Re A challenge to all Extropians/Free Marketeers

Brian D Williams (
Mon, 27 Apr 1998 13:06:11 -0700 (PDT)

Erik Moeller:

>OK, let's see whether the poor are fine under capitalism today. It
>has been often expressed on this list that the US are "not great,
>but certainly the best system there is".

>The facts (I cite from "Fifty Facts about Poverty" by Nancy
>Leidenfrost, see for the
>complete list together with the references):

* In 1991, the United States had approximately 35.7 million
people living below the poverty level. This represents 14.2
percent of the Nation's population (U.S. Bureau of the
Census, 1992).

Below the poverty level in the U.S. means ahead of 90% of the rest
of the planet, visit a large housing complex like Chicago's Robert
Taylor homes sometime, you'll find the majority below the poverty
line, with cars, color T.V.'s, VCR's, microwave ovens, and even
cell phones.

* One in five children (14.3 million) lived in poverty in
1991, the highest number since 1965. The majority of poor
children are white; most have a parent that works; and most
live outside large cities, in rural and suburban America
(U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992).

There are alot of factors involved in this, one of which is that
many of these are single parent households, usually a single
mother, often the primary breadwinner has abandoned the family.
This points to bad social policy i.e. letting someone else pay,
rather than any failing of capitalism.

Why anyone so poor would choose to have children is beyond me.

* The United States, compared to other countries, ranks 20th
in infant mortality (UNICEF, State of World's Children,
1992, U.S. Data from NCHS, 1991).

You can't make people not smoke or drink during pregnancy, nor eat
the right foods and avoid the unhealthy crap. You can't force them
to go to the doctor for regular checkups. Again, nothing to do with

* The United States, compared to other countries, ranks 17th
in the world in percentage of 1-year-olds fully vaccinated
against polio (UNICEF State of the World's Children Report
1993, 1992, U.S. Immunization Survey, 1985).

Polio vaccinations are free, score one for capitalism, and social
policy. Minus one for bad parents.

* The United States, compared to other countries, ranks 14th
in life expectancy and 4th in literacy (Howell, B., 1990).

I'll bet extropians rate 1st in both. Again other people chose
differently. Eating poorly, lack of exercise, driving cars, all bad
if widely available, but a personnal choice.

* The United States has one of the highest degrees of
inequality in distribution of income (Smeeding, T.M.,
O'Higgins, M., & Rainwater, L., 1990). (I have more sources on
this, if anyone wants them, just ask. -- EM)

So what? Some people take higher risks/work harder/just plain
luckier than others.

* The United States has higher child poverty than seven other
major industrialized western countries (UNICEF, State of the
World's Children Report 1993, 1992). The U.S. child poverty
rate is dramatically higher than those of Canada, Germany,
Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

We dealt with this above.

* America's wealth as measured by the gross national product
(GNP) reached an all-time high in 1990. Between 1979 and
1989, GNP grew by more than one-fourth, but child poverty
increased by 21 percent (Johnson, C.M., Miranda, L.,
Sherman, A., & Weill, J.D., 1991).

Same again, already been there.

* About half of the Nation's poor in 1991 were children under
18 years of age (40.2). Children are almost twice as likely
to be poor than any other group of Americans, including the
elderly (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992).

Huh? half the poor were children? If you're poor and you have
children, they will also be poor.

* In 1991, the poverty rate among children in female-headed
families was 55 percent, more than five times the rate among
married-couple families (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992). (so
much for equal chances -- EM)

Bad social policy, every child has two parents, make them both pay.

And for those who believe that the poor are not "really poor":

* Poor families are less likely to have nutritionally adequate
diets than nonpoor families. Children who have inadequate
diets lag in growth and have more frequent, more severe, and
longer-lasting infectious diseases. Inadequate nutrition,
including iron deficiency (with or without anemia), may also
affect cognitive development and social behavior, with
undernourished children being more apathetic (Kotch, J., &
Shackelford, J., 1989).

Once again come to Chicago, and watch the poor trade food stamps at
half value to blackmarket dealers for cash, used to buy cigarettes,
booze, drugs, and more junk food. Bad social policy.

* Poor children are believed to experience mental and
emotional problems more frequently than nonpoor ones (Gould,
M.S., Wunsch-Hitzig, R., & Dohrenwend, B., 1981). The 1987
report, Children's Mental Health: Problems and Services,
noted the relationship between poverty and minority group
membership and environmental stresses. These stresses posed
risks to children's mental health (Dougherty, D.H., Saxe,
L.M., Cross, T., & Silverman, N., 1987).

<sigh> self evident again, people who do all of the above are going
to have a lousy family life.

>What am I asking for? Socialism? Certainly not, although many
>Extropians still seem to believe that if one isn't a free market
>capitalist, he must automatically be a defender of the big evil
>governments and possibly a potential socialist (or a real one).
>These facts just show that a deregulated economy tends to produce
>more poverty and inequality than a correctly [!] regulated one.
>Add automatism to this, and you got the High Tech Middle Ages.

It still sounds like socialism Erik (a correctly regulated one?) I
would appreciate you explaining the difference. I would also like
to know what you mean by Automatism.

Capitalism <def> n. the economic system in which the means of
production and distribution are privately owned and operated for

The problems you've cited seem a result of bad social policy and
poor choices by individuals. Unless you can somehow attribute them
to the above definition.

Member,Extropy Institute