Poor People Were Libertarians, Once – Counting Cats in Zanzibar


Poor People Were Libertarians, Once – Counting Cats in Zanzibar

22 responses to “Poor People Were Libertarians, Once – Counting Cats in Zanzibar

  1. As battle cries go, the Tea Party’s “Take our country back” is a pretty good one. It’s short and punchy, and it addresses a very widespread sense that the nation that Americans once lived in has changed, and not for the better.

    When the Tea Partyers get around to identifying how America has changed and to whose benefit, however, they get it almost all wrong. In the worldview of the American right — and the polling shows conclusively that that’s who the Tea Party is — the nation, misled by President Obama, has gone down the path to socialism. In fact, far from venturing down that road, we’ve been stuck on the road to hyper-capitalism for three decades now. The Tea Partyers are right to be wary of income redistribution, but if they had even the slightest openness to empiricism, they’d see that the redistribution of the past 30 years has all been upward — radically upward. From 1950 through 1980, the share of all income in America going to the bottom 90 percent of Americans — effectively, all but the rich — increased from 64 percent to 65 percent, according to an analysis of tax data by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. Because the nation’s economy was growing handsomely, that means that the average income of Americans in the bottom 90 percent was growing, too — from $17,719 in 1950 to $30,941 in 1980 — a 75 percent increase in income in constant 2008 dollars.

    Since 1980, it’s been a very different story. The economy has continued to grow handsomely, but for the bottom 90 percent of Americans, it’s been a time of stagnation and loss. Since 1980, the share of all income in America going to the bottom 90 percent has declined from 65 percent to 52 percent. In actual dollars, the average income of Americans in the bottom 90 percent flat-lined — going from the $30,941 of 1980 to $31,244 in 2008.

    In short, the economic life and prospects for Americans since the Reagan Revolution have grown dim, while the lives of the rich — the super-rich in particular — have never been brighter. The share of income accruing to America’s wealthiest 1 percent rose from 9 percent in 1974 to a tidy 23.5 percent in 2007.

    Looking at these numbers, it would be reasonable to infer that when the Tea Partyers say that they want to take the country back, they mean back to the period between 1950 and 1980, when the vast majority of Americans encountered more opportunity and security in their economic lives than they had before or since. Reasonable, but wrong. As the right sees it, America’s woes are traceable to the New Deal order that Franklin Roosevelt, working in the shadow of the even more sinister Woodrow Wilson, imposed on an unsuspecting people.

    In fact, the New Deal order produced the only three decades in American history — the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s — when economic security and opportunity were widely shared. It was the only period in the American chronicle when unions were big and powerful enough to ensure that corporate revenue actually trickled down to workers. It marked the only time in American history when, courtesy originally of the GI Bill, the number of Americans going to college surged. It was the only time when taxes on the rich were really significantly higher than taxes on the rest of us. It was the only time that the minimum wage kept pace (almost) with the cost of living. And it was the only time when most Americans felt confident enough about their economic prospects, and those of their nation, to support the taxes that built the postwar American infrastructure.

    Since the ascent of Ronald Reagan, though, America’s claim to being a land of opportunity has become a sick joke. Unions have dwindled; colleges have become unaffordable; manufacturing has gone abroad; taxes on the rich have plummeted; our infrastructure has decayed.

    But the country the right wants to return to isn’t the America that the Greatest Generation built. Judging by the statements of many of the Republican and Tea Party-backed candidates on next Tuesday’s ballots, it’s the America that antedates the New Deal — a land without Social Security, unions or the minimum wage. It’s the land that the Greatest Generation gladly left behind whey they voted for and built the New Deal order. All of us should want our country back, but that country should be the more prosperous and economically egalitarian nation that flourished at the time when America was not only the world’s greatest power, but also a beacon to the world.


  2. Tony, this post has nothing whatsoever to do with the Tea Party, Roosevelt or the New Deal.

    Do you just post completely random streams of consciousness?

  3. It has often seemed to be the case.

  4. Back on track, i just watched a BBC programme about the Rowntree research into poverty in York in 1910. The presenter reconstructed some of the life of a poor unemployed man in 1910 and contrasted it with some unemployed people there now.

