Wicked River: the movie

Some years ago I happened across a fascinating book titled Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild. If you have any fondness for Mark Twain (as I do – I own and have read the complete works), you need to read this book. The book is an extended argument that Twain’s late-Victorian portraits of river life were a form of rosy-filtered nostalgia for a pre-Civil-War reality that was quite a bit more wild, colorful, squalid, violent, and bizarre.

The river is tamed now, corseted by locks and levees, surrounded by a settled society. It was already nearly thus when Twain was writing. But in and before Huck Finn’s time (roughly the 1840s) it had been a frontier full of strivers, mad men, bad men, and epic disasters like the New Madrid earthquakes.

Random evocative detail: there was a river pirate named John Murrell who operated out of a section of the river called Nine Mile Reach and often masqueraded as a traveling preacher; his gang was called the “Mystic Clan”, and it was for years believed that he had a master plan to foment a general slave insurrection. But that last bit may have been fabrication by a con man with a book to sell. Whether true or not, it led to riots in various cities and a mob attempt to expel all gamblers from Vicksburg based on a rumor that some of them had been part of the plot.

The book is full of you couldn’t-make-this-stuff-up stories like that. And then, much more recently, I learned about Abe Lincoln’s flatboat voyage.

In 1828, at the age of 19, young Abraham Lincoln was the junior member of a two-man crew that made a flatboat trading voyage down the Mississipi from Indiana to New Orleans. This was not a particularly unusual thing for the sons of upriver farmers to do in those days, at least not if they were thought to be resourceful enough and trusted with the trade goods of a whole town. Abe must have done well, because his town sent him south again in 1831.

These voyages traded everything the upriver farmers could sell – including the wood in the flatboats, which were generally broken up in New Orleans – for cash money and “civilized” goods that couldn’t be made in the frontier country. For so Indiana was at the time; the last Indian war in the territory was not twenty years gone when Lincoln launched.

Lincoln never wrote about the voyage itself in detail, so we only know a few specific things from other remarks and the chronology. It was his first time away from home. The boat was at one point attacked by escaped slaves, and the attack fought off. What Lincoln saw in the New Orleans slave markets kindled in him a hatred of slavery, and could be regarded as the lighting of the fuse that would eventually detonate in the Emancipation Proclamation.

There is a nonfiction book, Lincoln in New Orleans which meticulously reconstructs the world surrounding that 1828 voyage – what he would have seen, where he must have gone, what the flatboats traded, how it all worked. The book even contains instructions on how to build a flatboat.

OK, so here is what I want to make of this. “Wicked River”, the movie. A big old-fashioned historical adventure film with modern production values. The elevator pitch is “Abraham Lincoln fights the river pirates”, but the idea isn’t to produce a comic book like that vampire hunter movie – rather, to stick to the sorts of things we know that a 19-year-old boy on the wicked river in 1828 really could have gotten mixed up in, and probably did.

River pirates, con-men, grifters, escaped slaves, black-powder pistols, bad weather, the Mississippi itself – no shortage of scrapes for Abe to get into along the way, and plenty of options to foreshadow the leader he would someday become. Yes, we can drop in homages to Mark Twain; why ever not? And at the end, the farm boy comes to New Orleans – gorgeous, bawdy, decadent New Orleans – and something he sees in the slave markets changes him forever.

Barring incompetence in the production pipeline, how is it even possible for this not to be box-office gold? More than that; this doesn’t have to be a glittery Michael Bay trashfest, it could have substance and heart, even a profound moral center. I think it could be not just fun, not just good, but genuinely great cinema – something everyone involved would be proud of for the rest of their lives.

204 thoughts on “Wicked River: the movie

  1. Aesthetic Gold is Box office dross.
    Having removed the teaching of standards, and restraints on behavior, things like The Hobbit: Mordor does aesthetics in 3 parts and 50 Shades of Gray are box office Gold.
    Remember there was also Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
    The whole SF/F blue v. pink Hugo award kerfuffle is at least on the high end of the popular culture battleground.
    Do you ever hear Bach, Mozart or Beethoven in any public space?
    The Goldberg Variations aren’t going platinum.

    But as to your description, I doubt it was bad as all that. I can only think of the fiction the magazines out east published of rustlers, gunfights, Indian attacks. It would be as if the only thing recorded for history this year was Burns, Oregon. Or the only thing in the Great Depression was the bank robbers. There was a tiny amount of disturbance, occasional disasters, but “If it bleeds, it leads” has been true from before Shakespeare.

    http://tomwoods.com/podcast/ep-504-trails-west-how-freedom-settled-the-west/

    Woods is an historian, I should see if he specifically covers it in one of his Western civ/history courses.

    Hell on Wheels outsells Little House on the Prairie – even when the latter is spiced up for TV with things that the author never experienced.

    I have no doubt there were river pirates – that makes the book interesting. The thousand flatboats that just did boring trade don’t leave an impression. This is the progressive or even SJW mistake. Oh my! River Pirates! we need a government river police, and we have to regulate trade… Or simply to slander those who lived at the time much like the Industrial Revolution where we have the invention of photography to show of all the dirt (and records of much increased life expectancy) instead of the period around the black death.

    Or today with cell phone videos of police behaving badly – we don’t see the boring dashcam footage, or the reverse with Fox’ Cops or 48 hours has to sift a bunch of gold to find enough dross.

    Media is the exception handler, not the mainline routine.

  2. Huh, and here I was expecting JAD to be the first one to get the ball rolling….

    Does anyone not understand that “based on a true story” means something closer to “one of the characters has the same name as an unrelated historical persona”?

  3. I did a Google search expecting to find a timeline for the movie production and then intending to go see it based upon your recommendation. Alas, all I found was the paperback edition of the book for sale on Amazon.

    Hopefully a Hollywood producer can be found among the A&D family and will take this idea to fruition. Ted Turner was instrumental in making a number of Civil War movies based upon the works of Michael Shaara (The Killer Angels, Gods & Generals), and these movies remain obscure gems that are not only entertaining, but viscerally connect us to our uniquely American heritage.

    Eric, your book reviews are outstanding. Perhaps you might do the same for an obscure movie I just came across called Predestination. It’s based upon the Heinlein short story “All you zombies” and is a remarkably faithful and moving translation into cinema.

  4. brilliant idea, Eric!

    I would be particularly interest in the contrast between barely settled nevada and decadent New Orleans.

  5. tz:
    “But as to your description, I doubt it was bad as all that. I can only think of the fiction the magazines out east published of rustlers, gunfights, Indian attacks. It would be as if the only thing recorded for history this year was Burns, Oregon. Or the only thing in the Great Depression was the bank robbers. There was a tiny amount of disturbance, occasional disasters, but “If it bleeds, it leads” has been true from before Shakespeare.”

    This reads like something written by a person who has never left a nice, settled society for something rougher and less civilized. Hint: Early 21st century Western civilization is not a good proxy for the way most humans lived for most of human history, or the lack of safety and security that they experienced.

    I am currently reading “The Guns At Last Light”, a very detailed history of the World War 2 Western front from D-Day to the end of the war. I had always thought that getting on the beaches was hard, but after that it was a straight shot inland. Not so, the “bocages”, hedgerows and walls between fields, slowed things down incredibly. It took over a month to break out. Practically every town was destroyed along the way, partly because of the massed artillery fire and Allied bombing needed to break the Axis military, but also because the Germans destroyed each town as they left, often to the point that there was nothing but rubble. Allied aircrew losses were incredibly high even after the P-51’s arrived. The only reason Paris wasn’t blasted and burned to the ground is that the German commander on the scene ignored orders, instead pretending to be placing charges but actually leaving the city intact.

    If all you know about the Western front is “Saving Private Ryan”, you have a very rose-colored view of that war.

    OK, granted, this is an example from war, not peace, that happens to be on my mind. But even in peacetime, the frontier wildness that Eric describes rings more true to me than the soft world that tz wants to picture.

  6. I’d definitely buy a ticket.

    I recently moved to a county, where in large part the northern and southern borders are defined by the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, respectively. The big rivers are a big feature of life around here, and I’ve gotten interested in learning about them, their history and how they’ve shaped the history of this area. (There’s a lock and dam complex not far from here where the Army Corps of Engineers has a museum, that I’ve been to twice already.)

    Oh, and if the cherrypicking inherent in ‘if it leads it bleeds’ making us think things are all violent all the time is a fallacy (and it is), the existence of that fallacy does *not* therefore mean everything was peaceful all the time. Or at least peaceful enough for people to be complacent.

    Nature abhors a vacuum. Success tends to multiply. Lincoln actively *fought off* river pirates. How would that affect river piracy?

  7. >>“OK, granted, this is an example from war, not peace, that happens to be on my mind. But even in peacetime, the frontier wildness that Eric describes rings more true to me than the soft world that tz wants to picture.”

    I don’t think that tz was trying to paint a soft picture, just that it wasn’t the completely lawless and romantic version as usually dramatized. Most of the players in these frontier scenarios were generally hard working settlers trying to get lucky in the land lotteries or develop their land grants for service in various wars (The War of 1812 being a good example of migrants working their way down the Ohio to the Mississippi and settling lands all the way down to the Natchez area from veteran land grants).

    If everyone were pirates and life that risky (again, as generally dramatized), the US would have taken much, much longer to settle. Maybe not as drastic as in Science Fiction, but fiction is usually much sexier than the reality. I’ve done a substantial amount of genealogical research, county by county in the SW Mississippi area, looking at tax records, population data, settler accounts, and local histories – all which involved Flatboat/Barge migrants from the northeast US and it’s mostly pretty boring stuff. Outlaws didn’t have fruitful careers as, even from some of the earliest days, local militia captains had a relatively well-organized system of law and protection in these areas.

    Mosquitoes were probably the biggest concern and it’s tough to make a compelling movie about mosquitoes. Nobody wants to read stories about average people, and so we’re left with the sensational. Which is why so many people think the Wild West was about constant gunfights in the streets.

  8. @ESR: If the period engages you, and you’re in the mood for SF/F artistic interpretation of it, (rather than another King Arthur era fantasy) the 3rd and 4th volumes of Lois McMaster Bujold’s _Sharing Knife_ triology (yes, I typed that right) will be right interestin’.

  9. Good movie idea. For many people, that’s a large blank spot in American history: the time between the Revolution and the Civil War. (OK, the War of 1812.) That was the period when the cotton gin transformed the American economy and made slavery much more profitable (and thus much more extensive) than it had been at the Founding.

    One period I would like to see explored: the time between the Hitler-Stalin Pact in August 1939, and Hitler’s invasion of the USSR in June 1941, especially from the view of American Communists and sympathizers. I’m fascinated by the psychological aspects of all those “anti-fascists” suddenly finding themselves allied with Hitler. Many seemed to make the switch (and later the switch back) with little difficulty (e.g. Dalton Trumbo, Lillian Hellman, Dashiell Hammett), but many others left the Party in disgust. And then you’ve got the America First isolationists, the German-American Bund, etc.

    Yes, it would be a rather talky movie. No river pirates. But you could spice things up with footage of the Battle of Britain….

  10. For more on Mississippi River pirates in the early 1800s see Herbert Asbury’s “The Gangs of New Orleans”.

  11. “Do you ever hear Bach, Mozart or Beethoven in any public space?”

    Occasionally. In particular, here in Plano TX Mozart seems to be pretty common on the playlist at Eatzi’s and Bach on the playlist at La Madeleine. ISTR a restaurant in Pasadena CA was even more consistently classical, but it was decades ago when I ate there a few times so I couldn’t swear that it wasn’t all Vivaldi and Chopin.

  12. Do you ever hear Bach, Mozart or Beethoven in any public space?

    Well, I have heard of classical music being played over loudspeakers outside of urban convenience stores, to drive away loiterers. Does that count? ;->

  13. @PapayaSF:

    Seems to me that most people have a blank spot between the Civil War and WW1. Between 1812 and 1860 we had the cold civil war over slavery that preceded the hot one, the whole “antebellum South” thing, settlers in log cabins like the Lincolns, the Alamo and the general business of Texas breaking off from Mexico and then becoming a US State, the Mexican War, the ’49ers, the Oregon Trail and the Donner Party, and the influx of Irish immigrants from the Potato Famine.

    After the Civil War and before WW1, it’s “Um, something about robber barons being evil?”

  14. It would make a damn great Tarantino film were it not for that moral center bit.

    Also could we bring back Daniel Day-Lewis as 19-year-old Lincoln.

  15. @ esr

    > But that last but may have been fabrication by a con man with a book to sell.

    Did you mean “But that last bit“?

  16. “For many people, that’s a large blank spot in American history: the time between the Revolution and the Civil War. (OK, the War of 1812.)”

    Agreed. Most Americans have no idea who we fought against in the War of 1812. I suspect there’s even less awareness of the Mexican-American War.

    I’ve long been fascinated by this period, reading everything from the Allan Eckart books (e.g., Wilderness War, Twilight of Empire, Gateway to Empire, etc.) to _The House Divides_ and _Conflict and Compromise_ to the two-volume _Road to Disunion_ series.

    But I know I’m an outlier there!

  17. “If everyone were pirates and life that risky, the US would have taken much, much longer to settle. I’ve done a substantial amount of genealogical research, county by county in the SW Mississippi area, looking at tax records, population data, settler accounts, and local histories – all which involved Flatboat/Barge migrants from the northeast US and it’s mostly pretty boring stuff. Outlaws didn’t have fruitful careers as, even from some of the earliest days, local militia captains had a relatively well-organized system of law and protection in these areas.”

    It’s certainly true that lawlessness was often the exception rather than the rule, or society would have completely broken down and settlers disappeared from those areas. But even a minority of outlaws like Soapy Smith (Skagway, Alaska), or incidents like the range wars, or the attacks by Apache, Comanche, and other tribes had social effects that reached well beyond the small number of people directly involved.

    (*) I detest the term “Native Americans”. No humans are native to America. They did not evolve here, they simply arrived first. Perhaps the Canadian term “First Nations” is most appropriate, but seldom used in the U.S.

  18. Love it! Louisiana history and culture are my hobbies.
    To truly understand the Mississippi River and what we have done to it, you need what I call “The Jackson Square Holy Freaking $#!* Experience.” Go to Jackson Square in New Orleans. Stand by the Cafe DuMond, near the French Market, adjacent to the levy. Look up. Wait. In a few minutes you will see a freighter SALE OVER YOUR HEAD, about twenty feet up. At that moment, you will be enlightened.
    As to pirates on the River, in the early 1800s, the River had a very different topography than the one it has now. There were inlets, channels, cut offs and twists that have been abolished in the name of navigation (keep the River straight and deep) and flood control (keep the River tamely within it’s banks). These two priorities were often at odds, because straightening the River makes floods more likely. (The waters rise faster when they have a more direct route. Also, water can reverse the normal direction of flow during floods and back up into tributaries. If you block them off, which was sometimes done to keep the water for agriculture, the River keeps the water flowing down to the Gulf.) The different topography of the River in those days offered more places for robbers to hide. The “Pirates” were less like sea pirates and more like stage coach and train robbers. And, yes, there were demands that robbery on the River be controlled by the authorities. The Army and state militias were called upon to keep the River clear, with few positive results. Pinkerton-like security companies flourished, and accomplished more. The early river steamboats were also armed; that helped. When lawless towns were replaced by well-policed ones, the robbers lost some of their markets for stolen goods, and the safe havens where they enjoyed their downtime. The criminal action moved to the Western deserts and plains, where vast, isolated ranches and profitable mines in sparsely-inhabited wilderness areas offered easier pickings.
    I agree with ESR: this would make a great movie. The director would need a good eye for period detail. His location scouts would need to find the last sections of the River that have modern construction along the banks. Wide panoramas of the River and the plains alongside of it would be essential. I would hate to see it done in crappy CGI.
    I’m not sure who you could cast as 19y/o Abe Lincoln. Maybe there’s a newcomer out that with the right look.

