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

Not that I’d want to make this a hard diagnosis but much of the vague lefty wibble that used to infest economics has moved over into anthropology. I assume because economists have had to actually accept the real world evidence of the world out there getting richer, of lives getting better. You know, all those pretensions to being a science and thus testing hypotheses.

That one’s difficult to explain by the idea that socialism makes the people rich for example.

So, the woo is relegated to anthropology, where actual facts aren’t quite so important.

Tim Worstall

28 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • GregWA

    Any info on how many people went back into extreme poverty as a result of the lockdowns? I’ve read that one of the unseen impacts, at least unseen in the “First World”, is the impact on the poor in the Third World. And the numbers could be big enough to be easily visible on your graph even though the full scale is 2B people! Makes sense notionally, but is this true? Is anyone measuring this? Do economists or anthropologists care?

    I can also imagine that various powers that be have no interest in advertising this, if it’s in fact true.

  • Any info on how many people went back into extreme poverty as a result of the lockdowns?

    That would be very interesting to see indeed, just about the purest example of statism’s impact as one might contrive short of a war.

  • Hugh

    The World Bank said between 70 and 100 million, but that was last year.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Any news on how Sweden is doing? Have they changed their lockdown strategy? There is one victory for socialism, at least, called Cuba, but nobody wants to go there anyway.

  • bobby b

    “Any info on how many people went back into extreme poverty as a result of the lockdowns?”

    I’d like to see such numbers, to see if they matched up with what I have observed.

    I know my share of well-off people, both urban and rural. They have all come through this “tough time” very nicely in a financial sense. Like 20%-25% gain easy. It’s a good time for equity.

    I also know a lot of not-very-well-off to poor people, both rural and urban. Overwhelmingly, they are now in more frequent dire financial straits than they were pre-government-Covid-rescue. Unless some group of people somewhere that I can’t see are leaving poverty and doing better, the poor as a group is growing quickly. It’s a bad time for low-hourlies.

  • Tim Worstall

    “Any info on how many people went back into extreme poverty as a result of the lockdowns?”

    At the moment we don’t know. We won’t know for several years. As Hayek pointed out measuring an economy is difficult. Actually useful numbers about things like poverty, the income distribution etc turn up maybe 2 years, 3, after the fact. Which makes them not all that useful as management tools even as they’re a good way of keeping score.

    My guess would be couple of hundred million. But there is something worth pointing out. This $1.90 a day poverty, that’s really rural peasantry. Even the slums of wooden shacks around the big cities provide a better living than this – which is why the folks are there.There won’t be that many who have moved back to the ancestral village to vegetate.

  • JohnK

    One thing I would predict is that levels of poverty will rise after 2030 when the Great Reset starts to bite. Cheap energy gets people out of poverty, expensive energy does not.

    Already, Royal Dutch Shell is facing fines in some Dutch court because of the net zero bullshit. It was very easy for politicians to pass these laws because 2050 is a long way away. But 2030 isn’t, and when reality starts to bite, I think the serfs will revolt. Look what happened when Mrs Thatcher tried to charge people a few quid for their “community charge”. Multiply that by a thousand for “net zero”.

  • CaptDMO

    Living on less than (US) $1.90/day
    So, 1/100 oz. of Gold?
    To, to you know, “buy stuff”?
    Because crops don’t grow, and hunting game is ILLEGAL, where “civilization” has paved over the magic dirt,
    and necessarily cloistered the water?

    I propose that such charts mean nothing to the actual folks they describe.
    The Gods must be crazy.

  • Tim Worstall

    “To, to you know, “buy stuff”?”

    No. That absolute poverty measure is the value of consumption. It *includes* the value of home grown crops and all that subsistence stuff. It includes the day’s value of the shirt upon your back (say, you have one shirt a year, then it includes 1/365th of the cost or value of one shirt), the consumption value of your housing and so on.

    It is a measure of the value of consumption, not the cash income nor the amount actually spent.

    It is, in fact, the ghastly, horrendous, no shit Sherlock, absolute poverty that was most of history.

  • CaptDMO

    Which is hy I put “Buy stuff” in quotes,
    and why I reject the premise when put in terms of “=$1.90/ day”, by The World Bank et cetera/ alia
    Oh, sure, that MAY be convenient way for The World Bank to imagine it. in short history, and THEIR long term “projections”.

