Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Matt Ridley's 17 Reasons to Be Cheerful

The world has never been a better place to live in and it will keep getting better, says Matt Ridley, and he provides 17 reasons to be cheerful, here's a sample:

1. We're better off now
Compared with 50 years ago, when I was just four years old, the average human now earns nearly three times as much money (corrected for inflation), eats one third more calories, buries two thirds fewer children, and can expect to live one third longer. In fact, it's hard to find any region of the world that's worse off now than it was then, even though the global population has more than doubled over that period.

4. The important stuff costs less
One reason we are richer, healthier, taller, cleverer, longer-lived, and freer than ever before is that the four most basic human needs-food, clothing, fuel, and shelter-have grown markedly cheaper. Take one example: In 1800, a candle providing one hour's light cost six hours' work. In the 1880s, the same light from a kerosene lamp took 15 minutes' work to pay for. In 1950, it was eight seconds. Today, it's half a second. In these terms, we are 43,200 times better off than in 1800.

9. The good old days weren't
Some people argue that in the past there was a simplicity, tranquillity, sociability, and spirituality that's now been lost. This rose-tinted nostalgia is generally confined to the wealthy. It's easier to wax elegiac for the life of a pioneer when you don't have to use an outhouse. The biggest-ever experiment in back-to-the-land hippie lifestyle is now known as the Dark Ages.

 14. Great ideas keep coming
The more we prosper, the more we can prosper. The more we invent, the more inventions become possible. The world of things is often subject to diminishing returns. The world of ideas is not: The ever-increasing exchange of ideas causes the ever-increasing rate of innovation in the modern world. There isn't even a theoretical possibility of exhausting our supply of ideas, discoveries, and inventions.
 
17. Optimists are right
For 200 years, pessimists have had all the headlines-even though optimists have far more often been right. There is immense vested interest in pessimism. No charity ever raised money by saying things are getting better. No journalist ever got the front page writing a story about how disaster was now less likely. Pressure groups and their customers in the media search even the most cheerful statistics for glimmers of doom. Don't be browbeaten-dare to be an optimist!

HT: Joe Lais

130 Comments:

At 4/03/2012 6:30 AM, Blogger Ed R said...

Knowledge is cumulative.

 
At 4/03/2012 6:32 AM, Blogger Methinks said...

Things are better. The old days weren't so tranquil. But things CAN get worse and we must protect the reasons things are better and getting better.

It's possible for things to get worse. Pre-1952 Egypt was liberal and comparatively wealthy. Gamal Nasser's fascist/socialist programs sent Egypt into a long, slow decline. My in-laws returned to Egypt after 30 years abroad in the service of the UN and found a country so decrepit they wished they hadn't returned at all. Once so declined, it's difficult to restore it.

Russia's long decline has left a permanent scar as well.

The problem, IMO, isn't that we are worse off today. It's that the very reasons we're better off are under threat. Our liberty is being eroded at an increasing rate and we must either protect it or face a different future.

 
At 4/03/2012 7:39 AM, Blogger AIG said...

I agree with everything he said, but:

Urban living is a good thing

Where is Rick Santorum going to get his votes then?

 
At 4/03/2012 7:40 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Funny, Methinks, but No. 16 covers your exact point.

By the way, I know I've said this before in multiple places and I will surely say it again, but Ridley's book is a must-read regardless of how you feel about his ideas.

 
At 4/03/2012 7:45 AM, Blogger AIG said...

Pre-1952 Egypt was liberal and comparatively wealthy

That's the story-line Egyptians love to tell themselves, especially those Egyptians which were in the ruling class back in the day (and are now in the west). I'm not so sure of how true it is. Certainly the numbers don't add up to show that picture. But then again if you ask members of a ruling elite in any country that has been deposed, they will always say their time was better (not to imply that is the case with your in-laws, but I've heard this story many times from various Egyptians)

Russia's long decline has left a permanent scar as well.

This is a similar story too. As bad as Putin may be and as bad as the current system is, is the ordinary (and most) Russian today considerably better off today than they were 20 years ago? Or 10 years ago?

 
At 4/03/2012 8:02 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

1. We're better off now
Compared with 50 years ago, when I was just four years old, the average human now earns nearly three times as much money (corrected for inflation), eats one third more calories, buries two thirds fewer children, and can expect to live one third longer. In fact, it's hard to find any region of the world that's worse off now than it was then, even though the global population has more than doubled over that period.


A strong argument can be made in favour of the developed world. But we do not live there.

I guess that we are supposed to ignore the fact that 15% of the American population is dependent on food stamps at a time when debt levels are unsustainable and the Fed resorts to manipulating the economy through its monetary decisions. Real growth properly measured is either zero or negative and the demographics are not favourable.

Or we are supposed to turn a blind eye to the fact that crude production has not risen over the past seven years and that increases in fossil fuel production in the US have required the CONSUMPTION of capital? Or the fact that Americans have less personal freedom today than they have had in more than half a century?

 
At 4/03/2012 8:04 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Russia's long decline has left a permanent scar as well.

Are you trying to imply that Russians were better off under the USSR? They seem a lot better off economically to most neutral observers.

 
At 4/03/2012 8:27 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

I guess that we are supposed to ignore the fact that 15% of the American population is dependent on food stamps at a time when debt levels are unsustainable and the Fed resorts to manipulating the economy through its monetary decisions. Real growth properly measured is either zero or negative and the demographics are not favourable.

That same 15% also have luxuries such as A/C, cable TV, microwave ovens, coffee makers, washing machines, dishwashers, computers, electricity, heating. You know, things that were once considered only for the rich.

Additionally, the bottom 5th of American households live better than 2/3 of the world's population.

I'd consider that growth.

There's also the fact that the level of absolute poverty (living on less than $1.25/day) has fallen at the fastest rate in history.

I'd consider that progress.

 
At 4/03/2012 8:54 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

I mean, this is one thing I don't understand: the entire history of humanity has shown nothing but achievement and improvement. Even the Dark Ages have had this. Furthermore, no century before have had the level of advancement the current one has had. And it's not just limited to one country or one group of people, but all people, thanks to the proliferation of capitalism. Despite all this, people think we're finished. There is no trend, no hint of this, anywhere.

 
At 4/03/2012 9:02 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

U.S. living standards, labor standards, and environmental standards are much higher today compared to the 1970s, which indicate inflation has been overstated and real growth has been understated.

Obviously, the U.S. had strong disinflationary growth at the height of the Information Revolution from 1982-07. If nominal GDP growth averaged 6%, living standards likely improved at least 4% on average.

Of course, some Americans gained more than others, like the 10,000 workers at Microsoft who became millionaires, petroleum engineers earning well over $100,000 a year, or even immigrants with little education and english living in nice houses and driving in new trucks through hard work.

 
At 4/03/2012 9:08 AM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Jon Murphy: "Despite all this, people think we're finished."

I read a psychological explanation. I'm not qualified to paraphrase the psychologist, but here's what I remember:

It is easy to accept that a disaster of some sort - galactic, human-initiated, something - will occur to humankind at some time in the projected ten billion year existence of the solar system. A person's ego leads him to believe he is important - that he matters in the development of the universe and the passing of the eons. So a person wants to believe that the earth-killing or society-killing event or events will happen in his lifetime - thus validating his belief that his existence matters.

Does that make any sense at all?

 
At 4/03/2012 9:25 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Actually, yes, Jet. Thank you. The same sort of idea that "my generation is the most important in human history" sort of thing, right?

 
At 4/03/2012 9:34 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Even depressions are better today.

The only similarity between the Great Depression and the depression of the past four years is the percentage of actual output below potential output.

I suspect, most Americans don't know we're in another great depression.

 
At 4/03/2012 9:36 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

The depression that's coming in the late 2020's will make this "Great Recession" look like a bump in the road.

 
At 4/03/2012 9:37 AM, Blogger bart said...

As of 4/2012:

* Dow with dividends, fully CPI w/o lies corrected (base year 2000) moved from about 1800 to about 27000 since 1900 - a gain of about 16x.
* Nominally it moved from 63 to 62000 - a gain of about 984x.

* Dow alone (w/o dividends) fully CPI w/o lies corrected (base year 2000) moved from about 1800 to 5800 since 1900 - a gain of about 3.2x.
* Nominally it moved from 63 to 13000 - a gain of about 206x.


In other words, inflation represented well over 95% of the gain.

 
At 4/03/2012 9:46 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

"4. The important stuff costs less"

i suppose that means housing is not important?

from 1970 to now (which is as much data as FRED has) average hourly earnings went from 3.3 to 19.6, a 494% increase.

home prices went from 25k to 170k a 580% increase. looks like housing certainly got more expensive.

from 8/1990 (start of the FRED series) gasoline has gone from 1.1 to 3.9, a 250% increase while wages have gone from 10.2 to 19.6, only a 92% gain.

i guess gasoline is not important either.

from 1970 to present food has gone up 510% (according to cpi food, which i think runs much too low) also exceeding wage growth.

food must not be terribly important either. what an interesting world ridley must inhabit.

there is much to be said for some of his ideas, but this notion that everyhting important is getting cheaper looks pretty difficult to defend, at least in the last 40 years or so.

 
At 4/03/2012 9:46 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Jon Murphy, yes, the next depression, e.g. in the 2030s, will be much harder to avoid.

The current depression either could've been avoided or a V-shaped recovery could've been achieved.

This unnecessary depression will make the future depression even worse.

 
At 4/03/2012 10:25 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4/03/2012 10:28 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

It seems, some people are confused about the general price level of goods & services and asset prices.

Some prices of goods & services are in an uptrend or downtrend, while other prices rise and fall over short time periods without much of a price change.

Net wealth is represented by the prices of assets minus the costs of liabilities.

However, net wealth doesn't fully capture real wealth.

For example, a new house may be really worth $300,000. However, its market price may be $250,000. Or the market price may be $300,000, but it's really worth $250,000.

 
At 4/03/2012 10:30 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

"For example, a new house may be really worth $300,000. However, its market price may be $250,000. Or the market price may be $300,000, but it's really worth $250,000"

sounds to me like you are the one that is confused.

the value of somehting is what people will pay for it.

we all have differing senses of value. i may be willing to pay $10 for a burger and you might only see it as worth $8. thus, neither of our subjective values can be used as a "market value" until a transaction takes place.

maybe you think nike stock is worth $150, but it trades at $109. that's the market price and what the stock is deemed, by consensus, to be worth. if you wanted to sell it, that's what you would get.

your notion that we ought to be looking at some subjective value as opposed to market price is antithetical to the whole notion of market price. you are trying to pass off the subjective as objective.

