Incredible article about capitalism and poverty from the New Internationalist "Progress and its discontents"

Sulik2

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,397

As someone who has heard the talk of the reduction in poverty over the last 30 years and thought it was probably true, holy crap this article is a splash of cold water. The idea that globalism has sped up reducing poverty levels just isn't supported by the numbers. We need a global redistribution of wealth. A few highlights:

When we measure global poverty using evidence-based poverty lines, the story changes completely. At the $7.40 threshold – which is still at the low end of the metrics scholars have proposed – we find that the number of people in poverty hasn’t declined at all. Rather, it has grown dramatically since 1981, going from 3.2 billion to 4.2 billion, according to World Bank data. Six times higher than the 730 million Gates and Pinker would have us believe.
What’s more, the vast majority of the gains that have been achieved over this period have come from one region: China and the East Asian tigers. Even if we take just China out of the equation, we find that the proportion of people in poverty today is almost exactly the same as it was in 1981, with no net progress at all.
Remarkably, only about five per cent of all new income from global growth goes to the poorest 60 per cent of humanity.
The number of people in poverty shot up by an eye-watering 1.3 billion during the structural adjustment period, and even the proportion of people in poverty rose, from 62 per cent to 68 per cent. These are striking figures. What they reveal is that neoliberal globalization during the 1980s and 1990s made poverty worse, not better.
 

Inuhanyou

Member
Oct 25, 2017
11,218
New Jersey
Its people living in gated communities versus everyone else. THe rise in population has just lead to the rise in more people in poverty, and the concentration of wealth increasingly into the hands of the elite just speeds up this process by a huge amount, with absolutely nothing to stem the tide.

The myth of the patriotic billionare giving X amount to charity as their little good deed for the day to justify a grotsque and broken system propped up by global elites...its quite sad.

Yet we have to argue and rage with people online to even consider the basics of a system that is broken and inherently corrupt. Its shameful.
 

Almagest

Member
Oct 28, 2017
1,109
Spain
We have more and more people on our planet every day and most of the wealth is still hoarded by the same small percentage of elites, it's obvious that the number of poor people is going to be in on the rise every year by mere statistic. It's not like social mobility is easy for most people in poor economic conditions anyways.

We do need to redistribute wealth on a global scale, I just don't know what's gonna take.
 

Bronx-Man

Member
Oct 25, 2017
13,544
I wonder what happened in the 80’s that caused poverty and income inequality to rise like that. Hmmmmmm. Can’t quite put my finger on it.
 

Vimes

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,392
Consider this rather strange paradox. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) says that there are 815 million people in the world today who do not have access to enough calories to sustain even ‘minimal’ human activity; some 1.5 billion are food insecure and cannot get enough calories to sustain ‘normal’ human activity; malnutrition is suffered by 2.1 billion. And the FAO says that these numbers are rising. In other words, the $1.90 line peddled by Gates and Pinker would have us believe that there are fewer poor people than hungry and malnourished people, and that the number of poor is decreasing even while the number of hungry is rising.
Wow this just cuts right through the bullshit
 

Paz

Banned
Nov 1, 2017
994
Brisbane, Australia
User Banned (1 week): Advocating Violence
As far as I can tell there are only two methods that we know for sure will improve society, these are backed by economics/science/history.

The first is we round up all the rich people and kill them, taking all their stuff and redistributing it after the fact.

The second is make the rich people spend all of their money on stuff like the rest of us have to instead of holding onto most of the worlds wealth for their own benefit.

This third option where they hoard everything and slowly choke the life out of most of the population seems like it shouldn’t exist but I guess a lot of people now think one day they’ll be the rich ones....
 

Foffy

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Oct 25, 2017
5,561
Citations Needed did an episode on the "Neoliberal Optimism Industry" and it seems the topic in the article here is that in play.
 

Thrill_house

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Oct 27, 2017
4,933
User Banned (1 week): Advocating Violence
No one should be allowed to accumulate the wealth these parasites have while their fellow man suffers and lives in squalor. Guillotines, firing squads, whatever. Something needs to be done because you know damn well these people will fight tooth and nail to make more cash at the expense of people and our world.
 

jph139

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,001
Massachusetts
Interesting read. The closing section on relative vs. absolute growth definitely landed with me.

I think in particular the ethical argument tracks, too.