    (eg) in MY Sociology/ Anthropology/PoliSci/ Economics/Psycology…..1 oz. gold=1 good 3 piece suit. 1 week’s “take home” pay is 1 month’s rent. 216 days, at 8hr/day= a “work year”. 100 IQ is average
    I have yet to establish a good metric for the “value” of a pick-up truck, ONLY available including crap I don’t use, need, or want. Much like the aspects of “gub’mint”, or “infrastructure” I consume (by virtue of taxes and “fees”), yet never use, don’t want, or need.
    I use “Old Math”

  • CaptDMO
    May 27, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    Living on less than (US) $1.90/day
    So, 1/100 oz. of Gold?

    At the current price of gold, that’s 1/1000. Gotta keep the data clean. — Captain Nitpick

  • CaptDMO

    Quite right, my bad. The clock’s run out for me to fix it.
    The rest of my premise still stands.

  • Sigivald

    Pickup trucks have a price, and they have utility.

    If you can’t calculate “value” from that, despite there being things in them you don’t care about, that’s a personal problem.

    (Remember, that “crap you don’t need” gets other people to buy them, and economies of scale lower prices.

    Custom trucks with Only What You Want CAN be obtained; talk to your local Big-3 dealer about custom orders.

    But you won’t like the wait and the price, which is why nobody but fleet buyers in bulk do that.

    Frankly I can’t imagine what’s really extraneous on, say, an F150-XL work truck. They are exceedingly bare-bones.)

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    I can imagine some lefty (not me) saying, well, rural peasantry might be quite nice compared to living in some polluted slum. Have you calculated the value of the space between you and your neighbours, the fresh air, the sense of enormous wellbeing that comes from growing your own food? Knowing you won’t be evicted for not making rent?

    I would probably point out the relative difference in values of different probabilities of starving to death after a failed harvest. But I can understand CaptDMO’s skepticism at the way such things are measured.

    I am interested to see what our best arguments are, here.

  • Fraser Orr

    FWIW, regarding the OP, what I find particularly disturbing is that in all that time Sub Saharan Africa is stuck at the same level of poverty. I guess it is the continent of crazy tyrannical governments.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Fraser Orr,

    Conceivably sub-Saharan Africa might actually be doing better in terms of the percentage of people in poverty, but population growth means that the absolute number of people in poverty increases.

  • pete

    The lifting of millions out of extreme poverty into mere poverty in African and Asian countries is probably explained by advances in technology and its increased availability at an affordable price, not the ideologies of governments in those places.

    And most of that technology will have been developed in rich countries where the state plays a great part in education and research, and where capitalism is not given a free rein.

    In recent years many people in rich western countries have been increasingly exposed to free market forces and unrestrained capitalism. Some of them have become richer. The vast majority of them have become poorer.

  • In recent years many people in rich western countries have been increasingly exposed to free market forces and unrestrained capitalism. Some of them have become richer. The vast majority of them have become poorer.

    You are delusional if you think any of that is an accurate description of reality.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex) (May 27, 2021 at 5:08 pm), after the British empire packed its bags and departed Sub-Saharan Africa, most of the countries there experienced year-on-year declines in GDP for two-to-three decades. My impression was that there was some turnaround after that, influenced by it becoming just a bit fashionable for African governments to notice that state-socialist policies hadn’t worked too well for them (helped by the fact that, back then, state socialism had become less fashionable in the west, too). On the other hand some latecomers (e.g. Zimbabwe) began to shrink their economies by state socialist methods.

    It may well be, as you speculate, that there is some good news to be found in the statistics for that region, but there is certainly bad.

  • GregWA

    Re pickup truck cost and value, I somewhat sympathize with the Captain: prior to urban cowboys deciding it was cool to drive a truck, trucks were simple, utilitarian, no frills. Bought by farmers and ranchers. 2WD, single cab, maybe a few 4WD, etc. And cheap, even in inflation adjusted dollars. And yes, economy of scale drives down the cost of the 4WD, King Cab, heated leather seat version with Tonneau cover, but the focus on production of urban cowboy trucks at $60K a pop and above, lifts the cost of the basic truck.

    And a little terminology correction: “truck” rightly full refers to the large, over-the-road, 18 wheel long haul vehicle whereas the “pick up” was used to unload the truck and run the freight around town. At least that’s what an old guy told me and I believed him. I have no desire to “google it”!

