Re: One humanity, all in the same boat

From: Peter C. McCluskey (
Date: Fri Jan 18 2002 - 09:59:51 MST (Chris Hibbert) writes:
>Samantha Atkins wrote (responding to me):
>> > The statistics (according to Julian Simon, of course) show that in most
>> ? I am not altogether sure I can trust Julian Simon for such
>> statistics.
>Please, use any source of statistics you desire, or show any attacks on
>Simon's work that provide better statistics, rather than attacking his
>motivation. Do you have any sources that disagree that the gap keeps getting
>smaller? I think Simon's opponents are driven by envy, and think Simon's

 I haven't been able to find any statistics from Simon that say the gap
between the rich and poor is getting smaller. The closest I can find is
a claim that "Richer countries have less inequality than poorer countries",
which could just reflect phenomena like Ferdinand Marcos making himself
unreasonably rich and impoverishing the Philipines in the process. I.e.
countries that are malfunctioning in creating wealth may also malfunction
in other respects, without that implying much about the trend in growing
countries, or about what happens in countries that choose to remain in
primitive conditions.

 One source of such statistics which I'm fairly sure you have read is
Luxury Fever. From page 33: "in 1979 the 95th-percentile U.S. earner
received 10 times as much as the 5th-percentile earner, the corresponding
ratio for 1993 was more than 25. ... CEO's of America's largest companies,
for instance, earned 35 times as much as the average worker in 1973; today
they earn some 200 times as much".
 Luxury Fever is at least as selective in what statistics it presents as
Simon is, and I'm not sure what the best measures of income inequality
would say (Luxury Fever doesn't seem to say much about whether people
in poor nations are catching up to those in rich nations).
 Luxury Fever does a good job of explaining why we should expect people to
have evolved a value system which cares at least as much about inequality
as about absolute wealth. Pointing out bad effects of envy doesn't seem
to invalidate the belief that equality is good for people.
 Luxury Fever also provides clear theories of why inequality has been
increasing - the rise of winner-take-all markets, and the erosion of
norms that stopped people from paying market prices for top executives,
sports players, etc. Does Simon have a clear theory of why inequality
should be decreasing?

 While searching for Simon's statistics, I noticed that one of the things
that Ehrlich was still willing to bet on around 1994 was:
 "The gap in wealth between the richest 10% of humanity and the
poorest 10% will be greater in 2004 than in 1994"
(taken from
That was part of a bet that Simon didn't accept, but Ehrlich's insistence
on bundling it with claims that were even less relevant to Simon's arguments
(e.g. declining sperm counts) obscures most of the implications of Simon's
unwillingness to take the bet.

Peter McCluskey          | Free Jon Johansen! | 

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