Thomas Pogge argues that when it comes to global poverty, the morally relevant metric of progress is neither absolute numbers nor proportions nor even the trajectory of poor people’s incomes, but rather the extent of poverty compared to our capacity to end it. By this yardstick, he says, we are doing worse than at any time in history, as our capacity to end poverty has grown rapidly, while poverty itself remains widespread. In moral terms, we have regressed.
It's not about whether you are improving people's lives - capitalism has absolutely been improving people's lives compared to feudalism, slavery, and unfiltered colonialism. It's whether the degree of improvement is acceptable given our potential. Any person living in luxury while others are starving is unjust.
 

Helio

Member
Oct 28, 2017
8,233
And yet, despite their insistence on ‘reason’, the New Optimists are often strikingly uninterested in the nuances of the historical evidence they invoke. In their hands, the story of human progress has been distorted into a cartoonishly simple narrative wherein capitalism is responsible for virtually everything good that has happened in modern history and nothing bad. The fact that the most important gains in human welfare have been won by labour unions and social movements, enabled by publicly funded research and secured by public healthcare and education systems, almost always in the face of determined and even violent resistance from the capitalist class, is never acknowledged. Egregious disparities in social indicators between classes and nations are papered over in favour of aggregate trends. And the decidedly regressive sides of capitalism – colonization, genocide, plantation slavery, oil wars, regular attacks on workers’ rights and welfare systems, and, perhaps most damningly, climate change and ecological breakdown – are either downplayed or ignored altogether.
A huge ass subtweet
 

saenima

Banned
Oct 25, 2017
10,064
Yeah but Bill Gates sometimes hands out a few pennies. Tax deductible pennies.

Checkmate you filthy poors.

...

The sad thing is that this really dumb deflection has been done on Era several times, wholly unironically.
 

Rushersauce

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,457
Neoliberalism is cancer that gives way too much ppwer to few people (see Chile), and we need a new system, ASAP.
 
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Inuhanyou

Member
Oct 25, 2017
11,218
New Jersey
I can't stand these people.

"Why do you hate rich people?"
Its easy to dismiss or debunk outright far rightwingers who dont cloak their love for the rich.

Its harder to actually engage with neoliberal centrists(the kind who glob onto an elite media corporate apparatus) who want to put out the image of being good and socially progressive, until they have to actually challenge power and known institutions that have a huge hand in maintaining the broken structure of said system. And then it becomes a game of stanning and deflecting and obfuscation and essentially using the right's arguments for them wholesale.
 

Rushersauce

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,457
Its easy to dismiss or debunk outright far rightwingers who dont cloak their love for the rich.

Its harder to actually engage with neoliberal centrists(the kind who glob onto an elite media corporate apparatus) who want to put out the image of being good and socially progressive, until they have to actually challenge power and known institutions that have a huge hand in maintaining the broken structure of said system. And then it becomes a game of stanning and deflecting and obfuscation and essentially using the right's arguments for them wholesale.
Well, neoliberalism is a system created by sociopaths. Hell, Friedman and Hayek were super friends with Pinochet.

"Hey, a dictatorship is totes OK if it leads to neoliberalism"

Fuckers
 

Otherist

Member
Oct 27, 2017
612
England
Redistributing wealth is nice but to stop the problem from happening all over again, we need to completely end the exploitation of surplus value. We need to change the fundamental inequality at the point of production.
 

SageShinigami

Member
Oct 27, 2017
14,774
Can we stop with the guillotines joke? That massive, throbbing hard on for the French Revolution everyone forgets eventually lead to: 1.) Secret Police and 2.) Another Fucking Dictator taking over by the end.

I don't wanna kill the rich. I wanna tax the fucking shit out of them.
 

Kirblar

Member
Oct 25, 2017
24,878
The author is playing with data in a way that isn't on the level here. Ignoring differences in cost of living and just going "everyone should use America's standards" is something that is not ok to do with data when comparing regional incomes inside the US, let alone in a country-to-country income comparison. The author complains about data being massaged downward could very well be a valid complaint, but they're massaging their own numbers upward in order to try and make their point in a way that makes it impossible to take them seriously.
 

Inuhanyou

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Oct 25, 2017
11,218
New Jersey
This was a thread built for Kirb to argue in, i am surprised it took so long man :P

Can we stop with the guillotines joke? That massive, throbbing hard on for the French Revolution everyone forgets eventually lead to: 1.) Secret Police and 2.) Another Fucking Dictator taking over by the end.

