Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Poverty is not a personal choice, but a reflection of society (theconversation.com)
233 points by Mz on June 30, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 208 comments

Regarding blaming each other for their misfortune, I have an anecdotal experience I want to share. I don't know if that's just me or this phenomenal happens to everyone else as well: That's the "fuck you/who cares/deal with it" attitude.

The "fuck you" attitude can be summarized as people won't go the extra mile to help other people. It is the non-sympathy, non-action I get from everyday people (including the police) when something injustice or misfortune happens to other people or the common interest. It is also the non-forgiving attitude when someone makes a dumb mistake. It is selfish and at the same time not wrong. It reflects somewhat in the Shit Town podcast that I listened to lately.

I won't go into the details, but personally, I have worked with the local police recently on two separate incidents, and they were surprisingly bad. It was different from my previous experiences when I first moved to the US ten years ago. That "fuck you" attitude is what I experienced and have to deal with every day when I was in Vietnam, my home country. I'm not shocked, or that annoyed to have to deal with it every once in a while, but I feel it wasn't that way when I moved. I feel I get less and less of the extra miles the more I stay in here. I can't help but feel that people are getting stiffer and stiffer somehow.

For the context, I am and have been living in the midwest. What's surprising is that I'm not even depressed, and life is getting easier for me professionally, personally, and financially. Something just doesn't feel right. Or maybe I was just romanticizing my early days in the US for me. Or maybe I'm about to have another mid-life crisis.

Well, research is showing a huge decline(40%) in empathy between 2000-2010:


The article mentions few of the possible core reasons: a large decline in face to face time which is being replaced by the likes of facebook, a culture that emphasizes individuality far too strongly, brutal competition that's deeply seeping into the culture and strong inequality - whose turn to isolate us.

>> What's surprising is that I'm not even depressed,

Sure. But that's just your current luck. Statistically we're seeing an increase in depression, anxiety, etc.

The sad thing, it's like world war I, we're seeing all those trends(and others) and we know where they are heading, but there doesn't seem anything we can do about it, on the societal level.

I don't know if "a culture that emphasizes individuality far too strongly" is a 2000 phenomenon - US in general and West Coast specifically has been defined by rugged individualism historically.

But I'd add decline in church attendance to the list of reasons - churches used to be a natural "third space" for people to meet, socialize and have shared experiences leading to some potential societal bonding.

Nowadays nominees for societal "third space" beyond residence and work office are local sports, shopping malls or Starbucks, which, contrary to television portrayals of them, don't quite provide social experiences.

You actually have to go out of your way to have an offline shared collaborative experience with a group of local people, either by volunteering or joining some one-off clubs like reading groups or moms meetups.

Don't forget you get a greater abundance of "meetups" type clubs and meetings than you did a couple of years ago, which can offset the reduction of "third spaces".

Ok, meetups are in my experience still a niche / nerdy occurrence but it is getting more and more main stream.

Meetup.com seems to be filling the niche and becoming pretty mainstream. I've used it on two continents now. There are a lot of tech groups, which I assume was their initial market, but I've mostly used it for language exchange. My other friends have also been using it for general hobbies.

I grew up in a small town in the Midwest and one thing I've noticed is income stratification has had an impact. It used to be more prevalent for your police officer, postman, waitress, or hairdresser to be able to afford to live in your town. Their kids would go to school with your kids, or you might go to the same church. But a lot more families struggle while others have done very well. I see a huge disparity in incomes (even within my extended family). This is amplified by the perception that many achieved this by luck or without hard work. Unfortunately, I think that makes people much less likely to empathize with each other.

Oddly enough, I'm the first to admit that I've achieved my level of income by luck, and without hard work. I was lucky to have two educated parents, their wealth to fall back on, and an affluent, healthy environment to grow up in. My parents paid for my undergraduate education, and the government paid for my graduate degree.

I "work" in a nice office, by playing with equations and gadgets, and talking to people. Meanwhile I see people doing actual physical work, and even emotionally hard work such as teachers, police, etc. And it is virtually assured by our society that they will be less affluent than me, despite working a lot harder.

Being born to two educated parents is not luck on your part, but well deserved reward for a long, concerted effort on theirs. You're not a random happening on a clean slate; you're just the latest offshoot of a family.