  19. Off-topic, Greg:

    > individuals with aggressive, rule-breaking and anti-social tendencies — what he calls the ‘employment–resistant personality profile’ — are over-represented among benefit recipients.

    So, this fellow is letting us know that “aggressive, rule-breaking and anti-social” folks are less likely to be able to hold down a job – and this is somehow a surprise? (Besides, the UK benefits system selects for such people in other ways. I’m also not saying that this justifies the McCarthyist reaction against him, of course.)

  20. You’d have to lose the “escaped slaves attack the boat and are fought off.” As you know escaped slaves were always angelic in character. Anything less would lead to a boycott of the Oscars…

    • >You’d have to lose the “escaped slaves attack the boat and are fought off.” As you know escaped slaves were always angelic in character.

      Lose it? In the story outline I’ve been considering, I lampshade it…with a twist that comes back to the main characters when they reach New Orleans, redoubling the force with which Lincoln comes to detest slavery.

      That card I won’t reveal yet. Gotta leave you some reason to watch. Suffice it to say that I’ve found a way to use this, get in a hard swipe at the fugitive-slave laws, and leave it nigh-impossible for the PC crowd to object.

  21. It looks like Raymond’s PC Camel Swallowing Fallacy.

    …when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual propositions “cannot without revealing their hypocrisy and looking ridiculous” I meet with no proposition that is not connected with a “cannot”. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this “cannot” expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers…

  22. Impossible to film in today’s US.

    For, done right, the attack by river pirates, largely escaped slaves, would be like traveling through the “bad” – which is to say black – part of town, and a bunch of blacks stop their car in front of yours to force you to stop.

    And that would never do. Instead we would get the magic negro and Abe Lincoln as a twenty first century social justice warrior. Every white character, including Lincoln, would be emasculated and cuckolded by magic negroes, and the audience would be expected to enthusiastically cheer the massacre of insufficiently progressive whites, and just about everyone back then insufficiently progressive due to sheer hatefulness.

  23. > Lose it? In the story outline I’ve been considering, I lampshade it

    You imagine that progressives can tell the difference between you and me. They cannot. Whatever you have in mind, if Lincoln is not sternly and deservedly punished by saintly magic Negroes for the horrid crime of deviating from twenty first century progressives in some very minute thought, not going to fly.

  24. I would opt for a project with Ken Burns. Even with research into using original photos gleaned from Eastman House archives… Lot more interesting than Hollywood epics.

  25. @ esr

    > That card I won’t reveal yet. Gotta leave you some reason to watch.

    You’re being modest: if a movie comes out that was conceived by you, that origin will be reason enough to watch it. :-)
    Still, I agree that a surprise or two wouldn’t hurt.

    Would a political question about Lincoln and the Civil War be offtopic?

    @ Cathy

    > I detest the term “Native Americans”. No humans are native to America.

    Yes, and “aboriginal” is misguided in the same way. I think the best term is “Amerind(ian)”, since it avoids both that fallacy and the ambiguity of plain “Indian”.

  26. @ Jessica – “As you know escaped slaves were always angelic in character.”

    My understanding of Southern history in that era (I lived in Louisiana for nearly a decade) is that most escaping slaves were quickly recaptured and often put to death in horrible fashion as a deterrent to others. Because of their skin color, they were easily recognizable and assumed to be criminal wherever they went. They had no safe haven to run to and were fleeing through perpetual hostile territory.

    @ JAD

    How would you react if found yourself in a similar situation of existential jeopardy? What might you be willing to do in order to make good your escape and survive?

    It seems to me that commandeering a small riverboat and making a run down the MIssissippi to the Carribbean is not exactly irrational.

    • >It seems to me that commandeering a small riverboat and making a run down the MIssissippi to the Carribbean is not exactly irrational.

      And more ambitious than required. New Orleans had a large community of free blacks and some districts that were pretty lawless. An escaped slave could hope to disappear into those. This is a plot point in my story.

  27. >So, this fellow is letting us know that “aggressive, rule-breaking and anti-social” folks are less likely to be able to hold down a job – and this is somehow a surprise?

    You must be new around here. Social science results like that are usually an item of interest, and not because they’re so blindingly obvious. Obvious enough that you seem to almost find it insulting.

    >(Besides, the UK benefits system selects for such people in other ways. I’m also not saying that this justifies the McCarthyist reaction against him, of course.)

    That’s it, the reaction. Interesting that publishing a finding that is obvious to the point of insulting the reader’s intelligence is enough to get you run out of your field, for having the nerve to actually say it.

    Having the nerve to state forbidden truths is a bit of a theme here.

  28. >That card I won’t reveal yet. Gotta leave you some reason to watch. Suffice it to say that I’ve found a way to use this, get in a hard swipe at the fugitive-slave laws, and leave it nigh-impossible for the PC crowd to object.

    Think I know exactly what the twist is, and it may be too trite. Also going to be an awkwardly large amount of work establishing identity and demonstrating the link (between pirates on the river and merch in NO).

    • >Think I know exactly what the twist is, and it may be too trite.

      You don’t. In the storyline in my head, the escaped-slaves attack and the river-pirate fight are two separate incidents; the first is early, the second late in the action just before Lincoln arrives in New Orleans. Neither has anything to do with any New Orleans merchants. The escaped slaves are black, the river pirates vicious white-trash outlaws – John Murrell’s Mystic Clan, in fact.

      The historical basis is that there was a section of the river called Nine Mile Reach about 200 miles north of New Orleans that was a notorious pirate haunt. Flatboatmen organized a vigilante raid to clean it out in 1809, and the most notorious location (Stack Island) was destroyed by floods in 1813, but there was some pirate activity in the area as late as the mid-1830s. My plan is to involve Lincoln in a reprise of the 1809 raid. This would be be the film’s big set-piece battle.

  29. Oh thank goodness.

    It’s not escaped slave river pirates are engaging in piracy to raise funds to buy slaves, who happen to be their own family. They can’t work for the money because escaped slave laws mean the regular economy is closed to them. (‘Merch’ is merchandise, slang and there’s a meme.)

    • >It’s not escaped slave river pirates are engaging in piracy to raise funds to buy slaves, who happen to be their own family.

      Oh, gods, no. The downriver planters would have organized an expedition to stomp on that well before the flatboatmen got to it, probably with one or more state militias involved.

  30. > Barring incompetence in the production pipeline, how is it even possible for this not to be box-office gold?

    I think you’ve “barred” the biggest potential issue with the production. Genuinely good ideas rarely survive the production pipeline intact (at least, from the writers’ perspective). That being said, if this one did make it through unscathed, I’m totally on board!

  31. > What Lincoln saw in the New Orleans slave markets kindled in him a hatred of slavery, and could be regarded as the lighting of the fuse that would eventually detonate in the Emancipation Proclamation.

    Was this idea put forth by Wicked River? Does the author cite primary sources for Lincoln’s mindset, and is the conclusion his own or drawn from another source as well?

    I wonder because it seems to stand at odds with Lincoln’s actions over subsequent decades; e.g. support for the Corwin Amendment.

    • The primary source for Lincoln’s hatred of slavery having been formed by exposure to New Orleans during his flatboat voyages is Lincoln himself. He said this was so – it was among the few details he later spoke of about those trips – and there is no reason to disbelieve him.

      As for Lincoln’s support for the Corwin amendment, Lincoln’s own words on this are also clear: he valued the preservation of the Union above his own hatred of slavery.

  32. > > It’s not escaped slave river pirates are engaging in piracy to raise funds to buy slaves, who happen to be their own family.

    esr:
    > Oh, gods, no. The downriver planters would have organized an expedition to stomp on that well before the flatboatmen got to it, probably with one or more state militias involved.

    Why? It was absolutely routine for freed slaves to buy their relatives, and the slave owner would almost always contribute by giving them a substantially below market price. The slave owners would not care where the money came from, only the flatboatmen.

    The slave owners believed themselves to be benevolently doing the slaves a favor – that most slaves were incapable of taking care of themselves without supervision. The results of emancipation indicate that this was true for at least a substantial minority of slaves. If welfare was abolished, we would have to re-enslave a substantial proportion of welfare recipients, mostly black welfare recipients, probably most long term black welfare recipients.

    To get a feel for how actual slavery worked, you need to read primary sources, works by people who were actually there and had contact with actual slaves and slave owners. I recommend “A Southside view of slavery“.

    The author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” had no more contact with actual slaves and actual slave owners than Marx and Engels had contact with actual proletarians.

    There were examples of people unjustly enslaved, and kept in slavery by horrific punishments, but the laws in Ghana about enslaving people were pretty similar to the laws in Christendom. These laws, rules, and customs were sometimes broken, and frequently stretched unreasonably far, but to the extent that they were followed, most people enslaved, should have been enslaved.

    • >Why? It was absolutely routine for freed slaves to buy their relatives

      That’s not the behavior they would have called out the militia against.

      A recurring feature of Southern thinking in this period was fear of servile war. They would have seen a Negro pirate gang, whether dedicated to ransoming or not, as a potential nucleus for a large-scale slave revolt, and therefore intolerable.

  33. If welfare was abolished, we would have to re-enslave a substantial proportion of welfare recipients

    LOL, no. Somehow people managed to survive between 1865 and the introduction of federal welfare, many years later.

  34. Interesting premise.

    I will see if I have any connections that would be useful.

    What have you got so far?

    Just the plot outline? Perhaps a screenwriter could be found to make a script from that.

  35. > They would have seen a Negro pirate gang, whether dedicated to ransoming or not, as a potential nucleus for a large-scale slave revolt, and therefore intolerable.

    True:

    I misread you as saying that they just did not like black people gaining freedom out of general malice towards black people.

  36. Slave markets made slave owners profoundly uncomfortable, and this was so even back in the early days of Christianity.

    Buying and selling slaves between individuals whose main interest was owning and governing slaves did not make slave owners uncomfortable. The buyer and the seller claimed to be mindful of the welfare of the slave and it seems likely that they commonly were. And if they were not, made a plausible pretense of being mindful. Slave traders, those whose business was buying low and selling dear, whose business was trading in slaves, did make slave owners uncomfortable, and have for several thousand years, perhaps by revealing too plainly what was going on, by buying and selling with transparent lack of concern for the ultimate fate of the slave.

  37. > > If welfare was abolished, we would have to re-enslave a substantial proportion of welfare recipients

    PapayaSF on 2016-02-01 at 16:50:42 said:
    > LOL, no. Somehow people managed to survive between 1865 and the introduction of federal welfare, many years later.

    by hunting other people’s animals and gathering other people’s crops – the behavior that got their ancestors enslaved in the first place.

  38. @esr
    ” They would have seen a Negro pirate gang, whether dedicated to ransoming or not, as a potential nucleus for a large-scale slave revolt, and therefore intolerable.”

    Think the revolt in Haiti (1791-1804). This not only showed the dangers of a revolt. The Haitian revolution also showed that black slaves were capable of organizing themselves as well as their white masters and could found a state and defend it.

    In short, it showed blacks were capable humans that could be just as resourceful, tough, and cruel as the white slavers.

  39. @PapayaSF
    “LOL, no. Somehow people managed to survive between 1865 and the introduction of federal welfare, many years later.”

    As they did in Haiti against the combined force and boycott of the rest of the Americans (North, Central, and South).

  40. > The primary source for Lincoln’s hatred of slavery having been formed by exposure to New Orleans during his flatboat voyages is Lincoln himself.

    Thanks, that’s exactly what I wanted to know.

  41. >In short, it showed blacks were capable humans that could be just as resourceful, tough, and cruel as the white slavers.

    Why do you think this is a novel statement?

  42. Winter on 2016-02-02 at 03:40:55 said:
    > In short, it showed blacks were capable humans that could be just as resourceful, tough, and cruel as the white slavers

    Haiti shows that blacks are capable humans?

    I don’t think so.

  43. Regarding Lincoln and the Corwin Amendment: it was intended to head off or reverse secession by slave-holding states.

    At that time, no one could be sure what would happen next. If the secession movement succeeded, it would establish a country dedicated to slavery, where slavery would be protected from any possible interference by anti-slavery Americans, and last indefinitely.

    Seven Deep South states had declared secession, but eight other slave states hung in the balance. The Corwin Amendment might persuade them to refrain from secession, and that in turn might induce the first seven to step back, avoiding war.

    Even if the Deep South persisted, defeating secession in seven states would be much easier than in eleven.

    On the flip side: the four Upper South states might still declare secession (which they eventually did anyway, greatly strengthening the rebellion). So might the four Border states. If they did, defeating secession could be impossible. (Lincoln once remarked that he hoped to have God on his side, but he had to have Kentucky.)

    In any case, if the conflict became a war – wars are always chancy things, and the rebels might win.

    On top of all that – what did the Corwin Amendment say? That the Constitution could never be amended to abolish slavery. Any such amendment could pass only with the support of at least one slave state or after the U.S. had expanded to sixty states; that is, never, as it seemed then. Thus the amendment merely made de jure what was already de facto – a concession of no actual effect.

    Faced with alternatives noted above, nearly all Republicans voted for the amendment.

  44. > Haiti shows that blacks are capable humans?

    > I don’t think so.

    Didn’t Haiti decline sharply as a result of ecological collapse? So what it actually shows is that blacks are capable humans, but very bad environmentalists.

  45. The other half of the island, the Dominican Republic, has done much better, so there are things going on beyond environmental issues.

  46. > The other half of the island, the Dominican Republic, has done much better

    Yes. I did mean the Haiti half, of course. Obviously, the DR half has done a far better job of environmental stewardship.

  47. @JAD
    “Haiti shows that blacks are capable humans?
    I don’t think so.”

    Its just politics that made Haiti look like the future of North Korea.

    But I assume your argument would be that the state of North Korea proves Koreans are genetically disadvantaged and cannot run a modern state. Its a race thing.

    • >Its just politics that made Haiti look like the future of North Korea.

      That ignores what is likely to be driving the crappy politics. The average IQ of the Haitian population is 67. An IQ you or I would consider “average” is three standard deviations above mean there. Haitians as bright as the average reader of this blog will be so rare that none may actually exist.

      In the U.S., 70 is the legal threshold for mental retardation. Haiti is, quite literally, a country full of violent idiots. It is therefore hardly surprising that their politics is toxic.

      Since Haitians are black, this reality is ignored in one of two ways. We’ve got your bigots like JAD, who focus on black skin that is not the problem; elsewhere in the Caribbean there are black populations with an IQ distribution closely comparable to that of neighboring whites and much less dysfunctional politics. And we’ve got your well-meaning “anti-bigots” who refuse to consider looking at consequences of national IQ averages at all because black populations come off poorly in those rankings.

      But reality is what it is. It is not a coincidence that the countries generally considered third-world shitholes pretty much coincide with countries where the average IQ is 85 or below. Haiti has it bad, but there are a handful of places worse; pity Equatorial Guinea with an average IQ of 59.

  48. winter on 2016-02-03 at 03:13:53 said:

    @JAD
    > > “Haiti shows that blacks are capable humans?
    I don’t think so.”

    Winter:
    > Its just politics that made Haiti look like the future of North Korea.

    Haiti has had more radical political changes than you can shake a stick at. All their regimes suck, and the darker skinned the regime – yes Aristide, I am looking at you – suck markedly worse.

    Comparing different countries, the evidence is that blacks are inferior, and slave descended blacks are more inferior, indicating that the ancestors of slaves were, in substantial part, justly enslaved – sold because in need of strict supervision. Conversely, well run black countries tend to be run by royalty, half blacks, or half black royalty.