I don't wanna kill the rich. I wanna tax the fucking shit out of them.
Who says the french revolution in America would lead to the same result in the modern era? The issue isnt whether we kill rich people or not anyways, its whether we hold the elite accountable in general in any sort of way for their own direct complicity in the situation we now find ourselves in.
 

saenima

Banned
Oct 25, 2017
10,064
I don't wanna kill the rich. I wanna tax the fucking shit out of them.
I don't want to kill nor tax the rich. I want a society where no one is allowed to 'get rich'. Where everyone is provided for and the excess resources and wealth are not hoarded by the few but instead used to benefit the advancement of society and everyone equally.

But the fact is that never in the history of humanity have the rich shared their wealth willingly. The only way to separate the obscenely wealthy from their wealth is by force.

Regarding the French Revolution, it was a stepping stone in that country's evolution toward democracy. You decrying it is the same as decrying the 60s social movements just because there was violence and not everything turned out to be peachy afterwards. French people didn't decide to guillotine the parasites because they were bored, they simply reached a breaking point. What do you think will happen when the society we live in reaches a breaking point? Do you think the wealthy will just go 'oh gosh geez alright i'll start paying my taxes and stop buying policy and share my yachts, but just because you asked nicely.' No, there will be violence and a lot of it.
 

thepotatoman

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,834
Denver
It's not about whether you are improving people's lives - capitalism has absolutely been improving people's lives compared to feudalism, slavery, and unfiltered colonialism. It's whether the degree of improvement is acceptable given our potential. Any person living in luxury while others are starving is unjust.
Within Europe and US our economic and governmental systems have generally improved, but I think New Optimists are more talking about Europe and US's influence on the world at large. It's basically the excuse we use to not feel guilty about the fact that children in sweatshops are being forced to make our stuff for us.

The main question is, did life in that society change for better or worse before they were working in mines and sweatshops on goods to be sent to europe, and why. I think it's possible you could say life is worse off for them in every single way but for how technology and medicine is better.
 

Lord of Ostia

Member
Oct 27, 2017
13,215
I don't want to kill nor tax the rich. I want a society where no one is allowed to 'get rich'. Where everyone is provided for and the excess resources and wealth are not hoarded by the few but instead used to benefit the advancement of society and everyone equally.

But the fact is that never in the history of humanity have the rich shared their wealth willingly. The only way to separate the obscenely wealthy from their wealth is by force.

Regarding the French Revolution, it was a stepping stone in that country's evolution toward democracy. You decrying it is the same as decrying the 60s social movements just because there was violence and not everything turned out to be peachy afterwards. French people didn't decide to guillotine the parasites because they were bored, they simply reached a breaking point. What do you think will happen when the society we live in reaches a breaking point? Do you think the wealthy will just go 'oh gosh geez alright i'll start paying my taxes and stop buying policy and share my yachts, but just because you asked nicely.' No, there will be violence and a lot of it.
The French revolution was full of in-fighting and led to the unjust murder of thousands during the Terror. This fetishization of violence is disgusting.
 

gozu

Member
Oct 27, 2017
3,034
America
The author is playing with data in a way that isn't on the level here. Ignoring differences in cost of living and just going "everyone should use America's standards" is something that is not ok to do with data when comparing regional incomes inside the US, let alone in a country-to-country income comparison. The author complains about data being massaged downward could very well be a valid complaint, but they're massaging their own numbers upward in order to try and make their point in a way that makes it impossible to take them seriously.
Their poverty threshold is $8/day, not $8/hour. i think there might be a misunderstanding here.
 

SageShinigami

Member
Oct 27, 2017
14,774
Regarding the French Revolution, it was a stepping stone in that country's evolution toward democracy. You decrying it is the same as decrying the 60s social movements just because there was violence and not everything turned out to be peachy afterwards.
That's not the same thing at all, and is in fact a terrible argument. Fucking secret police and old white people complaining about hippies wanting to give rights to women and "the blacks" have nothing in common. You'd do better saying this:

Who says the french revolution in America would lead to the same result in the modern era? The issue isnt whether we kill rich people or not anyways, its whether we hold the elite accountable in general in any sort of way for their own direct complicity in the situation we now find ourselves in.
I would indeed like to hold the elite accountable. I can do so without making these hackneyed guillotine jokes.
 

