purpose in their lives are much more prone to ill-advised behavior than humans who do have such sense of purpose, and we further know that making a positive contribution of some kind (i.e. being productive) is one of the best ways to generate a sense of purpose.

Third, is the problem oft discussed in this blog of the dumbing-down of our Republic such that an ever larger portion of our population are incapable of producing value, even we needed it and they were inclined to do it.

So, what do we do? My simple response is that I don’t (yet) know.

One initial instinct might suggest that we simply have too many people, such that a significant reduction in population would help. However, I see this problem as quite scalable – that is, that it stems from the extraordinary productivity we are capable of and not from our population numbers. Said another way, I think the problem would stay rather constant during a population downsize until population numbers became so low that science and technology simply cease to function.

If the above insight is accurate, then the problem to be solved is one of creating a “value proposition” for those who are needed as consumers more than they are needed as producers.

Currently, our economy creates value through the production of goods and services. In general the goods we produce tend to be ever cheaper to produce, are of ever higher quality and have ever longer functional “lives” while services tend to “evaporate” as they are rendered.

Logically, this leaves the production of new services as the better place to look for our new value proposition. But this begs the question of what new services might the makers find of sufficient value that they would see them as an equitable exchange for their production and further that the takers would be willing to render?

To address this last issue (willing to render), clearly simple handouts (something for nothing, welfare) must be eliminated or there can be no new services-oriented value proposition.

This, in turn leads to yet another aspect of the problem we find ourselves in… to what extent are our current “anti-poverty” programs simply a form of “protection money” that we give to the takers in exchange for our safety, our property and our very lives? That is to say, are we paying them not to kill us and destroy our property? Can that possibly be the value proposition we have allowed the takers to establish? Are they telling us “give us what we want/need or we will destroy you” – “your life for your goods”?

It that be the case, (and I contend that it is) then the makers have allowed themselves to be put into a situation of involuntary servitude (aka slavery) to the takers. But, such systems are always eventually self defeating because they lack the incentives required to fuel innovation and, without innovation, the “system” will eventually collapse.

One’s intuition might suggest otherwise because the threat of death or destruction is so very horrible to contemplate. But this is incorrect because people who constantly fear death or destruction become so focused on mere survival that such things such as innovation and productivity fall, not to the bottom of the list, but off the list entirely.

(It would appear that I am doing a fair job of digging our hole deeper and nothing whatever to lift us out of it. That is because, as stated before, I simply do not (yet) know how of a solution.)

One thing is clear to me though. The makers must reassert some level of control over the takers. At present, the inmates are running the asylum (as it were) and this must not continue. And, we must stop giving them incentives to breed.

Other actions are obviously needed but I fear that, if I spelled them out in detail, some among you might well brand a swastika on my forehead. So, I will leave the rest of this narrative to your own imaginations with the hope that some of you can offer up suggestions that are, perhaps, more socially and politically acceptable than my own.

And, by-the-way, some of the things I have suggested here merely attempt to slow the expansion of the taker segment of society while doing nothing to establish that new value proposition we need.

Further by-the-way, whether or not you have picked up on it, this screed is yet another attempt to illustrate the equally strange paradox where we seem to be in the best of times and the worst of times – at the same time.

Often when I read back my own thoughts, it is hard to determine whether I am growing senile, insane, a combination of both, or merely that I am just a cantankerous old man.

But, the problems are real and whatever the solutions, they must be found and soon. Think about it. Then comment please.

Troy L Robinson

2 Responses to “The Maker / Taker Paradox”

  • Daedalus says:

    Well Troy as long as people are free to move the market will have its way. As Margeret Thatcher said, “Socialist governments traditionaly do make a financial mess. They always run out of other peoples money.” Many “makers are already off shore. Other folks are selling advice on how to get out of the “Maker/Taker” trap. Advice runs the gamut of just moving your wealth to a “safe haven” to moving your body too! I just spoke to a rock saw manufacturer. He has moved his manufacturing to China not just because of problems here but because that is where he is selling most of his equipment. If he gets looted too much here it won’t be difficult for him to move his offices elsewhere(e.g. Thailand or Chile). I remember after the Watts riots there was much unhappiness because many of the looted businesses closed shop and did not go back to the area. Of course the French revolution was not a pretty site. The masses exchanged the King for Robespierre and Robespierre for Napoleon. Not what one would call a happy succession. The only path to fairness is to put the government welfare genie back in its bottle, sort of like belling the cat. The way to do that is to convince a fair portion of the takers that it would make their life far happier if they became makers.

    • Troy says:

      While you are correct, it is simply too impractical for large-scale migrations to occur. Countries impose immigration quotas 9some even impose emigration quotas) and most use various tactics to try to prevent the movement of wealth. The result is that such movement is usually reserved only to those with massive resources.

      That said, one possible answer to the question of “fairness” is to grow up and realize there is no such thing nor can there ever be. For instance, many things in life are necessarily serial in nature, meaning some manner of queuing process is required. Anytime there is a queue, some are at or near the front and others are at or near the back. And, there is little we can do to change that. For sure, government can “appear” to help by restraining those who frequently appear near the head of the queue but, the restraints themselves are never really “fair”.


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