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Well, yes? And your point is what?

The argument presented here was that if you did NOT have state run collective pension agreements then misery and disaster and loads of starving old people would ensue. The argument was also that we should look to the US to see the horrible effects of this.

And the proof for the immense amount of starving people is evidently that there is 2.3 units more children who's family is below the US poverty line in US than in France.

I fail to see how the supposed horrors have materialized, or for that matter what that graph has to do with pensions. And I also look forward to explanations of where all the starving people are in Iceland. I sure didn't see them where I lived there and whaddayouknow, they have a system with private obligatory pension funds. And the worlds next highest HDI (after Norway, who as a state pension system).

Maybe privatizing the pension system isn't such a horrible disaster after all?

by freedomfighter on Thu Oct 25th, 2007 at 04:57:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And I also look forward to explanations of where all the starving people are in Iceland.

What's this about Iceland? Iceland does have a state-run pension system alongside mandatory occupational ones (the dominant form) and free individual ones, and as it happens, the system was a result of negotiations with trade unions: they got this system in exchange for accepting a delay in wage increases almost four decades ago, and trade union heads sit on the boards of the mandatory occupational funds.

Since this started with SNCF's special pensions regime, I am all ears why you think occupational segmentation of pension funds is bad in France but good in Iceland.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Oct 25th, 2007 at 06:08:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The funds are run by the unions, and as it was explained to me it's a pension savings scheme, not the pay-as-you-go scheme. I can of course have been misinformed. You also, maybe most relevant to this debate, seem to have a choice of which fund you use.
by freedomfighter on Thu Oct 25th, 2007 at 08:55:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The public pension system (which, after having checked it, I see still dominates: more than half of money paid) is pay-as-you-go, the other two are funded. (Why does this count for the argument, BTW?) The mandatory occupational funds, being mandatory and occupational, methinks aren't up for choice, only the smallest element, the individual pensions are.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 04:09:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
2.3 units more children who's family is below the US poverty line in US than in France

...while per capita GDP is significantly higher. Thus would per capita GDPs match, I'd expect twice as many poor... and that's not considering differences of measurement and unaccounted-for factors (like stuff the French poor get for free but the US poor have to pay for, say, healthcare).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Oct 25th, 2007 at 06:25:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thus would per capita GDPs match, I'd expect twice as many poor...

No, because then the level of poverty would have been different, see. ;) That's the problem with that kind of measurement.

and that's not considering differences of measurement and unaccounted-for factors (like stuff the French poor get for free but the US poor have to pay for, say, healthcare).

Right. Which is why I before use HDI is variable, because it does take those factors into account. And United States are in place 8 and France in Place 16.

Both high enough to be practically the same in a global perspective. Which is my point. Poverty isn't caused by having a choice in pension schemes, or having private pensions. No matter of wriggling and juggling with facts is going to change that.

by freedomfighter on Thu Oct 25th, 2007 at 09:00:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, because then the level of poverty would have been different

Nope, the level of poverty in Jérôme's graph is absolute (current US poverty line, read the caption). If you increase French per capita GDP to the US level, more Frenchmen will move across the US poverty level.

I before use HDI is variable, because it does take those factors into account

No, it doesn't take them into account. Check the formula. And again, HDI is not a measure of poverty rates.

To repeat the point you avoided, not only is the ratio of poor people much higher in the USA even if we use an absolute income threshold, but the French-US difference is even stronger if we add the virtual value of for-free public services available to the poor.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 03:43:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]

And your point is what?

My point is simply to answer to your claims up in the thread that the US has low poverty levels.


The US has low poverty levels. Anything else is pure misinformation.

And yet, even using the most favorable measure for the US (using the absolute US threshhold for poverty for all countries, rather than each countrie's level), the US has significantly higher poverty rates than the main continental and Scandinavian European countries.

So your claim is, simply false. And that's not even taking into account discussions on status, positional goods, and social mobility which make the use of relative poverty rates a lot more relevant in reality.

Oh, for a country that has very little poverty, that paragraph from an other diary makes one wonder what "poverty" means for you (all sources, and more on poverty, at that link):


Infantile mortality rates are now rising in the US, a surprising phenomenon in peacetime. Even more impressively, the life expectancy at birth of its poorest citizens is 15 years shorter than that of its more privileged ones.



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Oct 25th, 2007 at 11:10:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't find those differences in poverty level especially significant. We are still talking about some of the richest countries in the world, and we are talking about a level of "poverty" which much of the world would consider luxury. These people we are talking about are not starving or freezing or lacking in clothes.

<blockquotes>So your claim is, simply false.</blockquotes>

Evidently not. Look, I understand it's painful to get your myths crushed, but the fact is that  there is no starving masses in the United States, despite what some people like to tell you. Arbitrary measurements does not change this fact even if you call it a poverty measurement.