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Pete, the vast majority of Chinese are wealthier now than when they were all impoverished socialists. You are practicing the Nazies’ technique of the big lie- say something with such certainty that people are overwhelmed by your conviction, and think you must be right. That won’t happen here.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Whatever happened to all those economists who opposed Thatcher’s policies so much that they took out adds in newspapers? Were they ever sacked, or have they gone on to distort the minds of students?

  • Pete, the vast majority of Chinese are wealthier now than when they were all impoverished socialists.

    Having grown up on a shitty estate in Brum in the 1970s, it isn’t true the majority are poorer in Britain either. You have to be either young or blind to think otherwise.

  • Stonyground

    With the exception of a corner of my family that had a modest amount of property already, I am the first generation of my family that will be leaving a house to my offspring when I croak.

  • Paul Marks

    Sadly the international Credit Bubble economy is going to bust – that is inevitable now, the question is will a real recovery in the years AFTER the bubble has burst be allowed?

    If the international establishment (the governments and CORPORATIONS that follow the line of the World Economic Forum, the United Nations and-so-on) get their way, then “Sustainable Development”, “Stakeholder Capitalism” will be imposed – and that is FASCISM, the control by government and pet corporations of every aspect of life (rule by a Technocratic elite – after the manner of Francis Bacon’s “New Atlantis” or the Technocracy ideas of Saint-Simon) and that would mean a society where most people were crushingly poor.

    Even before the World Economic Forum, we can see these totalitarian ideas at work in such groups as the “Club of Rome” in the 1960s – which used environmentalism as a cover for their desire for absolute control (by a Technocratic government and corporate elite) over every aspect of life – including human reproduction.

    2030 is an interesting date – as it is the latest date cited by the international establishment for progress on their plan to control all aspects of human life, to impose both de facto serfdom, and crushing poverty. “You will own nothing and you will be happy” really means – “you own nothing and you will SAY that you are happy – as dissent will be punished by having everything you need to live cut off from you”.

    Remember these people do not see the People’s Republic of China Social Credit system as bad – they see it as a model to follow. And they are quite prepared to use anything (anything at all, Covid 19, Climate Change Emergency, Cyber attacks…..) to push their goal of utterly destroying human liberty.

  • Robbo

    “Any news on how Sweden is doing? Have they changed their lockdown strategy?”

    Things haven’t changed much. Masks on public transport are advised, there are capacity limits on cafes, bars, restaurants and shops, enforced on the owner via environmental health regulations. Concerts and sporting events have very tight audience size restrictions, and most big businesses have a work-at-home-if-possible policy. Vaccination is being rolled out, and testing is widely available on demand. Life is largely unhampered by legal restrictions, threatened punishments, officious enforcement etc etc.

  • Tim Worstall

    “In recent years many people in rich western countries have been increasingly exposed to free market forces and unrestrained capitalism. Some of them have become richer. The vast majority of them have become poorer.”

    This is not true. Not in the slightest.

    A reasonable (from Branko Milanovic and he’s a Marxist, also the global expert on this particular point) back of the envelope guide to the global income distribution in the past few decades. The Elephant Curve.

    “But the biggest loser (other than the very poorest 5%), or at least the “non-winner,” of
    globalization were those between the 75th
    and 90th percentile of the global income distribution
    whose real income gains were essentially nil. These people, who may be called a global upper middle class, include many from former Communist countries and Latin America, as well as those
    citizens of rich countries whose incomes stagnated”

    The surprise is that those at the bottom third of the global income distribution have also
    made significant gains, with real incomes rising between more than 40% and almost 70%. The only
    exception is the poorest 5% of the population whose real incomes have remained the same.
    The top 1% has seen its real income
    rise by more than 60% over those two decades. The largest increases however were registered
    around the median: 80% real increase at the median itself and some 70% around it.

    Some did better than others, entirely true. No one did worse, the vast majority of humanity did better.

    The technical term for this in economics is “a win”.

  • Paul Marks

    In recent years people in rich West countries have NOT been increasingly exposed to free market forces and unrestrained capitalism.

    The idea that Britain or the United States are more free market now than they were 20 years ago (or 60 years ago, or a 100 years ago) is the opposite of the truth. The state has massively expanded – in both its spending and its regulations.

    If the Collectivists wanted to make the argument “capitalism has declined, and people are better off – so the decline of capitalism is a good thing” they would still be wrong (the rise of living standards is not due to the decline of free enterprise and the rise of unlimited state), but they would have an argument.

    Talking about “free market forces”, “unrestrained capitalism”, “market fundamentalism” and-so-on in relation to the modern Western world is just wild LYING.