Thursday, January 25, 2007

Follow-up: Two Measures of Wealth

I received a very well crafted set of thoughts from Dane regarding my post, Two Measures of Wealth. I would like to address those thoughts in a new post because:

  1. Dane's comments are quite good and I want everyone to see them.
  2. Both Dane's comments and my response are quite long and I think it would be a bit awkward carrying on the entire discussion in a comment thread.
  3. I concede a point to Dane and don't want to hide that fact.
  4. I hope this encourages others to comment as well.

Before reading my response below, one should read Dane's comments.

My response:

Dane, I agree with your first point regarding what is most important to consider in these matters. I agree with your second point that the first consideration begs the second - whether one's lot is improving.

By the way, thank you for not mentioning the obvious philosophical issues with my use of the word "absolute" in the post. As I hope everyone understands, I meant the word in a very specific, economic context.

Anyway! Back to your comments: As to your third consideration, i.e., whether one class or group is improving as quickly as another, I will partially recant and agree that it is not a foolish thing to consider in, say, an academic way. I do, however, maintain my position regarding its ridiculous, deceitful current use in politics. Since, though, you did not address that statement, I will assume that you do not take issue with that unless you state otherwise.

With regard to your analogy regarding a child's height, I have some thoughts: it is going to be very hard, if not impossible, to hammer out what we should consider stunted, normal, or above average economic growth rates for the various strata of society. This is because, to come up with averages and the like, one needs historical records pertaining to similar situations. I would maintain that our current socio-economic situation is unique in human history (by the way, I would probably argue that most socio-economic situations specified by time and geography are unique). Thus, I think it a Pandora's Box to try to engage in discussions of whether "the poorer economic class(es) in America in 2007 are experiencing stunted, normal, or above average growth."

Thus, I circle back and agree with you that what really matters in these discussions are whether or not people are capable of living humane lives, not whether the growth rate for their economic class is not as phenomenal as that of richer classes nor whether their growth rate is, for lack of a better word, "poor" compared to what "it should be", i.e., the average.

Update: See CAPRE DIEM's article, Economic Growth, for more regarding historical growth rates.


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