The case that was presented here was twofold:

  1. That freedom of choice was an argument for keeping the current situation in French pensions. That was honestly a rather silly attempt and nobody is pursuing that line of argumentation any more, thank god.

  2. That if you allow people freedom of choice in pensions, poverty and starving old people  will ensue. The proof for this seem to be that the US has 2.7% units more kids under an arbitrary level of household income, dubbed "the poverty line", despite the fact that none of these kids are retired or starving. The fact that other countries vary significantly more up and down on this measurement completely independntly of how their pension system look should be an indication of the complete irrelevance of this line of argumentation. ;-)

Well, really, is that the best you guys can come up with? And you accuse me of trolling? Come on... :-)
by freedomfighter on Thu Oct 25th, 2007 at 03:42:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are freezing masses in the US. 842000 people without a home on a given night in February. Yeah, that's insignificant and negligible. 3.5 million people experiencing homelessness in a given year. Of course, the fact these people won't get pensions in the schemes you promote don't matter : life expectancy is very low for the homeless.

There is absolute poverty in the US and other industrialized countries. And the number of people living in poverty varies according to the state policies.

Try to use facts rather than groundless affirmations.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Oct 25th, 2007 at 04:22:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's about 3 per 1000. Compared to Australias 5 per thousand. The estimates in France range between 90.000 and half a million, depending on who you ask, which is about 1.3 per thousand to 7.5 per thousand. In Sweden there is about 2.5 homeless per 1000. In United Kingdom there seems to be a bit over 2 per 1000, and in Canada 4.5 per 1000. And in Japan between 0.12 and 3 per 1000 depending on who you ask.

Although I suspect most of these differences are based on how you measure, again this supposed huge poverty in the US vanished in a big puff of smoke when you actually look at it.

Besides, most people that are truly homeless, ie really have no permanent place to keep their stuff for a significant period of their lifes in the US are homeless for the same reasons as the homeless in France or anywhere else in the western world, and that drug abuse, alcoholism och mental disorders. That is not a poverty issue.

It's hard to measure. I have been officially homeless. Once for 14 months I didn't have an official address. I still had somewhere to sleep (although this admittedly was just a bunkbed in the dormitory at the military). That's not real homelessness, but it counts in the statistics. I've also had a shorter period of a month or so where I moved around amongst friends. I just couldn't get a permanent place to Stay in Stockholm, because the housing market there is highly regulated which in practice means that the only way you kind find a place is to rent illegaly in second hand for ridicolous prices. That's homelessness in a more real sense (although it probably didn't count in the statistics since I put my permanent address at my parents by that time), but not a poverty issue in any real sense.

by freedomfighter on Fri Oct 26th, 2007 at 11:56:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Read links when you try to reply.

3.5 million people experiencing "homelessness" is 1.5 %, not thousandth.

There are working people, who have a daily job, and are homeless. People who aren't alcoholic or mad. A third of the homeless in France ; a similar share in the US.

And it's not about "not having permanent address". It's about having no place to sleep in, and having to ask to an emergency shelter. The fact that you compare your past situation to homelessness shows you have only a very tenuous grasp with what poverty actually means in the industrialised world.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Oct 26th, 2007 at 12:15:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Experiencing homelessness" during the course of a year is not the same as "being homeless", and therefore not even remotely comparable to the numbers for the other countries, and as such not useful.

And it's not about "not having permanent address". It's about having no place to sleep in, and having to ask to an emergency shelter.

No it's not. It is about not having a permanent adress. That's the definition used, and then number of around 800.000 is what other sources also use. And that is NOT about going to shelters, but not having apermanent address.

The fact that you compare your past situation to homelessness shows you have only a very tenuous grasp with what poverty actually means in the industrialised world.

Realitycheck: It is homelessness in the definitions used to gather the statistics above. I explained this in my post. What was unclear?

Try to use facts rather than groundless affirmations.

Try to not throw stones in glass houses. You just claimed that 1.5% of the population of the US lives in shelters or on the streets. That's ridicolous. It's time to come back to reality.

by freedomfighter on Fri Oct 26th, 2007 at 02:38:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The word "address" doesn't appear on the link I provided. Nor in the page where that site define homelessness. So I fail to see how you deduce that the statistics are compiled with your definition of homelessness. Again, read the links. (And it's not only shelters and street, either.)

"Experiencing homelessness" may not be the same as "being homeless", but it is a sure sign of strong poverty, of unreliability of housing access. It is an indicator of absolute poverty.

And 1.5% of Americans experiencing homelessness every year is reality, as frightening as the 2% that sleep in jail every night (another indicator of poverty)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Oct 26th, 2007 at 07:28:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are now grasping on a set up number as a last straw in your mental defences, and completely ignore to check what these numbers mean in reality or that you need to make a comparison with the rest of the world, if these numbers are really to say what you want them to say.