 
At 4/03/2012 10:37 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Morganovich, the market price is determined by the buyers and sellers in the market. Of course, it's subjective.

For example, if real income rises or interest rates fall, you can expect prices to rise, ceteris paribus.

 
At 4/03/2012 10:37 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

If I may, Morganovich, I believe Ridley is not specifically talking about the cost of the house, but rather the cost of shelter: rent/mortgage, electricity costs, heating/cooling costs, and the like. He goes into more detail in his book, but if I recall correctly, he pointed out that the overall cost of shelter as a proportion of one's income has fallen.

What also could be is that we are focusing on this with an American-centric POV. If we widen our scope to the entire world, we may find housing costs have dropped overall.

 
At 4/03/2012 10:43 AM, Blogger Don Culo said...

Compared with 50 years ago, when I was just four years old...... the average human eats one third more calories"


Let's applaud all the fat and obsese Americans.

 
At 4/03/2012 10:48 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

peak-

"Morganovich, the market price is determined by the buyers and sellers in the market. Of course, it's subjective.

For example, if real income rises or interest rates fall, you can expect prices to rise, ceteris paribus."

your argument here makes no sense at all. you get an objective market price by subbing the subjective preferences of participants.

the pact that it can change does not make it unobjective.

the price of a life preserver may be $50, but leap to $5000 right after you hit an iceberg. that does not make it non objective.

your notion that houses are worth $200k and sell for $150k has the underlying assumption that YOU know the real value of things. sure, we each act that way, but the market price that emerges is as close to objective as any price can be.

 
At 4/03/2012 10:51 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Let's applaud all the fat and obsese Americans.

Americans make up 0.04% of the world's population. We would have to consume a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooot of calories to affect the average.

 
At 4/03/2012 10:53 AM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

From a speech by Winston Churchill at 80 years old, in 1954:

"For myself I am an optimist -- it does not seem to be much use being anything else."

 
At 4/03/2012 11:26 AM, Blogger Methinks said...

Jon Murphy,

I'm just focusing on the need to more pro-actively protect our freedom. I think there's far too much complacency and I've seen the results of complacency "in action".


Vange,

No, I don't mean that Russians were better off under the Soviets. My comparison of Russia today is to the Czarist regime at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. The scar is left by the Bolsheviks in my troubled country, not by the collapse of the Soviet system. But, people have been permanently changed and hardened by the regime. At the end of the 19th century, Russia was finally softening.

AIG,

My husband's family was not part of the ruling elite. Life in Egypt bears out what I say. Have you ever been and are you comparing the correct numbers? Are you accounting for who controls the vast majority of the economy and the lack of opportunity for ordinary young Egyptians? I don't think you are. Do you know that in Egypt doctors train without cadavers? They can't afford them.

Slow decline is not only possible but likely if we allow it.

 
At 4/03/2012 11:33 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

The world is better off (not environmentally, but otherwise).

The American middle class? Not so sure.

 
At 4/03/2012 11:35 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Morganovich says: "your notion that houses are worth $200k and sell for $150k has the underlying assumption that YOU know the real value of things."

If people don't know the real value of things, then who does?

At an auction with two people, one person may value a lamp, for example, at $15 and the other may value it at $20.

Who'll win and how much will he pay?

Who'll be happier, the one who paid $15 or the other who paid $15.01?

 
At 4/03/2012 12:07 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

peak-

you are missing the key issue here.

2 people may value a lamp differently. that is subjective preference.

you cannot use the price of either as an objective price. further, neither value is the same as price.

you can value it at 15 and i can value it at 20, but the seller may value it at 25. thus, there is no transaction.

this is why we use transactions to give us the most objective price possible. no one person's subjective value by itself can create a price, only half a bid ask spread.

a market can put an objective value on somehting (best bid or offer) but no one person can.

as someone who purports top be a trader, i'd expect you to know that.

 
At 4/03/2012 12:27 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Benjamin - "The world is better off (not environmentally, but otherwise)."

In which time would you rather live? When rivers were sewers, disease was rampant and people had to drink anything other than water, or later when cities were nearly unlivable, factories actually did pollute and fires still burned unchecked...or...now?

 
At 4/03/2012 12:31 PM, Blogger AIG said...

home prices went from 25k to 170k a 580% increase. looks like housing certainly got more expensive

Nop. A "house" is not a unit of comparison. A sq ft, maybe (but even then, not a good unit of comparison). What I'm getting at is, on a per unit basis, it has gotten cheaper. Its just that we can now afford, and demand, more. But a "house" is not a unit.

i guess gasoline is not important either.

The price of gasoline in itself is irrelevant, unless we know what 1 unit of gasoline can DO. If 1 unit of gasoline can drive me 40 miles today, vs 13 miles in 1970, then the increase in price seems pretty low compared to the increase in its utility. Or, it may well follow this increase. But even if it did, today a far larger % of people have access to gasoline, and can extract the same utility as only a small % could in 1970...at the same price.

So "cheaper" can have different meanings, rather than just a per unit comparison.

food must not be terribly important either. what an interesting world ridley must inhabit.

So the difference here is between 494% increase in "average hourly wage", vs 510% for "food". I'd say this is probably well within reason, given that "average hourly earning" doesn't represent the real INCOME of a person, and "food" as a category can, and probably has, shifted over 4 decades.

 
At 4/03/2012 12:40 PM, Blogger AIG said...

My husband's family was not part of the ruling elite. Life in Egypt bears out what I say. Have you ever been and are you comparing the correct numbers? Are you accounting for who controls the vast majority of the economy and the lack of opportunity for ordinary young Egyptians? I don't think you are. Do you know that in Egypt doctors train without cadavers? They can't afford them.

The issue is, was it better in the 50s and before then? It was better for a small elite, but the average Egyptian was also poor and illiterate then, just as they are today.

Egypt has gone through several phases of different types of governance. Mubarak was certainly not similar to Nasser, and the economy performed very differently.

But, we both know the national passtime in the Middle East is conspiracy theories and complaining.

 
At 4/03/2012 12:46 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Morganovich says: "you can value it at 15 and i can value it at 20, but the seller may value it at 25. thus, there is no transaction."

Or the seller may value it at 10 (for whatever reason), and then both the seller and buyer benefit enormously when the transaction takes place at 15.01.

 
At 4/03/2012 12:53 PM, Blogger Ersin karadaş said...

Bilgi biraz zor birşeydir Doğuştan gelen yetenekle birleşmesi gerek.

 
At 4/03/2012 12:54 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Peak/Morg,

This all started without the lamps. Stick to the houses. I'd say if Peak bought his house at 250k, it was probably a result of market comps for various amenities and sq ft in a specific location. If the comps on that same home are now 200k, that's not one man's opinion just because he happens to know the average going rate.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:01 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

i think methinks offers some very valid points.

modern prosperity is largely made possible by specific institutions like rights, rule of law, and markets/modern finance.

without such institutions, you WILL slide backwards. therefore, if we would safeguard prosperity we must safeguard these institutions and we are not doing a good job of it. the risk to our prosperity comes not from some sort of Malthusian doom but from our own complacency and forgetfulness about just what got us here.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:03 PM, Blogger Ken said...

VangeIV

 
At 4/03/2012 1:03 PM, Blogger Mike said...

"Bilgi biraz zor birşeydir Doğuştan gelen yetenekle birleşmesi gerek."

Ersin brings up a good point. If I spoke Turkish I'd expand on it.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:05 PM, Blogger Ken said...

VangeIV,

15% of the American population is dependent on food stamps

This is an obvious lie. To say that people are dependant on something simply because they receive something is so dishonest, I can't believe that you would say it. Or maybe I can. Many partisans lie constantly about the state of things in order to win an argument.

I guarantee you you can end all food stamps programs and not one person will starve to death as a result.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:06 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Mike, that would change the relative value of the house, compared to other houses, not the real value.

I wouldn't buy a $250K house if I believed it was really worth $200K. I'd buy it at $250K, because it was worth at least $250K to me.

However, if the market value of the house falls to $200K after I bought it at $250K, the real value of the house may not change at all, e.g. one-fifth of the house doesn't disappear.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:06 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"Or the seller may value it at 10 (for whatever reason), and then both the seller and buyer benefit enormously when the transaction takes place at 15.01."

2 observations:

1. so what? that does not change the fact the the objective price is set by a transaction. by definition, voluntary transactions are always beneficial to both sides. if i sell you a car, it's always because i value it at less than the price you are willing to pay and if you buy it, that is always because you value it more.

2. such a state of affairs is NEVER sustainable. if buyers value a product more than a seller, transactions occur until all the marginal sellers are driven out and there is a price spread again with the ask higher than the bid.

again, as someone who purports to be a trader, you really ought to know this. what you are describing is a "crossed market" and such a thing can never persist for longer than basic trade matching takes.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:11 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"However, if the market value of the house falls to $200K after I bought it at $250K, the real value of the house may not change at all, e.g. one-fifth of the house doesn't disappear."

nonsense. the value of the house dropped. it may be the same to live in, but not to sell.

if you can replace it now for $200k, not even you would value it at $250 anymore unless you like overpaying.

you are, once more, trying to substitute your personal subjective preferences for market price.

try telling the bank that it's still worth what you paid and that they should gove you a cash out refi.

try buying NKE at $120, seeing it drop to $109 and then telling your broker it's still worth $120 and demanding margin.

you are free to value a matchbox car at $300k if you like, but that demonstrates nothing.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:12 PM, Blogger Ken said...

Jon,

The depression that's coming in the late 2020's

Ha! I didn't know anyone could predict what would happen in an economy in the next five years, much less nearly 20 years in the future.

morganovich,

i suppose that means housing is not important?

The houses built today are pretty much nothing like the houses built in the 1970's. For starters, houses in 1970 averaged a size of 1400 sq ft, in 2009, the average was 2700 sq ft.

This doesn't even include the quality improvements in electricity, HVAC, insulation, and everything else.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:13 PM, Blogger Mike said...

OK, Peak, then I think you just made Morganovich's point for him.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:17 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Mike, that when the price of a house falls in half, then half the house disappears?