    Comparing immigrant blacks, with American blacks, it is clear that the descendents of those who sold the ancestors of American blacks are genetically superior to American blacks, from which we may conclude that the those who sold the ancestors of American blacks were genetically superior to the ancestors of American blacks.

  49. @JAD
    Yeah Yeah. Slavers revenge.

    North Korea and Cuba are going the same route as Haiti in the 1800s. These countries are going down the drain rapidly. The cause is the same: politics.
    http://www.iacenter.org/haiti/embargoes.htm

    A country that cannot trade will die a slow death into the old stone age (e.g., Tasmania, Easter Islands).

    Whether it is aboriginals in Tasmania, Polynesians on Easter Islands, or Vikings in Greenland, or current day Cuba and North Korea, or Haiti, no trade is poverty and death.

  50. >Haitians as bright as the average reader of this blog will be so rare that none may actually exist.

    If they exist, they get out. I’ve met at least one such.

  51. @esr
    “The average IQ of the Haitian population is 67.”

    Which is above the average IQ of mid 19th century Europeans if you extrapolate back the Flynn effect in Europe. The funny thing is that Haitian immigrants in the USA are not retarded at all. Somehow, this retarded heritable IQ is magically repaired when their children visit US schools.

    As IQ tests have to be re-calibrated for every population anew (most certainly after a translation), a population with an average IQ different from 100 tells you the test is not calibrated corrected. Uncalibrated, the IQ tests are useless (e.g., showing strong distortions between men and women and between age cohorts).

    Btw, even if we assume the average Haitian is retarded, that says a lot about the Europeans. The French army were defeated quite decisively by the retarded Haitians.

    But I know, IQ scores are sacred, given by the God of DNA.

    • >Which is above the average IQ of mid 19th century Europeans if you extrapolate back the Flynn effect in Europe.

      Huh? No. Not enough decades for that that before the 100-point norming in the early 20th. Mid-80s, maybe – but I doubt 67 for a very concrete reason: literacy rates. Present-day experience tells us you can’t sustain Victorian European literacy rates if your population really has an average IQ like Haiti’s.

      Anyway, you need to be careful about extrapolating the Flynn effect through transitions that brought major improvements in early childhood nutrition, like electric refrigeration in the early 20th. During that same period infectious diseases became far less of a scourge; this too is suspected on good grounds to have allowed brain morphogenesis to support higher IQ levels.

      >The French army were defeated quite decisively by the retarded Haitians.

      Dessalines was a pretty good general, but yellow fever did most of the work.

      >But I know, IQ scores are sacred, given by the God of DNA.

      Reality is what it is. Separated-twin studies show 80% and up heritability, and the tighter the study the higher heritability it tends to show. My interpretation is that an individual’s maximum IQ potential is genetically fixed, but that actually reaching that maximum requires no significant injury by factors such as disease or poor childhood nutrition.

  52. @esr
    “Anyway, you need to be careful about extrapolating the Flynn effect through transitions that brought major improvements in early childhood nutrition, like electric refrigeration in the early 20th.”

    Are you now advancing my arguments for me? Or did you not think this through. Hint, Haiti ant childhood nutrition.

    @esr
    “Reality is what it is. Separated-twin studies show 80% and up heritability, and the tighter the study the higher heritability it tends to show.”

    That is because heritability is what is left after non-herotable factors are controlled. If you can controll all non-heritable factors, heritability will be 100%.

    • >Are you now advancing my arguments for me? Or did you not think this through. Hint, Haiti ant childhood nutrition.

      You may well be right about low IQ in Haiti being a result of crappy nutrition. Or it could be sub-Saharan black populations have a genetic handicap that is really that bad. Or it could be both. I don’t claim to know. My point was only that your back-extrapolation of European IQs was silly.

      >That is because heritability is what is left after non-herotable factors are controlled. If you can controll all non-heritable factors, heritability will be 100%.

      The brilliant thing about separated-twin studies is that they let you control out for “heritable” effects like common childraising. So what I should have said is that good studies show 80% genetic heritability (subject to some minor quibbles abut epigenetics and mitochondria and so forth – it might not all be DNA per se).

      And anyway, you’re misinterpreting that number. What it says is that, whatever you control or don’t, no more than about 20% of the variation is non-genetic. A rather depressing result, but less so than it might be because germ-line editing for intelligence is probably not far in our future.

  53. One may note that even separated twins have nine months’ common environmental experiences in the womb before separation (maternal nutrition, infection, hormone levels, etc.) I’m sure that artificial wombs will eventually let us test the exact balance between genetics and environment…

  54. JAD,

    I’ve seen arguments written by antebellum Southerners that chattel slavery in the population-sparse South was the only thing the South had to compete with the wage slavery practiced in the population-dense North.

    Any way you slice it, the entire American economy is based on the exploitation of a laboring underclass. Take that away — i.e., give people real freedom — and the whole house of cards comes crashing down.

  55. Any way you slice it, the entire American economy is based on the exploitation of a laboring underclass.

    Nonsense. First of all, much of our underclass doesn’t work. Second, how is this different from other countries?

  56. > I’ve seen arguments written by antebellum Southerners that chattel slavery in the population-sparse South was the only thing the South had to compete with the wage slavery practiced in the population-dense North.

    Antebellum Southerners wrote plenty of silly things. Their society – or at least, their landed gentry – obviously did not _need_ that kind of helping hand. On the contrary, chattel slavery most likely tilted the field in a way that put free whites in the north at a disadvantage, and made ‘wage slavery’ (i.e. working in industry) the only viable choice.

  57. > First of all, much of our underclass doesn’t work.

    If you want to exploit an underclass, unemployment is essential to keeping wages low. No-one can ask for a raise or better conditions if they can easily be replaced.

  58. Eh, I think the “exploited underclass” meme just obsolete, as if today’s rich are making fortunes from masses of underpaid coal miners and cotton pickers. The poor aren’t usually very productive, and most of the money and potential profit lies elsewhere.

  59. @esr
    “What it says is that, whatever you control or don’t, no more than about 20% of the variation is non-genetic.”

    The variation can be divided into heritable genetic, heritable non-genetic, and environmental. This is utterly simplistic (environmental impact itself depends in genetic traits) but it will suffice here.

    In this debate, this collapses to trait variation due to heritable genetic variation versus environmental+non-genetic (non-genetic) variation. The “80% heritability” of IQ tells us that 80% of the variance in the IQ found in the sample can be attributed to genetic variation. If you can control environmental variation, you can reduce the variation that can be attributed to non-genetic factors to ZERO in theory.

    That means that the heritability of a trait can always be made 100% if you know what non-genetic factors to control. BY DEFINITION.

    But there is more. The subtext here is that, because it is genetic, it cannot be changed. But that is ridiculous.

    Body length has a heritability of 90%. But all over the world, people grew taller than their parents during the 20th century. Often, considerably taller. Halfway the 19th century, the Dutch were on average 164 cm tall (5 ft 5), in 2010 177 cm (5 ft 10, at 21 yoa). In Japan it went from 155 (5 ft 1) to 171 cm (5 ft 7, 20-24 yoa).
    https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lichaamslengte (Dutch).

    A heritability of 90% simply means that the differences between the descendants remain comparable to those between the ancestors, but the absolute numbers can change dramatically.

    Back to the Haitians. There is absolutely no way you can translate an 80% heritability for IQ found in controlled studies in the USA and UK to conclude that the differences in IQ between Haitians and people in the USA are for 80% genetic. Doing so just exposes a complete ignorance of the relation between genetics and development. But that does not really surprise me.

    • >Back to the Haitians. There is absolutely no way you can translate an 80% heritability for IQ found in controlled studies in the USA and UK to conclude that the differences in IQ between Haitians and people in the USA are for 80% genetic.

      Why are you arguing against a position I’m not taking? I repeat: I don’t think I know how much of the Haitian IQ deficiency is genetic and how much is environment. I know what its consequences are, and I know that separated-twin studies show 80% genetic heritability; I also know that those separated-twin studies don’t generally span extremes of environmental variation as large as the difference between dirt-poor in Haiti and middle-class in the U.S.

      You’re fighting with a projection of your own prejudices, here.

  60. @PapayaSF
    “Eh, I think the “exploited underclass” meme just obsolete, as if today’s rich are making fortunes from masses of underpaid coal miners and cotton pickers.”

    No, but the spoils of economic growth have not reached the working masses.

    US GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) grew fourfold between 1980 and 2014 from $12575.57 to $54596.65.
    http://www.indexmundi.com/united_states/gdp_per_capita_%28ppp%29.html

    Median USA household income after inflation has grown by only 5.9% since 1980 (in total).
    http://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/Real-Median-Household-Income-Growth

    Meanwhile, hourly productivity increased a lot faster than hourly compensation:
    “From 1973 to 2013, hourly compensation of a typical (production/nonsupervisory) worker rose just 9 percent while productivity increased 74 percent.”
    http://www.epi.org/publication/charting-wage-stagnation/

  61. Eh, I think the “exploited underclass” meme just obsolete, as if today’s rich are making fortunes from masses of underpaid coal miners and cotton pickers.

    Try “underpaid Chinese sweatshop workers”. There’s also the fact that chances are good you’re viewing this on a device that uses cobalt mined by children in the Congo.

  62. ESR:
    > but that actually reaching that maximum requires no significant injury by factors
    > such as disease or poor childhood nutrition.

    Or getting beat about the head repeatedly. Or your parents (and later the school system) not doing *anything* to stimulate intelligence. &&etc.

    Jeff Read:

    I’ve seen arguments written by antebellum Southerners that chattel slavery in the population-sparse South was the only thing the South had to compete with the wage slavery practiced in the population-dense North.

    Any way you slice it, the entire American economy is based on the exploitation of a laboring underclass. Take that away — i.e., give people real freedom — and the whole house of cards comes crashing down.

    You can tell a socialist, but you can’t tell them much.

    With one narrow exception (company towns) the notion of “wage slavery” is fucking bullshit.

    You either learn a skill and get good at it, or you’re going to be a marginal worker.

    Unless, of course, you get a really progressive government. But then you’re really a serf.

  63. > No, but the spoils of economic growth have not reached the working masses.

    Ever been to Walmart/Target?

  64. > Try “underpaid Chinese sweatshop workers”.

    Chinese sweatshop workers are underpaid? That would be news to the Chinese workers themselves – many of them are quite eager to work for large Western firms, because the pay and the work itself are a lot better than what the locals would offer.

  65. Winter:
    > No, but the spoils of economic growth have not reached the working masses.

    Nor should they.

    Observing Europe, the more vigorously you attempt to distribute “the spoils” to the masses, the worse off the masses are.

    Which is unsurprising if you ask yourself where economic growth comes from.

  66. A huge number of expensive interventions have been attempted to reduce the IQ difference between blacks and whites.

    These interventions often report success, but then the success vanishes by age 17 or 18.

    The reason for the apparent and much reported successes is that blacks, like chimps, grow up faster and age faster than whites.

    If you applied an intervention to a one year old chimp, and then measured the difference between two year old chimps and two year old whites, your intervention would measure as a huge success.

    Similarly, if you apply your intervention to early teen blacks, and measure the difference between fifteen year old blacks and fifteen year old whites, your intervention measures as a huge success.

    But in actual practice, if we use measurements that allow for the faster black life cycle, nothing makes a difference. No environmental intervention works.

  67. @JAD
    And every minute an American is abducted by aliens for experimentation.
    All big words, little “evidence”.

    Meanwhile you have had a black president beating all those white competitors TWICE. So much for White Supremacy.

    • >All big words, little “evidence”.

      There is actually kernel of truth in JAD’s ranting. There have been lots of attempts to improve the IQ of disadvantaged schoolchildren (many of whom are black) but race is irrelevant to the results – you get the same pattern of significant-looking gains early that disappear at adolescence everywhere. He’s right about that part, it’s just that his racist obsessions lead him to particularize it to blacks, which is wrong.

      This phenomenon is almost certainly related to the fact that adolescent brains seriously rewire themselves and prune a lot of synapses. It also suggests strongly that nutritional interventions to help children reach their genetic IQ ceiling are only effective before about age 6 or so. Otherwise I’m not sure I know what it means.

      I do know that this is a politically Damned Fact that, in most haunts of the educational and social sciences, you can be ostracized for speaking above a whisper. No prizes for guessing why.

  68. @esr
    “There have been lots of attempts to improve the IQ of disadvantaged schoolchildren (many of whom are black) but race is irrelevant to the results – you get the same pattern of significant-looking gains early that disappear at adolescence everywhere. ”
    “This phenomenon is almost certainly related to the fact that adolescent brains seriously rewire themselves and prune a lot of synapses.”

    I suspect this as just another example of “Use it or lose it”. Intelligence of the IQ kind is one of those things that will atrophy fast when not used. Retiring is another such risk period later in life. There are more examples of things children will “unlearn” in adolescence when not maintained.

    It has been argued before that “disadvantaged” teenagers and young adults in the US have little use for school intelligence. And many US schools, and parents, of disadvantaged children have also been accused of being antagonistic to learning and inquiring minds.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Closing_of_the_American_Mind

    When thinking does not help one to get forward in life, and can even hurt one, young people are prone to give up thinking.

    At the current state of affairs, you only need general neuronal development, no genetics, to explain these phenomenons.

    • >When thinking does not help one to get forward in life, and can even hurt one, young people are prone to give up thinking.

      Not sufficient. Is is not only lower-class children who show IQ regression after early interventions; it seems to go up the SES scale to children who are rewarded for thinking.

  69. @esr
    “There have been lots of attempts to improve the IQ of disadvantaged schoolchildren (many of whom are black) but race is irrelevant to the results – you get the same pattern of significant-looking gains early that disappear at adolescence everywhere. ”
    “This phenomenon is almost certainly related to the fact that adolescent brains seriously rewire themselves and prune a lot of synapses.”

    [continued]
    Many US schools, neighborhoods, and parents, of disadvantaged children have also been accused of being hostile to learning and inquiring minds.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Closing_of_the_American_Mind

    When thinking does not help one to get forward in life, and can even hurt one, young people are prone to give up thinking.

    At the current state of affairs, you only need general neuronal development, no genetics, to explain these phenomenons.

  70. > US GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) grew fourfold between 1980 and 2014 from $12575.57 to $54596.65.

    > Median USA household income after inflation has grown by only 5.9% since 1980 (in total).
    Interesting that the thing you’re trying to show is too low is “after inflation” but the other thing isn’t. At 4% per annum inflation rate, a 1980 dollar is worth $3.79 in 2014 dollars, making the real gain just 14%. At 3%, it would be $2.73, for a 59% real gain.

    Also, “income” for most folks is cash wages, and no accounting is given for benefits such as health insurance, Worker’s Compensation and Unemployment premiums paid by the employer. Over the 34 year span indicated, many regulations have been added to the burdens employers must bear. That’s production that shows up in the GDP that doesn’t make it into employees’ paychecks or employers’ bottom lines.

  71. And measuring “household” income is also disingenuous, as there is a significant trend toward single-adult households vs. the traditional two-parent family. When a couple divorces, their average household income is magically cut in half, even though they’re still making the same income.

  72. @The Monster
    “Interesting that the thing you’re trying to show is too low is “after inflation” but the other thing isn’t.”

    I cannot always find equivalent numbers. The point is, the economy grows much faster than median houshold income for 35 years. If you look further, you will see that large sections of the higher percentiles grew faster than the economy.

    And welfare and health care ends up giving poor people the life they could afford from their wages 50 years ago. That is, welfare does not make people rich.

    • > The point is, the economy grows much faster than median houshold income for 35 years.

      There are three huge confounders here. One, as Monster noted, is decreasing household size.

      The second is immigrants, especially illegals. For those native-born in the U.S., median income per capita has in fact been growing about as fast as aggregate production – there simply aren’t enough rich people to “hog” the gains.