At this point all I can do is to repeat what I already have said until it hits home, but my experience is that it's a very frustration experience to do so, and it takes a long time, and most of the time fails, so I'm not gonna waste my time doing that. You'll just have to continue to live with your pre-concieved idea of how the world looks.

by freedomfighter on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 05:17:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're repeating yourself and not giving any kind of evidence of what you assert, unlike everybody else on this thread. You are the one with no understanding of reality, or a wish to hide it.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 10:28:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I repeat, because you ignored this. The case that was presented here was twofold:

   1. That freedom of choice was an argument for keeping the current situation in French pensions.

   2. That if you allow people freedom of choice in pensions, poverty and starving old people  will ensue.

There has been exactly zero evidence to support this. Instead you are digging down the debate into a quagmire by repeatedly asserting statements that have no contact with reality, and using irrelevant statistics in an effort to polish a complete turd of argumentation.

Then claiming that I don't come with evidence is rather absurd.

It is not debate, it's me trying to explain, and you putting your fingers in your ears and loudly repeating random numbers to yourselves to prop up your myths and avoid challenging your basic assumptions. Or foundational myths, as rg calls them. That was a good post, read it:

http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2007/10/21/65910/511

I think the foundational myths here are:

  1. The effects of an action is what you wanted them to be.
  2. Since we are nice persons those that do not agree with us are evil.
  3. Everything that happens happens because somebody decided it should happen.
  4. The bigger the effect, the more powerful the person.

All of these are wrong. But these myths means that all good things that happens happens because somebody good and powerful wanted them to happen, and all bad things happen because somebody bad and powerful wanted them to happen. And with that attitude, all the evils of the world must come from some really powerful place. And the most powerful place is the US government.

Hence, US is evil. Hence, US policy is evil. Hence, the US must be a much worse place to live than most other places.

The rest of the sick and screwed up arguments here, together with the general fear of freedom, can probably be extracted from these basic assumptions.

by freedomfighter on Sun Oct 28th, 2007 at 09:15:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm scratching my head at how someone could conclude that poverty and homelessness don't really exist in our societies just because he or she hasn't experienced it first-hand.

Besides, most people that are truly homeless, ie really have no permanent place to keep their stuff for a significant period of their lifes in the US are homeless for the same reasons as the homeless in France or anywhere else in the western world, and that drug abuse, alcoholism och mental disorders. That is not a poverty issue.

OK, first:  "Truly" homeless?  Are you really arguing that a person is not "truly" homeless if he or she only lacks a home for, say, two months?  Two weeks?  Two years?  What kind of "significant period" meets this mysterious defintion of "truly"?  Just out of curiosity.

But defining only the chronically homeless are "truly" homeless is a handy way to pretend that poverty and homelessness aren't real societal problems that need to be addressed.

Second, your definition of "most" needs some work.  According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council:

Approximately one-third have mental illnesses. Perhaps one-half have a current or past drug or alcohol addiction.

That is not my definition of "most."  It is, of course, more convenient to believe that the only thing that could possibly lead to "true" homelessness and "true" poverty in our enlightened societies is mental illness, but that's just fantasy.

There are many factors that lead to homelessness, including domestic violence and illness - and for the record, I'm talking about illness of the physical kind, since it seems that some people believe that those who suffer from illness of the mental kind are for some reason less deserving of sympathy or support.  Which is not a belief I share, but let's move on.

Next, mental illness and drug addiction are issues of poverty, in that the poor and homeless have far fewer resources for dealing with those problems than the rich and homed.  Diseases of the physical and mental kind affect the poor and homeless in roughly the same proportions as the general population.  But the poor have fewer (or zero) treatment options, and are likely to encounter much greater difficulty getting help.  As a consequence, they may not recover from illnesses (mental and otherwise) that a person with more resources might recover from easily.

What's the result of all this?  Let's just talk about my hometown, the so-called "Capital of the Free World."  In Washington, D.C., according to the Washington Legal Aid Center for the Homeless, nearly half of all homeless people are women and children.  One of the largest homeless shelters in D.C. is run by the CCNV:

Over 65% of the shelter guests work full- or part -time on a regular basis.

That's right, they're working full- or part-time, and are still homeless.  They're living in a homeless shelter, not a military barracks.  This is genuine poverty and true homelessness.  It's real, and denying that won't make it so.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Oct 26th, 2007 at 01:54:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm scratching my head at how someone could conclude that poverty and homelessness don't really exist in our societies just because he or she hasn't experienced it first-hand.

Well, that would be puzzling. Now who are you referring to exactly?

This debate is now edging into to the world of underhand accusations and straw men. I'm not gonna go there. I will not defend positions I have never had and I will not stand for being accused of opinions that have nothing to do with what I said.

Thank you for debating seriously.

That is not my definition of "most".