 
At 4/03/2012 1:19 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

aig-

you are just trying to shift the goalposts.

a house is what you live in. if we want small ones, we buy them. they go into the averages. you do not live in a square foot, you live in a house. further, the size of the average US dwelling is dropping, not rising. this is due to urbanization. looking at single family homes gives you a very misleading idea of what is going on. far more people live in apartments and condos than in the 70's as we have become a more urban society.

gasoline mileage has not gone up nearly as much as real price. further, you are playing tricks with your analysis. to get better mileage required big capital outlay. you had to buy a new car. the mileage from a 1990 ford f-150 has stayed the same. but gas went up. you are trying to compare apples and oranges. the mileage of a new car may be higher, but it cost you a great deal of money to get it.

1. food is not cheaper, contrary to his claims.

2. food quality has dropped.

3. that food measure is the substitution fiddles cpi figure, so real inflation has been much higher.

avg hourly earning is a measure of how long you have to work to buy X. that's how we were discussing this, no? hours worked to buy a widget?

if i work more hours to buy the same stuff, that does not leave me better off.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:29 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:30 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

If a house is worth $300,000 to me, what's the probability I'll pay more than $300,000?

Zero.

What's the probability I'll pay $300,000 or less for the house.

A lot higher than zero.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:31 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Question, Morganovich, just so I can understand you:

Let's say in 1970, you had to work X hours to buy a widget, which you got Y use from.

In 2011, you need to work X*2 hours to afford the same widget, but the usefulness of the widget is now Y*4. Isn't that improvement?

I ask in this context: maybe we shouldn't measure it in hours worked per gallon of gas, but rather hours worked per mileage of tank of gas?

I mean, there is something to say for efficiency, no?

 
At 4/03/2012 1:40 PM, Blogger AIG said...

a house is what you live in. if we want small ones, we buy them. they go into the averages. you do not live in a square foot, you live in a house.

That's irrelevant. The only relevance is the unit of comparison. A house is a not a unit of comparison, since not all houses are the same.

further, the size of the average US dwelling is dropping, not rising. this is due to urbanization.

The average size of a "home" in the US today is 2,700 sq ft, compared to 1,400 in 1970. That's nearly double the size. And they come with air conditioning, all sort of sprinklers and lights and cable and thermal controls and appliances etc. Even if they remained exactly the same size, they would still be widely different.

looking at single family homes gives you a very misleading idea of what is going on. far more people live in apartments and condos than in the 70's as we have become a more urban society.

Maybe. I don't know if the "home" data includes all types of dwellings. However, I'd bet the trend is not going downward at all.

But that is still not too important. As I said, sq ft is not a good measure of comparison, because you do have to adjust for other "values" we get out of homes today, compared to 1970. If urbanization is on the rise, then "location" is becoming more important to us than size. But you'd have to compare, somehow, with the 1970s units of "location", to see if indeed it is getting more, or less, expensive.

gasoline mileage has not gone up nearly as much as real price. further, you are playing tricks with your analysis. to get better mileage required big capital outlay. you had to buy a new car. the mileage from a 1990 ford f-150 has stayed the same. but gas went up. you are trying to compare apples and oranges. the mileage of a new car may be higher, but it cost you a great deal of money to get it.

Well that's not a problem at all. Compare the average fuel economy of the fleet, over the years.

1. food is not cheaper, contrary to his claims.

It may well be cheaper on a particular unit of comparison, which may be calories/$, it may be taste/$ etc. "food", isn't a unit of comparison. We're not eating the same kinds of foods today as in 1970.

2. food quality has dropped

That's a matter of opinion. But of course, there is no monolithic "food"; there's lots of qualities available, at various prices. One may also say this as, variation has increased.

avg hourly earning is a measure of how long you have to work to buy X. that's how we were discussing this, no? hours worked to buy a widget?

Average hourly earning is not = to how long you have to work to buy x, since my average hourly earning is not my total income. I also get other benefits, like 401k, bonuses, insurance, investment income etc. Besides, we haven't determined what "x" is.

if i work more hours to buy the same stuff, that does not leave me better off.

But that is precisely what you don't do. Not on a unit bases. This isn't "shifting the goal posts", this is defining them.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:42 PM, Blogger AIG said...

modern prosperity is largely made possible by specific institutions like rights, rule of law, and markets/modern finance.

without such institutions, you WILL slide backwards


Yes. And Ridley's point was that these institutions have become stronger and more widespread throughout the world over the decades, and we can expect them to continue expanding.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:50 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

jon-

i see where you are going, but how are you determining "use"?

how do you get 4x the "use" from cheeseburger?

i'd actually argue that a great many products (including food) have less use than 40 years ago.

a j crew sweater today is junk. it falls apart in a year or 2. the ones i bought in high school are still perfect.

the meat and milk you buy now is jacked full of hormones. it never used to be. the fruit and veggies ripened on a truck. thus, a tomato tastes like cardboard and has far lower vitamin content. sure, they are more available, but they are lower quality.

i am very hesitant to try to base comparisons on "use" as it is a highly subjective notion.

if you build a new semi fab and the 30mm wafers at 11nm yield far more dies than your old 20mm system, yes, absolutely, that's more use.

but how can you decide how much more "use" a 2011 dell pc is compared to a 2010 one in any objective fashion? sure, maybe it's a bit faster, but would you even notice? and sure, it's far more useful as word processor than, say, and old manual typewriter, but those used to last decades. your pc gets 3 years.

how do you net that out? i have no idea. that's why i find notions around measuring "use" so problematic.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:54 PM, Blogger AIG said...

how do you get 4x the "use" from cheeseburger?

A cheeseburger isn't a unit of comparison :) A sq inch of cheeseburger, or a gram of cheeseburger, is a unit (maybe, if we control for taste). If cheeseburgers today are 4 times the size of cheeseburgers in 1970 (and they probably are), then you might get 4x the use.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:56 PM, Blogger bart said...

AIG said: The average size of a "home" in the US today is 2,700 sq ft, compared to 1,400 in 1970. That's nearly double the size. And they come with air conditioning, all sort of sprinklers and lights and cable and thermal controls and appliances etc. Even if they remained exactly the same size, they would still be widely different.


The average land size of current houses are substantially smaller than they were in 1970. Most 1970 houses were also air conditioned.

Although there of course have been improvements since then, if you include them then you must also devalue/degrade current plastic type items that were wood back then.

And M was using house prices from Case Shiller, which only compares the same house in price when a sale of that house occurs. They don't compare a 2BR in Hollywood to a 2BR in Hoboken. The BLS goes out in the ozone with strange measures like OER, which is hugely different from what people actually pay.

 
At 4/03/2012 1:56 PM, Blogger AIG said...

how do you net that out? i have no idea

Functional Unit :)

 
At 4/03/2012 2:00 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"That's irrelevant. The only relevance is the unit of comparison. A house is a not a unit of comparison, since not all houses are the same."

then look at the price of the same apartment in manhattan from 1970 to now. that is a consistent comparison. it will also bear out mu point. median home price is driven almost entirely by existing properties. look at rent for the same unit in the same building over decades. same thing. you are just trying to steer around a result you do not like.

"
Well that's not a problem at all. Compare the average fuel economy of the fleet, over the years. "

this is still a partial picture. it cost a lot of money to update the fleet over those years. you cannot leave that out.

"
The average size of a "home" in the US today is 2,700 sq ft, compared to 1,400 in 1970. That's nearly double the size. And they come with air conditioning, all sort of sprinklers and lights and cable and thermal controls and appliances etc. Even if they remained exactly the same size, they would still be widely different. "

no, the average size of a "single family dwelling" has changed. but far more of us live in apartments and condos as we have moved to cities. as anyone who has moved from the burbs to a city can tell you, the living space drops like a stone. further, the new units being built are all smaller, not bigger than the old ones. finding a new construction classic 8 in NYC is all but impossible.

you completely missed my point.

"We're not eating the same kinds of foods today as in 1970."

what color is the sky on your world? we eat bread, pasta, meat, vegetables, fruits. most of it IS the same. but it is unambiguously lower quality. why do you think food that looks like food did int he 70's carries such a premium? you want milk without estrogen, you need to pay up.

the rest of your comment is almost gibberish.

benefits are already figured into that hourly figure. it comes from dividing total comp by hours worked.

you are just making claims counter to the data. you do work more hours for the same food or gallon of gas or house.

 
At 4/03/2012 2:01 PM, Blogger AIG said...

The average land size of current houses are substantially smaller than they were in 1970.

Land size, is another unit of comparison. It may well be decreasing, but how much of a value is placed on it today? Without coming up with a "functional unit" of comparison, saying whether something is cheaper, or better, is impossible. But we can say with some certainty, that a "house", is not a functional unit of comparison.

if you include them then you must also devalue/degrade current plastic type items that were wood back then.

It all depends on what the unit of measurement is here. "wood" is not a unit.

And M was using house prices from Case Shiller, which only compares the same house in price when a sale of that house occurs.

I'm pretty sure the census has also captured this data as well. it shows identical trends.

They don't compare a 2BR in Hollywood to a 2BR in Hoboken.

Because a 2br house is not a unit of comparison. Location, in this case, defined somehow...is.

 
At 4/03/2012 2:06 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"Yes. And Ridley's point was that these institutions have become stronger and more widespread throughout the world over the decades, and we can expect them to continue expanding."

and my point is that ridley is wrong.

the us has seen a massive shift toward majority rule and away from individual rights. we push "the collective good" as opposed to individual freedom. this is the slippery slope that destroys the engine of prosperity.

tax the productive and give to the unproductive.

abridge the rule of law for big union bankruptcies.

attempt to force citizens to buy products from private enterprise.

tax and fund boondoggle after boondoggle.

rights ARE eroding and at an accelerating rate. regulation is exploding.

those are antithetical to prosperity.

the US constitution was such a radical and successful document because it was centered on the inalienable rights of the individual. that is not where we are headed politically.

 
At 4/03/2012 2:10 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

aig-

"They don't compare a 2BR in Hollywood to a 2BR in Hoboken.