Kirblar

Member
Oct 25, 2017
24,878
Their poverty threshold is $8/day, not $8/hour. i think there might be a misunderstanding here.
There isn't one- I'm saying that the $8/day being flatly applied to any/all countries is a problem. Because if you apply that to the US, no one's in poverty unless they're not working. (this is obviously not true.)
 

Rushersauce

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,457
Can we stop with the guillotines joke? That massive, throbbing hard on for the French Revolution everyone forgets eventually lead to: 1.) Secret Police and 2.) Another Fucking Dictator taking over by the end.

I don't wanna kill the rich. I wanna tax the fucking shit out of them.
Yeah, I use it as an analogy to taxes. I'll stop now, since there are people who really want to see heads roll.
 
Oct 26, 2017
514
This article seems... kind of strange? Like, first of all, I'm going to believe the UN's data over a website I've never heard of, and know nothing about, full stop. Secondly, for the sake of transparency I need to disclose that I've read Enlightenment Now (which I loved), The Rational Optimist (which I loved the prehistory stuff in, and how it broke down how trade works and can build wealth, but which I was also suspicious of some of the other claims in--the climate change chapter in that book in particular is dodgy as all fuck), and Factfulness (which is a wonderful book), and I don't really remember the claim that capitalism is the "best of all possible worlds" as this author puts it, more like I came away from those books thinking that it's done a better job than anything else we've tried at raising global standards of living, (i.e. it's the best we currently have). If anyone's actually claiming that it's the best solution possible, then yeah... that's nonsense. At minimum it's got a glaring problem with giving way too few people way more power than they deserve or could ever be trusted to use in any good way at all, while leaving way too many people without much of the power they helped create, and only increasing the gap over time.

It also seems kind of strange to use China's accounting for most of the improvement against the data. Like here:

What’s more, the vast majority of the gains that have been achieved over this period have come from one region: China and the East Asian tigers. Even if we take just China out of the equation, we find that the proportion of people in poverty today is almost exactly the same as it was in 1981, with no net progress at all.
You can't argue that gains have been achieved, but if we remove the region where they happened, then the proportion of poverty is the same. Like, huh? The rising standard of living in China (and India too, as far as I know) is still a huge number of people that are entering a middle-class standard of living. That's not nothing. As other regions industrialize, they will follow.

I'm finding it difficult to find the words to explain this, but it feels like the author wants to attack the ideology of how these "new optimists" define progress, but then couches it in attacking their data instead, in a way that doesn't totally jive. Like he spends a lot of time contesting their datasets, but then switches to an argument about morality instead, saying that:

The Yale philosopher Thomas Pogge argues that when it comes to global poverty, the morally relevant metric of progress is neither absolute numbers nor proportions nor even the trajectory of poor people’s incomes, but rather the extent of poverty compared to our capacity to end it. By this yardstick, he says, we are doing worse than at any time in history, as our capacity to end poverty has grown rapidly, while poverty itself remains widespread. In moral terms, we have regressed.
Like, I just can't buy this at all. The world is unbelievably more moral than it used to be. When you're talking about massive societal change like this, it's going to be really slow, and there are going to be growing pains. I'd feel better about a claim like this sometime in the future--I don't know when, exactly, but having as much of the world be developed as it is (and therefore more capable of helping) is pretty recent, I'm pretty sure. I tried to find a chart of exactly how much of the world is developed or developing now vs 1970 (50 years ago) and had no luck, but it's definitely a much higher standard of living in more of the world nowadays.

I also tried to find global trends in charitable donations for how much of their wealth people donate vs how much they used to, but struck out there. :/

That's not to say we shouldn't do better, because we should, and I remember Pinker implying as much several times in Enlightenment Now, and especially Has Rosling saying so in Factfulness--over and over again Rosling reiterates that things can be both very bad, but also better than they were previously. The man helped found Doctors Without Borders for fuck's sake, he knows about needing to do more.

So yeah, I see some of the points the author here is trying to make, and I don't follow the New Optimist movement so I don't know about any particularly outlandish claims they've made, but based on what I've read, I just can't jive with a lot of this article. It feels like a messy argument to me.
 

samoyed

Member
Oct 26, 2017
8,969
Ah it's Hickel again, I keep posting one of his other articles.