First of all those numbers relate to not having a permanent home, not the people living on the streets or in shelters. Second of all one third + one half = five sixths, and 5/6th is indeed "most".

by freedomfighter on Fri Oct 26th, 2007 at 02:44:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now who are you referring to exactly?

You were the one who brought up your experience, as if it had some relevance to your argument.

Second of all one third + one half = five sixths, and 5/6th is indeed "most".

Only an idiot or an ideologue would argue that the one-third and the one-half could not possibly overlap and must therefore total five-sixths.  Have you heard of a Venn diagram?  Or are you just being intellectually dishonest?

I will accept no barbs from you about debating seriously, thank you.  Study some basic math, then come back and chat.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Oct 26th, 2007 at 10:23:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My experience does have relevance. It is your conclusion of what my pinions re that are weird.

The third and the half does not exactly overlap, which is rather obvious. Thus it must in total be more than one half, and hence, it is "most".

You are not debating seriously, you are rude, and asking me to study mathematics is seriously stupid.

I'm sorry that what I'm going to say now is gonna sound as rude as what you said. But the difference is that it's true.

I was invited here by a friend to discuss politics. Unfortunately, this place is full of people with preconceived idea who gets angry when reality comes knocking on the door. It's rather pointless to continue debating with those people since it prevents all serious debate, since the only thing that is accepted is sucking up and agreeing to your fantasies of how you want the world to behave, even when that is not how things are.

You want the poverty in the US to be horrid. No, you need it. The US must be a horrible place for poor, because the US politics must be evil, because the US is the most powerful country in the world, so if they aren't evil, everything would be fine, right?

Sorry, you have no idea of how things work, you don't understand a pluralistic society and as a consequence you are afraid of freedom, and instead grab comfort in collectivistic myths.

I wish I understood how to make people like you understand. But I guess I never will.

by freedomfighter on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 05:17:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here, I think I found what you were looking for:

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 05:43:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right. Trying to bash down walls work better that talking to them. You are right. :-)
by freedomfighter on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 06:50:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]

You want the poverty in the US to be horrid. No, you need it. The US must be a horrible place for poor, because the US politics must be evil, because the US is the most powerful country in the world, so if they aren't evil, everything would be fine, right?

Just so you know, you are responding to an American person, and probably close to half of the regular readers of this site are Americans.

Unpatriotic ones, presumably.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 09:18:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
People are just as prone (if not more) to harbouring myths about their own country as of others.

Unpatroticism is good.

by freedomfighter on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 09:29:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jérôme told you tsp is American, but she herself already told you more in her very first response:

Let's just talk about my hometown

She is taking about stuff she saw with her own eyes, it's you who clings to myths six thousand miles away.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 04:26:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The fact remains, however, that you have failed utterly to present a meaningful definition of poverty - relative or absolute, that is applicable to individuals.

You have cited three measures of poverty, two of which are population averages (HDI and life expectancy) and the third of which is clearly and evidently nonsense (a dollar a day is meaningless as a definition of poverty - even if you lived well above this threshold, such as for two dollars a day, you would still be in abject poverty).

So far in this thread, the only remotely meaningful definition of poverty presented is as a fraction of the median income.

As it happens, I agree with you that this is a somewhat ad hoc measure, but over small timescales (a couple of decades) in developed societies it works well enough as a proxy for what we want to measure.

Personally, I would propose a definition of poverty that goes as follows:

A person is in poverty if (s)he does not have reliable access to all of the following:

  • Shelter (including heating and clothing)
  • Balanced and nourishing diet (including clean water)
  • Healthcare and medicine

This is very basic - it could easily be argued that reliable light sources and access to information/education also belong here.

Clearly, under this definition, the US has higher poverty rates than virtually any Western European country. Equally clearly, under this definition privatized pension schemes do lead directly to poverty.

I acknowledge, of course, that this scheme is not perfect. However, I challenge anyone who disagrees with it to propose a better one him- or herself, or refer me to a better one already proposed.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Oct 25th, 2007 at 05:45:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So far in this thread, the only remotely meaningful definition of poverty presented is as a fraction of the median income.

Of the four definitions of poverty discussed here, this is the completely meaningless one. That is not poverty at all, as it says absolutely NOTHING about how you actually live, and how your life is, while the others, HDI in particular, does say a lot about it.

And yes, they are national averages. They ALL are. Because what we are discussing is the poverty of countries. Duh.

I realized yesterday, that when I grew up we were amongst the poorest ones around. We had some neighbours which I know didn't have much money, and we kinda saw them as poor, and probably they were poorer than us. But this makes us pretty much the second poorest family around in the town where I lived. My mum when to first high-school and then university while working at the same time. This was the 60s and there wan't much social services around. But where we poor? No, we had food and housing and health care and went to school. But yet, according to your definitions, I lived in abject dreadful poverty and should be compared to starving kids in India, because I  was amongst the poorest in my country, just as they are amongst the poorest in their country.