Because a 2br house is not a unit of comparison. Location, in this case, defined somehow...is."

you are still missing this.

it's the SAME HOUSE. that is how the index works.

it sells in 1970, then in 1980 and you look at the price difference. it is a nearly PERFECT unit of comparison because it is the same thing.

your notions of "function unit" are just a way to try and fiddle the numbers with arbirtary scalars.

there is no objective way to get a "functional unit".

is a 5 pound burger 10 times as functional to you as an 8oz one? i doubt it.

 
At 4/03/2012 2:13 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"If cheeseburgers today are 4 times the size of cheeseburgers in 1970 (and they probably are), then you might get 4x the use."

actually, no they are not.

the whopper is tiny compared to what it was. so are most of the mcdonalds products. my neighbor owns 8 macdoanlds franchises. we were just talking about this the other day. the menu stays at 99c, but the burgers get smaller every year. they make up for it with more condiments.

 
At 4/03/2012 2:14 PM, Blogger AIG said...

then look at the price of the same apartment in manhattan from 1970 to now. that is a consistent comparison. it will also bear out mu point. median home price is driven almost entirely by existing properties. look at rent for the same unit in the same building over decades. same thing. you are just trying to steer around a result you do not like.

Certainly not. In this case the value and function of the property has changes; ie the apartment is not the unit of comparison. The "location", may be.

We have t define the functional unit here; ie the output to which you have to normalize. The output of an apartment in Manhattan has shifted from the 1970s to today.

this is still a partial picture. it cost a lot of money to update the fleet over those years. you cannot leave that out.

It also costs a lot of money to maintain the fleet current :) That is not an issue for me to take into account, since it is an issue for the individual car owners to rationalize. I'm basing my comparison on the bases of their rationalization.

no, the average size of a "single family dwelling" has changed. but far more of us live in apartments and condos as we have moved to cities. as anyone who has moved from the burbs to a city can tell you, the living space drops like a stone. further, the new units being built are all smaller, not bigger than the old ones. finding a new construction classic 8 in NYC is all but impossible.

You haven't given me any data to show that the size is indeed, dropping. Until you do, I can't discuss it. But either way, the...function...of a "single family dwelling" has changed, if people are moving to the cities. Location is becoming more important to them, and "location" is a unit of comparison in itself which determines the "value" the house has for an individual.

Now, there's no "easy" way of creating a unit for "location", but if you could, that's what you'd want to compare against.

what color is the sky on your world? we eat bread, pasta, meat, vegetables, fruits. most of it IS the same.

They didn't have jalapeno cheese bread back in 1970 :) Bread, is not just bread.

but it is unambiguously lower quality. why do you think food that looks like food did int he 70's carries such a premium?

Because its a niche market that only certain people find of value. Most people, have a different "function" for food, than you may.

benefits are already figured into that hourly figure. it comes from dividing total comp by hours worked.

Well inimitably you said "average hourly wage". Then you said "average hourly earning". Now, its compensation. Now, what did they REALLY look at?

you do work more hours for the same food or gallon of gas or house.

But "food", "gas" and "house", are not functional units. That's the whole point. A "house" today is twice the size. A "gallon of gas" today gets me 3 times further. A "cheeseburger" today is 4 times bigger and better.

 
At 4/03/2012 2:19 PM, Blogger AIG said...

and my point is that ridley is wrong. the us has seen a massive shift toward majority rule and away from individual rights.

Majority rule, and individual rights, in your context, may have very little impact on economic rights or performance. Furthermore, the US is not the world.

it's the SAME HOUSE. that is how the index works. it sells in 1970, then in 1980 and you look at the price difference. it is a nearly PERFECT unit of comparison because it is the same thing.

But its not the same thing :) A house in the Bronx in 1970, is not the same thing as the same house in the Bronx in 2012. The value the owner places on it has changed dramatically.


there is no objective way to get a "functional unit".


For some things its easier, for others not. That doesn't mean that you don't try and go with the comparison we know is not right.

is a 5 pound burger 10 times as functional to you as an 8oz one? i doubt it

Of course not. Because that function is constrained by the size of my stomach.

 
At 4/03/2012 2:22 PM, Blogger AIG said...

actually, no they are not.

Well this is why I said "IF". I don't know anything about cheeseburgers.

 
At 4/03/2012 2:26 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Thank you for your explanation, Morganovich.

 
At 4/03/2012 2:29 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

and my point is that ridley is wrong.

Just one thing to keep in mind, Morganovich, is Ridley is talking about the world as a whole, not just the US. Human rights have taken massive leaps forward globally.

 
At 4/03/2012 2:33 PM, Blogger AIG said...

Sorry Morganovich, I take back what I said about the "average hourly wages". You always did say "earnings". However, I can't find anything in FRED showing how they calculated this number.

 
At 4/03/2012 2:42 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"Certainly not. In this case the value and function of the property has changes; ie the apartment is not the unit of comparison. The "location", may be.

We have t define the functional unit here; ie the output to which you have to normalize. The output of an apartment in Manhattan has shifted from the 1970s to today. "

this is just gibberish.

if it's the same renovated apartment, it's the same unit. it keeps the rain off, gives you storage space, etc. you are trying to make this hopelessly complicated. by your insane definitions, nothing can ever be valued. you are adding layer upon layer of assumption onto a very simple and direct nominal price.

i think you are confusing "fictional unit" with "functional unit".

"
It also costs a lot of money to maintain the fleet current :) That is not an issue for me to take into account, since it is an issue for the individual car owners to rationalize. I'm basing my comparison on the bases of their rationalization. "

which is why your analysis is even more wrong. you cannot ignore the cost to get additional productivity. if i sold you a new stove that cooked your food 10% faster, but it cost $100k, you'd never get that money back. if you pay $40k for your new car and get 30mpg instead of 25, that's a lot of miles to break even on gas, even if it stays the same price.

you cannot ignore capx in a system as you are trying to do. a gallon of gas has the same (actually fewer due to ethanol) btu's. that is the unit, not miles driven by some imagined car. that makes the whole system so cloudy that you cannot ever get to real costs. you are just obfuscating.

if i had a car in 1990 and still have it now, i pay much more for gas in hourly wages. if i bought a new car to pay less, we need to take that cost out somewhere. but doing so gets so muddy and complex. you are just playing games with units to try and avoid the fact that you are wrong in your overall conclusion.

and you cheese and bread comments are just foolish. to track price, you look at some basket of types of bread in X size etc. you are just obfuscating again.

"
Now, there's no "easy" way of creating a unit for "location", but if you could, that's what you'd want to compare against."

sure there is. it's called unbuilt land. that is the pure unit of location. it's priced per acre. do you even think before you write this stuff?

"Because its a niche market that only certain people find of value. Most people, have a different "function" for food, than you may."

hey, you are the one who wants common units. now you argue the opposite. that new meat full of hormones and antibiotics (all of which are harmful to you) is a good substitute for the way meat used to be? you are on both sides of your own argument. that is because your thinking here is so muddled. you think 8 year old girls hitting puberty due to estrogen in milk and their male peers getting breasts is a feature? you think that's a function people want from milk?

price "organic" milk at the same level as the processed kind, and everyone would buy it.

 
At 4/03/2012 2:52 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"
you do work more hours for the same food or gallon of gas or house.

But "food", "gas" and "house", are not functional units. That's the whole point. A "house" today is twice the size. A "gallon of gas" today gets me 3 times further. A "cheeseburger" today is 4 times bigger and better."

that is all completely wrong, and i suspect you know it.

how many times do i have to explain this? it's the same houses. they are not bigger, they are the same. they only get counted when they get resold.

3 times as far? get a grip.

fleet mileage is up maybe 20 or 30% since the 70's. and again, you keep leaving out the cost to get that mileage - you had to buy a new car.

bigger and better burgers? no. mostly, smaller and worse. you are just making up facts.

"
But its not the same thing :) A house in the Bronx in 1970, is not the same thing as the same house in the Bronx in 2012. The value the owner places on it has changed dramatically"

this is just subjective obfuscation. sure, the bronx is nicer, but detroit is a pit compared tot he glory days. so what?

it's still inflation/deflation.

your whole argument is based on subjective value. it's just a parlor game. the price of an asset is where it trades.

if ibm stock goes from $100 to $200 it doubled in price. if EPS went of 4X in that period, P/E dropped, but that is NOT price. it's a measure of earnings ratios. your bronx example is precisely the same thing.

by your logic, houses never get more expensive so long as neighborhoods keep getting better.

your thinking on this is just a muddled morass of subjective value and fictional ideas about fictional units that ignore more than they reveal.

you seem to hold the view that nothing can really be priced at all.

you seem unwilling to even look at say, 1 pound of 97% lean ground beef and use it as a unit.

so how on earth do you price anything and measure the change?

 
At 4/03/2012 2:54 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

jon-

sure, i get ridley's notions about some of the rest of the world, but i was just focusing here.

honestly, ridley strikes me a typical TED kind of guy. ruthlessly optimistic, often poorly informed, and with a deep tendency to draw blanket conclusions from limited or questionable data.

i don't disagree with some of what he is saying, but his thinking really lacks rigor in many areas.

i had to put his book down because i kept yelling "that's a logical fallacy based on bad data" at it.

 
At 4/03/2012 2:59 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Really? Wow. I had the completely opposite reaction to his book. Maybe because I'm still young enough to be optimistic :-P

 
At 4/03/2012 2:59 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

"
there is no objective way to get a "functional unit".

For some things its easier, for others not. That doesn't mean that you don't try and go with the comparison we know is not right."

it seems to me that you are the one going toward definitions we know not to be right.

to say that the same home is not the same because the neighborhood changed means that we can never, ever value a house.

there is no way to factor in neighborhood change in an objective fashion.

and every neighborhood changes. and the direction of that change is not always agreed upon.

some might like having a new school nearby. some might dislike the noise and traffic.

you seem determined to take objective facts and make them into subjective assumptions based upon things that cannot possibly be measured.

 
At 4/03/2012 4:14 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

In other words, inflation represented well over 95% of the gain.

=================================

If Per capita GDP growth is around 1.5% and inflation is 95% of that, where did all these wonderfult things come from?

 
At 4/03/2012 4:23 PM, Blogger markbahner said...

"what color is the sky on your world? we eat bread, pasta, meat, vegetables, fruits. most of it IS the same."

