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Meme of the Week

Third World Kids, First World Problems

by Brandon Edmonds / 10.02.2012

South Africa is the number one choice of “structured gap year programs” for foreign students looking to give something back before they start racking up debt and herpes at university. Year Out, an association of gap year organisations, has a yearly poll of popular destinations and we’ve won it four times in a row. “South Africa’s enduring popularity stems from the diverse nature of the country,” a spokesperson said, “and the availability of a wide range of suitable and worthwhile projects.” There’s good poverty here in other words and enough infrastructure in place to Skype home.

Meme of the Week

The admirable well-meaning do-gooder liberal impulse of global teens is nicely undercut by this week’s meme, the Third World Success Kid. It perfectly parallels the mindset of the gap year sojourner. Get a taste of the third world, bump up against horrors the media puts at arms length, build a little character along with the roof of a crèche, hold some babies, fuck some black guys (it’s called ‘snowboarding’), take some pictures, get drunk, and go home.

Just as a meme probably isn’t the right cultural format to address the unequal terms of trade that keeps Africa underdeveloped or the predatory African elites in bed with global capital who enrich themselves at the expense of the people, so the gap year experience can’t fully enlighten committed travelers about the life and death struggle of the poor. Concerned, empathetic young visitors can always leave.

Meme of the Week

The meme reaches lift-off, the perfect functional marriage of image and caption, with the line “Ate”. Everything is there. All the garbled perceptions of the continent. All the ignorance, prejudice and genuine concern. The last thirty years of Live Aid Bono charity stuff which, again, hasn’t altered the structural fundamentals of rigged terms of trade, so famines keep happening and UN-alert “humanitarian disasters” still define Africa. The meme exposes the default mode of social media: a jokey equivalence of issues and response, a benumbed flippancy so used to staring into the abyss (execution footage, animal culling, real time violence uploaded by smart phone) the abyss is normal. And, hey, it’s just a joke right? Lighten up.

Meme of the Week

The Third World Success kid evolved out of the delightful First World Problems meme. It’s a meme scriptwriters and artists need to examine very closely. Too many films, TV shows, books and games have laughably low stakes. Julia Roberts goes around the world to eat pasta and find herself. Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark can afford anything so they get to work out daddy issues geopolitically. The Cullens’ glassy woodland mansion is worth millions. They’re about the upper middle class, if not the mega rich, mildly challenging themselves to engage with the world and be better people. It’s boring not “aspirational”. The strangulating monopoly of a few media conglomerates generating popular culture pretend all problems are First World Problems to distract us from social reality.

First World Problems Meme

21   4
  1. Captain Lombard says:

    What happened to the rest of the article?

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  2. #justsaying says:

    we also let kids drink from the age of 16, or is that have sex? either way, there’s a lot more to do here for teenagers than in the US, and they get to tell their parents they’re here for humanitarian reasons. and pay there way

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  3. #justsaying says:

    you said “there”
    it should be *their*

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  4. #justsaying says:

    you just corrected yourself

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  5. mud-debunker says:


    Although i generally dislike your leftist dispostion with respect to economics i have to say the rest of this article is really spot on. Well done

    I might also add that lliberal smugness, faux empathy is something that most instinctive conservatives also take pleasure in trashing.

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  6. cnut says:

    I must admit in terms of the meme doing the circles… I much preferred the “Snap… you also gotta-da AIDS” version…

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  7. Desist! says:

    Hey Brandon, what have YOU done recently to improve the lives of impoverished South Africans?? Moaning about economics and geopolitics doesn’t count, China. At least these “do-gooders” ACTUALLY do some fucking good. If every lazy-assed, overfed complacent asshole like you did some physical community work once in a while (instead of whingeing behind a drink in your copious amounts of down-time) then things might actually improve for those who struggle. At least the rich pay taxes, I very much doubt that you do.

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  8. brandon says:

    VAT is crazy in this country. I think locking your caps really improved your point @Desist!

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  9. moses says:

    voluntourists .Its funny how these ppl find easy to land themselves a suitable organisation to work with.I ask myself is there something in it for us as nation or we are jst doin it for the stats ? who pays them ? countries like Congo ,former Rhodesia where popular voluntourist sites back in their heydays.but my Question is What do they have to show for it ? My personal opinion is that we as Africans we are always willing to be exploited, after that we start crying and pointing fingers at the wrong ppl .these gap year students don’t do this humanitarian work for free ,they get paid a stipend,but its enough if given to a South African who needs its more than our international guests who mainly use to by weed and a cheap black girl in loop str.but hey i might be wrong hey!!!