      A third underappreciated factor is that while nominal wealth inequality has been increasing, consumption inequality has been decreasing because everything is cheap. In my parents’ time there were significant kinds and quality levels of consumer goods that were simply out of reach of median-income families. For example, having jewelry really meant something as a store of wealth, the concept “expensive stereo” was meaningful other than as a pure display object, and cars were routinely stolen for their resale value.

      Today, not so much. There has been a great flattening – there is no longer much economically-driven difference in what anything but a tiny fraction of the lowest and highest SESs in the U.S. consume. Nominally poor people normally have cars, computers, air conditioning. You have to work much harder to differentiate from the middle class by clothing signals than you used to. Most of the “excess” wealth of the rich is held in forms that aren’t consumable – land, stocks, financial derivatives, money itself.

      One way you can track this trend is by the steep plunge in property crime. Today there simply isn’t much you can boost from a home that’s worth the effort to take to a fence. Only a very few rich people have cars worth stealing. The material trappings of the rich in past times (limos, fur coats, big diamonds) are either democratized or the stuff of jokes.

  73. Indeed, the typical “poor” person in the US has a standard of living that is so good compared to real poverty in Mexico that people are willing to risk the dangers of doing business with some very unsavory people to facilitate their illegal immigration.

    Our “poor” have indoor plumbing, heating/AC, big-screen TVs, X-Boxes, are so well fed that obesity is a far more serious health problem than hunger… And somehow even that last bit is proof of how “unfair” things are.

  74. > Most of the “excess” wealth of the rich is held in forms that aren’t consumable – land, stocks, financial derivatives, money itself

    And this is what really fuels the Leftist antipathy for the “1%”. They don’t want those productive resources controlled by anyone other than the government (with a few exceptions carved out for The Right People who give donations to the right causes, natch).

  75. US national affluence (and concomitant liberal governance) has actually been extremely harmful to the “poor” via Nanny state policies that systemically undermine self-reliance/initiative and substitute welfare dependence. As such, modern society lacks sufficient environmental hardships to drive natural selection toward increasing robustness.

    We now have institutionalized anti-evolutionary forces that are particularly damaging to the lowest cohort of the economy. For example, our “poor” are literally dying of obesity-related maladies due, in part, to unhealthy diet habits. It used to be that stupidity could get you killed instantly; but now it may take a few decades and you die in miserable slow motion.

    Worst of all, there is nothing to change the political dynamic that causes this type of suffering. As long as politicians can reliably purchase the votes of the “poor” and keep them alive long enough to reproduce, then the vicious cycle will continue.

  76. @esr –

    >Today there simply isn’t much you can boost from a home that’s worth the effort to take to a fence.

    Mumble. In the last two months I’ve had copper plumbing ripped out of a couple of houses we own. The scrap value of copper is _just_ enough for ne’er-do-wells to get another hit of their drug of choice.

  77. Completely OT:

    It turns out that, contrary to what the designers of Unicode thought, the idea that you can never have too many codepoints has turned out to be utter bull????. The value of “too many” has been determined empirically to be 128,170.

  78. @Jon Brase

    Browsing some of the nearby emojis, I predict 1F491 will be attacked as cis-heteronormative, and it will become necessary to create additional permutations to placate the perpetually outraged.

  79. @ esr

    Given that this thread has deviated anyway, I’ll ask my question and let the chips fall where they may. :-)

    Some time ago I showed you Lew Rockwell’s statement that “the tariff bred more conflict between the South and the feds than slavery”, along with a brief page that’s downright scathing on Lincoln. You replied:

    Wow. That takes some sort of prize for using what is in a narrow technical sense the truth in a grossly deceptive way. My respect for the [Mises] Institute just took a serious hit.

    You seemed to be acknowledging a kernel of truth there. So, to what extent are the Lincoln/Civil-War revisionists right?

    • >You seemed to be acknowledging a kernel of truth there. So, to what extent are the Lincoln/Civil-War revisionists right?

      That’s…complicated.

      On the one hand, if you look only at the surface layer of politics, the protective tariffs were indeed a larger issue than slavery itself in the immediate run-up to the start of the war. Lincoln presented himself as a moderate on the issue and had backed the Corwin Amendment; while personally loathing slavery he said, and behaved as though he believed, that preserving the Union was more important than ending the “peculiar institution”.

      It is true the “American System” tariffs advocated by Lincoln and the then-new Republican Party were particularly rough on the South, which had little or no manufacturing base (its one and only iron foundry was located in Virginia) and thus had to spend far more on imported manufactured goods than their Northern counterparts. But the revisionist claim that secession was only about the tariffs was wrong; it ignores the previous 50 years of sectional struggle and its underlying cause.

      In reality, one of the central issues in American politics since the import of slaves had been made illegal in 1808 was whether the planter slaveocracy would be permitted to extend itself to the new territories opening up in the West. Northern opinion was against it; compromises in 1820 and 1850 held the Union together at great political cost. Politics (including tariff politics) increasingly became a tug-of-war between free and slave states, with opinions increasingly polarizing on both sides.

      The Republican victory in the 1861 elections essentially slammed the door shut on any prospect that new territories would be admitted as slave states within the Union. That, more than any near-term prospect of abolition, galvanized the South. They believed that Lincoln – follower of Henry Clay, advocate of American-system tariffs – was implacably hostile to Southern interests, and (worse) that his inauguration meant they had permanently lost that sectional tug of war.

      At the time, outright abolition of slavery was not considered a serious option by anyone in American politics outside of a tiny radical fringe. Many Northerners thought slavery would eventually collapse of its own weight if it was denied expansion room; the main precipitating factor of the Civil War was that many Southerners agreed with them. Thus, Lincoln’s election was the final straw.

      At a level deeper, the South’s very lack of industrialization, the concentration of the economy in latifundia growing cotton and tobacco and corn for export, was due to its embrace of cheap slave labor following Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1794. So even the tension over tariffs was rooted in the slavery question.

      On the other hand, part of the kernel of truth is that Lincoln did use the exigencies of war to centralize government to an unprecedented degree and render states’ rights nearly a dead letter. The charge that he acted as a dictator and did great (if unintentional) harm to constitutional liberty is not without merit.

  80. Worst of all, there is nothing to change the political dynamic that causes this type of suffering. As long as politicians can reliably purchase the votes of the “poor” and keep them alive long enough to reproduce, then the vicious cycle will continue.

    Welfare states work well when properly implemented by a democratic, accountable government. One need only look to the likes of Germany and Scandinavia to see that financial safety nets for the poor, including free health care and free education, are not ipso facto a bad thing and can be implemented while still balancing the budget. Your problem is, you’re missing half the racket: Congresscritters buy the votes of the poor with half-empty promises and then sell their own votes to the rich at considerable markup. The result is a sham-democratic “banana republic” where policy is effectively set by the rich and powerful.

    • >Welfare states work well when properly implemented by a democratic, accountable government.

      …for about thirty seconds, until the rent-seekers and parasites learn to game the system.

  81. > Browsing some of the nearby emojis, I predict 1F491 will be attacked as cis-heteronormative, and it will become necessary to create additional permutations to placate the perpetually outraged.

    Putting aside the merits of your sarcastic dismissal of gay people’s desire to be represented (it’s hardly “cis” as typical emoji renderings don’t show genitalia, but I doubt you know or care what “cis” actually means) as “perpetual outrage”, you’ve, uh, successfully predicted the past. The other permutations are encoded as multiple characters ([face] ZWJ heart emoji-variant ZWJ kiss ZWJ [face]) but do display as a single character. If wordpress doesn’t mangle it, see here: >>>👨‍❤️‍💋‍👨<<<

    If you want natural skin tones, there are selectors for that, too (in the original version they were white/japanese, but they’ve been replaced with bright yellow to avoid having white as the default), but they currently only work on the single face emoji.

    (Incidentally, ESR, your blog’s fancy new preview panel freezes on Safari if I accidentally type < directly.)

  82. Apparently that’s a variant of a different emoji. Removing the “ZWJ kiss” sequence gets you this: >>>👨‍❤️‍👨<<<

  83. @ esr

    Thank you very much for your detailed answer.

    I want to say something in the Mises Institute’s defense: their website was instrumental in my veering away from collectivism. (Other resources, such as your “Libertarianism FAQ”, probably helped as well.)

    May you succeed in making the movie.

  84. @esr
    “…for about thirty seconds, until the rent-seekers and parasites learn to game the system.”

    Prove it. Show us how Germany suffers from this effect. This is all ideologic mumbo jumbo.

  85. > Prove it. Show us how Germany suffers from this effect. This is all ideologic mumbo jumbo.

    Germany itself has made their welfare system a _lot_ less generous over time, specifically to counter this sort of opportunistic behavior. Before their early-2000s labor-market reforms, which massively increased reliance on low-skill so-called ‘minijobs’ over welfare, Germany was routinely described as “the sick man of Europe”. Their main problem now is that this has created a bifurcated labor market, where the people employed in these newly-created jobs are placed at an artificial disadvantage compared to those in the ‘formal’, highly-unionized labor sector. (The same, or comparable issues also occur in Japan, and for the same reasons.)

  86. @ Jeff Read @ Winter

    For a collectivist, every socialist failure is always rationalized as an inadequate implementation of the governance ideal; which will perpetually be remedied in the next five year plan.

    It is important to remember that civilization, government, and socialism are recent inventions of our species. For hundreds of thousands of years, our forebears evolved in an environment of great hardship and existential threat. Our improvement as a species was forged in this harshly competitive arena in which lethargy and stupidity were punished by death and striving and intelligence were rewarded with reproductive fecundity. This is our basic nature, and it is partially encoded in our genes.

    Modern liberal government is a mutation that undermines this natural bias. It rewards inactivity, dependence, and hive behavior. The “poor” do not enjoy their life of parasitism. It is a debilitating addiction like heroin or meth. And the politicians that promote this disease are no better than drug pushers.

  87. @guest
    “Germany itself has made their welfare system a _lot_ less generous over time, specifically to counter this sort of opportunistic behavior.”

    Adapt or die. The Germans adapt, how about the USA (especially the Republican part)?

    Germany also intergrated tens of millions of East Germans after reunification. People who were ill equiped for an open labor market. Germany still has a better budget than the USA.

  88. @TomA
    “As such, modern society lacks sufficient environmental hardships to drive natural selection toward increasing robustness.”

    The old adagium: The peasants will only work hard when their children are starving. So lets keep them starving.

    If you treat humans as wolves long enough, you say, they will evolve to become wolves. Wolves do not have much of an economy.

  89. @esr
    “For those native-born in the U.S., median income per capita has in fact been growing about as fast as aggregate production – there simply aren’t enough rich people to “hog” the gains.”

    Statistics please. The numbers I posted were quite clear that the money did land very concentrated.

    And “native-born” is a strange label in a country utterly build on immigrants. As if everybody was native-born in 1980s or 1970s. Also the economy grew explosively per capita. It is clear some heads reaped much more of it than others.

  90. @ Winter – “So lets keep them starving.”

    This is the mind of the collectivist. The only form of human motivation is the whip; never the thought that people will voluntarily choose to work for the betterment of themselves and their families (and by extension, for the indirect betterment of their local community).

    The collectivist mindset is a psychosis born of the fear of abandonment. When you have nothing productive to contribute to the community, then unfettered natural selection will cull you from the herd. It is only through the imposition of Nanny state government that these people can repose and continue to feed off the productivity of others.

  91. >Germany also intergrated tens of millions of East Germans after reunification. People who were ill equiped for an open labor market. Germany still has a better budget than the USA.

    And what is it that left those East Germans so poorly equipped? Decades of living under socialism.

  92. @TomA
    Always nice to find ppl sitting behind computer, extolling virtue of stone age life. There is a reason there are very few stone age people now, and the reason is they lost in competition against civilization, pretty decisively. As if civilization was stronger ;-)

  93. @TomA
    “Our improvement as a species was forged in this harshly competitive arena in which lethargy and stupidity were punished by death and striving and intelligence were rewarded with reproductive fecundity. ”

    Stone age life does not reward intelligence. Average IQ of Australian Aboriginals in about 60, which is sufficient to survive in stone age condition.

  94. ESR: The Republican victory in the 1861 elections essentially slammed the door shut on any prospect that new territories would be admitted as slave states within the Union. That, more than any near-term prospect of abolition, galvanized the South. They believed that Lincoln – follower of Henry Clay, advocate of American-system tariffs – was implacably hostile to Southern interests, and (worse) that his inauguration meant they had permanently lost that sectional tug of war.

    No new slave states had been admitted for 15 years, but four new free states had been admitted. The Compromise of 1850 had effectively barred new slave states. (Arizona and New Mexico were open, but as Henry Clay said to the Free-Soilers, “You have got what is worth a thousand Wilmot Provisos. You have got nature itself on your side.”) The Kansas-Nebraska Act opened Kansas to slavery, but six years of strenuous effort (including an invasion by thousands of pro-slavery thugs led by a U.S. Senator) had failed to make it a slave state. There was still no movement toward secession.

    So the evidence is against that as the “galvanizing” agency. What really frightened the whites of the Deep South was the danger of insurrection by the slaves that surrounded them. John Brown’s futile attempt to incite slave insurrection seriously added to their paranoia. The election of Lincoln was seen as a turning point – from now on, the Federal government would be be controlled by “abolition fiends”, to be used as a Trojan Horse by future John Browns. That was an “existential” threat to Southern whites – something that would justify secession.

    The Fire-Eaters (pro-slavery and pro-secession extremists) played their cards well. They exploited the panic that set in with Lincoln’s election, intimidated Unionists, and scraped out majorities for secession in seven states. (There has been recent discussion that they rigged the vote for delegates to Georgia’s secession convention.) Once the Deep South was out, the Upper South either joined them or fought for the Union. Four states went out, four stayed in.

    As to the tariff – Clay, running on a high-tariff platform in 1844, got 48.5% of the popular vote in the slave states. Lincoln, running on the same tariff plank in 1860, got 2.07% of the slave state vote (and 2/3 of that was anti-slavery German immigrants in St. Louis). Seven states that had given Clay 209,219 votes gave Lincoln zero. Complaints about the tariff were a smokescreen, to conceal the fact that slavery was the only real reason for secession. (Even in 1860, that was distasteful. After the war, it was something to be buried.)

    The “revisionists” who attempt to substitute the tariff for slavery are mostly Confederate apologists and misguided libertarians. There was an effort led by “Progressive” historian Charles Beard to redefine the Civil War as a purely economic class conflict, but it has been refuted.

    By the way, I see that the preview system is now fully implemented. Way to go, ESR!!!

    • >So the evidence is against that as the “galvanizing” agency.

      The evidence is that you read different historians than I have, and the historians are still arguing this point. :-)

      >The “revisionists” who attempt to substitute the tariff for slavery are mostly Confederate apologists and misguided libertarians.

      …plus the sort of generalized contrarian crank who accretes round historiographical controversies. On this we are agreed, and it’s the real answer to Jorge Dujan’s question whether we slice the details your way or mine.

  95. @The Monster
    “And what is it that left those East Germans so poorly equipped? Decades of living under socialism.”

    Indeed, the whole of Eastern Europe was nothing but a colony of the Russian Empire lead by local crooks and bullies. The locals were not allowed to express any type of initiative because that could only lead to a loss of power from the rulers, aka, the Soviet Union.

    Russia still has the same political system. However, they dropped the “Socialism” brand for “Nationalism” and “Christianity”.

  96. @esr
    “FAIR is primarily concerned with the labor-market impact of illegal immigrants, but their working papers address the larger issue of how income gains have been bimodally distributed.”

    Interesting piece. It confirms my suspicions. First, they too find an enormous increase of inequality.