A few things:

1) I buy lactose-free, fat-free, ultrapasteurized milk. I certainly couldn't buy that 50 years ago. And the remarkable thing about ultrapasteurized milk is that it simply does *not* go bad (as long as it's in the refrigerator). I've had milk 2-3 weeks after I've bought it that tastes just as good as it did when I bought it. When the milkman used to come and leave milk in glass bottles in the milkbox, you might be able to get 3-5 days out of it, if you were lucky (that is, if you hadn't left the milk in the milkbox for a day before you remembered it).

2) Another thing is that I love apples. But not any apples. I only love *Cameo* apples. They are manna-from-heaven good. I'm in NC. Sometimes they're coming from Michigan. I think sometimes they've even come from Chile. Definitely couldn't get Cameo apples from Chile in NC 50 years ago.

3) I eat Healthy Choice and Smart Ones frozen dinners. I'm sure they're much higher in fiber, and lower in fat and cholesterol, than frozen dinners of 50 years ago. (Now, they just need to figure out a way to lower the sodium. In another 50 years, they'll probably have that fixed.)

4) One more thing...I'm pretty sure that 50 years ago, there were few if any frost-free freezers. So now I can stock up on Healthy Choice Girl Scout Thin Mints and Samoas "Limited Edition" ice cream (stupid idea! don't get me started!) and keep them in my freezer many months after they've disappeared from the shelves. If I had a freezer I had to defrost manually, it would be very difficult to keep them in good condition through that procedure.

 
At 4/03/2012 4:25 PM, Blogger Ken said...

Bart,

In other words, inflation represented well over 95% of the gain.

The official rate of inflation usually overstates inflation. Additionally, the official rate of inflation fails to capture improvements in quality.

As I stated above the average home size since 1970 has increased by 92%. Inflation doesn't all the sudden make houses bigger.

In other words, you are wrong.

 
At 4/03/2012 4:29 PM, Blogger AIG said...

how many times do i have to explain this? it's the same houses. they are not bigger, they are the same. they only get counted when they get resold.

There's several sources for home prices. it depends on which one you look at. But in the end, it doesn't matter. The same house doesn't have the same value over time, because a "house" is not a unit of comparison. That's the point. Its not if the houses are different, and its not if the house is the same.

3 times as far? get a grip fleet mileage is up maybe 20 or 30% since the 70's. and again, you keep leaving out the cost to get that mileage - you had to buy a new car.

First of all, it depends on which fleet you are looking at.

Second, between 1975 and 2011, for passenger cars, average mpg has increased by 92%. So if we go back to 1970, we're certainly looking at a doubling.

this is just subjective obfuscation. sure, the bronx is nicer, but detroit is a pit compared tot he glory days. so what? it's still inflation/deflation.

Its got nothing to do with inflation. But that's the "location" value of the house. When you buy a house, you're not really buying a "house"; you're buying to fulfill a certain function.

it's just a parlor game. the price of an asset is where it trades

But you haven't told me what the "asset" is. And you know that the "asset" is not a "house", because you differentiate between the identical house, in Detorit vs NYC, and you also differentiate between the same house in Detorit in 1970, vs 2012. So you know that there is a series of comparisons that you are making, based on some "unit". And that unit, is not a "house"

if ibm stock goes from $100 to $200 it doubled in price. if EPS went of 4X in that period, P/E dropped, but that is NOT price. it's a measure of earnings ratios. your bronx example is precisely the same thing.

The difference is information transparency. In the case of a stock, the definition of a unit is clear. In the case of a house, it is not.

by your logic, houses never get more expensive so long as neighborhoods keep getting better

They can certainly get more expensive, but depending on the unit we're measuring over time, they may not be.

you seem to hold the view that nothing can really be priced at all.

We price things every day based on values individual to us, which we often don't understand ourselves. But if you're going to compare things, they need to be compared over the same functional unit. There's no question about that.

Defining that functional unit, for most complex things in life, is in fact extremely difficult. At best we can come up with simple proxies like "sq ft" etc, but they are poor.

 
At 4/03/2012 4:30 PM, Blogger markbahner said...

"Knowledge is cumulative."

Actually, many natural resources are cumulative, too. Think about aluminum, steel, copper, etc.

There is more primary aluminum, steel, and copper being made every year, from ore. But in general, all those metals can be recycled, so that the amount of those metals available can actually increase each year.

 
At 4/03/2012 4:30 PM, Blogger AIG said...

you seem unwilling to even look at say, 1 pound of 97% lean ground beef and use it as a unit.

When you buy 1 lb of 97% lean beef, you're not buying 1 lb of 97% lean beef :) You're only trying to accomplish a function . It is the "price" to fulfill that ultimate output, that matters.

so how on earth do you price anything and measure the change?

You have to look at it from the perspective of what is the job that I'm trying to fill. I don't think Julian Simon was the first to suggest this approach, and he's not the only one; but this is the approach that I find to be the most realistic.

 
At 4/03/2012 4:35 PM, Blogger Ken said...

morganovich,

i suppose that means housing is not important?

By your own numbers, a house was $17/sq ft in 1970 and $62/sq ft in 2009, representing an increase by 352.6%, which means wages outpaces the price of housing. Note also that this completely ignores quality improvements.

i guess gasoline is not important either.

Gas prices, accounting for inflation, are roughly what they were in 1981, yet wages are much higher.

food must not be terribly important either.

Food prices have steadily decreased.

Your entire first comment is completely incorrect.

 
At 4/03/2012 4:36 PM, Blogger markbahner said...

"is a 5 pound burger 10 times as functional to you as an 8oz one? i doubt it"

"Of course not. Because that function is constrained by the size of my stomach."

Actually, if you take the 5-pound burger home, cut it into pieces and put it in the freezer, you can have 10 8-ounce burgers out of it.

I get the Domino's "Two for Tuesday" specials, and the those two pizzas last me for 3-4 weeks.

 
At 4/03/2012 4:37 PM, Blogger AIG said...

to say that the same home is not the same because the neighborhood changed means that we can never, ever value a house.

Of course we can. People do it every day. But people don't do it based on the units you are comparing houses on.

Think of it in terms of people: choosing a "mate". What is the "need" you are trying to fulfill? And how do you compare alternatives? And how do you measure alternatives over time? How do you price alternatives? We clearly do it every day...but defining that unit, and the characteristics of that unit, is not simple.

It's not so simple for houses, or cars, or 1 lb of 97% lean beef, either. We can look at "prices", and we can make subjective estimates of whether things improve or not over time based on the decisions of OTHER people...but we can never really know what those other people made the purchasing decisions on.

So in your opinion, things could be getting more expensive and worst. In my opinion, its the opposite. And we could be looking at exactly the same data.

Why is this not "normal"? It seems to be that is the normal way in which markets function.

 
At 4/03/2012 7:51 PM, Blogger jorod said...

Obviously he has no kids in college. I prefer Julian Simon to optimism.

 
At 4/03/2012 11:50 PM, Blogger Trey said...

Morganovitch, I'm usually with you, but here let me say "calm down man". Ridley won the Hayek Prize. He understands economics (much of his book is about the advantages of specialization and trade) and is an advocate of free markets and less government. And he sure ain't getting invited back to TED anytime soon, not with the contrarian views he espouses.

Ridley knows the data. He's not an optimist; he's a rational optimist.

Regards,
Trey

 
At 4/04/2012 1:59 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4/04/2012 2:25 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Peak: "I wouldn't buy a $250K house if I believed it was really worth $200K. I'd buy it at $250K, because it was worth at least $250K to me."

"To me" is the key.

You will buy a house for $250 when you value it more than the $250.

The seller will sell it when they value it less than $250.

After the sale you are both better off, and you could say the house - at that moment - is "worth" $250. Other than that, the house has no particular value, except as compared to the sale prices of similar houses.

"However, if the market value of the house falls to $200K after I bought it at $250K, the real value of the house may not change at all, e.g. one-fifth of the house doesn't disappear."

Do you mean if the market value of similar houses falls to $200?

Your house only has an *estimated* market value until you actually sell it.

 
At 4/04/2012 3:41 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

markbahner, regarding your point about whether natural resources are cumulative, it's just semantics to some extent, but the point Ridley's making is the common one that we only have so much metal in the earth to mine, while we can always accumulate more ideas. That metal has always been there below our feet but without the ideas about how to get at it, it was useless for a long time. Hence, Peter Diamandis pointed out that aluminum used to be more valuable than gold or platinum, because we just didn't know how to purify it, but once we figured that idea out, we now have so much aluminum that we cover our dishes with it and throw it away all the time. The amount of aluminum didn't change, our knowledge of how to get at it increased. So using the definition of how much metal is in the earth, you can't really say any metal is cumulative, but the point is that the new ideas accumulate and make all the physical goods, and soon information, accessible and cheap.

 
At 4/04/2012 9:57 AM, Blogger bart said...

Bart: In other words, inflation represented well over 95% of the gain.

=================================

Hydra: If Per capita GDP growth is around 1.5% and inflation is 95% of that, where did all these wonderful things come from?


False dichotomy & comparison - the Dow is not GDP. And when you correct GDP for real inflation, it's lower than 1.5%/capita.

But productivity and creativity and human effort do exist, and a few folk like Jobs do good work.

 
At 4/04/2012 10:02 AM, Blogger bart said...

Ken: Bart,

In other words, inflation represented well over 95% of the gain.

The official rate of inflation usually overstates inflation. Additionally, the official rate of inflation fails to capture improvements in quality.

As I stated above the average home size since 1970 has increased by 92%. Inflation doesn't all the sudden make houses bigger.




Go right ahead and ignore land size, apples to apples comparisons like in Case Shiller, gigantic money creation well above growth in GDP & similar, and all the other "reverse hedonics" changes, plus how seniors on SS lose massive purchasing power, plus how medical is 7% of CPI and 16% of GDP, etc, etc, etc.

Apparently you haven't done your homework either on the BLS and hedonics.

You are wrong and uneducated on the real facts.

 
At 4/04/2012 10:05 AM, Blogger bart said...

Hey morganovich:

AIG: When you buy 1 lb of 97% lean beef, you're not buying 1 lb of 97% lean beef

We're not dealing with someone who sees reality very well, at best.

 
At 4/04/2012 10:35 AM, Blogger Hydra said...