It's eye-opening stuff and tells you just how much of the PR around the virtues of capitalism is just PR, and cooked numbers.
You can't argue that gains have been achieved, but if we remove the region where they happened, then the proportion of poverty is the same. Like, huh? The rising standard of living in China (and India too, as far as I know) is still a huge number of people that are entering a middle-class standard of living. That's not nothing. As other regions industrialize, they will follow.
If the argument is "democratic capitalism is good because it lifts people out of poverty", and the bulk of the heavy lifting in the last 30 years was done by China, an authoritarian command economy that transitioned to state capitalism in that time frame, what does that say about democratic capitalism? You don't see people go to bat for state capitalism, but historically China has done much better than India (in terms of raising per-capita wealth), which is "democratic capitalist" by some metrics.
 

thepotatoman

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,834
Denver
It also seems kind of strange to use China's accounting for most of the improvement against the data. Like here:



You can't argue that gains have been achieved, but if we remove the region where they happened, then the proportion of poverty is the same. Like, huh? The rising standard of living in China (and India too, as far as I know) is still a huge number of people that are entering a middle-class standard of living. That's not nothing. As other regions industrialize, they will follow.
The assumption is that if China is the outlier, than it must be unique to china's governing, not the worldwide existence of capitalism and free movement of capital. China's not exactly the most free and open market.
 

samoyed

Member
Oct 26, 2017
8,969
And we should also keep in mind that "industrializing" carries very heavy environmental costs (as China and India has shown), but if the road towards capitalist success and middle-class standards hinges on industrializing, then it makes climate change all but certain to get worse before it gets better.

Alternatively, you'd have to think that undeveloped nations should be prevented from industrializing (at least the kind that burns lots of coals and resources) to preserve the world, which means they won't be permitted to shake off their underdeveloped status, unless you think there's some other miraculously process by which nations can "catch up" to the West?

The obvious solution to this contradiction is that the richer nation should subsidize the development of the poorer nations with technology and investment, rather than having them rise up through the "free market" that worked so well for Europe in the past and China in the last 50 years.

Of course, none of the developed nations want to do this. Our other choices are climate change disaster as the developing nations industrialize to get ahead, or de facto Anglo-western supremacy, as we're the only nations that developed in that Goldilocks zone, 1700-1900, where we could pollute and pillage as much as we wanted with no consequences.
 
Oct 26, 2017
514
The assumption is that if China is the outlier, than it must be unique to china's governing, not the worldwide existence of capitalism and free movement of capital. China's not exactly the most free and open market.
Hmm. I'm not sure I understand the argument. The free movement of capital is trade, no? That's how you develop a country, as far as my limited knowledge knows. Agriculture/subsistence farming, then manufacturing, then services. If the selling of those to whoever will give the best price to build the country's wealth doesn't count as "capitalism," then perhaps I don't understand what is meant by "capitalism."

Is China truly the outlier, though? I was under the impression that a lot of places were developing substantially, just that they aren't as far along as China, which is pretty legendary for its rapid pace. I've seen lots of reports of solar panels getting electricity to poor regions for the first time, the global spread of smartphones and internet getting people access to better education and better trade opportunities so they can build wealth, etc.

And we should also keep in mind that "industrializing" carries very heavy environmental costs (as China and India has shown), but if the road towards capitalist success and middle-class standards hinges on industrializing, then it makes climate change all but certain to get worse before it gets better.

Alternatively, you'd have to think that undeveloped nations should be prevented from industrializing (at least the kind that burns lots of coals and resources) to preserve the world, which means they won't be permitted to shake off their underdeveloped status, unless you think there's some other miraculously process by which nations can "catch up" to the West?

The obvious solution to this contradiction is that the richer nation should subsidize the development of the poorer nations with technology and investment, rather than having them rise up through the "free market" that worked so well for Europe in the past and China in the last 50 years.

Of course, none of the developed nations want to do this. Our other choices are climate change disaster as the developing nations industrialize to get ahead, or de facto Anglo-western supremacy, as we're the only nations that developed in that Goldilocks zone, 1700-1900, where we could pollute and pillage as much as we wanted with no consequences.
Obviously you don't want to try to stop poor nations from developing. That's inhumane, not to mention hypocritical as all hell. Traditional industrialization carries an awful environmental burden, yes, but I think what's trying to be achieved is getting energy production (and other technology) to the point that the poorer nations can skip over a lot of the worst externalities.

