We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

When poor countries catch up with rich countries, the actual absolute level of inequality between them can increase. Now that’s just wierd. My head hurts.

– Tony Stephenson responding to Brian Micklethwait

10 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • RAB

    Ok. Let’s dip my toe into the waters of seriousness for a moment.
    The reason I only have an A level in Economics is because of this leftist arithmatical crap. I loved the theory but couldn’t handle the maths and stats.
    One word. Japan.
    Early 19th century, third world closed society. Late 19th century, Ist world industrial society. How come?
    Japan is about the same size as Britain, but without the natural resources. Yet by 1939 they had built up enough resources to believe they could attack America and not only attack but win. How come?
    Well, I recon, people, purpose, taxation, state controls, or lack of them, social cohesion and a whole bunch of other factors that have little to do with clinical socialist mathematics.
    Oh, and what does Poor mean really? I have lived in low income countries relative to my own yet my standard of living was much higher than in my own, and my costs massivly lower than in my own.
    I suspect it is something to do with the absence of a welfare state in many of these places.
    Still I will leave it to our heavyweights like JP to kick this one, definatively into touch.
    Just comparing incomes is hugely off the mark.

  • veryretired

    A few centuries ago, there was very little difference in the lives of ordinary people regardless of where they lived. They were generally oppressed, uneducated, in thrall to the local ruler whatever he was called, lacked any access to effective medical treatment, lived from harvest to harvest, were poorly nourished, and had little or no idea of any world beyond the few villages they traded with.

    The factors changing this scenario for some parts of the world, while it continued for others, are well known and indisputable. They have been identified and discussed repeatedly. There’s an article linked at NRO this morning about how the health and well being of people in modern societies has improved, and why.

    A well known economist wrote of the seven rules for a modern economy a few years ago. None of this is any mystery. Even Marx acknowledged the productive genius of capitalist enterprise, he just misread everything else.

    What is a mystery, and a moral catastrophe of bubonic plague proportions, is that several generations of people all around the world have been taught that the very set of intellectual and moral propositions that could radically improve their lives for the better, and vastly improve their progeny’s world, are evil, dangerous, and wrong.

    If you saw a man standing in a garden between two trees, one bearing delicious, healthy fruit, and the other deadly, poisonous berries, who was stopping children approaching the fruit tree and telling them that it was bad for them, and to eat the berries instead, you would instantly know that man was evil.

    And yet, such men and women walk into our classrooms all over the world, every day, and do exactly the same thing. They call freedom evil, and a life of repressed servitude the highest good.

    I get a pain from this also—it’s just a bit farther down.

  • Richard Thomas

    What is an “absolute level of inequality” anyway? If you are comparing two things, it is relative, not absolute.


  • Johnathan Pearce

    RAB, you do me too much credit sir! May I suggest you read David Landes’ book, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Fascinating. Focuses a lot on stuff like the importance of stable laws, property rights, an open culture that favours experimentation, and the like.

    The rise of Japan is indeed interesting. After a fairly stagnant 1990s, the country seems to be on an upward curve again.

  • We see this kind of reasoning all the time.

    A 10% across the board cut in income taxes is decried as unfair because most of the “benefit” goes to the upper income brackets that pay the lion’s share of taxes. Business with a flat 10% markup reap “unjust” profits when their cost rise.

    People seem to have a particularly hard time reasoning about ratios.

  • D Anghelone

    The rise of Japan is indeed interesting. After a fairly stagnant 1990s, the country seems to be on an upward curve again.

    Despite a declining, aging population? That could upset an economic cart or two. Course that would be a whole nother issue.

  • My head prefers charts to numbers too. They don’t cause pain quite so much.

  • RAB

    Good link Rick.
    What capitalist would wish people to be poor!!?
    This is Socialist moustache twirling late 19th century melodrama.
    The bottom line is that you cant sell things to poor people, because they havent any money.
    If you cant sell your goods, you get poor too.
    Not only do you get poor, but your capacity to produce and take advantage of economies of scale decays too.
    What morons think that being poor is a noble state?(as long as it’s not them personally you understand)
    Here’s a clue. We just elected them three times in a row.Ah when I say we….

  • Paul Marks

    The basic point is whether one cares about inequality or not – I do not.

    I want a nice income that will take of my needs – although (of course) I would like as much money as I can get.

    However, the fact that someone else is (say) ten thousand times better off than me does not upset me.

    So what if I can only go on a trip to a local place of historical interest (say a few miles walk from my home) – whereas he (the rich man) can go a trip to Mars or to another part of the Galaxy.

    Fair enough, if he likes that sort of thing.

    However, to the leftist, the idea that someone has vastly more money than someone else is somehow wrong.

    It is not strictly speaking “envy” – because even if they are rich themsleves the leftists seem to hate the idea of other people having much less than they do.

    I suppose inequality “social injustice” is just something that bothers some people and does not bother other people.

    Mr Cameron (leading of the Conservative party) says it bothers him a great deal.

    The only thing I do not understand is if it (inequality) bothers Mr Cameron and co so much, why do they not give some of their money away to the poor?

    For example, give the money to me.

  • RAB

    Paul, you alright? I would say not.
    You seem a bit depressed again.
    There is no funny line coming. I am just concerned for you.
    If you want, you can talk to me round the back as it were. You know my email address.

    Regards RAB