Maybe there is a philosophical divide between us, but this argument sounds really weird to me.

From his/her point of view, of course being born to educated parents is luck, if not what else is it? We don't have any choice or any influence on the matter of who we are born to, and we cannot change it with our effort or lack of it.

The fact that from their parents' point of view it's not luck, because they worked for it, strikes me as irrelevant in this context. It can be relevant in a societal context but the post you reply to was talking about the success of an individual and how it can come just by luck, without that individual working especially hard for it.

What isn't luck? I only am who I am today because of a combination of nature and nurture. My genes and my environment defined who I am. I had no control over either of those things.

I mean, if I was born on Steve Job's birthday, with Steve Job's genes, to Steve Job's parents, presumably I would be Steve Jobs. From that perspective, it's pure luck I'm not a billionaire. And, similarly, pure luck that I'm not literally Hitler.

Do we make our own destiny, or does our destiny make us?

Both, with some effort i could get good a poker. Some games I will lose no matter what because you can only play the hand you are dealt

And you can only buy in with the money you have to start with.

Everyone should experience losing to a worse player who won by starting with more chips and therefore had more hands and more opportunities to recover from error.

Then they should experience a fixed buy in, no rebuy tournament where each player starts with equal opportunity.

> What isn't luck?


This is fatalism and societies that adopt this attitude fall into some nasty traps. For example, there's no point to solving problems because it's the will of God.

It's not fatalism. It's about recognizing that a more economically even society is warranted because people shouldn't get outsized credit (or be disproportionately punished) for things outside their control.

Society gains incredible wealth from the desire to gain outsized credit for those we care about.

Economic evening can quickly become a poison.

Real life is complicated. Who decides what is in their control? What if it's a combination?

It seems like more of a philosophy of humility than fatalism.

Who says his parents were not lucky too? No offense intended to OP, but they could have been two rich dropouts who lived their lives in a squat, lapsed into drug addiction and then found one of their estranged parents had died and left them $10m. The myth that rich people are rich because they worked hard is just that, a myth. The myth that a family is rich because generations worked hard is just ignorant.

Please reference the British aristocracy whose wealth is generally attributable to an ancestor being friends with William the Conqueror, as famously said by the Duke of Westminster (Richest man in Britain, recently dies and passed his estate to his son tax free)

"The Duke of Westminster was acutely aware that his own vast wealth was entirely due to luck. When once asked for the secret of financial success, he replied it was to have an ancestor who had been a close friend of William the Conqueror. It may have been that his inability to know how to make amends for this fluke lay behind his discontent."


"A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."

You might be right, but we need to honor people for taking care of the next generation by working hard, being clever, and making good decisions.

And aristocracy aside, people who were "privileged" are generally children of people who make good decisions, take care of their kids, and typically love them. To act like that is all just the roll of the dice is to diminish the hard work and sacrifice it takes to be a good parent and a productive member of society.

What happens when the old men who plant trees are greeted with nihilism and apathy?

How is being born to those parents not luck? I had to learn self-control, personal finance, investment, entrepreneurship, and so on by myself because no one taught me. I learned it very, very late and it's likely set me back decades.

I had to be exposed to people who knew these things, and who were willing to teach me despite my upbringing. The fact that I'm where I am with growing savings, a small but growing music business, and confidence in my gender identity and sexuality is pure luck.

This all depended on my parents, despite their failings, seeing that computers were going to be a big deal. No matter how bad things got, I always had a computer and an internet connection. If not for meeting the right people at the right times (all online), I'd have ended up in a loveless marriage, an ongoing slide toward abject poverty, and confusion about who I am like everyone else around here.

Now I know luck is mostly about preparation, but no one teaches you preparation around here. We're all about learned helplessness in these parts.

> I had to learn self-control, personal finance, investment, entrepreneurship, and so on...

Other people have to do this and other similar things. When they have kids and raise them successfully, is that luck? Or is it payoff for that effort carried into the next generation?

Some people are just lucky. Some are just privileged. But it's reductionist and just not good advice to say the whole world is random and decisions don't matter. Things, at a minimum, are a lot more complicated than that. And I think people and communities who do support their offspring deserve more credit than that. They're not just a gust of wind in the right direction one day.