That attitude with it's dreadful antihumanism and complete ignorance of the realities of people who are living in despair is completely incomprehensible to me.

Maybe you can lift this incomprehention. Explain to my why, to you, it is better if everybody starves than if everybody lives reasonably good lives but some people live even better lives. Because that IS the conclusion of what you are saying, when you say that the only poverty that exists is relative poverty.

btw, I knew quickly that this forum was full of leftist people, but this is the first forum I've even come across where some discount HDI. Usually, when you talk about poverty leftists will lift HDI up as a good measurement. I'm astonished.

by freedomfighter on Fri Oct 26th, 2007 at 12:09:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You ARE aware that there were hundreds of thousand of people who where living in slums, aka bidonville, in the 60's in France, aren't you?


Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Oct 26th, 2007 at 12:18:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. Now, first of all, that actually doesn't matter for the sake of argument. Because Jake claims all poverty is RELATIVE. And the means that even if there were slums in France, as long as I don't see them, they don't count!

Because, why should we limit ourself to countries? Heck, I could claim that there is a large problem with poverty in the filmstar villas of Beverly Hills, by having a relative definition of poverty and then just looking at Beverly Hill, and ignoring the poor areas of Los Angeles.

And hey, if I'm not allowed to draw a line around Beverly Hills, why should I draw the line around the US? Shouldn't I include Mexico at least? Well, why, yes, I should.

This just once again shows how ridiculous relative poverty is as a concept.

Second of all: I didn't grow up in France. There were no slums in the country I grew up in. I really, honestly, were amongst the poorest of the country.

Regarding the stormy presents assumption that I think poverty doesn't exist because I haven't experienced it,
I'm seriously starting to believe that the reason you people believe the myths about relative poverty is because you haven't experienced it. Well. I have.  

by freedomfighter on Fri Oct 26th, 2007 at 02:53:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. Now, first of all, that actually doesn't matter for the sake of argument. Because Jake claims all poverty is RELATIVE. And the means that even if there were slums in France, as long as I don't see them, they don't count!

For someone who waxes indignant about straw men and glass houses you seem to pay dreadfully little attention to what I actually wrote. Or perhaps I made my point insufficiently clear? I shall attempt to elaborate.

Over the space of one, or even two decades, in a reasonably industrialised nation, the economy does not grow perceptibly. Even if we take the growth numbers reported at face value, and ignore the fact that part of the growth in most Western countries stems from funny-money being moved around between different accounts, a decade of growth - say, the five-year periods immediately before and after a policy is adopted - would grow the economy by less than forty percent. This makes median income relevant, because significant changes in the income distribution quickly become a zero-sum game.

Thus, if you wish to measure how a policy affects poverty, some fraction of the median income offers a quite reasonable proxy. In the sense of evaluating concrete policies - which was the original topic of this discussion - that makes median income a perfectly relevant tool.

Your example of North Korea having low relative poverty, while correct, is a red herring as long as the policy proposals under debate will have an effect on the overall economy that are several orders of magnitude less than the difference between the economic output of the country discussed and North Korea, which is virtually always the case.

Furthermore, even though I defended - and will continue to defend - median income as a valuable proxy for short-term calculations, you completely sidestepped the fact that I proposed an semi-absolute (absolute in space, but relative in time) measure of poverty: Shelter, heat, food water, education, access to information, access to standard of care-level medical care, access to medicine ('access' in this context means reliable access). I would ask you to evaluate this poverty metric.

I would further ask you to cease putting words in my mouth that I did not, in fact, type. I specifically stated that I agree with you about the lack of usefulness of fraction of median income as a proxy for poverty in some cases, due to its somewhat ad hoc nature.

I also believe that you overlook an important fact in your discussion of the arbitraryness of boundries used in the calculation of relative poverty: The natural boundary to use is the area of jurisdiction in which the policy is being contemplated, since the value of fraction-of-median-income seems to me to be in short-term-evaluation of policies.

Furthermore, I will happily acknowledge both that fraction-of-median income is meaningless outside the evaluation of reasonably industrialized economies (a criterion that neither North Korea nor Beverley Hills fulfills) and that it is not directly comparable to most other metrics of poverty.

This is not a problem, however: All that is relevant in evaluating policies is whether it goes up or down, so all that is required for it to work as a proxy is that there is a monotonous relationship between the fraction of median income and whatever poverty measure you find meaningful. That's the bitch of using proxies: They are usually not directly comparable, and a good proxy in one measurement regime may be a bad one in another.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Oct 26th, 2007 at 05:34:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Over the space of one, or even two decades, in a reasonably industrialised nation, the economy does not grow perceptibly.

This statement is not in agreement with reality.

Even if we take the growth numbers reported at face value, and ignore the fact that part of the growth in most Western countries stems from funny-money being moved around between different accounts

a decade of growth - say, the five-year periods immediately before and after a policy is adopted - would grow the economy by less than forty percent.