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  10. Desist! says:

    VAT is internationally comparable in this country, as are toll rates on roads, it’s personal income and company taxes that are out of whack. This Brandon would know if he were more informed and less dogmatic.

    Where do these people get off claiming that foreign aid workers are self-absorbed and socially insincere? Have Brandon and “Moses” met enough of them to form a well-measured opinion? Do they frequent the same social circles as these foreigners, let alone visit the areas where they dispense their services? I VERY much doubt it. (caps lock for emphasis in the absence of italics or underlining)

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  11. Onan the ambidextrous says:

    Locked in your capitalist mindset, you are unable to see that most of these people are more interested in their CVs and some black poes than actually making a difference in the lives of the exploited. They should be made to pay a ‘ do-good tourism’ tax.

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  12. brandon says:

    Seeing as you’re flinging insults from the cheap seats of anonymity @desist, a position of make-believe, I’ll respond in kind: I have a Foundation funded by a tiny tax on all financial transactions on the JSE which puts those funds into community development. There’s a lot leftover for R&D Projects. A particularly interesting one is a sociological study of that obnoxious genus of internet commenters called The Great Defender who leaps in with “I’d like to see you do any better. What have you ever done with your life?” Initial findings suggest these people are using up the world’s reserves of smugness at an alarming rate. Now go fuck yourself.

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  13. Desist! says:

    The lack of substance and logic in the above responses speaks for itself.

    Brandon, do you always resort to such levels of sarcasm and profanity when someone illuminates obvious gaps in your reasoning and capacity for compassion?

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  14. Onan the ambidextrous says:

    You heard the man. Clear off! Go fornicate somewhere else.

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  15. Desist! says:

    So what do Brandon and his acolytes have in common with Julius Malema and his followers?

    Well firstly, both use the plight of the poor and unfortunate as fuel for their progress, without actually contributing to improving that plight. Secondly, both have shunned position or opportunity to take responsibility for anything substantial, especially where they could be held accountable for anyone’s welfare. And thirdly, when confronted by critics, both proceed to ridicule and demonise the detractors without offering a shred of plausible evidence.

    Looks like Brandon may have a lucrative career in politics, as long as learns how to dress well.

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  16. brandon says:

    Desist you do not get to have the moral high ground after calling my work “moaning” and me personally a “lazy-assed overfed complacent asshole” in your first post. How is that not ridicule or demonization? While your characterization of me is disarmingly true (and suggests we’ve dated) you can’t then pretend to be the even-handed rational one. Critique is resistance okay. That’s what I try to do. All we know about you is your overblown respect for gap year volunteers and amusing animus towards me.

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  17. Desist! says:

    At least when pushed to account, Brandon is a tad more honest than Juju. “Overblown respect” may be true, but not for volunteers, rather factual evidence and even-handedness.

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  18. Oliver says:

    The fact is that voluntourism helps in as much as pains killers will work for cancer. The real cure is less handouts and more free markets (breathe Edmonds). But that would mean that we can’t crucify the winners anymore. Our underdog mentality will have to go out the window.

    This article is a classic example of where have’s are evil and have nots are good, and have’s helping have nots is really just evil tricking good. Some of the people who get helped actually appreciate it and they’d be bummed if the whole thing got canned because a out-dated liberal misquoted an internet meme (of all things) and connected it to the little aid they were getting. (These sorts of memes are revolting by the way).

    If you really are lazy and over-fed it relates to the argument and says nothing about Desist! It can be said and Desist! will not be wrong for it. However, I personally feel it’s irrelevant as you can be lazy and over-fed and have these opinions. Fat people can have valid opinions about weight loss, health and healthy living. In the same way, lazy over-fed people can have valid opinions about this sort of thing. The problem however is not your physique in relation to the article, it is once again the article itself. I also think you misunderstand the myth of Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark (and Super Heroes in general).

    You and your followers struggle with keeping personal attacks and arguments apart and people tend to meet you with insults that are actually true. Remember, you are the public figure here so you must unfortunately take that punch. It’s part of being a journalist. Not being a dick just makes readers nice, it’s not a requirement.