    Between 1970 and 2010, inflation adjusted median household income rose by 12.6 per- cent while mean income rose by 34.5 percent. As a result, the 14.5 percent gap between mean and median household income in 1970 grew steadily since then to 36.8 percent in 2010.

    The foreign born population increased from 9.6M to 40M between 1970-2010. So now the foreign born population is around 12% of the population and the illegal immigrant population is at a total of some 4%. These numbers are too low to explain the income gap by their incomes. And this FAIR report never tells us that the income inequality is the result of foreign born people having lower incomes and native born people having increased incomes.

    What the report shows, but never really seems to write down, is that the presence of foreign born, low skilled workers depresses the wages of all unskilled labor. And around 35% of the people in the USA only have high-school education. It is the erosion of the wages of those un- and low-skilled workers that increased the income gap.

    Or as the FAIR report concludes:

    Low-wage Americans stand to benefit if the supply of low-wage workers is diminished, and that will not happen if today’s illegal alien workers are accommodated with permanent legal residence.

    (personally, I think the report is myopically looking at immigration as the only policy tool)

    So, it seems that this FAIR report supports my earlier comments: The economic growth of the last 40 years or so have not reached the lower SES regions. The major policy that caused this gap was letting in unskilled immigrants (legal and illegal) into the labor markets to depress wages.

    • >The economic growth of the last 40 years or so have not reached the lower SES regions.

      Because the lower SES regions are the recent immigrants – and an intractable, mostly black, urban underclass that has still not assimilated following its migration out of the rural South.

      Don’t confuse place on the SES with changes in median income. All boats have been lifted; in terms of purchasing power per hours of wages (real income) even poor people have vastly more buying power than they did forty years ago. Even gasoline is selling below its pre-oil-crisis price in inflation-adjusted dollars.

  97. @esr
    “Because the lower SES regions are the recent immigrants – and an intractable, mostly black, urban underclass that has still not assimilated following its migration out of the rural South.”

    That is most definitely NOT what the FAIR working paper and all the other data do tell us.

    If you read them, you will see that the effect of immigration was not that income was “diluted”.

    You seem to imply (and believe) that lower SES natives of 1980 and their children have benefited from the growth of the economy like the higher SES regions, but that these low SES regions were replenished, diluted, with poor immigrants.

    That is not what these data show. There were simply too few poor immigrants to have such a dramatic effect. At most 12% of the population are non-natives whereas 35% of the US population has only high-school credentials or less. What these data show is that the influx of low-skilled immigrants depressed wages due to labor market competition.

    As a result, low SES natives, their children and non-natives alike got only a pity of the economic growth that occurred since 1970/1980.

    The gap affects natives and non-natives. That is an important source of anti-immigrant hostility fired up by the Tea party.

    @esr
    ” All boats have been lifted; in terms of purchasing power per hours of wages (real income) even poor people have vastly more buying power than they did forty years ago.”

    Not vastly, just a few percent (see my link above). Moreover, already 5% of the workforce has to work several jobs to make ends meet.
    http://hubpages.com/business/Working-2-or-More-Jobs
    http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/jobs/posts/2011/07/08-jobs-greenstone-looney

    • >That is not what these data show. There were simply too few poor immigrants to have such a dramatic effect. At most 12% of the population are non-natives whereas 35% of the US population has only high-school credentials or less. What these data show is that the influx of low-skilled immigrants depressed wages due to labor market competition.

      Both things are happening. You are confusing two different phenomena – you started talking about change in median income, now you’re talking about changes in wage inequality. Bone of this is mysterious if you think in terms of median wages for native-borns rising at the same time as increasing immigration increases wage inequality, disproportionately affecting those at the low end.

      >Not vastly, just a few percent (see my link above).

      Thirty years ago poor people did not routinely have color televisions or computers. Now they normally have cars and air conditioning; then that was not unknown, but unusual. Thirty years ago people below the poverty line could seldom afford fresh meat and even middle-class housewives routinely complained about its price; not today. Thirty years ago it was still possible to spot poor people by their clothing being noticeably lower-quality than the middle class wears; today they were pretty much the same quality wity different branding.

      These gains are routinely underestimated by a large factor because economists like measures that are easy to quantify, so when they try to estimate purchasing power they generally use a fixed basket of simple hard goods and miss the effects of changes like smartphones obsolescing pretty much every other form of portable electronics.

  98. @esr
    “You are confusing two different phenomena – you started talking about change in median income, now you’re talking about changes in wage inequality.”

    I gave two links. One giving the rise of median household income and one the rise of wages. The slow rise of the latter was the cause of the slow rise of the former. This has to be compared to overall economic growth, e.g., GDP per capita (PPP). Combined this shows that the spoils of economic growth have mostly been rained on the upper SES regions. Only very little, around 6% out of 300%, have landed in the hands of the lower 50 percentile.

    Nothing you wrote contradicted this. Obviously, this skewed growth has increased inequality in wages, earnings, and possession, enormously. All economic studies show that inequality has grown enormously in the USA over the past 4-5 decades.

    @esr
    “Thirty years ago poor people did not routinely have color televisions or computers.”

    Is totally irrelevant for my argument. The spoils of economic growth have landed disproportionally in the pockets of the higher SES regions, whatever way you slice it.

    Immigration was on of the “tools” that drove the depression of wages underlying the growth in inequality.

  99. @ Daneel – “extolling virtue of stone age life.” “Stone age life does not reward intelligence.”

    I’m not sure where your confusion comes from. My comment was in regard to the entire evolutionary history of our species, not some mythical Flintstones era. This history is a record of the changes that have occurred, not a retrospective judgement about virtue. And for most of this history (about two million years), we were more animal-like than sentient human. It wasn’t until about two hundred thousand years ago that we development complex language and then things really started to change in a fundamentally different way. Civilization has only been around for a few thousand years, so most of our evolutionary baggage predates its effects.

    As Eric has pointed out previously, intelligence evolved differentially within our species, largely based upon environmental factors and mutation variance. IQ variance is a fact, not a moral disapprobation.

  100. > Indeed, the whole of Eastern Europe was nothing but a colony of the Russian Empire lead by local crooks and bullies. The locals were not allowed to express any type of initiative because that could only lead to a loss of power from the rulers, aka, the Soviet Union.

    So if the DDR’s local leadership had been “allowed to express any type of initiative”, you think that would have made the average inmate more able to function in a free society?

  101. @The monster
    “So if the DDR’s local leadership had been “allowed to express any type of initiative”, you think that would have made the average inmate more able to function in a free society?”

    No, the inmates were not allowed to show any initiative. Neither were their leaders, but that is of secundary importance.

    And before this nonsense continues, I have always been on the side of Western Germany.

  102. @ Rich Rostrom

    Thank you for elaborating on Eric’s reply and for offering an alternative explanation.

    @ esr

    > On this we are agreed, and it’s the real answer to Jorge Dujan’s question whether we slice the details your way or mine.

    Nevertheless, the details in both accounts were interesting.

  103. > No, the inmates were not allowed to show any initiative. Neither were their leaders, but that is of secundary importance.

    Then why did you feel it was so important to state that decisions came from Russia rather than being made locally?

    If you’re going to have a Glorious Socialist Workers’ Paradise, does it matter whether you spell it “Kommissar”, “?????????”, or “Massa”? Either way, you’re going to have someone telling you what to do, and you have no choice but to obey or die (as all other forms of exit are expressly verboten).

  104. @Winter:

    I gave two links. One giving the rise of median household income and one the rise of wages. The slow rise of the latter was the cause of the slow rise of the former.

    Nothing you wrote contradicted this. Obviously, this skewed growth has increased inequality in wages, earnings, and possession, enormously. All economic studies show that inequality has grown enormously in the USA over the past 4-5 decades.

    The spoils of economic growth have landed disproportionally in the pockets of the higher SES regions, whatever way you slice it.

    In my mind, “poverty” comes in two flavors: destitution (going without the necessities of life: food, shelter, etc) and impecuniousness (literally: “having little or no money”)—alternatively, you might have heard of these as “absolute” or “relative” poverty respectively. These are significantly different categories [Relative poverty for residents of “Richlandia” means buying only three yachts per year; contrariwise, even the richest among “The People’s Republic of Pooristan” cannot afford modern medical care], and arguments for relief cannot automatically be applied equally to both. For example, I believe in a general social/ethical obligation to render aid to those in distress, and absolute poverty is by definition a form of distress.

    You mentioned again the link you provided regarding household income so I read it, and the article it cites from the Census Bureau, “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014”, which states the following [p.4, emphasis mine]:

    The income and poverty estimates shown in this report are based solely on money income before taxes and do not include the value of non-cash benefits, such as those provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicare, Medicaid, public housing, or employer-provided fringe benefits.

    From the beginning, your data excluded nearly all of the poverty reduction programs in the US. This leas to a very simple objection: if the excluded programs allow measuring only relative poverty, what alternative measurements might reveal the rate of absolute poverty? I read ESR’s comment as implying one (If the lowest incomes can afford middle-class goods, they cannot be in absolute poverty); as an second point, consider that the lowest income brackets in the US and Europe are significantly more prone to obesity than emaciation.

    If the US and Europe have eradicated absolute poverty [plausible from the two suggestions above but not yet fully proven] then your focus on income becomes, by implication, an argument that relative poverty carries the same demand for remediation as absolute poverty. I strongly disagree for the reasons cited here (note: not my article) but I always welcome opposing viewpoints.

  105. > do not include the value of non-cash benefits, such as those provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicare, Medicaid, public housing, or employer-provided fringe benefits.

    Particularly as governments mandate employers provide additional such benefits, including most recently health insurance, itself with minimum coverage requirements that contribute to price increases far out of proportion to inflation, these non-cash benefits are a sizeable part of the cost of employing people that businesses pay. That people have been deluded into cheering “making the employer pay” for, say, “matching” SS/Medicare “contributions” does not change the fact that those employers look at the total cost to employ people, not the portion thereof that makes it into the employees’ take-home pay, when making compensation decisions.

  106. @The Monster
    “Then why did you feel it was so important to state that decisions came from Russia rather than being made locally?”

    As that made the feel of helplessness even worse.

  107. @Alex K.
    “From the beginning, your data excluded nearly all of the poverty reduction programs in the US. ”

    Numbers please. How much do these payouts increase the growth of median household income above the 6%? Does it come close to a 100% increase in household income over 4 decades?

    Poverty reduction is a lot like Panem et circenses. It does not seem to significantly reduce the income gap, it just puts a floor to the poverty. And first inflating medical costs beyond imagination and then give subsidies to pay those inflated costs is not exactly changing the wealth gap.

    And I was not talking about poverty, but about an imbalance in the distribution of the spoils of growth.

  108. >And first inflating medical costs beyond imagination and then give subsidies to pay those inflated costs is not exactly changing the wealth gap.

    Moving the goalposts. Now you’re complaining about a “wealth gap”.

    Your original complaint was about “income inequality”, based on the fact that per-capita GDP “has quadrupled” while real income per household has barely risen. Those inflated medical costs are included in the very GDP you show as evidence of how the Greedy Bastards are Getting More Than Their Fair Share™ but not included in the cash wages counted as the scraps the proles get. Again, you’re conveniently including everything possible in calculating the former, while excluding as much as possible from the latter.

    Well, most of the causes of medical prices going up are traceable to government meddling in the employer-employee relationship. The very idea that employers should buy insurance for their employees goes back to wartime wage/price controls. To retain valuable workers, businesses started providing various non-cash benefits, including health insurance. That in turn led to the perverse incentives patients have to not shop for better prices, as Other People’s Money™ is paying the bills. All of this goes down on the company balance sheets as the cost of employing people.

    >And I was not talking about poverty, but about an imbalance in the distribution of the spoils of growth.

    That statement implicitly presumes that a “balanced distribution” is more just. But it isn’t. Not everyone produces the same value. Some people work longer hours, under more difficult conditions. Others defer personal consumption to save up for the capital expenditures to make themselves more productive. Is it “imbalanced” for those people to enjoy “the spoils” of growing their productivity while those who spent their income on other things (and enjoyed the use of those things) and thereby did not grow, don’t enjoy “the spoils” of growth they have nothing to do with?

    The easy way to put your mind at ease is to make everyone equally poor. Well fsck that Schidt. You can wallow in your egalitarian misery, but here in the Land of Opportunity, this is how we roll: I knew a guy who literally grew up dirt poor (the floors of his shack in Arkansas were dirt). He died a multi-millionaire, one of the richest men in the richest county in Kansas. (You’d never know it, though. He and his wife shopped at the same stores I did, wore off-the-rack clothes and drove old non-descript vehicles. They invested their wealth building their businesses, creating lots of jobs in the process.) When his estate taxes were collected, the Department of Revenue set a new monthly record.

  109. @The Monster
    “Your original complaint was about “income inequality”, based on the fact that per-capita GDP “has quadrupled” while real income per household has barely risen.”

    No, this is about the economic growth of the last 4 decades not reaching the lower SES groups. That is, by far most of that growth ended up above the median. Exemplified by a quadrupling of the GDP per capita (PPPP) versus a 5% increase in median household income.

    All economic indicators, really, ALL, show that the gap between the upper and lower SES scales increased dramatically in the last 4-5 decades.

    I still have not seen any evidence, evidence as in numbers, that show this is not so. Just a lot of diversion attempts.

    @The Monster
    “That statement implicitly presumes that a “balanced distribution” is more just. ”

    Then just admit that I am right and that you consider this a just outcome.

  110. The Monster,

    Given how much better off the median Dutchman is compared to the median American (Netherlands 7.94, USA 7.38 on the Where to Be Born Index), I’d say that “egalitarian misery” hardly describes Winter’s situation. The economics and poli-sci revolution of the 21st century is the discovery that income equality matters, with more equal states/regions producing better results in terms of happiness, health, education levels, overall QOL and low violence levels.

  111. @Winter

    You keep repeating your bullshit stats that use per-capita GDP in inflated dollars vs. per-household income in inflation-adjusted dollars that don’t count non-cash costs of labor. It is not the fault of employers that the Fed inflates money supplies, driving the one number artificially high while other branches of government force diversion of funds to “benefits”, “employer-match FICA”, unemployment and workers’ comp premiums that don’t show up in your lemon-picked measure of employee compensation.

    I think you’re exaggerating the “problem” AND it isn’t a problem, because “income inequality” is not inherently bad. Furthermore, seeking “income equality” requires injustice, because the only way to force incomes to be equal is by taking from those who produce more to give to those who produce less.

    @Jeff Read

    You have cause and effect backwards. Places that produce more wealth can afford to redistribute income somewhat. If they do too much of it, people figure out there’s no reason to work any harder, so they slack off, and you get Greece.

  112. @Jeff Read: The Netherlands is a tiny country filled with Dutch people. The USA has almost as many illegal aliens and refugees as they have people. Demography has a lot to do with income inequality.

  113. @The monster
    “To retain valuable workers, businesses started providing various non-cash benefits, including health insurance.”

    That does not sound like your average sub median income household.

    Wasn’t the whole problem Obamacare intended to solve that too many people were not covered, or not covered adequately?

    Still, I do not see this making up for the large growth in the income gap since 1970/1980.

    But if you have good numbers that it does, please share them.

  114. @The monster
    “You keep repeating your bullshit stats that use per-capita GDP in inflated dollars vs. per-household income in inflation-adjusted dollars that don’t count non-cash costs of labor.”

    Then give me better numbers that show that economic growth was distributed more equally. Or, how much more the median household income would grow when properly adjusted.

    Where are all these numbers? I cannot find them. But you live in the USA, so you must certainly be able to get those numbers.

    Or, just admit I am right and the “poor get what they deserve”, ie, the current distribution is just.