I was fortunate enough to be born into a developed nation, and I would absolutely support heavier investment into developing nations to help them skip over the coal-powered part of industrialization, but try selling that to the citizens en masse. :/
 

Lathentar

Member
Oct 27, 2017
79
This article seems... kind of strange? Like, first of all, I'm going to believe the UN's data over a website I've never heard of, and know nothing about, full stop. Secondly, for the sake of transparency I need to disclose that I've read Enlightenment Now (which I loved), The Rational Optimist (which I loved the prehistory stuff in, and how it broke down how trade works and can build wealth, but which I was also suspicious of some of the other claims in--the climate change chapter in that book in particular is dodgy as all fuck), and Factfulness (which is a wonderful book), and I don't really remember the claim that capitalism is the "best of all possible worlds" as this author puts it, more like I came away from those books thinking that it's done a better job than anything else we've tried at raising global standards of living, (i.e. it's the best we currently have). If anyone's actually claiming that it's the best solution possible, then yeah... that's nonsense. At minimum it's got a glaring problem with giving way too few people way more power than they deserve or could ever be trusted to use in any good way at all, while leaving way too many people without much of the power they helped create, and only increasing the gap over time.

It also seems kind of strange to use China's accounting for most of the improvement against the data. Like here:



You can't argue that gains have been achieved, but if we remove the region where they happened, then the proportion of poverty is the same. Like, huh? The rising standard of living in China (and India too, as far as I know) is still a huge number of people that are entering a middle-class standard of living. That's not nothing. As other regions industrialize, they will follow.

I'm finding it difficult to find the words to explain this, but it feels like the author wants to attack the ideology of how these "new optimists" define progress, but then couches it in attacking their data instead, in a way that doesn't totally jive. Like he spends a lot of time contesting their datasets, but then switches to an argument about morality instead, saying that:


Like, I just can't buy this at all. The world is unbelievably more moral than it used to be. When you're talking about massive societal change like this, it's going to be really slow, and there are going to be growing pains. I'd feel better about a claim like this sometime in the future--I don't know when, exactly, but having as much of the world be developed as it is (and therefore more capable of helping) is pretty recent, I'm pretty sure. I tried to find a chart of exactly how much of the world is developed or developing now vs 1970 (50 years ago) and had no luck, but it's definitely a much higher standard of living in more of the world nowadays.

I also tried to find global trends in charitable donations for how much of their wealth people donate vs how much they used to, but struck out there. :/

That's not to say we shouldn't do better, because we should, and I remember Pinker implying as much several times in Enlightenment Now, and especially Has Rosling saying so in Factfulness--over and over again Rosling reiterates that things can be both very bad, but also better than they were previously. The man helped found Doctors Without Borders for fuck's sake, he knows about needing to do more.

So yeah, I see some of the points the author here is trying to make, and I don't follow the New Optimist movement so I don't know about any particularly outlandish claims they've made, but based on what I've read, I just can't jive with a lot of this article. It feels like a messy argument to me.
I also read Enlightenment Now and enjoyed it quite a bit. I get the impression that the person who wrote this article didn't read that book. Which is really strange to me. I had a similar interpretation of the book that you did. Pinker really pushes concepts of individual freedoms as the primary driver of the progress he sees not specifically capitalism. In fact he spends a section of the book blasting Trump and praising other countries for having significant social welfare programs while have high levels of individual freedoms (socially and economic).
 
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dabig2

Member
Oct 29, 2017
1,965
I was fortunate enough to be born into a developed nation, and I would absolutely support heavier investment into developing nations to help them skip over the coal-powered part of industrialization, but try selling that to the citizens en masse. :/
Basically the epitaph on humanity's gravestone.

Since Chernobyl is still "in" I'm going to reference it here: remember the thing about radiation sickness? How you seem completely fine and over your prior systems and A-OK, but then the body bloating and face melting and insides burning begins? We're still in the "this is fine" stage, but that's already changing quickly for many many human beings around the world. And we're incrementing our way to destruction. Sad thing is that we know it, but we keep on keeping on.

Maintain the system. Keep the balance. The center must hold.

Meanwhile our freezer is breaking down, oceans acidifying on an unforeseen level, and ancient forests are burning down, releasing carbon that should've stayed out of the cycle but is now free to wreak havoc....in 10-20 years. I'm not even sure the Arctic will be around for little forest carby to fuck up as he reaches adolescence. Still an ocean though, and even that defense is weakening and poisoning itself further risking ecological disaster on a planetary level. Fuck with the cycle of food, you fuck up period.