    @Onan the ambidextrous
    It’s fine if it’s for their CV’s. Companies are only in business for the money. There’s actually nothing wrong with a profit incentive. We don’t have the money to pay voluntourists so if a line on a CV will do the trick you can have it, have 5 if it will make you work better. Also, why do you chase people away? I think if you annoy Roger enough they trace your IP but other than that we’re all welcome here. I can see why you don’t like capitalism and such, it means you’ve got to earn respect. You can’t just have competition removed and therefore be the best, you actually have to be the best.

    Anyway, I imagine you lot will now have a little shit fit because I used F-words and P-words. (Free market and Profit incentive for those who are not into Mahala swearing).

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  19. blurt says:

    Thanks for coming down the mountain Moses and settling shit.

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  20. Desist! says:

    @Andy – please have Oliver write a piece or two for mahala, to balance out the reactionary and speculative nonsense from Brandon and Max.

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  21. notronswanson says:

    ‘the real cure is less handouts and more free markets’ WRONG: the free market model generates the inequality that necessitates ‘handouts’ in the first place

    Also I know the writer and asked him about this stupid article and he said he wrote it in ‘about 11 seconds’ which shows.

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  22. Oliver says:


    Having written an article in record time only helps us to understand why it’s poor. It doesn’t make it any better. In this case it only adds to Edmonds’ self loathing statements and the comments that litter the history of this magazine. I also feel it shows disrespect to readers and he squanders a platform. But I think we can make the best of it by using his articles as a topic for discussion and having civil conversations based on it. That way Edmonds can write and get paid for his 11 second articles and the readers of Mahala still get their click’s worth. It’s a positive sum.

    I have two problems with your ‘inequality’ statement. (1) The fact that the free market generates these inequalities is simply not true. There is no equal system in the world, capitalist, socialist or otherwise. People are not equal – the human condition creates the inequality. That we have to accept. The free market is however a powerful tool to unleash the human potential and that is what is needed to build. Handouts incentivize asking. People become begging experts and begging is a zero sum game it merely transfers wealth, it does not generate it. The free market is a positive sum game where both parties stand to gain.

    (2) Relative poverty (inequality) does not necessitate handouts. Absolute poverty does. Socialist thinking of that sort is dangerous. It cares not about the poverty of the poor but rather the inequality between rich and poor. For so as long as the gap is smaller, the poor can be poorer (I think Margaret Thatcher had a rant about that but I don’t think you’ll like her). I agree, free market capitalist systems create bigger gaps, but the average living conditions of the poor is better. That is unfortunately the fact and we should not have arguments based on assumptions and facts that are not so.

    I am speculating here but I would imagine that your opposition to the free market is not the matter of keeping poor people poor or keeping the gap small. If you are friends with Edmonds you should at least out of political correctness not want this. I believe you are stuck in the traditional ‘evil big business’ perception and underdog mentality. Your economic arguments are probably closer to post rationalization than it is to research and observation. But I might be wrong and will accept this (and apologise) if you can provide the counter argument.

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  23. Onan the ambidextrous says:

    If you are so ignorant as to genuinely believe that the free market is free, and that competition is fair, then I must accept that I am dealing with a retard. There’s not much point in pursuing the argument, in that case. On the other hand, if you are aware of the deceit and are happy to promote the lies that prop up a pernicious system, then you are as despicable as that unctuous creep who runs the Free Market Foundation.

    As for chasing people away, I’m afraid you’ve taken my utterance far too literally. When I told Desist! to go fornicate somewhere else, I didn’t mean that he should depart, never to return. What I meant was that he should fuck off with his crappy argument. You too.

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  24. Oliver says:

    Am I correct in saying your argument is:

    1) Ignorant people/retards believe the free market is free and that competition is fair.
    2) Things that are believed by retards are not true
    3) Therefore, the freedom of the free market and fairness of the markets are not true.

    Should I elaborate on why this argument is not so solid?

    What about the free market is not free and what about competition is not fair? Note that you must exclude government intervention (and market failures resulting from such intervention). Cartels that are kept in place by violence can also not be used as this is not a market dynamic but a crime.