  115. I think the income gap since 1970/1980 is due to a number of factors:

    – The continuing effects of 1960s culture, promoting single motherhood, drug use, etc.
    – The continuing effects of Great Society welfare state programs, trapping people in poverty.
    – Mass immigration of poor people.
    – The fact that society has advanced in many other ways, making it easier for people to succeed if they get educated, work hard, follow the law, and don’t have kids they can’t support.

  116. @The Monster
    “If they do too much of it, people figure out there’s no reason to work any harder, so they slack off, and you get Greece.”

    1) Greece never produced much, they lived on money borrowed from foreign countries.

    2) The Greek work hard. It is just that they are not very productive and do not pay taxes. The lost taxes made up for a lot of the initial debt.

    3) You do not seem to know what you are talking about.

  117. @PapayaSF
    “– Mass immigration of poor people.”

    This was part of a long term policy to reduce wages (of natives too). It worked and was an important cause of the income gap. Another was a host of tax policies that reduced taxes for the rich and corporations.

  118. >Then give me better numbers that show that economic growth was distributed more equally. Or, how much more the median household income would grow when properly adjusted.

    You’re the one who has to prove your point, not me. You brought bullshit numbers, and all I have to do is show they’re bullshit. I even showed how adjusting your “quadruple” for inflation makes it a hell of a lot less. Now it’s on you to go back and get non-bullshit numbers.

    And even then you have to show that the income disparity is unfair, not that disparity is intrinsically wrong.

    >Wasn’t the whole problem Obamacare intended to solve that too many people were not covered, or not covered adequately?

    And the fact that many employers are now required to pay more for health insurance than they did in the past is part of how the growth was siphoned off to pay for “benefits” rather than cash wages/salaries. The actual effects of Obamacare have included making health insurance rates rise even faster than they were before, leaving many employers paying more per hour for their workers even without any nominal raises at all, leading to cutting back on hours and in some cases employees. Those now-unemployed people (or those working at lower nominal-pay jobs after losing their previous jobs) drive down your household income numbers.

    If the Greeks worked so hard, but never produced much, then they weren’t doing it right. I don’t know by what measure you declare them so hard-working; perhaps they put in a few more hours than the average European. But punching a time clock isn’t necessarily reflective of productive effort.

    • >The actual effects of Obamacare have included making health insurance rates rise even faster than they were before, leaving many employers paying more per hour for their workers even without any nominal raises at all, leading to cutting back on hours and in some cases employees.

      This is not a distant, theoretical effect.

      Obamacare costs killed my wife’s full-time law job, and our medical insurance costs have since skyrocketed. Cathy and I are direct victims of this redistributionist disaster.

  119. The Monster,

    You’re just coming up with epicycles to explain away the validity of Winter’s data. It’s the same game climate-change deniers play. The data say something contrary to our dearly held beliefs, so we have to subject the data to extraordinary rendition in order to discredit it by cherrypicking for fudge factors. No. In terms of inflation-adjusted dollars, the poor and middle class have not seen anything like gains commensurate with gains in productivity in their take-home pay. Meanwhile, CEOs have seen a fifteen-to-twenty-fold leap in their inflation adjusted earnings, going from about 20x the pay of the rank and file in the early 1980s to something like 400x today. And that includes the CEOs who cocked things up in spectacular fashion. Any way you try to slice the numbers, the gains in productivity over the past few decades have been a rising tide that lifts only yachts. And it’s going to get worse: as automation further increases productivity and reduces costs, huge sections of the workforce suddenly become obsolete and redundant. What to do with all that spare human flesh? Well, for starters, incarceration is a booming industry in this country and provides a ready means to put idle hands to work without having to pay them…

    Now you know why Bernie Sanders, the only hard socialist in Congress, is on the fast track to the White House. The illusion that we’re all “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” is forever shattered.

  120. This is not a distant, theoretical effect.

    Obamacare costs killed my wife’s full-time law job, and our medical insurance costs have since skyrocketed. Cathy and I are direct victims of this redistributionist disaster.

    Part of that is because Obamacare is a non-solution sop to big insurance, virtually guaranteeing them a customer base. It’s redistributionist all right; it’s yet another socialize-losses-while-privatizing-gains redistribution from the taxpayer’s wallet into the deep pockets of Congress and the WH’s corporate campaign backers.

    The solution to the health care coverage problem in the United States is the one that literally every other developed nation has tried. Every single one. It’s called single-payer. It works. The data to support that assertion is not hard to find.

  121. Bernie Sanders […] is on the fast track to the White House

    Not to drift totally off-topic, but LOL, no. This country is not yet so far gone that it’s going to elected a geriatric socialist who spent time in a Stalinist kibbutz and honeymooned in the USSR.

  122. @Winter:

    Numbers please. How much do these payouts increase the growth of median household income above the 6%? Does it come close to a 100% increase in household income over 4 decades?

    Poverty reduction is a lot like Panem et circenses. It does not seem to significantly reduce the income gap, it just puts a floor to the poverty.

    and @Jeff Read:

    In terms of inflation-adjusted dollars, the poor and middle class have not seen anything like gains commensurate with gains in productivity in their take-home pay. … Any way you try to slice the numbers, the gains in productivity over the past few decades have been a rising tide that lifts only yachts.

    I’m responding to both of you at once because it’s been made clear you’re talking about very similar phenomona. (Winter, when you say things like “The economic growth of the last 40 years or so have not reached the lower SES regions.” or “…the rise of median household income and one the rise of wages. The slow rise of the latter was the cause of the slow rise of the former.” it makes it clear that you are using median income as a proxy for poor and middle class wages.) Gee, if only there were some way to statistically disentangle the top income earners from the rest of society….

    Well, fortunately the BLS conducts a consumer survey and their report of 2014’s “Quintile of income before taxes” show the bottom 20% having an average “income before taxes” of $10,308. Now, the statistics on their site seem to only go back as far as 1989, but in that year the bottom 20% made $5,720. Looking at the 2nd and 3rd quintiles, we have the same (nearly exact) doubling of income.

    Looking at the same two documents, the “aggregate expenditures” for the bottom three groups went from 8.5 / 12.4 / 17.3 (in $millions) to a whopping 8.9 / 12.5 / 17.0. Now, I suspect these numbers aren’t inflation adjusted, but it doesn’t matter: any adjustment would be applied to the entire chart. So, you two tell me: why do you believe that the productivity of the last 20-30 years haven’t been reflected in the quality of life for the lower and middle class American?

  123. >You’re just coming up with epicycles to explain away the validity of Winter’s data.

    No, it was bullshit to compare dollar increase of GDP per capita to inflation-adjusted increase of wages per household for the three reasons I explained when I first objected:
    1. Comparing inflation-adjusted numbers to non-inflation-adjusted numbers is bullshit.
    2. Comparing per capita GDP to household wages as household sizes drop is bullshit.
    3. Comparing GDP to cash wages and ignoring other costs employers pay that don’t show up as nominal wages is bullshit.

    Those three things have been bullshit since Winter dragged them in to juice his numbers and make it sound like GDP had gone up by more and wages had gone up by less. Then he demands =I= have to go find non-bullshit numbers to prove =his= point. Nope. It doesn’t work like that. Get apples-to-apples numbers rather than lemon-picked stats designed to exaggerate the effect and stoke the fires of class envy.

    The only thing this has in common with “climate change deniers” (itself a loaded term intended to equate anyone who questions the extraordinary claims CAGW makes by conflating skeptics with Holocaust deniers, a despicable and dishonest debate tactic) is the way the Warmistas deliberately skew (“adjust”) their data to overstate the severity of observed warming, (often reducing previous years’ exaggerated numbers to get them lower than this year’s exaggerated numbers and maintain the “HOTTEST YEAR EVAH!” in perpetuity) which inexorably leads them to models that fail to retrodict the past at the time the models are created, much less predict future warming that occurs thereafter. GIGO and all that.

    Then they have the temerity to say anyone who so much as questions their ex cathedra pronouncements of impending doom (and the recipe to prevent it) is either a knuckle-dragging moron, superstitious creationist, anti-science, a paid shill for Big Carbon, or some combination thereof.

  124. > Obamacare costs killed my wife’s full-time law job, and our medical insurance costs have since skyrocketed. Cathy and I are direct victims of this redistributionist disaster.

    Don’t you love being told you’re just an epicycle?

  125. @Alex K.

    >Looking at the same two documents, the “aggregate expenditures” for the bottom three groups went from 8.5 / 12.4 / 17.3 (in $millions) to a whopping 8.9 / 12.5 / 17.0. Now,

    Actually, those numbers are not in $MM but in percent. If you add the five quintile values on any given row on any line starting with that line, you get 100. For the lines above it, you add columns within a group (such as Male+Female or White+Black or Latino+Gringo) to get 100.

    So what that tells us is that the bottom 40%’s share of aggregate expenditures has risen by half a percent, the middle 20%’s share fell by three tenths of a percent over the quarter century when the rich were supposedly getting richer and the poor getting poorer. (And nothing speaks to people’s movement between those quintiles.)

    Check out “Average number in consumer unit” and note the drastic jumps between the lowest two quintiles and again between the highest two, and then take a special close look at Earners, which goes above 2 for the highest quintile. Clearly, being single head of household strongly correlates with being in the lowest quintile, and staying with your parents until you have the earning power to afford to get married yourself correlates with being in the highest.

  126. @AlexK
    “it makes it clear that you are using median income as a proxy for poor and middle class wages.)”

    No, I use median income to divide the US population in higher an lower earners. This was to show the lower half of the earners got much, much less of the economic growth of the last 4 decades than the upper half.

    Is ideology blinding you that you cannot even understand this simple thing?

  127. @The Minster
    “No, it was bullshit to compare dollar increase of GDP per capita to inflation-adjusted increase of wages per household for the three reasons I explained when I first objected:”

    Then pick another measure of per capita economic growth. There are so many to chose from that you can play for months.

    They all have the same fault: They all show an enormous growth of the US economy iver the last 4 decades.

    All of your rethorical tricks cannot hide that you are unable to find serious numbers that prove me wrong.

    @The Monster
    “Check out “Average number in consumer unit” and note the drastic jumps between the lowest two quintiles and again between the highest two, and then take a special close look at Earners, which goes above 2 for the highest quintile.”

    Are you serious? Is that statistical mumbo jumbo the best you can come up with?

  128. @The Monster
    Sorry for the typos (it was still early and dark).

    What I say is simple. The USA economy grew enormously between 1970 and 2015, say $$$ (%) per capita in total. Median income rose by mmm (%) during that period in total.

    I argue that mmm / $$$ is small (mmm divided by $$$). That is, the lower half of the incomes got much, much less out of the economic growth since 1970 than the upper half.

    It is quite simple to prove me wrong. Just open Bing or DuckDuckGo or whatever and look up $$$ and mmm and show mmm/$$$ is not small.

  129. @Jeff you are confusing single-payer with universal. Single-payer is not that common in Continental Europe. For example my payer is city-owned, not national.

    Federal countries e.g. Germany don’t like the single-payer idea much, like to keep it more local, suggesting that it would be a very tough sell in the US as well, and would smell like a naked power grab from Washington because essentially you are telling e.g. Texans you are not only going to get healthcare socialism, guys, but you can’t even be trusted with running it for yourself.

  130. > Are you serious? Is that statistical mumbo jumbo the best you can come up with?

    Are you really unable to understand the differences in family size between the quintiles?
    They are 1.7 / 2.2 / 2.5 / 2.8 / 3.2 from lowest-income to highest-income.
    Normalizing them to the mean, we get 68% / 88% / 100% / 112% / 128%
    Anything else that the top quintile has twice as much of as the lowest, you’d be trumpeting as proof of how unequal things are.

    > I argue that mmm / $$$ is small (mmm divided by $$$). That is, the lower half of the incomes got much, much less out of the economic growth since 1970 than the upper half.

    Well, duh. The people who got the most out of the growth pretty much had to move into the upper half (in the current reckoning thereof) if they weren’t there already. The people who got the least out of the growth might have dropped into the lower half as those fast growers passed them.

    I took a look at the historical household income numbers from the Census department, and found that from 1970-2014, the median household income rose from $8,689 to $54,041, or a 522% increase. That’s actually pretty high compared to your “more than doubled” stat up-thread.

  131. > you are not only going to get healthcare socialism, guys, but you can’t even be trusted with running it for yourself.

    And as Winter pointed out, that tends to have a depressing effect on the locals who have to put up with whatever Washington/Moscow says.

  132. [anti-boner-pill filter strikes again]
    > you are not only going to get healthcare soci‍alism, guys, but you can’t even be trusted with running it for yourself.

    And as Winter pointed out, that tends to have a depressing effect on the locals who have to put up with whatever Washington/Moscow says.

  133. @The Monster
    “Are you really unable to understand the differences in family size between the quintiles?
    They are 1.7 / 2.2 / 2.5 / 2.8 / 3.2 from lowest-income to highest-income.”

    Don’t try to reinvent the Ginny coefficient. That has already been done.

    @The Monster
    “The people who got the most out of the growth pretty much had to move into the upper half (in the current reckoning thereof) if they weren’t there already. ”

    Eh, sometimes I cannot do otherwise than to be silent.
    @The Monster
    “the median household income rose from $8,689 to $54,041, or a 522% increase.”

    So, fill it all in and get going.

  134. @Winter:

    This was to show the lower half of the earners got much, much less of the economic growth of the last 4 decades than the upper half.

    Is ideology blinding you that you cannot even understand this simple thing?

    What I am having a problem understanding is why you are looking at the upper half of society at all. I will say again: for me, the basis for compassion is a general social/ethical obligation to render aid to those in distress, and you have not yet shown any reason to believe that inequality, by itself, is an indicator of distress.

  135. > So, fill it all in and get going

    Again, it’s not my job to make your case for you. I don’t need to prove that “income inequality” doesn’t exist, because I don’t think that it is per se a bad thing. The combination of severe income inequality and total lack of upward mobility is where we start to see problems, (and it matters why there’s no mobility) but that really doesn’t apply to the US, where people move up and down the quintiles far more than is done in Glorious Egalitarian Peoples’ Republics.

    You came in with bullshit numbers and I called you on your bullshit. That does not impose any obligation on me to come up with non-bullshit numbers. It’s your job to find apples-to-apples comparisons, either pre-calculated or show how you allow for the three major bullshit factors I’ve outlined to de-bullshit your numbers.

    Most recently, you said it was horrible for per-capita GDP to have grown so much (previously you said it more than quadruple), without similar gains appearing at the median level, but I just showed you that during the time in question median household income went up more than that. So I consider your entire case well and truly busted.

  136. > you have not yet shown any reason to believe that inequality, by itself, is an indicator of distress.

    If you haven’t seen Evan Sayet’s Heritage lectures in which he outlines the Grand Unified Field Theory of Modern Liberalism (“Modern” to differentiate from “classical liberals” aka libertarians) you really ought to check them out.

    The key insight is that they start by taking off the table the very possibility that certain behaviors lead to better outcomes and others to worse outcomes, leaving them with no explanation for inequality of outcome other than “the game is rigged against the losers” (racism, sexism, homophobia, heteronormativity, Islamophobia, etc. aka ${Victim_Group}ism).

    The greater the inequalities of outcome in magnitude and/or duration, the greater the injustice that must have been committed against ${Victim_Group} and therefore the greater the corrective action that must be prescribed. Countries like the US when compared to the rest of the world, Israel compared to Muslim-majority neighbors, (before reunification, the BRD compared to the DDR), the combined magnitude and duration of inequality means that those countries must be really unjust, and must be brought down to match the others. (There’s usually an implication that the others will somehow be brought up as well, but really it doesn’t matter, does it?)

    Applying the principles to this case, the “rich” in the US are so much richer than the “poor”, and the gap is growing further, that the only possible explanation is that the rich have systematically stolen their wealth from those poor bastards, and it’s about time they compensate their victims, dammit.

