Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Just thinking about this a lot lately.

17 comments:

Gabriel M. said...

It's important what you include in wealth. Government bonds maturing in 20 years?

Bill Gates' fortune is "stuck" in MS stocks. He can't go and buy a country with half his money because the rest would lose much of its value.

Yes, some people sit on a lot of financial capital. But it's in no way certain that had the property of those assets been otherwise, things would be radically better, from a welfare point of view.

Mike Todd said...

Jessica - this is a subject I'd love to see you pursue.

Jason said...

It's not the wealth but how it is obtained.

Steve said...

Darn those evil capitalists! All they ever do is create more jobs and raise the standard of living. Grrr.

Marc André said...

@Steve: how is it then that the standard of living is higher in countries where wealth is better distributed than in the U.S.?

Anonymous said...

@marc - because other countries don't have to pay for the crappy american military complex

Algernon said...

@Anonymous: the Military budget is less than 4% of our nations GDP. Compare this to about 10% during the Vietnam War and almost 40% during World War II. Military spending cannot account for any perceived lack in comfort.

@Marc: What measurement are you using to compare the standard of living?

Marc André said...

Actually, I was using a mix between the HDI and my travels; and of course, like Steve, exagerating a bit (since the US actually ranked 8th on the HDI). The problem with that index is, of course, that it is in part based on the GDP, which is itself skewed (for example, each diagnosed cancer raises it a bit, as do things like clearcutting or oils-spills). For example, the UK and France lag behind but, amongst other things, their health-care system is much better than the US.

David E. Talvoces said...

You have to look at more than the wealth distribution. Just because a country's wealth distribution is pretty good doesn't mean it is a great country. Additionally, how many countries with this 'wonderful' wealth distribution have a similar population base to America?

We have loads of lowly skilled workers, larger numbers of first and second generation immigrants and a large population of people who are not highly educated. If you are comparing that population to a largely homogeneous society with a relatively low population then of course the wealth distribution is going to be better.

And Marc Andre I've heard comparisons always tossed around about how X nations healthcare system is better or worse, but again it is made with little objective data to back it up. How do you define better or worse?

Anonymous said...

I have experience of both UK and US healthcare. There is no better place to be ill and well insured than the USA. But free at the point of delivery based on clinical need, that would be the UK.

Marc André said...

David: "a large population of people who are not highly educated" That is actually part of what I consider wealth distribution: affordable access to education. Many would even say that that is where fairer distribution starts.

"How do you define better or worse?" If only well insured people can afford good healthcare, I'd say it's worse than if anyone can. Like anonymous said, if you can't afford insurance, the UK is much better.

Mr Crane said...

@Steve

The way you put it, you make it sound as if billionaires and multinational corporations all came into existence as unintended and accidental side-products of philanthropic quests to create jobs and put cash in workers' pockets.

Capitalism is (pretty much by definition) the art of screwing as much money out of as many people as possible in return for as little as possible, and not letting them do the same to you. The only people who paint it as some sort of noble pursuit are ones who have done well out of it.

Anonymous said...

on this debate, i would just like to say that on any other internet page i've seen people would be (at about this point) yelling 'U think that 'cause your a fag1!!1lol' so i just want to say much kudos to all of you, no matter of opinions.

Anonymous said...

yes do more on this subject, please!


you can get info on the 10/90 gap in health from http://www.globalforumhealth.org

leftcoast said...

I think it is interesting that the discussion in this topic is focussed on the richest people in the world. The differences in wealth between finland the U.S. pale in comparason to a country like Zaire.

There are of course, a class of rish people in every country, but the greatest wealth differentials are found across what is commonly called the north-south axis or the core/periphery divide. The poorest person in Canada is still much richer than most people in the world.

I'm tired of the endless jaw wagging praise of the global capitalist system. I would like to think that being in the midst of the greatest extinction since the dinosaurs die would somehow clue educated people like ourselves into the fact that something in our accepted ideologies isn't functioning in a way condusive to the continuation of ecosystems required for our survival.

Does it really matter if capitalism produces the means by which a greater number of people can by expensive watches or all-inclusive resort trips to mexico if, in the end, we precipitate a global collapse in our endless quest to 'grow' our businesses and economies? Those of us rich enough to be on the internet don't need much, if anything more, at least materially speaking.

The things we may need are less materially based (access to free education, for example).

leftcoast said...

I hope my minor typos in that last post will be forgiven. (Alas for no edit function.)

Val said...

I agree with leftcoast.

I will also note that one reason the US has a lot of poorly educated people is that schools are expected to do the job of all social welfare programs. No, we won't provide adequate medical care, or proper environmental and housing oversight, or non-condescending support for single mothers, or more oversight of foster care. We'll just expect the schools to make it up with special ed and free lunches.

The reason the US has so many immigrants (economic or political refugee) is that our government plays a part in keeping developing countries poor so that we can send our factory production there and exploi- I mean buy their natural resources for a fraction of their value. And people wanting to escape poorly paid jobs with few worker protections in their weak economies, or fleeing a dictator implicitly or explicitly supported by the US and possibly even put in place by its agents, come here. After all, we've carefully constructed a portrait of ourselves as the "land of opportunity."

Where the wealth imbalance continues. Is someone sleeping under a bridge in the US better off than someone begging in an alley in Zimbabwe? Yes. Why? Because in the US they're closer to the source of wealth, and they might benefit from the greater number of charities and social supports nearby. But neither position is something to aspire to . . .

 
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