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I am doing my level best but don't follow your side. The patronizing tone doesn't help; can we focus on the subject instead of my rhetorical skills?
When Piketty writes "The poorer half of the population are as poor today as they were in the past" I think a typical reader would get the impression that the material welfare of the poor has not improved.
But I agree with you, based on my reading of that chapter Piketty is not measuring material welfare. He is interested in share of total wealth. And he uses a moving yardstick, comparing the poor of the past to the rich of that era, and today's poor with today's rich.
The article points out that, despite this description of static share of wealth (which I do not see disputed) there are good reasons to celebrate improvement in material welfare, like highways and ambulances and A/C and penicillin, and also cable TV and Facebook.
rd95 summed up this list as merely "convenience in entertainment and leisure," in my view, a clear instance of straw man. I didn't want to irritate him by citing logical fallacies; bringing "ad hominem" and the rest never helps a discussion. But, regrettably, he seems disgruntled anyway. I would love to investigate all the issues he mentions, "privacy, clean water, working plumbing and electricity, fair rent rates, safe neighborhoods, and on and on and on" and see what the data show the trends are. We might start with the photo in the article depicting the family of 13 living in a converted chicken coop. I expect that the trends are generally positive and beneficial to people at all income levels.
Piketty might agree with all this, I don't know. If it's true that many poor are materially better off now than before, by absolute measures, I think we should celebrate that and look for ways to continue and expand the trend, and not worry so much about relative measures.
I haven't read Piketty, but Google Books allowed me to read a few pages to make sure that quote wasn't taken out of context.
So I agree that "None of this is false," but I question the value of measuring welfare by asking what percentage of the total someone holds, rather than more direct measures of life quality, like food, shelter, and health.
I also agree that wealth naturally accumulates unless checked by policy. That is precisely why "The target of reducing extreme poverty rates by half was met five years ahead of the 2015 deadline."
How about the air conditioning, that helps us sleep well and be alert at work? The penicillin and ambulance services, which reduce the consequences of health problems? The poor spend money on entertainment and leisure as well. More options, and more affordable options, benefit everyone.
If the poorer half today do in fact hold "5 percent of total wealth" and this is the same percentage as 1910, they are not "as poor today" as then, they are far wealthier because total wealth has grown. But "the rich get richer, the poor get richer" doesn't sell as many books.
From my perspective, Hubski is a dynamic hotbed of provocative discussion. But for several months, this has happened almost entirely in personal correspondence and not in public.
I would prefer to be more open, but a tiny number of vocal users tend to spice their intellectual disagreement with doses of condescension, mockery, and name-calling. While I recognize that these aspects do not diminish the strength of their ideas, it is sufficiently annoying that I prefer to keep out of public discussions.
Among the thousands of words I have excreted into public dialog, I hope very few of them were antagonistic toward another person, unsparing as I may have been in criticizing their ideas. I keep in touch with a couple of other former users, both scrupulously polite, who have quit the site after encountering needless hostility toward their non-Hubski-mainstream views. And I find myself always wishing that my favorite non-conforming users would expand more, rather than keeping to short, throwaway comments.
I don't think moderation can fix this, though I am still partial to my proposal. There is a kind of Gresham's Law in any open forum by which the bad (vitriol) drives out the good (civility). Nevertheless, Hubski is the best public discussion forum ever conceived.
- And that's just the costs, not counting the social good of a lot fewer sick people.
I don't get the impression that EPA shortchanged themselves counting savings. Table 13.1 shows 184,000 annual deaths avoided thanks to particulate matter reduction, each one valued at $4.8 million. That's a social good (a big one!) and over 21 years adds up to $18 trillion, the majority of the central estimate of savings if my math is correct.
The EPA report includes dollar estimates for improvements in IQ points in children, missed work days, restricted activity days, shortness of breath in children, "household soiling damage," visibility impairment, and agricultural yields.
I haven't gotten the feeling that they are exaggerating these (necessarily highly theoretical) numbers, but I do feel that they are counting whatever they can.
- The 1969 Cuyahoga River fire helped spur an avalanche of water pollution control activities, resulting in the Clean Water Act, Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA).
The Clean Water Act, you recall, figured in our conversation about phosphorus.
- Summing up:
Late 1960's: Eutrophication is perceived as a significant environmental concern.
1964-1970: Detergent manufacturers recognize the need to remove phosphorus from detergents and spend considerable resources developing NTA, a safe alternative.
1970: The government tells detergent manufacturers to stop using NTA.
1972: The Clean Water Act and local laws restrict the use of phosphorus in detergent.
1980: The government says NTA is okay after all.
Is it obvious that the government even did more good than harm by getting involved with this issue?
Thanks, that does sound like a good candidate. My expectation after reading the Atlantic article is that I'll largely agree that it is cost-effective legislation. But I have had such positive expectations dashed before.
It's a bit suspect that the source for this good news is the EPA itself. We all know what to think about research performed by Philip Morris.
I also note that the act is a factor in the addition of ethanol to gasoline, which I think is bad policy overall. I have doubts that the EPA counts such secondary effects as "costs." It's not an easy calculation.
- The Clean Air Act requires the addition of oxygenates to reduce carbon monoxide emissions in the United States. The additive MTBE is currently being phased out due to ground water contamination, hence ethanol becomes an attractive alternative additive.
I am inclined to agree. We should throw out the dirty water and keep the beautiful healthy babies.
Can you cite an example of regulation done well that I could look into? I have only researched a few narrow areas carefully, and it's likely that they haven't been representative.
On second thought, I'll add that the money quote would be even more persuasive if it were true.
Bangladesh life expectancy: 70.3 years (as of 2012)
First hit for "Appalachia life expectancy" is a page that cites the Washington Post. On that 2011 interactive map I find a few counties that give life expectancy for men below 70 years, but the women's number pushes the average over 70.
The source is "Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington" where I find a gloomy article with this worst-case-scenario:
- Five counties in Mississippi have the lowest life expectancies for women, all below 74.5 years, putting them behind nations such as Honduras, El Salvador, and Peru. Four of those counties, along with Humphreys County, MS, have the lowest life expectancies for men, all below 67 years, meaning they are behind Brazil, Latvia, and the Philippines.
If "below 74.5" means 74, and "below 67" means 66.5, and these numbers both apply to a single county like Humphreys (population 18,538), then the average is 70.25, about the same as Bangladesh as a whole.
But who cares about facts?
Well put. And that money quote would be more persuasive if it read
- And life expectancy in much of Appalachia is below life expectancy in the poorest regions of Bangladesh.
What is the problem you are trying to solve?
If it is only spamming, how about a probation period before new accounts can post? No further hurdles than that. The most recent post is from 40 minutes ago, posted by a 42-minute-old account.
For a spammer, having to create an account with a password and store those credentials and come back a week later to post is far more troublesome than the current instant gratification.
At first I made the mistake of trying to figure out what all the fuss was about by reading the article, and then by following the links in the article. When it finally occurred to me to simply go to the source, it took less than ten minutes to confirm the change.