    What is so pernicious about the system? And such a dramatic word. On a personal note I always feel that people with weak arguments try and bolster the content of the argument with words that are not in common use but serve the exact same purpose. This might not be the case with you but I suspect it is as your argument lacks, well, everything an argument should have (it’s got nice words though).
    And the word unctuous. I think I last saw that word in use when I read a book about the alcohol prohibition times in the US. Hardly the word I’d use for the ’creep’ who runs the FMF. But you can do that if you can also say why.

    At this point I’ll take the liberty to rephrase your response to clarify (I’ll remove the insults to see what is left):

    The free market is not free and competition is not fair.
    The system is filled with deceit
    It is a harmful system that is held together by lies.
    The person who runs the FMF is an unctuous creep (not sure why this is relevant).

    I think your biggest fallacy here is begging the question. I never liked the name of that fallacy… begging… it leads nowhere. I am also in no position to deny these claims but you’re going to have to substantiate. A reference would do, you don’t need actual data.

    On my literal interpretation of your previous statement. I can only offer you my sincerest apologies. Did you mean ‘fuck off’ like go away but return later. When I say fuck off I mean go away and stay away. I don’t often use the term.

    You are the last person who should say anything about any argument. Your arguments I can’t judge because so far you haven’t brought one to the thread. You bring random, irrelevant statements and stitch them together with insults. Nothing short of an absolute moron would mistake your earlier statement for an argument (note that it’s not a good or bad argument but not an argument at all).

    Also I’m not fucking off with my shit argument. I’ll leave only if Mahala asks me to and that is because I’ll respect their decision and because the site belongs to them. But somewhere in the history here Roger told me I’m welcome after thinking I called him a childish prick.

    For the record, I called your argument childish and I called you a prick. Sorry about the prick bit. But the argument must’ve been shit (not apologizing for that). I’ll see if I can find that thing again and I’ll clarify.

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  25. Roger Young says:

    Hey! Keep me out of this one, I’m just enjoying sitting on the sidelines and watching.

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  26. doodoo goodies says:

    I relate to the point of the article, but would still have to say that those who get closer to the realities of living in poverty come away as better people than those who dont, regardless of what they may then lever the experience towards.

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  27. Onan the ambidextrous says:

    Get off the sidelines, you prick. This is good sport.
    Hey, and where the fuck’s Brandon? Pigging out on KFC , no doubt. Well, I’m off to pig out on some pasta. But I’ll be back.

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  28. brandon says:

    I went snorkeling in Fish Hoek. What have I missed? Oh…great.

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  29. notronswanson says:

    Here are my problems with your points Oliver:

    – “the human condition creates the inequality”: NO, unequal access to capital, opportunity, education and resources does over time – ‘the human condition’ is a convenient rhetorical construct used to explain away social realities by free-marketeers like you

    – “Handouts incentivize asking. People become begging experts and begging is a zero sum game it merely transfers wealth, it does not generate it.” – DO you mean the kind of ‘handouts’ that kept the banks solvent and US car companies limping along using public funds? Over the last 40 years or so the global economy has seen deepening ‘financialisation’ – that is stock speculation and trading and complex financial instruments that play lucrative games with debt. The kind of wealth these games generate is hardly productive in a socially constructive sense. It builds obscene private fortunes for the banks and speculators not roads, bridges, schools, communities and so on. It is socially predatory wealth creation that goes, yes I’m sorry to say, exclusively to the 1%. Sure the luxury market is booming but how does that help regular people like you and me?

    “free market capitalist systems create bigger gaps, but the average living conditions of the poor is better.” – TELL that to the poor of the developing world, the millions all over America below the poverty line, the millions throughout Europe pushed to the limit by austerity measures to pay for the free market values you have stitched over the hole where your heart used to be.

    You come across as a soulless technocrat Oliver. The latest incarnation of that species of bean counter who wouldn’t give Dicken’s Oliver another bowl of gruel. “Please sir, can I have some more?” No, you’d say, get your ass out onto the street and compete like the rest of the miserable bastards.