And that is not "perceptibly". Sir, you must be jesting.

This makes median income relevant, because significant changes in the income distribution quickly become a zero-sum game.

Income distribution is per definition a zero-sum game, since it's a matter of how the total income is distributed. And the total income is always, guess what, 100% of the total income. Duh.

INCOME is never a zero-sum game, though.

Thus, if you wish to measure how a policy affects poverty, some fraction of the median income offers a quite reasonable proxy. In the sense of evaluating concrete policies - which was the original topic of this discussion - that makes median income a perfectly relevant tool.

To measure income distribution yes. To meaure poverty, no.

Your example of North Korea having low relative poverty, while correct, is a red herring

No, because the point is that with your argumentation, North Korea is a less poor nation than France, because the income distribution is more even. And that is absurd. Which is my point.

Furthermore, even though I defended - and will continue to defend - median income as a valuable proxy for short-term calculations, you completely sidestepped the fact that I proposed an semi-absolute (absolute in space, but relative in time)

Space?

measure of poverty: Shelter, heat, food water, education, access to information, access to standard of care-level medical care, access to medicine ('access' in this context means reliable access). I would ask you to evaluate this poverty metric.

In fact, that's pretty much what HDI does. Which you didn't like.

I also believe that you overlook an important fact in your discussion of the arbitraryness of boundries used in the calculation of relative poverty: The natural boundary to use is the area of jurisdiction in which the policy is being contemplated, since the value of fraction-of-median-income seems to me to be in short-term-evaluation of policies.

You see, I don't agree with that, because in my opinon, poor people continue to be poor even if policies change in neighbouring countries.

Furthermore, I will happily acknowledge both that fraction-of-median income is meaningless outside the evaluation of reasonably industrialized economies (a criterion that neither North Korea nor Beverley Hills fulfills) and that it is not directly comparable to most other metrics of poverty.

This is not a problem, however

No, it's not a problem, but that fact that it doesn't relate to other metrics of poverty means either it or the other metrics doesn't really measure poverty at all. And we already know which one that doesn't.

It's time to stop this stupid charade. Percentage of mean income is not and will never be a valid measurement of poverty. No matter how much you twist and turn and start using fancy words that make you feel like you understand things, it is a measurement of income distribution, not poverty. And that's that.

by freedomfighter on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 05:18:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Apologies for butting in, but I do have a question.

What makes a person "poor"?

If I have a job, house, car, beautiful partner etc. and then lose it all and end up with a mountain of debt I'll never pay off, as long as the state allows me (or has to give me by law) a roof, heating, food allowance, clothing allowance...then I'm not poor on your definition, I think, as "poor" is destitution--no access to reliable food source, polluted water, no access to sanitation...

Have I got that right?

I think that's a valuable measure of poverty, it's one that basically states that "the West" is analagous to the middle-classes in victorian times--globally we are no many (numerically), and internally we have our miseries, but the "real" misery is among the majority (numerically) "working class" who live today in "the poor countries" (Niger, Chad, etc..)

But going back to the person who lost everything (in the West), they're still "poor" in any useful meaning of the word, in that they are the opposite of what they used to be ("well off", I suppose)..."poor" equals "badly off" and "badly off" is....relative?

So now I wonder if the argument here isn't maybe about what "poor" means, when "poor" has both "absolute" and "relative" meanings.

Given the "absolute" meaning (let's say less that 5% of the western popluations are "really" poor), I think there is then a question of where our "richness" comes from, and the "left wing" (heh!) attitude is that it comes from appropriation: the rich appropriate the resrouces of the rest--through coercion if necessary--and that relates back to pensions because the U.S. trend (he guesses wildly) is for "poverty" (access to goods and services, let's say) to be growing--not to "third world" standards--that would be a complete collapse given starting points, but certainly...ach...I'm wildly off topic I'm sure, but I think....there's a confusion here where I understand your definition of poverty...and in a sense I agree that most western "poverty" is psychological rather than physical--and yet, I think there is real poverty: e.g. living next to a motorway in an area full of violence and despair, where the school is also full of violence and despair, and the only jobs take twelve hours to do and if I do one I have mostly no money...'coz if you can't call the misery and lack-of-hope much more than 5% of a population might feel at their predicaments...and now I wonder if 5% or so is a valid figure?  If I were to take London, are there about 5% who are basically screwed from the off?

Ach....maybe I no makea ze sense, but...well....if I had a point to make it's up in dem words somewhere.

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 05:54:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I have a job, house, car, beautiful partner etc. and then lose it all and end up with a mountain of debt I'll never pay off, as long as the state allows me (or has to give me by law) a roof, heating, food allowance, clothing allowance...then I'm not poor on your definition, I think, as "poor" is destitution--no access to reliable food source, polluted water, no access to sanitation...