  137. The combination of severe income inequality and total lack of upward mobility is where we start to see problems, (and it matters why there’s no mobility) but that really doesn’t apply to the US, where people move up and down the quintiles far more than is done in Glorious Egalitarian Peoples’ Republics.

    It’s also extremely relevant that, despite the usual presentation, these quintiles don’t represent stable populations. A substantial portion of the difference, and possibly even most of it, is a reflection of individuals at different points along their careers; IIRC, most adults move up an average of 2 quintiles over their working lives simply by virtue of career advancement.

  138. @Christopher Smith

    Indeed, that’s what I was alluding to up-thread
    > The people who got the most out of the growth pretty much had to move into the upper half (in the current reckoning thereof) if they weren’t there already.

    And Winter played it off as if I’d said something so stupid that all he had to do was wink at everyone else about how stupid it was, rather than address the point that there is substantial mobility in the economy. Maybe it’s hard for someone who lives in Europe to understand how “rags to riches” is so common here as to have become a cliché.

  139. @The Monster:

    …that they start by taking off the table the very possibility that certain behaviors lead to better outcomes and others to worse outcomes, leaving them with no explanation for inequality of outcome other than “the game is rigged against the losers”…

    I am familiar with this theory, but I see a critical logical error in it; since I really am interested in understanding Winter’s perspective (and not some funhouse-mirror distorted version) I’d rather wait until I have a response to critique your explanation.

  140. @Alex K

    Sayet was raised to be a (Modern) Liberal himself, so it’s not “some funhouse-mirror distorted version”; it’s how he understands the logic (to the extent that word can be applied) to the (Modern) Liberal mindset.

    But the true value of any theory is its predictive value. And given any subject, Sayet’s Field Theory accurately predicts what the Left will say about it (even when it predicts that different factions will say contradictory things).

  141. And Winter played it off as if I’d said something so stupid that all he had to do was wink at everyone else about how stupid it was, rather than address the point that there is substantial mobility in the economy.

    You did say something stupid.

    Hint: there is much more economic mobility in western Europe than in the USA.

  142. “Modern” to differentiate from “classical liberals” aka libertarians

    American-style libertarians, to differentiate from classical libertarians a.k.a. socialist anarchists.

  143. > there is much more economic mobility in western Europe than in the USA.

    I’ve heard this claim before, but the numbers haven’t stood up to serious analysis.

    > classical libertarians a.k.a. soci‍alist anarchists.

    There is nothing.libertarian about soci‍alism, and “soci‍alist anarchist” is oxymoronic (and just plain moronic too).

    • >There is nothing.libertarian about soci?alism, and “soci?alist anarchist” is oxymoronic (and just plain moronic too).

      It is actually true that some left-anarchists have called themselves “libertarians” for a long time, though not normally in English; you used to see “liberteri” used that way in Italian, for example, and occasionally still do.

      In English, however, this is not an older usage than classical liberals calling themselves libertarians, which goes back to at least 1910 and probably earlier – it’s a recent import under Euro-anarchist influence. Furthermore the left-anarchist use of “liberteri” seems to be vanishing in Europe itself, probably because of recent Marxist use of “neoliberal” as a term of insult.

      Related is the fact that in Europe “liberal” still means pro-free-market, as in the name of the German Liberal Democrats. Marxists only succeeded in outright perverting the word “liberal” in the U.S., and to a lesser extent in Great Britan.

  144. Alex K
    “I will say again: for me, the basis for compassion is a general social/ethical obligation to render aid to those in distress, and you have not yet shown any reason to believe that inequality, by itself, is an indicator of distress.”

    What is implied by many comments along these lines is that the economy grows because of the “hard work and ingenuity” of some and that the rest are “parasitic” bystanders (I exaggerate). The reality is that the growth of the economy is the result of an increase of productivity of most or all people. We can discuss the ethical and moral justification of not returning the productivity increases to those who produced more. But that was not my point.

    The USA economy is most definitely a cooperative enterprise where all contribute. What I was showing was that although all were contributing to the growth, not all profited by the same amount. Not even close. As I wrote, we can argue about the justifications of this imbalance. But what I encounter here is straight denial. What I hear is: “It is not so because it cannot be so because I don’t want it to be so.”

    But it IS so. I do not care that people do not believe me, but they can simply read any economic text from any source, and they will read the same message: It is so.

  145. @The Monster

    And Winter played it off as if I’d said something so stupid that all he had to do was wink at everyone else about how stupid it was, rather than address the point that there is substantial mobility in the economy.

    Economic mobility is irrelevant in this discussion. First, we are talking about 5 decades, two generations, so age related mobility does not matter much. And we should not exaggerate the social mobility in the USA.

    But what made me remain silent was that you do not seem to understand the use of the median household income. If some people move up, others must move below the median without moving down in income. So, if people move up over the median, the median itself moves up. At that point I was speechless on how I could ever explain this.

    At every point in time, the bottom half of the incomes did see much less of economic growth than the upper half. So, even as people move up and down, the fact remains that the poorer half of the people get much, much less of the economic growth than the richer half.

  146. @The Monster
    “You came in with bullshit numbers and I called you on your bullshit. That does not impose any obligation on me to come up with non-bullshit numbers. It’s your job to find apples-to-apples comparisons, either pre-calculated or show how you allow for the three major bullshit factors I’ve outlined to de-bullshit your numbers.”

    This is just a rhetorical trick. You know I am right, and you cannot come up with numbers that prove me wrong because there aren’t such numbers. You criticize my numbers, and will criticize every number I come up with, on some technicality. There are dozens of income parameters, and with every parameter I would pick you would point to some other technicality.

    Also, this was not about the miseries of income inequality etc. This was about the distribution of economic growth. But that is something you want to discuss, so at every turn you start about the poor getting what they deserve. That too is just a diversion tactic.

    These are all well know troll tactics, and they are extensively used in US politics. But if we go back to Argument Theory, the rules are that I pose evidence, and you pose counter evidence, not just some technicalities. I did pose my evidence, now you pose your counter evidence. Then I can counter that evidence etc.

    I can spend my time more productive than trying to chase elusive “final evidence” for a person who would not be convinced by any evidence at all. Make a commitment yourself that you take this seriously. But you know I am right about this point, you just do not want to admit it.

    Oh, and if you want more evidence of a significant growth in inequality, look at the link eric posted:
    http://www.fairus.org/publications/immigration-fueling-u-s-income-inequality

  147. >What I am having a problem understanding is why you are looking at the upper half of society at all. I will say again: for me, the basis for compassion is a general social/ethical obligation to render aid to those in distress, and you have not yet shown any reason to believe that inequality, by itself, is an indicator of distress.

    Because you can’t have leftism without envy.

  148. > But what made me remain silent was that you do not seem to understand the use of the median household income. If some people move up, others must move below the median without moving down in income. So, if people move up over the median, the median itself moves up. At that point I was speechless on how I could ever explain this.

    What’s to explain? That was baked into my comment. People move both up and down, both in relative and absolute terms. After a large upward move, people are far more likely to be above the median than below it, so it is inevitable that there will be more absolute upward movement recorded among those who are now above the median, and more downward recorded in the lower half.

    But the actual movement of the five quintile medians doesn’t really work like that. It tells us nothing at all about how people might move within and between the quintiles. The specific focus on the overall median also fails to capture any movement that does not either move the median household itself or move someone across it as you describe. In short, it’s a very crude measure.

  149. > This is just a rhetorical trick. You know I am right

    I know no such thing. And I’ve already said I don’t consider income inequality per se to be a problem, so even if you are right, it’s irrelevant.

    What is relevant is that you couldn’t resist the urge to juice your numbers by picking a measure of overall growth that is NOT inflation-adusted (MOAR THAN QUADRUPLED!) and a measure of median growth that is, which also fails to adjust for decreasing household size. You couldn’t find apples-to-apples numbers to prove your point.

    These are not “technicalities”. Comparing unadjusted per-capita growth to adjusted median household growth is pure bullshit. I don’t have to come up with better numbers to destroy your bullshit numbers. I just have to show that they’re bullshit, and it’s on you to come back with non-bullshit numbers that are all per-capita and either all inflation-adjusted or all not adjusted. I even showed you a 522% increase in median household income based on the Census numbers, an even higher increase than your “more than quadrupled”, and you blew it off like it was nothing, without even an explanation as to why it would be irrelevant.

  150. @Winter:

    The USA economy is most definitely a cooperative enterprise where all contribute. What I was showing was that although all were contributing to the growth, not all profited by the same amount. Not even close.

    I am now very confused. This statement seems to imply that you believe that the contributions to growth were equal across the board, yet provide no evidence to substantiate this. (Well, the other likely alternative is even distribution under any conditions, including unequal contribution—”From each according to his ability, to each according to need”—but so far you seem to have tried to distance yourself from any sort of similar socialist mottos.)

    So far you have repeatedly skirted why an equal distribution should be “more fair” than an unequal one, as if this is intuitively obvious. Even if my first inclination were to agree with you, intuition is not evidence or proof. What is behind your impression that an equal distribution would be more fair?

  151. Alex K.
    “What is behind your impression that an equal distribution would be more fair?”

    That is a discussion I would find interesting: What would be a fair distribution of economic growth. For instance, would it be fair to return growth in productivity to those who achieve it? That has been the “historical average”. Or is a “might is right” distribution “fair”?

    It seems to me that the current distribution is more “might is right” than anything else but I am open to other opinions.

    However, such a discussion starts with accepting the fact that the current distribution is unequal, and has been so for decades. Discussing a distribution of growth cannot start if people simply deny any fact that does not fit in their ideology. I generally get the feeling Galileo must have had when one of his critics refused to look through his telescope because “there was nothing to see”.

    So I am not going to discuss “fairness” when the facts are fitted to the desired ideological outcome.

    @Alex K.
    ”From each according to his ability, to each according to need”

    Always sounds enticing. But experience has shown that both “ability” and “need” are difficult to quantify and the system has been very unstable wherever it has been tried.

  152. @The Monster
    “I know no such thing. And I’ve already said I don’t consider income inequality per se to be a problem, so even if you are right, it’s irrelevant.”

    Then why are you acting so angry? This whole discussion started because I referred to the many people who do find it very relevant. Say all your compatriots who want foreigners deported because they are blamed for this low growth in their income. And if you find it irrelevant, why the anger when I give the facts that infuriate your compatriots?

    @The Monster
    “Comparing unadjusted per-capita growth to adjusted median household growth is pure bullshit.”

    I see, we started this on the wrong foot. Lets make up and start again.

    Real GDP per capita:
    http://www.multpl.com/us-real-gdp-per-capita
    1970: ~23,000
    2012: ~50,000
    (50000-23000)/23000 = 117%

    Inflation adjusted
    Median Household Income in the United States
    http://www.davemanuel.com/median-household-income.php
    1970: 46,089
    2012: 51,017
    (51,017-46,089)/46,089 = 11%

    11% / 117% = 0.09 ~ 1/10

    To summarize, average real GDP grew approximately 117% between 1970 and 2012. Adjusted median household income grew 11% in that period.

    If you look at this formula, you see that it depends strongly on variation in the smallest factor, adjusted median household income, which was very variable after the crisis of 2008. Looking at the numbers, I think the growth of adjusted median household Income since 1970 has been around 20% while the growth of real GDP in this period has been more around 120%.

    @The Monster
    “People move both up and down, both in relative and absolute terms.”

    If the economy grows, people get more income on average and more people are expected get a higher income than a lower income. If people move over the median, the median itself rises without a need for other people to be pushed down in income. What the slow rise of median income shows is that half of the people get only a small amount of all the phenomenal growth (in my numbers above, 11% growth where the mean is 117%, or if you want to be more conservative, 20% versus 120%).

    Yes, there is social and economic mobility in the USA. But even the quintile show that the growth is distributed very, very unequally.
    http://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/Household-Income-Distribution.php

    You might find that irrelevant, but this development is determining the political arena of the USA at the moment.

  153. >To summarize, average real GDP grew approximately 117% between 1970 and 2012. Adjusted median household income grew 11% in that period.

    bzzt Household size varies both over time and across income quintiles, so an average per capita income and a median household income can’t be meaningfully compared. What’s more, we know that in the US over the period you chose household sizes decreased as time passed. That means household incomes rose more slowly than per capita incomes in that period, so part of the disparity you decry is no more than a statistical artifact.

    And the effect can be quite drastic. Consider this hypothetical: a household of 4 making $40,000 a year splits into 2 households, with no gain or loss in total income. The per capita average income doesn’t change at all – it’s $10,000 before and after the split; the household average income falls from $40,000 to $20,000.

    Now suppose both households find new sources of funds so that each person is making twice what they did before the split. That is, the per capita average income has doubled to $20,000. What happened to the household average? Because there are two households where once there was one, the household average is half of $80,000 = $40,000 – identical to what it was before the split. Measuring by households has completely concealed the doubling of real income.

    So those figures you cite don’t imply anything at all about income distribution in the USA. Depending on household sizes, it’s even possible that the per capita median is nearer the average now than it was in 1970, so “income inequality” has decreased since then.

  154. Now for the effect of varying household sizes across income quintiles. Let’s take TheMonster’s figures (1.7 / 2.2 / 2.5 / 2.8 / 3.2) and suppose, just for fun, that each individual has the same real income (or that the income of each household is an exact multiple of the number of people in it, which comes to the same thing.) This means that the Gini coefficient for this population, if counted by individuals, is 0. However, if you count by households the Gini coefficient comes out to 0.12.

    IOW measuring income by households overestimates real inequality by a considerable margin, when people in higher quintiles are having more children. (By the way, doesn’t the Netherlands have a significantly lower fertility rate than the USA? How much does that affect the Gini coefficients of the two nations?)

  155. > However, such a discussion starts with accepting the fact that the current distribution is unequal, and has been so for decades

    It does not start with accepting your lemon-picking methodology that uses per capita when you want big numbers and per household when you want small numbers, so that you can overstate your case. This is where the analogy to the treatment CAGW skepticism (or to other hysterical inflations such as racism or sex crime rate trends) is quite apt. You take the objections to your inflated numbers as insistence there’s no {inequality in income distribution|warming trend|racism|sexual assaults} at all. This, of course, is a strawman argument.

    >. Looking at the numbers, I think the growth of adjusted median household Income since 1970 has been around 20% while the growth of real GDP in this period has been more around 120%.

    We still have that pesky per-capita vs. per-household number. Let’s see if we can do something about it.

    >It changed from 3.14 in 1970 to 2.55 in 2012

    So 20% * 3.14 / 2.55 gets us to 25% give or take. We’re still not factoring in that non-cash benefits went up significantly during that time, as regulations forced businesses to shell out lots of money that they and their workers did not agree to at the bargaining table, but let’s leave that aside for now.

    Your beef seems to be that John Q. Median Jr. is only making 25% more now than John Q. Median Sr. made in 1970, whereas your notion of “fair” requires him to make 120% more than his father did, and that discrepancy means that people making more than them “unfairly” got huge gains in their income.

    There are two main sources for high incomes (with some overlap, of course):

    1) Some people earn more in payment for their services. As the population of the country has risen, and the opportunity to transcend national borders has brought in more potential customers, certain people have found that they can make a music album, TV show, movie, book, etc., and sell tickets/earn ad revenue for far larger audiences. Thus professional athletes can earn insane amounts of money, essentially getting micropayments from every beer drinker, automobile buyer, user of shaving products, snack foods,… if they are able to compete in the premier league of their sport. John Jr. may spend the same fraction of his discretionary income indirectly subsidizing those who perform for advertisers, and directly compensating those who rely upon ticket and book sales than his father did, but because that 20% increase is all discretionary (the basics having already been well covered by John Sr’s more modest income) and there are a lot more Johns out there buying those things, those elite entertainers see far more than your 120% increase. In 1970, many members of the Super-Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs had jobs in the off season (including QB Len Dawson, who had already begun his sports-casting career at KMBC-TV), because an AFL paycheck wasn’t all that great. Today, the worst players on the worst teams in the NFL are guaranteed a minimum paycheck that puts them in the top quintile of earners.