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  30. Oliver says:

    On inequality: Are you then saying that all people are inherently equal? That, if given equal access to capital and education, they will all be at the same socio economic level? Or are you saying that if people have equal access to the decisions that will shape their future, that they will all end up making the right decision and because it’s right for them they’ll all be on the same socio economic level? In your statement you merely say I am wrong and never go as far as to say why. If you can clear up why we can have the debate. If however you are saying that they are but there is no evidence it’s an irrefutable claim that stands next to my claim that can be tested. That makes your point a weak one. But that’s an if – if you can’t back that statement up.
    On hand outs: Yes, I mean exactly those hand outs. Don’t make that silly mistake to think that the recession is a result of the free market. The bank and auto industry handouts are examples of government interference at the highest level. It created a fictitious market for something that was not in demand. To say that those handouts prove the capitalism is a weak system as opposed to socialism is one that should be amusing. But it isn’t because you actually mean it. Hand outs are not good, begging does not generate wealth. It alleviates social issues temporarily but at some point we will have to face the music. I’m not going through that whole statement of yours because it really is an inventory of pseudo-fascist policies and government interference. And I made no reference to the booming luxury market. Stop reading headlines, read the whole article. Your understanding of basic economics is embarrassing.

    And then, ‘stitched over the hole where your heart used to be’? Are you a songwriter from the 80’s? That argument is also absolute rubbish because Africa does not really have any free markets. If they had any I’d gladly take the picture where they are now and compare it to the picture where they would be then and show them that. Look at what the socialist and communist countries did after those regimes were overthrown, they’re generally better off in a free market. Why did they need the Berlin wall? Because communism was such a lovely system? Why don’t you go tell those poor people of the world that you’ll create wealth with dust in the air and things will be fine. Or would you rather tell them that life is shit but don’t worry, it’s shit for everyone so you’ll be fine.

    And the poor people in Europe – that’s because of the government meddling I mentioned in the beginning. Not because of complex financial assets (and judging by your argument I suspect a savings account is your complex financial asset).

    And a technocrat? Do you even know what that means? Please explain how my existing argument makes me a technocrat. I can however put forth a persuasive argument on why you’re probably a language student who, in his spare time, reads the headlines on lamp posts and bitch about the world economy from behind a haze of smoke and a tie dyed t-shirt. But I suggest we don’t call each other names and don’t make references like ‘where your heart used to be’ and ‘people like you’.

    I actually care about the poor and not about my out dated theories. So far, the free market is the best. You’ve not made any suggestions. Make one and tell me why it will be better.

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  31. notronswanson says:

    That was a really pathetic response Oliver.

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  32. nero says:

    @Oliver: “So far, the free market is the best.” – You say (and I agree) that anti-competitive behaviour and government intervention are not the equivalent of a free market. How can you then say a free market is the best, if it appears that there isn’t one in existence?

    “Are you then saying that all people are inherently equal? That, if given equal access to capital and education, they will all be at the same socio economic level?”

    Unfortunately the reality of the system we have is that people will never have equal access to capital and education because of inherited wealth and privilege, which is entrenched and protected by the “free market” system. On could argue that inheritance “is a zero sum game it merely transfers wealth, it does not generate it.”

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  33. Oliver says:

    Is it pathetic because I’m spot on about you or because I’m right about the economic argument at hand? Or is it maybe because you have little else to say? Or wait, is it because I am so retarded that you won’t justify this with a response… that old chestnut.

    Your response is wrong. End of it. The failures you point out are not part of the free market. The things you point out is in fact things that oppose the free market. So you have no point.

    And yet you feel like you should hand out poetic insults. I’m under the impression that you put more effort into your insults and your sarcasm than into actual content. Pseudo intellectual socialists are the biggest enemy of the poor, not the free market.

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  34. Oliver says:

    @ Nero
    That last response wasn’t aimed at you. While no totally free market exists today (and 100% is also not an ideal) we can safely say that when people are allowed to compete freely we find a better allocation of resources than under a system where people are told what to do. Simple product examples are obvious (and true) but I suspect here people tend to argue the metaphor which makes it difficult to explain at the hand of anything.

    I will say this much. An alternative system, one in which government takes from you to give to me, we erode the incentive for me to do anything. I’ll probably not work, invent, build or write because there is no need to – I get something anyway. You will also stop being productive because no matter what, you don’t get the full rewards of your efforts. So productivity on your side fades and mine never takes off. On an aggregate there is then less to go around and no matter how small the gap, the poor will become poorer.

    So I will not say ‘that particular free market is the best’. I’d rather say that the principles of the free market are the best way of unleashing human potential and distributing wealth. (If you like we can talk more about wealth redistribution in free markets).