I think it's rather obvious that these types of poverty are not equavalent, and I also find it rather obvious that just having none of these debts, but a low income, is not the same as starving. And more importantly, I find it completely obvious that a person that is starving is poor, even if his neighbours are starving with them.

And I find it rather astonishing that people here claim to have a different opinion. (It's difficult for me to believe that anybody really do have a different opinion, I think they are just claiming this to be able to grasp on to their set of beliefs).

think there is then a question of where our "richness" comes from,

That's a good question. It was answered in 1776 by Adam Smith, and the answer is specialization and trade.

I'm wildly off topic

Actually, you are more on topic than most. :)

by freedomfighter on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 07:19:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And that is not "perceptibly". Sir, you must be jesting.

Not at all. Given the width of the confidence intervals frequently employed in economics, forty percent is indeed hardly perceptible.

Further, as Jerome et al have abundantly proven, for all industrial countries and for the past few decades, economic growth has taken place solely in the top half of the income distribution. Thus, any policy that makes changes in the lower half of the income distribution - the half that you claim to care about, is a zero-sum game.

INCOME is never a zero-sum game, though.

Since you yourself are in the game of gratuitous nitpicking, I would point out that this statement is trivially disproven. If your boss decides to reduce your pay and increase his, this is indeed a change in the income distribution that to zeroth order is a zero-sum game.

This is a point that you would be wise to give some thought, given that your entire hypothesis (if we are kind enough to call it that) is contingent upon this statement being correct.

To measure income distribution yes. To meaure poverty, no.

Saying that does not make it so. Neither does repeating it.

Your example of North Korea having low relative poverty, while correct, is a red herring

No, because the point is that with your argumentation, North Korea is a less poor nation than France, because the income distribution is more even. And that is absurd. Which is my point.

You are either completely missing the point or deliberately ignoring it. I will charitably assume that the former is the case, and attempt to clarify once again:

My claim is that fraction-of-median-income (FoMI) is a useful metric to make before-and-after comparisons within the same first-world country. North Korea is not a valid comparison, unless you want to claim that NK is a first-world country, which would undermine the rest of your argument.

Furthermore, even though I defended - and will continue to defend - median income as a valuable proxy for short-term calculations, you completely sidestepped the fact that I proposed an semi-absolute (absolute in space, but relative in time)

Space?

That country A gets richer does not affect the poverty threshold or the poverty level in country B. Hence absolute in space. Technological improvements, however, will increase the poverty threshold over time, therefore it is relative

measure of poverty: Shelter, heat, food water, education, access to information, access to standard of care-level medical care, access to medicine ('access' in this context means reliable access). I would ask you to evaluate this poverty metric.

In fact, that's pretty much what HDI does. Which you didn't like.

No, that is not what HDI does. HDI is based on population averages, which means that an increase in the living conditions of the richest half of the population can and does mask worsening living conditions in the poorer half of the population, especially in such countries as the United States.

What I proposed was to determine the income required to maintain reliable access to shelter, education, food, water, access to information and education and access to health care and medication, and using this threshold to quantify the poverty level in a society.

I also believe that you overlook an important fact in your discussion of the arbitraryness of boundries used in the calculation of relative poverty: The natural boundary to use is the area of jurisdiction in which the policy is being contemplated, since the value of FoMI seems to me to be in short-term-evaluation of policies.

You see, I don't agree with that, because in my opinon, poor people continue to be poor even if policies change in neighbouring countries.

Perhaps you should re-read the comment you are responding to, because your reply makes no sense whatsoever. FoMI does not depend on changes in neighbouring countries.

Furthermore, I will happily acknowledge both that FoMI is meaningless outside the evaluation of reasonably industrialized economies (a criterion that neither North Korea nor Beverley Hills fulfills) and that it is not directly comparable to most other metrics of poverty.

[...]

This is not a problem, however


No, it's not a problem, but that fact that it doesn't relate to other metrics of poverty [...]

There is no reason that it should. The other measures of poverty that have been reviewed are most meaningfully used to measure poverty in third-world economies. FoMI is applicable only to first-world countries. There is no reason to expect a proxy valid for one measurement regime to correlate with the proxies valid for other, non-overlapping measurement regimes.

It's time to stop this stupid charade.

Indeed. I look forward to take up the discussion again, when you have realised that poverty in first-world countries is not the same as poverty in third-world countries.

No matter how much you twist and turn and start using fancy words that make you feel like you understand things,

I do not believe that this remark requires a reply. I do, however, think that it is worthwhile to highlight it. The reader is invited to compare and contrast this statement to your previous remarks regarding civility and high-minded debate.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 03:51:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]

 I knew quickly that this forum was full of leftist people

You do realize that it's not an insult to be called a leftist? Most of us are proud "leftist people."