    The one single man who refused to accept State help and struggled to make his own way through life was criticised, while the woman who had children and never worked was held up as an example of the ‘success’ of the welfare state.

    And the man who thought he could get his job back on the railway by shouting ‘scab’ at those who still had jobs was held up as an example of a man who had been ‘betrayed’ and ‘let down’.

    God, the BBC makes me angry.

  5. The post of Meyerson’s excellent article appeared to me to be apposite, casting some much needed perspective on historical discussion.

    My idea of Hell would be a party where all the guests agreed with me.


  6. Tony, you aren’t adding anything at all to the discussion, you are just cutting and pasting completely random and irrelevant rubbish about American politics.

    Why not try to have an idea of your own that actually has anything to do with the discussion at hand?

  7. C H Ingoldby:

    And when I did what you suggest now, you start talking about cheese mines on the moon, necessitating an expanded reply.

    I do try to post interesting, relevant material, whether my own or from people who often say what needs to be said better than I may be able to. At least, in this milieu.


  8. Tony, cutting and pasting a newspaper article that has nothing to do with the thread is neither interesting or relevant. It does not prove anything or add anything to the discussion at hand.

    It does show you up as a completely unoriginal thinker who has nothing to contribute. Or perhaps you’d care to prove me wrong by posting something that is actually relevant (as well as not being self evidentially stupid).

  9. Since all evidence is in support of, or interpreted by theory, self-evidence is not a possibility.


  10. C H Ingoldby:

    Why don’t you just admit that Meyerson is saying things you dislike or disagree with? Directing ad hominem remarks to the messenger is futile.


  11. Tony Hollick, your cut and paste job has no relevance whatsoever to the discussion.

    You are a pretty example of what George Orwell called the ‘Gramophone mind’, reaching for second hand opinions, regardless of how relevant or approriate they are.

    Still waiting for you to actually contribute something to the discussion.

  12. I’m pointing out that the short, medium and long-term economic prospects are so uncertain that planning a pension is extraordinarily difficult. I continue to advocate a Guaranteed Minimum Income which also serves as a foundation for pension income.


  13. So, planning a pension is hard so therefore people should abdicate all responsiblity to the State.

    Running to Nanny to be protected from the big wide scary world.


  14. Guaranteed Minimum Incomes have been proposed by distinguished Liberal figures such as Milton Friedman. C H Ingoldby clearly has an affinity for high-wire acts without safety nets. Good luck with that…


  15. One of the disappointing things about too many libertarians is the failure to recognized that market-based societies are abstract societies as distinct from tribal face-to-face societies.


  16. When all else fails make an appeal to authority. Milton Friedman said it so it must be true…….

    You are a coward, you appeal to fear. The big wide world is a scary, scary place, therefore we all need to run to the State and give up all self responsibility.


  17. C H Ingoldby:

    A Guaranteed Minimum Income can form part of a solid foundation for pensions. You should know that life in an abstract society without any money is not a recipe for a stable, secure and happy life. High-wire acts without safety nets may make for a good spectacle; but as a foundation for a long and happy life they have much in common with Russian Roulette. You may think you’re being brave, when you’re actually merely being reckless. Good luck with that too.


  18. C H Ingoldby:

    In the 19th Century, the life expectancy of a day labourer was 27 years. Is this acceptable to you?


  19. Tony Hollick, an income ‘guaranteed’ by the State would mean ceding control of the economy to the State.

    It would also mean ceding self respect and self reliance. Presumably these would not be great sacrifices for you.

    As for the life expectancy of the 19th Century, that has absolutely nothing to do with this discussion. I do love the way that Statist Leftists always try to imply that Libertarians want to bring back the worst aspects of the Victorian Age, it’s so predictable and so pathetic, which just about sums you up.

  20. C H Ingoldby:

    You might try to cut out the insults: they do you no credit.


  21. Tony Hollick, you might try to actually engage in discussing the actual subject at hand rather than constantly raising complete irrelevances and diversions.

    Do that and you might find that you start getting treated with some respect rather than as a semi comic figure.

  22. C H Ingoldby:

    But I don’t care what you think of me, going by what I’ve seen of yours thus far.