    It is true that there is unequal distribution. That is an historical phenomenon and there is nothing that can be done. Neither socialist or communist worlds will change that. In a free market there is however the opportunity to grow, to build and to leave a small inheritance upon which your children can build. As a ‘zero sum game’ I see your argument. But for the sake of interest (and an attempt to justify inheritance as a necessary component of the free market) , consider the following: a 100% inheritance tax.

    Now I’m sure Edmonds would sit up straight at the prospect of that. But consider the implications. People would no longer save and invest in companies and infrastructure. They will live or their money out because if they don’t government would just take it. If you think the rich are living it up now, try introducing a tax of that sort and see what happens. So inheritance creates an incentive for people to invest and save in order to build the future of their family. Inheritance in my opinion is therefore not just a zero sum game of passing wealth along, it is also an incentive that allows for capital to build and become productive and it allows a stepping stone for the next generation. But yes, it is also the zero sum of just passing wealth.

    On a side note, free markets don’t entrench the rich-poor situation. Government intervention allows for market failures (monopolies and oligopolies) which in turn create this uneven world. ‘The Rich’ and ‘The Poor’ is different to rich people and poor people. People move between those two groups. I’ve visited townships over a few year period and very often you find that people moved to the suburbs. There is mobility in a free market.

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  35. brandon says:

    Bravo Oliver. You’ve read Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” and a few of the other bloodless Austrian economists. Now seriously ah it’s getting late.

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  36. nero says:

    Funny, I was thinking about an inheritance tax too. Not quite 100% though as there may be solid reasons for ensuring some continuity of wealth. I think the devil would be in the detail, but my overall point is that if the free market principles are aimed at better allocation and development of resources then we need to recognise that inheritance does not necessarily lead to the allocation of resources to individuals who are best at developing resources efficiently.

    The concentration of wealth in this manner also encourages the allocation of resources to the betterment of a class of individuals rather than the betterment of humanity. I would say it does not foster ” the best way of unleashing human potential and distributing wealth” because it unleashes the maximum human potential of a small historically privileged group while allowing the potential of a massive amount of the less fortunate to go to waste due to poverty, disease and poor education.

    “People would no longer save and invest in companies and infrastructure. They will live or their money out because if they don’t government would just take it.”

    I’m reminded of Brewsters Millions where a man has to spend an astronomic sum of money in one year with no assets to show for it at the end, and finds it is not as easy as he imagines. It is hard for me to imagine that even the most lavish lifestyle would completely deplete the kind of super wealth we are talking about.

    I suspect that massive inheritance taxes may encourage a conscientious wealthy person to ensure that his excess funds (beyond lifestyle) are utilized to maximum utility before death. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation comes to mind, although that is an example of voluntary (not legally encouraged) allocation of resources to human development. You may label this “charity” but it need not be. Such funds could be allocated to setting up infrastructure that redresses the wealth imbalances in a sustainable manner or ensures the most basic of human rights are available to all. Such a system may not be perfect, but neither is the free market.

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  37. cnut says:

    Oliver owning all and sundry with some good old fashioned logic!

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  38. Desist! says:

    One word, Brandon: “substance”. You have none whatsoever. Oliver is showing you up, big time.

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  39. Desist! says:

    In the real world, the most heartless people are those who fail to deliver, who refuse to do their share. Oliver will know exactly what I’m talking about.

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  40. Onan the ambidextrous says:

    @Desist @Oliver @Cnut
    I’m doing a survey as part of my PhD and I’d appreciate it if you would answer the following question:
    If you were a US citizen, would you consider yourself a Libertarian, and would you be a supporter of the Tea Party?

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  41. brandon says:

    I am solemnly preparing my dick for you to eat @desist. The ping of the microwave will be your cue. The readiness is all.

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  42. Desist! says:

    @Onan, no and no. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they’re a one-dimensional stereotype. There are quite a few issues where I disagree with Oliver, but I do find his arguments a lot more persuasive and his standpoints a lot more factual than anything you or Brandon have offered.

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  43. Oliver says:

    That would be correct. It does not necessarily follow that inheritance leads to investment and growth. Our very own Nelson Mandela’s descendants indicate that there is not a necessary continuity of the intent. But if inheritance is allowed at least part will stand to build and take it further. If none is allowed then none will build. But there is certainly a middle ground. Like you say, the devil will be in the detail and I’m sure pages of discussion can be filled on speculation as to which inheritance system or tax system would best incentivize growth. As a staunch free marketer I’d always take the position that people should be allowed to choose and no more harm will be done by poor investment than will be done by governments being allowed to choose what an individual’s inheritance would do. So once again, we are more likely to see a productive outcome on personal investments than on government, it’s not an absolute, it’s just more likely. But here my point was that inheritance can be argued to be a crucial function of free markets.