It doesn't mean we want strict equality, just basic decency. It simply means that we think CEO income jumping form 34 times average wages 30 years ago to 400 times today should not be taken as a good thing - it's not a sign of energy or talent unleashed, it's a sign of society breaking down under the weight of greed, selfishness and the promotion of the interests of a very narrow group of people in the guise of pushing "freedom" and "merit" and work - or, in other words, "the poor get what they deserve" and "screw your neighbor and you'll go forward."

:: ::

I note that you did not care to comment on the life expectancy numbers. How do you explain away the fact that the bottom 10% by income in the US have a shorter life expectancy than a great number of third world countries?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Oct 26th, 2007 at 05:59:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I used the word "leftist" matter-of-factly. What on earth gave you the idea that it was an insult?

"It doesn't mean we want strict equality, just basic decency."

No, it doesn't mean that. Because people who are not leftist also want that. The world is not made up of kind-hearted leftists and stone-cold fascists, you know.

"It simply means that we think CEO income jumping form 34 times average wages 30 years ago to 400 times today should not be taken as a good thing"

And neither does anybody else. However, only leftists think it's a BAD thing. And the reason for that is that most leftists have a collectivistic and hierarchical mindset and as a result wish only to have as few people people as possible that make more money then them.

The result is that you are concerned mostly about the rich. I personally care mostly about the poor. I couldn't bloody care less about how much a CEO makes. It's not interesting, the CEO can take care of himself. It's not my problem. What I care about is how the poorest of the world live, and how to improve that. I also care about how the state money is being used and how we can get good health care (as in France, and opposed to Sweden and Poland, for example) and things like that.

You only care about how high peoples incomes are, and to support that, you guys make up facts and alternate realities where freedom makes people poor. And when somebody comes and point out that this isn't in correlation with reality, you take your alternative reality and makes that person evil.

Because he has to be, right? Because he is challenging your preconcieved ideas? He sais your standpoint is wrong, and therefore, he challenges the authority and unity of your little cosy collective. And that, per definition is evil, right?

Because "truth" has nothing to do with reality for you guys. No, "truth" that's the collective. You are per definition right and the good guys, and therefore everybody that doens't agree with you must be the bad guys, right?

That fact that your politics have NEVER worked, EVER, no matter what shape or form they have been tried in, and that leftist policies only lead to poverty, that doesn't matter. Because you are right. Per definition. Like the Pope.

If you want debate (but I'm pretty sure you don't want it, you just want to sit here in your box and agree with each other) then you need to start listening and understanding, and trying to understand how the world actually works. And yes, that's painful, and yes that takes time and yes that takes energy.

It is without a doubt much more comfortable and easy to sit cosily and just agree with each other and prop up your own egos by slapping each others back and thinking "look everyone here agrees with me, we are so smart".

But do you want to be lazy and comfy, or do yo want to be right? Doo yo want to walk around in your mental box oozing righteous indignation over how horrible it is that the rest of the world doesn't behave like you want it too, or do you want to help improve it?

Because if you are happy being wrong as long as everybody else are, then there is no point for me to stay.

Over and out.

by freedomfighter on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 05:17:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]

And neither does anybody else. However, only leftists think it's a BAD thing. And the reason for that is that most leftists have a collectivistic and hierarchical mindset and as a result wish only to have as few people people as possible that make more money then them.

That's where you have it wrong. We don't mind some inequality. We do mind when inequality is growing and incomes for those outside the top 1% are stagnating or declining.

We mind this gap:

And this one:

and this one:

and this one:

All of these show that the overall income is growing, sometimes quite strongly, but that growth is going ONLY to the very rich.

THAT's what we're fighting. The totally skewed sharing of the fruits of growth over the past 30 years - which is the direct result of the neo-liberal, "greed is good", "the poor have what they deserve", "screw society" ideology.

Runaway neoliberalism is what we're fighting. Not capitalism per se. In fact, regulated (or social-democratic) capitalism is what made our countries rich and built the middle class. But it's not what we have now.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 09:26:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"That's where you have it wrong. We don't mind some inequality. We do mind when inequality is growing"

Growing from what level?

As always, you care more about relative things than absolute things.

by freedomfighter on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 09:30:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]

As always, you care more about relative things than absolute things.

That's what you really want to believe, but just look at the last graph I posted: the median wage is stagnating. There is no progress, in absolute terms (your own criteria) for the middle classes, despite fast growth.

So, according to your criteria (as long as the poor are better off, who cares how well the rich fare), the current system is a failure. It's not benefitting in any way to the vast majority of the population.

And the fact that people like you pretend that all is well ("GDP is growing! The economy is doing great!") does not go well with the  middle classes who see the rich getting extravagantly richer while they themselves are working ever harder just to stay put.

Incomes are not growing for the vast majority. You can spin that like you want it, it's bad under any criteria.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Oct 27th, 2007 at 10:53:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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