Basically all that needs to be said is that climate change and its effects are the ultimate gamechanger. We're no longer playing uno, checkers, or chess or videogames or whatever. This is some next level shit that our species has not seen yet. Equivocation wasn't an option even 30 years ago when there was no excuse of pretending it didn't exist, so even less of one now.

The entire world has to literally transform itself, erase tribal barriers, and work together on a scale of time and effort that would be unprecedented in history and it needs to happen yesterday.

But like you said, it's a tough sell. Instead of weakening, tribal barriers all over are strengthening. And that old horrible base trait of "fuck you, got mine" is really tough to fight now, but especially harder when the 20s, 30s, and 40s roll by to a 2C or hotter world and we're still attached to making this capitalist nightmare work out as our insides boil from the inside out.
 

Sibylus

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,567
"The world is on fire and drowning. People are starving. People are dying. We need to do something drastic."
"We just need to nudge along the right market incentives! World's never been better!"

And yes, drastic along the lines of freeing assets, resources, and the means of production are more than called for. The rich are welcome to become regular-ass proles and work honestly (most of them for the first time in their lives) like the rest of us, but there'll doubtless be many who'd rather hold the heads of billions beneath the surf than let that happen. You can squirm about the incivility of glib comments about guillotines if you like, but the bare fact at bottom is that the people have a right to act in the defense of themselves, their families, and their fellow persons against the privations inflicted upon them by capitalists who refuse to give it up (ironic that the right of rebellion is one principle cherished in many of the nations represented by our userbase, with the US being the largest of note). Expropriation by force of that which they hoard when it is due to the people isn't merely inevitable. It's just.
 

hanshen

Member
Jun 24, 2018
968
Chicago, IL
Hmm. I'm not sure I understand the argument. The free movement of capital is trade, no? That's how you develop a country, as far as my limited knowledge knows. Agriculture/subsistence farming, then manufacturing, then services. If the selling of those to whoever will give the best price to build the country's wealth doesn't count as "capitalism," then perhaps I don't understand what is meant by "capitalism."

Is China truly the outlier, though? I was under the impression that a lot of places were developing substantially, just that they aren't as far along as China, which is pretty legendary for its rapid pace. I've seen lots of reports of solar panels getting electricity to poor regions for the first time, the global spread of smartphones and internet getting people access to better education and better trade opportunities so they can build wealth, etc.


Obviously you don't want to try to stop poor nations from developing. That's inhumane, not to mention hypocritical as all hell. Traditional industrialization carries an awful environmental burden, yes, but I think what's trying to be achieved is getting energy production (and other technology) to the point that the poorer nations can skip over a lot of the worst externalities.

I was fortunate enough to be born into a developed nation, and I would absolutely support heavier investment into developing nations to help them skip over the coal-powered part of industrialization, but try selling that to the citizens en masse. :/
The argument is that China is an outlier because the Chinese government sets a lot of limitations on what foreign capital can do in China, thus limits the amount of wealth extracted from the country. Whereas a lot of developing countries sees most of the wealth generated by the progress get extracted by global capital leaving the workers in poverty.

Heavier investment doesn't help if the end goal is to extract value.

The domestic progressive political agenda won't work without forming an international coalition against the global capitalists. As long as the capitalists can keep moving to poorer less developed countries, the workers won't ever get their fair share of their work.
 

nelsonroyale

Member
Oct 28, 2017
2,409
This article seems... kind of strange? Like, first of all, I'm going to believe the UN's data over a website I've never heard of, and know nothing about, full stop. Secondly, for the sake of transparency I need to disclose that I've read Enlightenment Now (which I loved), The Rational Optimist (which I loved the prehistory stuff in, and how it broke down how trade works and can build wealth, but which I was also suspicious of some of the other claims in--the climate change chapter in that book in particular is dodgy as all fuck), and Factfulness (which is a wonderful book), and I don't really remember the claim that capitalism is the "best of all possible worlds" as this author puts it, more like I came away from those books thinking that it's done a better job than anything else we've tried at raising global standards of living, (i.e. it's the best we currently have). If anyone's actually claiming that it's the best solution possible, then yeah... that's nonsense. At minimum it's got a glaring problem with giving way too few people way more power than they deserve or could ever be trusted to use in any good way at all, while leaving way too many people without much of the power they helped create, and only increasing the gap over time.