    Free markets is (given our current) options, the best way to unleash human potential. Central planning cannot do this and any degree of planning undermines it. My argument is that central planning is excellent to achieve national goals (like winning a war). The goal is well defined and understood. However, when it comes to the diverse skills, ideals and goals of a nation, it becomes impossible to orchestrate. Government should then stand back and create the platform on which a society can pursue its own goals (like run a military, build roads and provide basic infrastructure). A social system does not incentivise people to pursue their own goals (as mentioned in an earlier post).

    In social or communist worlds the poor is institutionalized. It’s not even the economic elite that owns the place, it’s the political elite. In such a world they really just took, they didn’t even create off an unfair base. In free markets, things are at least created. In communist nations certain products are available only to the political elite, ordinary folk like us won’t ever be able to buy or own it because we’re the institutionalized poor. Free markets allow you to move. You may not do this, but at least you’re free to. In social and communist systems you just won’t. So in that, it is the best system we’ve got. Not the best in all of time. But in 2012, here on earth, it’s the best of a bad bunch.

    I remember Brewster’s millions. That was a great movie and he really struggled. The rules not allowing any investment as I recall. It’s a good point but I would argue that just because Brewster couldn’t doesn’t mean I can’t. Look at a character like Kim Dotcom who had heated imported spring water in his pool. He is a crook and we shouldn’t use him too much, but for conspicuous consumption he’s a good example. One could however argue that a person who has within his lifetime built legitimate wealth would be an unlikely candidate to get stuck into such disgusting spending so as to squander any significant fortune. But this argument is full of open concepts. What is a significant fortune? Where do I get the personality model from to assume things about the people and so on? You do however mention super wealth so the Brewster example might apply. What then of the local café owner who leaves his store to his son? It is the other extreme but I’m sure there are lots of them around.

    Bill Gates is an example of where free markets create more donations by the wealthy. Yes the gap is bigger so the impact of the donation is smaller but the donations are still bigger. I think trickle-down economics is possibly a lot of rubbish but these are avalanches of wealth that is explained in a different way. I believe that when you donate you really buy. You buy a good feeling and a clear conscience. There is a great demand for that and people are willing to spend quite a bit on it. In social systems government then takes my money to buy that good feeling for themselves. I no longer get the benefit for my spend and I become less likely to engage in that market. My donation is now an obligation and that doesn’t allow for the happy feeling. (I’m not saying this is a good or ethical system but I suspect it’s true).

    One could therefore argue that legal involvement might nullify the transaction and the one party will walk away. And if Gates is already giving away, why get government involved? Remember that Bezos might see a better use for his fortunes – better than anything a government agency can dream up. A law might stop that.

    A mistake that socialists also tend to make (and I’m not saying it is true here but be careful of it) is that we want to institutionalize our obligation to each other. I can use the knife to cook or to kill. That rests with me. The market does not have an obligation, I have. In the same way, the free market should be applied as a wealth generation tool. Wealth redistribution is an obligation and that rests with the individual. I believe that the free market vs. central planning or capitalist vs. socialist (or whatever you like to call it) is essentially about human nature and where obligation lies. Free marketers are called heartless because they never talk obligation and it’s because obligation is not an economic function. By that I don’t mean there is no place for it in society, in fact, I am in favour of CSI budgets. How, where and to what end this is done is a whole different argument. The bottom line is that free marketers generally have capital to put towards CSI budgets. The most socialists can offer the poor is to shake a tin cup on their behalf.

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  44. JM Koet$ee says:

    What utter tosh: ‘Free markets is… the best way to unleash human potential.”

    Prove it.

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  45. Otter says:

    Long winded (worded) responses to on-point-by-point arguments does not make make one intelligent or correct. Simply put: BE TO THE POINT AND CONCISE!

    In a job interview, the person who can answer with the shortest but clearest statements of their experiences will likely get the job offer as opposed to the one who rambles on and on. A long interview doesn’t mean a good interview.

    The same is true when you write a journal or comment to engage your audience.

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