    2) Some people earn money on investments. The corporation that spends a billion dollars on researching pharmaceuticals expects to earn that, plus a tidy profit, back, or it won’t make that expenditure in the first place. And the people who invest in those corporations are heavily on the high side of the Johns. Maybe they have a few bucks in an IRA or 401k invested in some of these extremely-capital-intensive businesses, but the income they earn there is deferred until retirement, while the highest income brackets have non-deferred dividends and capital gains too.

    The obvious effect of increasing investment is that the investors get paid, but the less-obvious effect is that the people who work for capital-intensive companies tend to get paid a lot better than those who work in labor-intensive businesses like food service. The construction worker operating a million-dollar piece of heavy equipment might be doing less physical labor than his father did using a shovel, but you can bet he’s making a metric assload more than his old man did. Part of that’s due to his skill, but mostly it’s because capital makes labor more productive. Most of the people using the shovels could have been trained to run the excavators, but for that to happen, the excavators have to exist.

    Now, if you try to “fix” this “inequality” by putting some kind of ceiling on how much people can earn from their capital, or a surtax on income from capital investments, then John Q. Median III is going to be making less in real money than his grandfather did in 1970.

    You don’t increase the size of your harvest by eating the seed corn.

  156. >You don’t increase the size of your harvest by eating the seed corn.

    But you *can* increase the size of the overseer, which is really the point of the exercise.

  157. @Michael Brazier&The Monster
    The unit for income from every angle, social, economic, legal, cultural, or historical is the household. The unit for economic growth is the GDP. To correct for the size of the population, the GDP is calculated per capita.

    Your attempt to calculate household income per capita is too rediculous for words. But if you insist, then hide your utter ignorance and calculate the GDP per household. The information for this can be found in my comments. If you do not understand how to do this, I will do this on Monday when I have time.

    I find it really fascinating to what lengths you go to prevent learning new, uncontroversial facts about your country.

  158. Winter, Winter … comparing income per household to income per capita is a basic mistake, on par with mixing up measurements in Imperial units with measurements in metric (and not applying the conversion factors.) If you really didn’t recognize that on your own before TheMonster called you on it, you are in no position to call me ignorant. If you did, you were consciously deceiving us. Either way, you’ve given good reason not to trust your calculations.

    Also? Contrary to your earlier remark, income inequality is an utterly insignificant issue in US politics. To the extent that the economy is an issue, it’s because many people have observed that the prices of many necessary goods and services are rising faster than their ability to pay for them – they’re worried about falling into poverty. And frankly, most of what’s driving that is government policies that were justified on egalitarian grounds. When the people who say they’re defending you from the rapacity of “the rich” turn out to be ransacking your wallet, you will of course assume that everyone who talks about income inequality is a robber.

  159. @Michael Brazier
    “comparing income per household to income per capita is a basic mistake”

    I already predicted you would come up with another “technicality”. So, let’s recalculate the GDP/capita to GDP/household. See above for links.

    GDP/capita 1970: ~23000, 2012: ~50000
    Household size 1970: 3.14, 2012: 2.55
    GDP/household (approx) 1970: 72220, 2012: 127500
    GDP growth (approx) (127500-72220)/72220 = 77%

    Median household growth/GDP growth ~ 11/77 = 1/7

    Do not bother to think of new technicalities. I consider this subject milked well enough.

    @Michael Brazier
    “Contrary to your earlier remark, income inequality is an utterly insignificant issue in US politics.”

    Except that the whole Trump “revolution” is about low income people being angry at stalled income growth. As was Occupy Wall street and the whole 1% meme. Run a search on anything “income inequality” related and you are inundated by articles and blogs.

    For a long time I have wondered why it was that I had to supply basic information about the US (e.g., number of people killed by the police, developments in economics, quality of higher education) to people living in the USA who had a strong interest in politics and economics?

    First, I thought it was a very bad education system. Like this Climate Change howler that showed you were lacking any understanding of basic introductory high school chemistry.
    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=6607#comment-1372419

    But that could not explain it all. This thread has been a very nice “natural experiment”. Here we have a relatively uncontroversial and very well published fact, the strong increase in USA income inequality since around 1970. I gave some numbers. If I am wrong, that must be easily proven. If I am right, then you can explain why this is a good or natural or unavoidable process. Whatever.

    But as I have observed many times now, I see a severe hostility to even confront the information. All kind of number fetishism and technicalities are brought up to not have to think about the possibility that I am right. A court lawyer strategy is adopted to deny everything. And just as it is impossible to get a lawyer to admit to the guilt of his client, whatever the evidence, it is impossible to get you to admit to any fact at all. And just as a lawyer will never ever volunteer evidence that might ever be used against his client, you will not even divide two numbers when there is even a remote possibility that they might show me right.

    But this is not a court room, and you are not lawyers with a professional duty. The only conclusion I can draw is that you have closed your mind to new insights, any new insights, that might force you to rethink what you consider must be true (i.e., faith based thinking). See:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Closing_of_the_American_Mind

    And about the current subject of the growth of US income inequality during the last 5 decades. Unless you come up yourself with some quantitative information that proves me wrong, I consider this matter closed.

  160. @Winter:

    That is a discussion I would find interesting: What would be a fair distribution of economic growth….

    However, such a discussion starts with accepting the fact that the current distribution is unequal, and has been so for decades. Discussing a distribution of growth cannot start if people simply deny any fact that does not fit in their ideology.

    “Pot, meet kettle.” Yes such a discussion starts with accepting the facts and also throwing out all unrelated assumptions. As a result I see asking you to clarify why is the inequality of income distribution significant as having just that discussion: or rather, it was originally intended as a prompt for you to lay out your position of why that needs to be included for consideration. Without that, regardless of how true the statement is, we should view it in the same light as the shear strength of various woods [ie. perhaps useful in another context, but utterly irrelevant here].

    Now reasoning ab initio, without assumptions, may very well be a philosopher’s pipe dream: I’ve only ever seen someone trying to have zero assumptions and get you as far as “I think, therefore I am”. Even if it were possible, it’s very tiring, so any more complex discussion should start with laying out our separate foundations, identifying common ground and points of departure, and working from there. Scroll back and re-read my first post to you. I attempted to do precisely that, laying out the grounds of why I do not see inequality as inherently relevant, and have been awaiting a response in kind.

    Your answers so far have implied a great deal about your belief regarding economics or politics: however, they more clearly state you are disinclined (or have not been trained for) the deep introspection assumption-checking requires, and instead favor some manner of rhetorical point-scoring games. [Don’t take my disappointment here as scorn for yourself: I fully recognize “point-scoring” is often the primary, if not sole, method of debate taught. Instead, I would direct my scorn on the cultures which prefer pretending to hold the answers today over correction and greater wisdom tomorrow.]

  161. @Alex K.
    “As a result I see asking you to clarify why is the inequality of income distribution significant as having just that discussion:”

    Why is it significant? Because people talk about it. And because it is always significant to see where the money made in an economy is going.

    Isn’t that the whole point of Libertarianism, that people get to keep total control of “their” money? Which throws up the question what money is actually theirs to control and how they can keep control over it?

    So, the basic question of how the growth of the economy is distributed over time, i.e., the status quo, would be an interesting one for anyone who is planning Libertarian changes, be it evolution or revolution or a completely new stateless society.

    At least, I think it is interesting where the economic growth goes. And if you don’t find that an interesting question, why argue about it?

  162. > At least, I think it is interesting where the economic growth goes. And if you don’t find that an interesting question, why argue about it?

    Because it isn’t an abstract question. Implicit in any assertion that a certain level of “income inequality” exists is some sort of action to “correct” it.

    I find it unremarkable that 77% per-household GDP growth and “only” 20% median household nominal income growth would coincide, given:
    1) The failure of such nominal income figure to capture non-cash contributions made by employers on behalf of their employees,
    2) The unequal distribution of talent and the temperament required to put in the necessary work to achieve premier-level competence to earn rock-star-level compensation
    3) The simple fact that most GDP is generated from capital investments, and the people making those investments must expect to earn a decent return on their investments in order for them to be made.

    I think point 3 is the most important one of all. The only way to avoid massive “income inequality” is for all capital investments to be made by some central entity that equally distributes the profits from those investments to everyone. And we did that experiment, and found that a Glorious Workers’ Paradise like the DDR is capable only of providing equally low incomes.

    If you want the gains in productivity that allow John Q Median Jr. to earn 20% or so more than John Sr. did, then you must allow the investment in the equipment that makes the economy 120% more productive to be sufficiently profitable. And that means people who have amassed capital and make wise investment decisions with it will earn the majority of the increased gains from the productivity produced by those investments.

    So long as no one can force others into/out of any transactions (like how Warren Buffet’s buddy Barack Obama killed the Keystone XL pipeline, forcing oil to be shipped by tanker railcars on railroads in which Buffet has a large investment) there is nothing wrong with that. Great wealth is not inherent evidence of wrongdoing. It’s just that historically, in most countries, the only way people were allowed to amass great wealth is if they’re members of a “noble” class with special permission from the Crown to control various aspects of the national economy. Anyone who manages to make a lot of money without being tied into the network is castigated as a filthy money-grubbing Jew and dealt with by the Inquisition, Pogroms, or Holocaust du jour.

  163. Winter is promoting a meme, not advancing a well-reasoned argument. It is much easier to herd the proletariat into a uniform mindset if you appeal to their sense of root injustice and then grow that resentment into a solid voting block. See for example, the slavish devotion of the US black population to vote Democrat, despite the fact that Liberal policies have decimated black family life and addicted 3 generations to begging for evermore governments handouts and favors.

    The crime here is not income inequality (income distribution is ALWAYS variable), it’s that we are institutionally incentivizing stupidity at the lowest rung of the SES.

  164. I’ll throw another “technicality” at you, Winter. In 1970 the fraction of US residents who were immigrants was 4.7%, a historical minimum. In 2010 that fraction was 12.9%. Since recent immigrants are (by the nature of things) less wealthy than non-immigrants, tripling the fraction of immigrants in the population forces the median income for the population lower, even if both the native-born and the immigrants see their incomes rise by the same proportion.

    IOW a lot of the growth in income inequality in the US is due to large numbers of Third World immigrants coming in since 1965. They personally raised their incomes several times over, but remain poorer than the native-born; so we get the seeming paradox that the poorest people in the US have done far better, relatively, in the last fifty years than the middle quintile did, yet income inequality has risen.

    >Except that the whole Trump “revolution” is about low income people being angry at stalled income growth. As was Occupy Wall street and the whole 1% meme.

    Wrong both times. Occupy Wall Street was a bunch of young fools with expensive but worthless college degrees (that is, either in the top 1% of wealth already or close to it) rioting because they weren’t getting the government sinecures they thought their birth and education entitled them to. No actual members of the working class had anything to do with them.

    Donald Trump’s popularity stems from his taking up a hardline anti-immigration position in the face of nearly all the American political elite. His supporters are not from the lowest income quintile (most of those are recent immigrants themselves, remember) but the second, third and fourth. The resentments he feeds on aren’t against the CEOs and financiers living in the lap of luxury (Trump is one of those himself) but against the journalists, professors, lobbyists and government bureaucrats whose meddling in normal people’s lives causes chaos from which they never suffer.

    >For a long time I have wondered why it was that I had to supply basic information about the US (e.g., number of people killed by the police, developments in economics, quality of higher education) to people living in the USA who had a strong interest in politics and economics?

    The actual explanation for this will be unpalatable to you, but you’ll have to hear it anyway: the information about the US that fascinates you so much does not matter to the live issues in American politics. Even if they were right, your calculations would be no more significant than the patterns formed by tea leaves after the tea is drunk. People don’t learn the things you know because they don’t need to know it to discuss US politics intelligently.

  165. >The actual explanation for this will be unpalatable to you, but you’ll have to hear it anyway: the information about the US that fascinates you so much does not matter to the live issues in American politics. Even if they were right, your calculations would be no more significant than the patterns formed by tea leaves after the tea is drunk. People don’t learn the things you know because they don’t need to know it to discuss US politics intelligently.

    Thinking back to the argument I had with him about crime in the UK, he either cherry picks questionable sources, misrepresents them, simply doesn’t understand them (though he thinks he does), or flat out lies.

    I don’t do arguments like that with him anymore.

  166. The actual explanation for this will be unpalatable to you, but you’ll have to hear it anyway: the information about the US that fascinates you so much does not matter to the live issues in American politics.

    Because the American poor still see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

    The truth is the system is rigged to further enrich and entrench the established players and shut out any future competition from outsiders, while deceiving the underclasses into thinking they have a realistic shot at riches to keep them from revolting.

    If you still don’t think false consciousness is an actual thing, consider that Donald Trump is running for President, and how and to whom he tailors his message. A better cartoon caricature of false consciousness, Gramsci himself could not have devised. Speaking of which:

    His supporters are not from the lowest income quintile (most of those are recent immigrants themselves, remember) but the second, third and fourth.

    Divide and conquer has long been a strategy of the ruling elite: pit subsections of the underclasses against each other, and while they’re busy fighting each other they can’t notice that the elites are their true enemy and can’t revolt. Black schoolchildren catch onto this strategy right away when they’re taught about Bacon’s Rebellion in school; it’s disappointing, though not surprising, that your white ass pretends expertise in politics and completely missed it.

  167. @Jeff Read
    Black schoolchildren catch onto this strategy right away when they’re taught about Bacon’s Rebellion in school; it’s disappointing, though not surprising, that your white ass pretends expertise in politics and completely missed it.

    Yes, we all know how are black Americans dedicated to the cause of proletarian internationalism.

  168. Jeff, “false consciousness” is nothing more than the Marxist way of calling people stupid or evil because they have the temerity not to act as the Marxist thinks they should. It doesn’t even reach the point of being a useful analytical category within the Marxist system – it’s one of the kludges slapped onto the philosophy to rationalize the failure of the 20th century to proceed on the course Marx had predicted it would. You ought to be ashamed to use it.

  169. > nothing more than the Marxist way of calling people stupid or evil because they have the temerity not to act as the Marxist thinks they should

    It is not a coincidence that advocacy for various species, or for “the environment”, have grown into some of the biggest vectors of Marxism. It does away with the need to explain away “inauthentic” members of protected minority groups who inconveniently disagree with the Party Line. The activists simply assert that they speak for Gaia, and contrary voices are therefore of Koch Suckers.

  170. > The truth is the system is rigged to further enrich and entrench the established players and shut out any future competition from outsiders

    Oh, crony capitalism is definitely a thing, but you’ll find a _lot_ more of it in soci*alist EU countries (just think about Greece with their PASOK and SYRIZA parties. Or even France) than the U.S. So why would we want to go further down that road? We’ve seen where it leads to, and we didn’t like it.

  171. > Divide and conquer has long been a strategy of the ruling elite: pit subsections of the underclasses against each other, and while they’re busy fighting each other they can’t notice that the elites are their true enemy and can’t revolt.

    Nice model – now who’s the ‘ruling elite’ in this context? Come to think of it, the Brahmins are a lot closer to that moniker than the Vaisyas. Of course during the Bacon Rebellion, the relevant elite would’ve been Kshatriyas (or Optimates), but as in Indian mythology and Roman history, that social stratum has nowadays been entirely subverted by the Brahmins.

  172. Back to Twain: He didn’t sanitize things as much as you remember, esr. See the section “Murel’s Gang” (spelling was variable) in Life on the Mississippi.

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