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But even being in the top 10% doesn't make you rich in America these days.  (And it damned sure doesn't make you rich in Britain.  I'm amazed people survive on less there.)  That would be, if I remember correctly, about $100k/year, which is certainly nothing to sniff at (I certainly wouldn't turn it down if it were someday offered to me), but not a whole hell of a lot of money when you get right down to it.  The real, almost unimaginable growth has taken place among the top 1%, and even the top 1/10th of that 1%.  Being at the bottom of that top 10% will get you a fairly nice house in a fairly nice neighborhood, -- good schools, no violent crime, maybe even an actual yard if you're in a city, etc -- but it's hardly Gates-league income these days, especially if you're in one of the big cities (where you're more likely to earn that level of income).

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:07:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Being at the bottom of that top 10% will get you a fairly nice house in a fairly nice neighborhood, -- good schools, no violent crime, maybe even an actual yard if you're in a city, etc

I think it's very common for people in developed countries to fail to realize exactly how rich that lifestyle you describe is, compared to the vast majority of humankind.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:13:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I can't remember where I saw it (probably someone here will), but there was a tool someone once posted where you put in your yearly salary, and you got back at what percentile you are in the world's wealth. As I recall, most all (if not all) of us here at ET fall in the top 99 percentile...which was prety shocking to me, as I have only been able to work part time the last 2.5 years. So "poor" in the West, is fairly well off in much of the East and South...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:18:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But that shouldn't be shocking.  We've had quite a head start, after all.  Now the folks in South and East Asia are starting to catch up.  It's similar to Europe's sprint back in line with the US after the devastation of WWII, except that, in our day, the process will be slower (far more people, less initial human capital).

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:25:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The phrase "We've had quite a head start, after all" bears deconstructing.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:38:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you mean?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:44:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who's "we"? When did the "start" happen? Where does the "head start" come from?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:51:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"We" being the industrialized -- "developed" is probably a better description given the increasingly-post-industrial nature of our economies these days -- countries.  The start begins with the industrial revolution, meaning that Britain, for example, had a few hundred years' head start on China in development.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:59:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So what happened before the industrial revolution?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 11:01:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What do you mean?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 11:15:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There was no economic history before that?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 11:18:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, but we know what economic history was before that.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 11:21:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And that has no influence on the "head start".

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 11:23:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Riches begin with theft. About 5000 years ago it started.
by bil on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 12:55:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For the modern times, I would bet on the Renaissance with the "free" money of South America...!

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman
by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Sat Feb 24th, 2007 at 05:03:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not exactly a win-lose zero-sum game, but until we stop spending insanely on armaments and troop support and SUVs and plastotrash, we'll be zero sum on wages and living standards.

Don't worry about yourself. If you have access to a computer, either yours or a rental, you'll come out OK, so it's all right to fight for equality.

Every Chines and Indian isn't going to have a Mercedes, or even a Daihatsu, but transit will be better, basic food affordable, water drinkable, doctors accessible, and the Internet universal. Travel will be slow and expensive, housing basic, clothing simple.

No big problems. No need for military service, except in UN peacekeeping forces.

And so on. I figure a real income worldwide at about five to eight thousand Euros, family of four, with universal free basic health care, housing, internet, and so on.

I think it can work. Carbon consumption and pollution way down.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Sat Mar 3rd, 2007 at 04:57:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably almost everyone in the US has an income that is significant from a global perspective. That doesn't stop real third world poverty from affecting the US. The comparison is flawed at some level.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 11:29:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, no doubt about it.  But you could say the same thing about people earning $30k/year.  A person in that income bracket is more likely than not to own his/her own home (think about 55-60% of people at that level typically do in the states), own a car, have a computer with the internet, etc -- almost infinitely wealthier than the working-class guy in China.  I'm just trying to say that we tend to, I think, overestimate what being in the top 10% means at times.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:21:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, but you're not poor on 100K, are you? (Is that a household or individual figure, BTW?) The bourgeoisie need the petit bourgeoisie to look after them: not everyone else can be poor.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:18:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No clue if it's household or individual.  You're certainly not poor at $100k/year.  To say that anyone is would be absurd, obviously.  You're quite comfortable, but you're nowhere near the point at which you can say, "I can have anything I want," in this day and age.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:22:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But if you're at the point where 90% of the people think you can have anything you want...

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:26:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, but, if you polled people, they would like tell you that the family at the bottom of the top 10% was making far more than $100k.  Most folks who haven't had the luxury of reading the stats are quite surprised by how low it is, in my experience.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:31:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because people are simultaneously in denial about how poor they are and how wealthy they are, depending on the context.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:37:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because we're comparing ourselves to different levels of (real) income and wealth by class when we look across the globe.  The working-class guy in Omaha, poor though he may be by American standards, is still a hell of a lot wealthier than the working-class guy in Beijing.  The former, without question, owns a car, a television, -- that sort of stuff -- and is about 50/50 on owning his own home.  The latter is working in a sweatshop during an industrial revolution and living what is, of course, an incredibly tough life.  Fast-forward a hundred years, and the differences, while existing, will be nowhere near as many, and not even close to the same degree.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:43:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's also the difference between "I am wealthy because I can have anything I want" and "I am wealthy because I can have anything I could posibly want".

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:53:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Surely much of the denial springs from the gap between 'I am wealthy because I have everything I need' and 'I am wealthy because I have everything I want'?
by Sassafras on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 02:07:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fast-forward a hundred years, and the differences, while existing, will be nowhere near as many, and not even close to the same degree.

You think?  Because I suspect the opposite.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:53:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As the good ex-economist he is, Drew does believe in relaxation towards general economic equilibrium.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 10:56:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hey, I didn't spend four years of my life making A's in college only to have my title stolen from me.  Don't lump me in with the finance and business administration crowd.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 11:01:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's possible, I guess, but not at all probable.  What we're seeing right now is convergence -- that is, countries like China taking advantage of their enormous labor pools and gradually catching up via the import of our knowledge.  (That import is why productivity growth is so high in China right now.  That, along with its massive low-skill, underemployed labor pool, is what is driving the stunning growth rates -- that combination of underutilized capacity and increasing knowledge.)  Eventually, whether it's twenty years down the road or two hundred years, China will catch up to us.  It will become developed, meaning that it will move close to capacity in the way America and Europe have, at which point economic improvement becomes a game of productivity growth.  By that time, my sense is that regions like Africa will probably be roughly at the point that China is at today, but that's just a crystal-ball sort of guess, obviously, and, not being in possession of a crystal ball, that prediction should, of course, be taken with the proper quantity of salt.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 11:11:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is the rising tide in China lifting all boats?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 11:14:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would submit that if our own post-industrial societies have more (and more?) sinking boats, it might be unreasonable to expect a unformly buoyant Chinese flotilla.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 11:18:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, of course not, and it would be silly to claim that this was the case.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 11:20:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Then how does claiming that China's aggregate figures will approach the US' address the question of inequality in the global distribution of wealth?

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 11:21:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The economy is not a system existing unto itself.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 01:01:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Spain you can get all day with 20 k$/year..a nd handsomly.. a superluxury perosn.

Actually, if y ou do not have a car.. youc an have otherwise superluxury life with 15 k$/year. Believe me.. Ihave had it.

And in Israel is actually with much mroe less...

I have realized that normal statistics do nto reflect accurately the purchase power of a person. Each country and local stuff need its own comparison.

IN any case.. I do not doubt that with 15k$/year you would be really poor in some areas of New York...but then you do not live there.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Feb 5th, 2007 at 02:00:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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