Citizen Action Monitor

Is it time to put limits on what CEOs earn vs what lowest paid employees get? – Nate Hagens (25)

A lot of people see that with unlimited growth, things aren’t working as they used to and they’re upset.

No 2308 Posted by fw, June 20, 2018

To access links to all other posts in this series, click on the Tab titled “Where Are We Going? by Dr. Nate Hagens” in the top left margin. 

Nate Hagens

“… in our lifetime there are going to be limits [and] in the lifetime of everyone in this room. And I think certain things that might be untenable now might not be ten years from now. For example, a limit on the difference between the richest person in a company versus the lowest paid. That there needs to be a cap and a floor. … But we are hitting social limits to growth already. A lot of Americans are making less money than they did 15 years ago after inflation. … A lot of people recognize … that things aren’t working the way they were in the past, and they’re upset about it.”Nate Hagens

Given the title of Hagens’ continuum in this post — Unlimited vs Limits — plus the fact that he does mention “a finite earth” near the beginning, one could be excused for thinking that Dr. Hagens would be talking about the finite material limits of our planet. It came as a surprise to me, therefore, when he started talking about putting societal limits on company executive salary vs employee wage differences.

And then I recalled — this post appears in Hagens’ category titled “Our Culture.” And he does refer to our “hitting social limits to growth.” So, do keep this context in mind as you watch this part of the video and read my transcript.

Below is the embedded video of Hagens’ 60-minute address, followed by an 18-minute Q&A session. My transcript of Pt. 25, continuum 24, runs from 35:33 to 37:08.

Alternatively, a video of Hagens’ talk, along with a “loosely related” essay on the talk, are available by clicking on the following linked title. This version, published by Resilience.org, also includes excellent readers’ comments, including responses by Hagens.

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Where are we going? by Nate Hagens, Resilience.org, May 8, 2018

TRANSCRIPT (from 35:33 to 37:08)

[OUR CULTURE] –

               infinity – Unlimited                                       speed bumps – Limits

34:54[Continuum 24: Unlimited vs Limits] Unlimited versus Limits. We think that the world is unlimited, at least our economics’ teachers teach that and most of our cultural leaders do. But there are limits and there are rational reasons to have limits.

35:54 — If you look at a growth chart like this [holds arm at steep angle and moves it in upward incline] and you look at a finite earth, a sixth-grader can know there are limits. So in our lifetime there are going to be limits [and] in the lifetime of everyone in this room. And I think certain things that might be untenable now might not be ten years from now. For example, a limit on the difference between the richest person in a company versus the lowest paid. That there needs to be a cap and a floor. Something like that. Maybe we can maximize that at a hundred times what the lowest employee earns instead of sixteen thousand times, or something like that – as one example.

36:38But we are hitting social limits to growth already. A lot of Americans are making less money than they did 15 years ago after inflation. This is why it was going to be Trump or Bernie in the election because they were the only people speaking to that demographic [in] the flyover country where I live, where you live. A lot of people recognize, without knowing the energy and money details of this, that things aren’t working the way they were in the past, and they’re upset about it.

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[Resilience.org Supplement]Unlimited vs Limits – Imagine a world with 7.6 billion humans and no laws. No speed limits, no taxes for public infrastructure, no rules, no courts of law, etc. Humans instinctively have problems to self-impose limits.  So, via social contracts and reciprocity, we have learned to recognize the importance of such institutions, and as a result, society is better off. Though we have recognized the importance of rules and constraint on personal behavior and impact, we have not yet matured to recognize limits for society at large.

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About Dr. Nathan John Hagens – Hagens, 51, worked on Wall Street at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers for 10 years before closing his own hedge fund in 2003 to develop a systems synthesis approach to the human predicament. At present, Dr. Hagens is a professor at the University of Minnesota where he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar called Reality 101, A Survey of Human Predicament. The readings and lectures cover literature in systems ecology, energy and natural resources, thermodynamics, history, anthropology, human behavior, neuroscience, environmental science, sociology, economics, globalization/trade, and finance/debt with an overarching goal to give students a general understanding of how our human ecosystem functions as a whole.

Visit Nate Hagens’ personal website at The Monkey Trap.

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