It also seems kind of strange to use China's accounting for most of the improvement against the data. Like here:



You can't argue that gains have been achieved, but if we remove the region where they happened, then the proportion of poverty is the same. Like, huh? The rising standard of living in China (and India too, as far as I know) is still a huge number of people that are entering a middle-class standard of living. That's not nothing. As other regions industrialize, they will follow.

I'm finding it difficult to find the words to explain this, but it feels like the author wants to attack the ideology of how these "new optimists" define progress, but then couches it in attacking their data instead, in a way that doesn't totally jive. Like he spends a lot of time contesting their datasets, but then switches to an argument about morality instead, saying that:


Like, I just can't buy this at all. The world is unbelievably more moral than it used to be. When you're talking about massive societal change like this, it's going to be really slow, and there are going to be growing pains. I'd feel better about a claim like this sometime in the future--I don't know when, exactly, but having as much of the world be developed as it is (and therefore more capable of helping) is pretty recent, I'm pretty sure. I tried to find a chart of exactly how much of the world is developed or developing now vs 1970 (50 years ago) and had no luck, but it's definitely a much higher standard of living in more of the world nowadays.

I also tried to find global trends in charitable donations for how much of their wealth people donate vs how much they used to, but struck out there. :/

That's not to say we shouldn't do better, because we should, and I remember Pinker implying as much several times in Enlightenment Now, and especially Has Rosling saying so in Factfulness--over and over again Rosling reiterates that things can be both very bad, but also better than they were previously. The man helped found Doctors Without Borders for fuck's sake, he knows about needing to do more.

So yeah, I see some of the points the author here is trying to make, and I don't follow the New Optimist movement so I don't know about any particularly outlandish claims they've made, but based on what I've read, I just can't jive with a lot of this article. It feels like a messy argument to me.
will respond more later, but the New Internationist is a very reputable publication, if staunchly on the left wing of politics. They often provide much needed critique of the reports that the UN releases, which mistakingly promote the impression that they are apolitical when they are far from being free of political positions and assumptions.

As for Enlightenment Now....Pinker paints a pretty grand narrative, and there is truth a lot of what he says...but specifically from the position of a winner - a priviliged middle aged white man's perspective who loves statistics even more then real numbers. I also think he is guilty of a lot of selection bias, very clearly in his section on the environment, which he really doesn't have much expertise in and parrots a lot of what the ecomodernists claim. i have also understand that his reading of enlightenment philosophy itself is pretty selective...Needless to say I found it highly fitting that it was Bill Gates favourite book.
 
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Gwenpoolshark

Member
Jan 5, 2018
1,663
The Pool
My mother remarried a fairly wealthy man and now they constantly push Peevin Stinker on me like it's the new gospel. Guy is so clearly a hack fraud selling neoliberal pablum to comfort the supposedly earnest 1% who feel a twinge of guilt every time they're reminded that their policies and ambitions are literally melting the fucking planet. Almost every argument Pinker makes can be refuted with the simple reality of climate change.

Even if we accept his grossly naive Candide assumption that this is the best of the best of all possible worlds, climate science clearly shows that "progress" made is essentially a house built on sand. There was a better critique of specifically his arguments in The New Republic about a year ago that I keep going back to. Like the article posted in this thread points out: Pinker et al's approach to the data is maladjusted to the realities of global markets, poverty as it actually exists, and the vast inequality that defines our era. But even if we were to just ignore all of that (which is a big if), climate change clearly proves that whatever progress we have made is largely unearned and comes at the cost of future generations.

Its Pinker's handwaving away of Climate crisis that really pisses me, and any rational human being with an interest in the future, the fuck off. Mr. plot chart line graph bullshit here keeps pointing to the numbers that indicate that the future he supposedly cherishes is going to be just fantastic when it so obviously won't be. Resources, habitability, life expectancy, all the metrics he measures and makes his claims by, these are all going to plummet. And my parents are just like him now: they believe climate change is real but they just don't take it seriously enough anymore. They're practically Silicon Valley third wavers at this point believing that the algorithms will take care of everything and human ingenuity will blah blah blah. They're hopelessly detached from the coming crisis.

I keep trying to give them some literature to counter this but they never read it. If this is what the supposedly benevolent sectors of the rich and powerful are reading, then we're pretty much fucked.