Mini-debate. Is wealth achieved using power earned?

I saw a statement in another thread in this forum along the lines of “Money aquired using power (being in a powerful position) is not ‘earned’ because it is aquired without effort” (paraphrased)

It was in the thread about American socialism somewhere.

Anyway, a thought occured to me - If that statement is true, isn’t the same true if you replace ‘power’ with ‘intelligence’?

If a person is able to recieve a high wage or payment for doing a job or task which is easy for that person because of their intelligence is that wage ‘earned’?

In other words, if someone creates something valuable and useful such that it justifies a wage rise or a lump sum, but that thing was very easy to make because the person is intelligent enough, does he or she deserve the bonus? Even though for him or her it was virtually effortless?

So, are you asking that if I cure cancer by thinking about it during my commute, and working at it in my spare time am I entitled to profit from it? Of course! Just because it was easy for me, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth rewarding.

I would think so. If it’s based on intellect alone, this particular individual had to learn these things somehow, and that takes time, practice and sometimes sacrifices. And the result usually nets; proficiency, organizational skills, and a task completed earlier then other individuals can do it. And that deserves more IMO, and if it’s worth it to the person/company paying the wages.

The “worth” in an economic sense is based upon what the purchaser is willing to pay.

If a naturally intelligent person is able to produce something efficiently and with little effort - that is irrelevant unless the price is on a cost plus basis.

I don’t think effort has anything to do with it. Money gained via power can be thought of as “taken” by using that power. Money gained via intelligence would be “earned” by using that intelligence to create something of value. If you create something of value, then the money you get is earned, regardless of whether or not it is difficult for you.

Of course, one could use intelligence to get money without creating anything of value, and power to create things of value, but that’s probably in the minority.

Too much focus on the supply side and not enough on the demand.

“Earned” is in its purest form when the purchase transaction is voluntary on both sides. When fraud (ie intelligence deceiving the buyer) or coercion (abuse of power) are employed, then it is hard to call the wealth earned. The existence of intelligence or power is neutral. The characterization of “earned” depends upon how they are employed.

Question: Is Wal-Mart using its enormous purchasing power to squeeze pricing concessions from small suppliers an example of earned wealth?

The aquisition of money requires power. There are no two ways about it. I am not terribly proficient at aquiring money, but I know that my ability to aquire it increases with the amount of power I have, and the amount of power I have increases with the amount of money I have. Money and power are inseperable. That sounds like the kind of argument that is made that ends up keeping people down, because the only people that really buy into that kind of guilt mentality, are the ones not likely to have that power to begin with, the ones already prone to holding themselves back out of some fear of aquiring wealth or power.

The use of Wal Mart’s purchasing power is a good example, but a little too extreme for me. Let’s take it to the small business level. What about a Merchant’s association that pools it’s buying power and buys in bulk together with other merchants? Those merchants had to work to build up the power structure that is their merchant’s association. What if that Merchant’s association has some lobbying power, and has some intimate connections to local legislators. Is then that use of power that ends up benefitting them economically, not earned?

Money bought with power isn’t always earned, but the power that bought the money most definitely was. There is plenty of room for abuse, but I think that the idea of it not being earned is rather silly. Money taken by force is called stealing, it doesn’t matter whether it’s done legally or not. Money stolen by power is not earned no.

I guess my issue is such a vague notion as ‘power’. I think ‘coercion’ might be more appropriate.


We could define power as the force to make others do things against their free will, no?

There are rarely scenarios in human interaction in which the power balance is equal. The best we can hope for is that the person in the weaker position at least gains enough in the exchange to feel that he has received a reasonable benefit for the price paid.

Power in and of itself is neutral. Tempered and used responsibly, it can be benevolent and used for good. Unrestrained and used in a self-absorbed manner, it is destructive. The character and values of the wielder make all the difference in the world.

Right. There being asymmetry in the positions of power does not mean every transaction entered by the parties is an act of extortion.

I would be hesitant to define it in such an emotionally skewed way. As was said, power is neutral. Power is electricity, power is gravity, power is gravitas, power is wealth, power is torque, anyway, you get the picture. I think power needs to be kept neutral otherwise you will find an eloquent abuse of power by people who want to define power in a way that suits their agenda.

It’s kind of like revolutionaries saying they represent “The People” when they usually don’t, and it also implies that the government isn’t run by people. I hate that kind of doublespeak, it’s really f-ing irritating.

Coercion requires power, but power does not require coercion.


There is a different way of framing this. Power and wealth are not positives until the net outcome is equitable, ethical, and benificent. There is noble power and power for wealth’s sake. It is best demonstrated in the Lutherian protest. Abuses of power tend to involve wealth and its aquisition. Personally, I believe the Dali Lama has more Power than Bill Gates. Legacy of Power— Earthbound mystic high.

In what context? Are we talking about money earned through bribes and corruption or are we talking about money earned because one simply happens to be in charge of the company.

There are all kinds of “power”. Having a unique skill that is in high demand is power. Owning property is power. Leadership ability is power. Are these not legitimate methods of creating wealth?

All business is conducted because two parties have something that the other needs.

Once you start down that road, where do you stop?
If employee A hates his job and would rather spend the day surfing is he more “deserving” of his wages than employee B, who loves the work and the social interaction provided by his employment?