"As the accompanying figure attests, the per-year mean Dow Jones Industrial Average
tracks quite closely annual nominal GDP, or the total market value measured in billions of
dollars of all goods and services produced in the U.S. Reviewing the figure, which was drawn
on a logarithmic scale to highlight percentage changes, it can be seen that since 1916, the year in which the Dow industrial average was expanded to a more representative twenty stocks from the original twelve (the Dow average was increased to thirty stocks in 1928), the Dow Jones
Industrial Average has departed significantly from GDP on only a couple of occasions."


http://smartech.gatech.edu/bitstream/handle/1853/19229/fal_ga_tech_dow_gdp_2007.pdf;jsessionid=48FE7895B005CFBE19F4179A84DE175D.smart1?sequence=1


================================

If the Dow and GDP are closely tied and 95% of the gain is inflation, where does all this wonderful growth come from?


It appears that the claim of 95% inflation must be wrong.

 
At 4/04/2012 12:01 PM, Blogger Ken said...

bart,

Go right ahead and ignore land size, apples to apples comparisons like in Case Shiller

Your claim is the 95% of gains is due exclusively to inflation. My point was that home sizes are 92% larger today than in 1970. This cannot be due to inflation. Inflation is having the money supply grow faster than the supply of wealth. Having the money supply grow faster than the supply of wealth doesn't mean the supply of wealth isn't growing. It in fact has, at a staggering rate.

plus how seniors on SS lose massive purchasing power

Wrong. SS is indexed by the CPI taking inflation and cost of living into account. This is precisely why SS is growing so fast. Eliminating cost of living adjustments, which are based on real wage growth, would pretty much make SS solvent, but ridiculously shitty rates of returns (it's all ready negative).

plus how medical is 7% of CPI and 16% of GDP, etc, etc, etc.

So? I'd much rather pay 2012 prices and get 2012 medicine, rather than pay 1970 prices and get 1970 medicine. The survival rates and medical efficacies in the US in 1970 were are par with what happens in the worst third world nations today. In other words, we're getting our money's worth on medical expenditures.

The same is true for virtually all other commodities. I recommend How to Fix Everything (Atlanta Fed Version by Steven Landsburg to see just how much better off we are today than just 40 years ago.

 
At 4/04/2012 12:31 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Actually the cheeseburger is considered to be a good measure of comparison for some applications. :)

 
At 4/04/2012 1:08 PM, Blogger bart said...

If the Dow and GDP are closely tied and 95% of the gain is inflation, where does all this wonderful growth come from?


It appears that the claim of 95% inflation must be wrong.


Thank you for ignoring all the other facts I cited, like the large losses of purchasing power for seniors on SS - and therefore proving your inability to observe the obvious.

Enjoy yourself with your cognitive dissonance boogie.

 
At 4/04/2012 1:20 PM, Blogger bart said...

Your claim is the 95% of gains is due exclusively to inflation.

That's for the Dow, not housing. You blew it on apples to apples comparisons - again.

My point was that home sizes are 92% larger today than in 1970. This cannot be due to inflation. Inflation is having the money supply grow faster than the supply of wealth. Having the money supply grow faster than the supply of wealth doesn't mean the supply of wealth isn't growing.

Nice job ignoring land size per house shrinkage, Case Shiller apples to apples comparisons, reverse hedonics, etc. - just like the BLS with their bogus OER etc.

plus how seniors on SS lose massive purchasing power

Wrong. SS is indexed by the CPI taking inflation and cost of living into account. This is precisely why SS is growing so fast. Eliminating cost of living adjustments, which are based on real wage growth, would pretty much make SS solvent, but ridiculously shitty rates of returns (it's all ready negative).

Completely wrong and yet more evidence of a total lack of study, simple observation and education, let alone the actual facts.

You obviously don't know any seniors on SS for years and see how their purchasing power declines hugely over the years. It's very simple and incontrovertible proof of the CPI being way too low.

Look up the real facts (including the growth rate of folk starting on SS)and talk to a few seniors... or not and remain blindered. Your call.



So? I'd much rather pay 2012 prices and get 2012 medicine, rather than pay 1970 prices and get 1970 medicine. The survival rates and medical efficacies in the US in 1970 were are par with what happens in the worst third world nations today. In other words, we're getting our money's worth on medical expenditures.

Wow - you really don't have a clue on simple math, do you?

Medical is 7% of CPI and 16% of GDP, etc, etc, etc.

That means that the CPI weight of medical (the fastest price increases of all major CPI categories) is at least 100% too low. That huge gap has been there for decades, and is yet more incontrovertible prrof that the CPI is hugely low as reported.

 
At 4/04/2012 1:21 PM, Blogger bart said...

Ron:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1tFx5xKrSI

;-)

 
At 4/04/2012 1:28 PM, Blogger AIG said...

We're not dealing with someone who sees reality very well, at best.

But the way one measures whether something has improved, or gotten cheaper, or better, over time...is by measuring how the job that you are trying to accomplish, can be accomplished over time. Not how the particular commodity or technology does over time.

So when you look at price of oil, that is quite irrelevant. Oil only serves to provide you with energy. Energy required to complete a task, is the unit of measurement...not "oil" or "coal" or "gas".

That's the point. This was Julian Simon's point as well

Of course, with "beef" its different, but its only an example. Houses, on the other hand, are a good example. Even the same house, is not really the same house over time, if it no longer serves to fulfill the requirement you have. Its value changes as its function changes.

So when people here compare whether things have "improved" or not, you're only making a guess as to why the people who made the purchases, did so.

 
At 4/04/2012 1:42 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

No, I don't mean that Russians were better off under the Soviets. My comparison of Russia today is to the Czarist regime at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.

It is still a hard case to make. The way I see it Russians today are in far better position now than their counterparts in the early part of the last century.

This is an obvious lie. To say that people are dependant on something simply because they receive something is so dishonest, I can't believe that you would say it. Or maybe I can. Many partisans lie constantly about the state of things in order to win an argument.

It is not a lie. They depend on food stamps to fund their consumption. End of story.

You can try to spin this dependence on wealth transfer programs as something positive but it is hard to make it very convincing.

 
At 4/04/2012 3:05 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

markbahner: "Actually, if you take the 5-pound burger home, cut it into pieces and put it in the freezer, you can have 10 8-ounce burgers out of it.

I get the Domino's "Two for Tuesday" specials, and the those two pizzas last me for 3-4 weeks.
"

LOL First, I defy you to cut any burger into 10 useable pieces.

Second, Unless I'm mistaken, it seems you value a dining experience only for it's utility in relieving hunger pangs. You might, in fact, prefer to use the time you spend eating, doing something else, and would love to get your nutritional needs filled by a single pill.

The sensory plesures of fresh prepared cuisine, and the enjoyable social experience of dining with others don't seem to be something you value. :)

Is this the burger you plan to cut into 10 8oz pieces?

 
At 4/04/2012 4:10 PM, Blogger Ken said...

bart,

Look up the real facts (including the growth rate of folk starting on SS)

OASDI benefits are indexed for inflation to protect beneficiaries from the loss of purchasing power implied by inflation. How about that? Turns out I was right after all. Guess I can "[l]ook up the real facts".

That means that the CPI weight of medical (the fastest price increases of all major CPI categories) is at least 100% too low.

Again, so?

That huge gap has been there for decades, and is yet more incontrovertible prrof that the CPI is hugely low as reported.

You're assuming that the GDP is accounting tool for medical products (it does not), but the CPI isn't. To note differences in GDP reporting and CPI as proof that medical accounting/adjustments is/are wrong, is simply proof that you don't understand what the numbers mean.

It's astonishing that you compare the CPI to GDP and yet you scold me about comparing apples to oranges.

VangeIV

They depend on food stamps to fund their consumption.

Dependence means that if food stamps ended they would starve to death. This is non-sense. As stated above, simply receiving something does not mean dependence.

You can try to spin this dependence on wealth transfer programs as something positive but it is hard to make it very convincing.

Where did you even get that I spun "dependence on wealth transfer programs as something positive"? I think all government wealth transfers should be ended. The very point of my comment that people don't "depend" on food stamps, but merely receive them, is that the program should be eliminated.

 
At 4/04/2012 4:12 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"As the accompanying figure attests, the per-year mean Dow Jones Industrial Average
tracks quite closely annual nominal GDP, or the total market value measured in billions of
dollars of all goods and services produced in the U.S.
"

What nonsense. Where do people get this stuff?

Notice that as indicated, the vertical scale is logrithmic: In 1966 we see a cooncidence of the lines at 1000 Dow to $1000 bn GDP, or a ratio of 1bn to 1. By 1981 the lines have diverged to a point where the values are roughly $1000 Dow to $5000 bn GDP. A ratio of 5 bn to 1.

How can you, or anyone else, call a 5 times difference in 15 years "closely tracking the DOW"?

Get real.

 
At 4/04/2012 4:26 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"If the Dow and GDP are closely tied and 95% of the gain is inflation, where does all this wonderful growth come from?"

According to the BLS, as seen here, and here, in 2008 it took $21.57 to buy what $1 bought in 1913. the value of a dollar has eroded by 95%. If you don't think that's due to inflation, then how do you define inflation?

And, the Dow and GDP are NOT closely tied.

 
At 4/04/2012 4:30 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Bart: "SS is indexed by the CPI taking inflation and cost of living into account. This is precisely why SS is growing so fast."

And that is exactly why the CPI is now designed to understate actual inflation, to keep SS from growing even faster.

 
At 4/04/2012 4:42 PM, Blogger markbahner said...

"Hence, Peter Diamandis pointed out that aluminum used to be more valuable than gold or platinum, because we just didn't know how to purify it, but once we figured that idea out, we now have so much aluminum that we cover our dishes with it and throw it away all the time."

But the point I was making was that we don't throw aluminum away at a rate equal to or greater than the rate we get aluminum from bauxite. Instead, we recycle a greater and greater percentage of aluminum, such that the supply of pure aluminum metal is cumulative. Just to use arbitrary numbers (I'm too lazy to look them up):

1) Suppose there are 100 million tons of aluminum in products around the world (such as aluminum foil and cans, aluminum siding, automobiles, etc.)

2) Suppose we produce 10 million tons a year from bauxite (primary aluminum).

3) Suppose we *would* throw 10 million tons a year into landfills, but instead throw only 5 million tons into landfills, because we recycle 5 million tons.

4) Then, the stock of aluminum metal in the world increases every year by 5 million tons, because we throw only 5 million tons into landfills, but produce 10 million tons a year from bauxite.

Many people think that metals will become more and more scarce, as rich ore deposits gradually get used up. But actually, with recycling, the above-ground pool of most metals (e.g. aluminum) can always be increasing. So rather than the aluminum being produced from bauxite in the year 2000 being unavailable to people in the year 2100, they will instead have a considerable fraction of all of the aluminum *cumulatively* produced from bauxite from 1900 to 2100 available to them.

P.S. This whole analysis ignores the fact that landfills can be "mined"...e.g., digging out the old trash, burning it for energy, while recovering the metals, glass, and other non-combustibles. So even aluminum thrown into a landfill is not necessarily lost, if it can be recovered at less cost than to produce aluminum from bauxite.

 
At 4/04/2012 4:45 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Bart,

[cheesburger]

Thanks for the reminder. That's a classic.

I've actually eaten at the Billy Goat Tavern. Used to be, in the day, that when you visited Chicago, it was kind of a required stop.

 
At 4/04/2012 4:53 PM, Blogger markbahner said...

"I guess that we are supposed to ignore the fact that 15% of the American population is dependent on food stamps..."

Well, 50 years ago (in 1962), food stamps didn't even exist as a nationwide federal program. So which is better, 15% of the American population being dependent on food stamps, or almost none of the population even having access to food stamps?

 
At 4/04/2012 5:04 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Ken,

or Larry, or whatever your name really is:

"Dependence means that if food stamps ended they would starve to death. This is non-sense. As stated above, simply receiving something does not mean dependence."

Perhaps you could temper your definition of the word "depend" a little bit, so it isn't such a yes-or-no kind of thing. People use it mean reliance on something in shades other than life or death.

I "depend" on the mailman to deliver my mail, but I won't perish if he doesn't.

Maybe people can "depend" on food stamps as part of their food budget when they're available, without facing certain death if they were withdrawn.

What do you think?

 
At 4/04/2012 5:05 PM, Blogger AIG said...

Many people think that metals will become more and more scarce, as rich ore deposits gradually get used up. But actually, with recycling, the above-ground pool of most metals (e.g. aluminum) can always be increasing

Yes, they can be (but except for aluminum, most aren't). But the key here, is that the relative amounts of one resource or another, or their prices, are irrelevant for our purposes.

Aluminum is only valuable because it fulfills a function. It is the function that matters to us, not what fulfills it. If 30 years ago we only had tin foil to wrap things in, today we have shrink wrap plastic. My cost of wrapping things, has decreased, even if aluminum foil may have gone up in price. 50 years ago we only had glass bottles and aluminum cans. Today we have plastic bottles. The only thing that matters to me is the function of holding liquid.

So for comparison purposes of whether a state of being is better than a previous state of being, the only thing that matters is the cost of fulfilling that function.

 
At 4/04/2012 5:19 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Well, 50 years ago (in 1962), food stamps didn't even exist as a nationwide federal program. So which is better, 15% of the American population being dependent on food stamps, or almost none of the population even having access to food stamps?"

Actually, private charity from family, friends, neighbors, community, and donation supported organizations that specialize in helping those in need, would be much more effective, so the answer is #2.

 
At 4/04/2012 5:30 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

markbahner: "So even aluminum thrown into a landfill is not necessarily lost, if it can be recovered at less cost than to produce aluminum from bauxite."

Do you have a reference for that?

Actually I think the point being made is that there is a physical limit to the amount of aluminum, as well as every other physical resource, on Earth. And while we have more available to us over time, and are not concerned with running out at this time, they aren't limitless. Ideas, on the other hand, are limitless.

 
At 4/04/2012 5:41 PM, Blogger Ken said...

Ron H.,

I only use one name "Ken". No other on this site.

I understand what you are saying, but this is a weakening of the meaning of "depend" to the point of meaninglessness. Add qualifiers to give specific meaning. Without qualifiers, using "depend" implies the dependence is severe. For example

"I depend on sunglasses"

is a far cry from

"I depend on sunglasses to reduce glare in harsh light"

The first gives the impression of such a degredation of quality of life that sunglasses cannot be done without at any time. However, the second puts the dependence in proper context, noting that sunglasses can be done away with, but they do improve life in harsh lights.

For the very same reason you don't depend on the mailman, you depend on the mailman to deliver some post, but mostly junk mail. The reality is that without the mailman and the entire USPS, we would all still receive post and probably at a better price.

To say that someone "depends" on food stamps gives the very real impression that people will go hungry or starve to death without food stamps. In other words, saying someone "depends on food stamps" implies that without foodstamps people would go hungry to the point of subsistence or starvation. This is absolutely false, though many believe it to be true.

Your statement "people can "depend" on food stamps as part of their food budget" isn't correct either. Now there exists a "food budget", acknowledging the existence of other budgets. The more correct statement is "people depend on food stamps in order to subsidize spending for non-food budgets". Much of the value received from food stamps will simply transfer money to other budgets as the food stamp recipient shifts their cash in hand to other budgets now that they've got food stamps specifically for their food budget. The dollar amount of food stamps will not simply be added to whatever people would spend on food without food stamps.

 
At 4/04/2012 5:51 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Ken,


"OASDI benefits are indexed for inflation to protect beneficiaries from the loss of purchasing power implied by inflation."

This is what the Social Security Administration tells us should happen to benefits in the face of inflation. What's missing, is any indication that it's actually succeeding in keeping retiree benefits from falling behind due to inflation.

Many people, myself included, feel that the current method of calculating CPI understates actual inflation, so that seniors and others with fixed incomes, suffer loss of purchasing power over time.

 
At 4/04/2012 6:34 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"I depend on sunglasses"

is a far cry from

"I depend on sunglasses to reduce glare in harsh light
"

A far cry? I see we just disagree about the meaning of words.

When I say "I depend on sunglasses", I expect those I'm talking to to understand what "sunglasses" are, and their purpose. No one I know of would hear me make that simple statement and conclude I fear for my life if I don't have sunglasses.

"The first gives the impression of such a degredation of quality of life that sunglasses cannot be done without at any time."

No it doesn't, Ken, just maybe to you.

The second, longer statement, only restates what we already know about the nature of sunglasses and their use, and no sensible person assumes a threat to life if those words are omitted - except maybe you.

"For the very same reason you don't depend on the mailman, you depend on the mailman to deliver some post, but mostly junk mail."

But I DO depend on the mailman to deliver mail, Ken. No one but you would assume that my life was in danger, or that I wouldn't get mail if the mailman didn't deliver it.

You are just having fun with words here, it seems.

"The reality is that without the mailman and the entire USPS, we would all still receive post and probably at a better price."

That would be MY argument if we were discussing mail delivery, but we're not.

"To say that someone "depends" on food stamps gives the very real impression that people will go hungry or starve to death without food stamps.

Only to you, Ken.

"This is absolutely false, though many believe it to be true."

Who are those "many"? Do you have an example? Surely there are many to choose from.

"Your statement "people can "depend" on food stamps as part of their food budget" isn't correct either. Now there exists a "food budget", acknowledging the existence of other budgets.The more correct statement is "people depend on food stamps in order to subsidize spending for non-food budgets"."

Same thing. You are wasting words that could be better used elsewhere. I wouldn't assume to know how people do their bookkeeping.

"Much of the value received from food stamps will simply transfer money to other budgets as the food stamp recipient shifts their cash in hand to other budgets now that they've got food stamps specifically for their food budget."

LOL. I can see food stamp recipients carefully moving specific amounts of cash from one pocket to another.

"The dollar amount of food stamps will not simply be added to whatever people would spend on food without food stamps."

Perhaps they will sell them to me at 60% of face value, so they can buy alcohol, and I will get an increase in my food budget, so I can move dollars among my many pockets as well.

 
At 4/04/2012 9:34 PM, Blogger markbahner said...

markbahner: "So even aluminum thrown into a landfill is not necessarily lost, if it can be recovered at less cost than to produce aluminum from bauxite."

"Do you have a reference for that?"

There's no need for a reference for that. It's a truism. If it's possible to get aluminum from a landfill for cheaper than it's possible to get aluminum from bauxite, we can get aluminum from the landfill, rather than the bauxite.

I will agree with what I think you're thinking, which is the the value of the aluminum *alone* in the landfill is unlikely to result in its recovery, rather than getting aluminum from bauxite.

However, the total value of all material recovered from a landfill can make it worth "mining" the landfill for energy as well as metals and other non-combustible is frequently worthwhile.

Oh, wow, from wonderful Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landfill_mining

"The concept of landfill mining was introduced as early as 1953 at the Hiriya landfill operated by the Dan Region Authority next to the city of Tel Aviv, Israel.[2] Waste contains many resources with high value, the most notable of which are non-ferrous metals such as aluminium cans and scrap metal. The concentration of aluminium in many landfills is higher than the concentration of aluminum in bauxite from which the metal is derived."

If that is true--and it must be true, if it's in Wikipedia ;-))--then it probably is worthwhile to recover *just* aluminum from a landfill, because it takes less than 5 percent of the energy necessary to break the aluminum-oxygen bonds in alumina to melt metallic aluminum.

"Actually I think the point being made is that there is a physical limit to the amount of aluminum, as well as every other physical resource, on Earth."

The point *I* was attempting to make was that, not only is knowledge cumulative, but even things like the total amount of a particular metal available above-ground can be cumulative, too. That can be true if the amount of the metal thrown away is less than the amount of metal supplied from ore.

 
At 4/04/2012 9:55 PM, Blogger markbahner said...

"Well, 50 years ago (in 1962), food stamps didn't even exist as a nationwide federal program. So which is better, 15% of the American population being dependent on food stamps, or almost none of the population even having access to food stamps?"

"Actually, private charity from family, friends, neighbors, community, and donation supported organizations that specialize in helping those in need, would be much more effective, so the answer is #2."

So you think that the amount of private donations of food from families, friends, neighbors, etc. has declined by more than the amount of food stamps, for food stamp recipients?

To borrow your own words, "Do you have a reference for that?"

;-)

 
At 4/04/2012 9:55 PM, Blogger markbahner said...

"Well, 50 years ago (in 1962), food stamps didn't even exist as a nationwide federal program. So which is better, 15% of the American population being dependent on food stamps, or almost none of the population even having access to food stamps?"

"Actually, private charity from family, friends, neighbors, community, and donation supported organizations that specialize in helping those in need, would be much more effective, so the answer is #2."

So you think that the amount of private donations of food from families, friends, neighbors, etc. has declined by more than the amount of food stamps, for food stamp recipients?

To borrow your own words, "Do you have a reference for that?"

;-)

 
At 4/05/2012 2:05 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4/05/2012 2:24 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"So you think that the amount of private donations of food from families, friends, neighbors, etc. has declined by more than the amount of food stamps, for food stamp recipients?"

I have no idea, and don't know how that could be measured. I'm not sure I understand your question. Perhaps you didn't understand my previous answer.

If your asking if I think people are now better off with food stamps Then they were before there were food stamps, then no, I don't think they are.

What I do know, is that many people are less inclined to be generous with help when they have already paid for help for people they don't even know, whether they want to or not.

Let me ask you this: if a family member or someone you know well, needed help due to some unfortunate occurrence, would you prefer to help them yourself, with the specific help they needed to get quickly back on their feet, or
would you prefer they get checks and food stamps from a faceless government bureaucracy that took money from strangers by force?

 
At 4/05/2012 4:03 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"then it probably is worthwhile to recover *just* aluminum from a landfill."

"Probably"? That's a good one. You don't have a reference, do you, so you are just guessing.

By asking for a reference, I was hoping you would provide some actual information that included numbers, and descriptions of actual operations that showed the savings realized by using aluminum cans mined from a landfill.

Your assertion that it can be done, is too obvious. I had hoped for more.

Thanks for the Wiki reference, by the way. By following the references provided, I learned that the Israeli landfill mentioned in Wiki, was first mined for fertilizer in 1953, and was the only landfill known to have been mined for anything until the 1980s.

While older landfills might contain amounts of usable material worth mining, more modern, lined landfills generally include material recovery facilities, that separate the waste stream into various materials for recycling, before they reach the landfill.

In other words, there may be less aluminum than you think in landfills.

 
At 4/05/2012 11:59 AM, Blogger markbahner said...

"Let me ask you this: if a family member or someone you know well, needed help due to some unfortunate occurrence, would you prefer to help them yourself, with the specific help they needed to get quickly back on their feet, or
would you prefer they get checks and food stamps from a faceless government bureaucracy that took money from strangers by force?"

I expect that I'd help them myself *and* they'd be able to "get checks and food stamps from a faceless bureacracy that took money from stangers by force."

So I think they'd clearly be better off than if I just helped them myself.

 
At 4/05/2012 12:04 PM, Blogger markbahner said...

"While older landfills might contain amounts of usable material worth mining, more modern, lined landfills generally include material recovery facilities, that separate the waste stream into various materials for recycling, before they reach the landfill.

In other words, there may be less aluminum than you think in landfills."

If there's less aluminum in landfills, it's *because* the aluminum is being recycled.

Once again, all this means that the total amount of aluminum that's above ground is increasing cumulatively. Every decade there is more aluminum above ground.

 
At 4/05/2012 12:49 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4/05/2012 12:58 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"So I think they'd clearly be better off than if I just helped them myself."

OK, just so it's clear: you don't mind helping support my daughter and her family with money taken from you by force, in addition to helping your own family member, and you believe that people are MORE generous, now that they are forced to support strangers, than they were when helping others was accepted as a personal responsibility. Is that about right?

 
At 4/05/2012 1:43 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"If there's less aluminum in landfills, it's *because* the aluminum is being recycled."

Duh. Do you think that could be a reason? Once again you are stating the obvious.

If that's the case, though, maybe your original argument that landfills could be (or are) a good source of aluminum isn't quite correct. At least not half of all production, or 5 million tons a year, as you supposed in your example.

"Once again, all this means that the total amount of aluminum that's above ground is increasing cumulatively. Every decade there is more aluminum above ground."

Once again, the obvious. I don't believe anyone doubts it.

Your problem arrises from trying to equate intangibles with tangibles.

At some point the maximum amount of economically practical aluminum will be above ground, at which point, accumulation will stop.

The accumulation of intangibles like knowledge and ideas will never stop.

 
At 4/05/2012 1:45 PM, Blogger bart said...

OASDI benefits are indexed for inflation to protect beneficiaries from the loss of purchasing power implied by inflation. How about that? Turns out I was right after all. Guess I can "[l]ook up the real facts".

Well at least you looked up the spun side of the real picture.

Please continue to ignore Boskin Commission results, amongst many other documented & proven lies, and especially the incontrovertible fact about seniors purchasing power massively declining due to the fake and super low CPI.


And I repeat:
That means that the CPI weight of medical (the fastest price increases of all major CPI categories) is at least 100% too low.

That huge gap has been there for decades, and is yet more incontrovertible and uncontested proof that the CPI is hugely low as reported.



It's astonishing that you compare the CPI to GDP and yet you scold me about comparing apples to oranges.


That would be funny if it weren't so sad - you bring up GDP and then bitch about me using it in a comparison... and yet again completely ignore or spin all of my 100% factual points.

You lose - again and as usual.

 
At 4/05/2012 1:48 PM, Blogger bart said...

Ron: And that is exactly why the CPI is now designed to understate actual inflation, to keep SS from growing even faster.


Bingo - and the main reason for the Boskin Commission.

I don't know about you, but I'm having a ball with the various illogic specialists and fact challenged ones who can't even vaguely see the simple facts.

 
At 4/05/2012 2:02 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

On another subject:

"1) I buy lactose-free, fat-free, ultrapasteurized milk. I certainly couldn't buy that 50 years ago."

That's because, even though it comes from the same source, and goes by the same name, it isn't the same product you bought 50 years ago.

Incidentally, I'm impressed with this product. I've stored it unopened for more than a month, and found it to be as good as new. I don't prefer it to fresh milk, however, except for it's much greater usable life.

Nor is that Cameo apple from Chile the same product you bought 50 years ago, even though they are both called apples.

We are still eating the same foods we ate 50 years ago, it's just that the number of available choices is much greater.

 
At 4/05/2012 2:08 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Bart: "don't know about you, but I'm having a ball with the various illogic specialists and fact challenged ones who can't even vaguely see the simple facts."

I think some people honestly can't believe that the ever benevolent government would cheat seniors - or anyone else for that matter - in such a crass manner by understating inflation.

 
At 4/05/2012 8:24 PM, Blogger bart said...

I think some people honestly can't believe that the ever benevolent government would cheat seniors - or anyone else for that matter - in such a crass manner by understating inflation.

I very much agree. The government's primary purpose is its own continued survival.

It's part of the reason I dramatize being an ass about the area sometimes. People get aggravated enough with me that they actually look - and see at least a bit more of the truth. Some actually have the courage and continue looking, and actually see what's going on.

 
At 4/05/2012 10:08 PM, Blogger markbahner said...

"At some point the maximum amount of economically practical aluminum will be above ground, at which point, accumulation will stop."

Yes, but until that time, metals like aluminum have been--and will continue to be--increasing cumulatively. I doubt you will care, but the exact numbers for 2006 were 586 million tons of aluminum above ground, with a net of 22 million tons added to the above-ground pool.

"1) I buy lactose-free, fat-free, ultrapasteurized milk. I certainly couldn't buy that 50 years ago."

"That's because, even though it comes from the same source, and goes by the same name, it isn't the same product you bought 50 years ago."

Well, yes. That's what I wrote. I wrote that I could not buy lactose-free, fat-free, ultra-pasteurized milk 50 years ago.

"So I think they'd clearly be better off than if I just helped them myself."

"OK, just so it's clear: you don't mind helping support my daughter and her family with money taken from you by force,..."

Where did I write that? I wrote that if my family and friends got help from the government as well as me, they'd be better off than if they got money just from me. Therefore, I think the people who get food stamps are better off (less hungry) than people who relied just on friends and family in 1962.

So if your daughter and her family get money from the government they are better off, assuming that you don't reduce your help to them by a greater amount than they're getting from the government.

"...and you believe that people are MORE generous, now that they are forced to support strangers, than they were when helping others was accepted as a personal responsibility."

Again, where did I write that?

"Is that about right?"

No, that's not "about right." What I wrote was that people who get food stamps now are better off than people who relied exclusively on friends and family in 1962, because the people who get food stamps now probably get more food from food stamps plus aid from family/friends than people who just relied on family/friends. (Especially since family/friends were much worse off in 1962 than in 2012.)

 
At 4/06/2012 3:09 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"I doubt you will care, but the exact numbers for 2006 were 586 million tons of aluminum above ground, with a net of 22 million tons added to the above-ground pool."

You're right: I don't care. It has no bearing on the discussion.

You are now out in the weeds with this, and the bigger picture is no longer visible.

[ultra-pasteurized milk] " Well, yes. That's what I wrote. I wrote that I could not buy lactose-free, fat-free, ultra-pasteurized milk 50 years ago."

If you weren't comparing it to milk, why did you mention it? Morganovich claimed that we still buy the same basic foods, and you responded with a personal anecdote involving ultra-pasteurized milk. What was your point?

Me: "OK, just so it's clear: you don't mind helping support my daughter and her family with money taken from you by force,..."

You: " Where did I write that?"

Where do you suppose the money for food stamps comes from? It's taken from you the taxpayer. Did you think Obama pulled it out of his stash? You are helping support my daughter and her family if you pay any kind of federal taxes, and they thank you. If you DON'T pay taxes, then I can understand why you would think redistributing other people's money is a great idea.

"So if your daughter and her family get money from the government they are better off, assuming that you don't reduce your help to them by a greater amount than they're getting from the government."

If I have money taken from me to support strangers, AND I also provide a high level of support to my daughter, AND if she is better off than she would be with my help only, than I am being more generous.

"I wrote that if my family and friends got help from the government as well as me, they'd be better off than if they got money just from me. Therefore, I think the people who get food stamps are better off (less hungry) than people who relied just on friends and family in 1962."

Then money is taken from you to help support strangers, AND you maintain a high level of support to family and friends, so they are better with government help and your help, than with only your help, therefore, you are more generous than you were before. In addition, you are more generous with other people's money.

We haven't even addressed the inefficiency and waste that is inherent in a government bureaucracy.

"No, that's not "about right." What I wrote was that people who get food stamps now are better off than people who relied exclusively on friends and family in 1962..."

You are just guessing, and have provided no support for that claim.

"(Especially since family/friends were much worse off in 1962 than in 2012.)"

What does that even mean? More unsupported guessing.

 

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