Yes, because having healthy kids who will be able to make use of the good decisions is luck.

People aren't saying decisions don't matter. They're saying trying to equalize opportunity does matter by mitigating the effects of luck. People are also saying we're best able to mitigate bad luck when we work as a larger society.

I think the problem here is that the do it for their kids.

Family businesses are generally know for planning more for the future than non-family businesses.

But they don't do it because they think it's good for society to build something sustainable for the future. They do it for their kids, which sounds nice first, but is a rather selfish reason.

Yes they go one step further, they don't just want to enrich themselves in person, but also other people who happen to be their kids, but in the end it's just individualism on a higher abstraction level.

Behaviour that is really honourable doesn't just benefit you and your family, it benefits as much non-related people as possible.

I mean, on another level this this the same as with white men only hiring other white men. Sure they grow big companies, are successful and help other people, but people who aren't white or aren't men won't get as much out of it.

That just moves the chain of causation one link earlier.

He's not saying his parents are lucky, he's saying that he is lucky.

Was it luck that both of the parents were able to put in long, concerted effort?

(I'm not trying to say that hard work has nothing to do with anything, quite the opposite, but that "luck", as the word is commonly used, also plays a huge part in any ones life)

It's both.

Physical effort has no (and should not have) a bearing on how much you are paid. Work smarter, not harder. A society doesn't advance if everyone spends all day digging ditches with spoons.

You'd be surprised how fast a society can collapse if it's left to wannabe Einsteins and Feynmans and Elon Musks and nobody is there to dig ditches, clean the garbage and work the assembly line.

Or how better a society would be without tons of well paid white collar jobs (advertisers for one).

> nobody is there to dig ditches

Nobody shovels horse feces or lights lamps anymore.

Also, these problems (not enough ditch diggers) are solved by just paying people more for that kind of work. Culturally we think that managers up the chain deserve to get paid more and more, but if there's a shortage of people scrubbing toilets, maybe the person with clean fingernails merely cutting paychecks doesn't necessarily warrant a higher market rate.

But how am I supposed to know what to buy!

It's sarcasm I know, but:

1) Detailed specs by the manufacturer (that have to be valid or get large fines -- e.g. regarding speaker frequency response, or drug side effects, or cosmetics effectiveness, etc.).

2) Reviews by the media

3) Reviews by laymen

4) Word of mouth

Eh, maybe. Marx's idea of the socially necessary labour time fits into this quite well, as he wrote in Capital vol. 1:

Some people might think that if the value of a commodity is determined by the quantity of labour spent on it, the more idle and unskilful the labourer, the more valuable would his commodity be, because more time would be required in its production. The labour, however, that forms the substance of value, is homogeneous human labour, expenditure of one uniform labour power. The total labour power of society, which is embodied in the sum total of the values of all commodities produced by that society, counts here as one homogeneous mass of human labour power, composed though it be of innumerable individual units. Each of these units is the same as any other, so far as it has the character of the average labour power of society, and takes effect as such; that is, so far as it requires for producing a commodity, no more time than is needed on an average, no more than is socially necessary. The labour time socially necessary is that required to produce an article under the normal conditions of production, and with the average degree of skill and intensity prevalent at the time. The introduction of power-looms into England probably reduced by one-half the labour required to weave a given quantity of yarn into cloth. The hand-loom weavers, as a matter of fact, continued to require the same time as before; but for all that, the product of one hour of their labour represented after the change only half an hour’s social labour, and consequently fell to one-half its former value.

However it's worth noting that Marxian economics does not propose that people are paid according to the value they produce, but rather the amount required for the worker to reproduce his labour-power commodity (this is what he actually sells), so the question of payment at least from the Marxian perspective becomes moot.

Indeed, work is not measured in Joules, but in dollars. A dollar's worth of work is worth a dollar. In those terms, I perform more work than a ditch digger, with fewer Joules.

In my view, what needs to happen is, get rid of the promise that if you work hard, you'll get ahead. Instead, adopt a more realistic ethic in which success depends on a combination of wealth, education, and effort, with those factors listed in descending order of value. Also note that wealth is accompanied by political power.

I guess my history is almost opposite while achieving similar results. However, I get bunched in the same group and expected to feel privileged and guilty.

I grew up in another country and went to end of junior + high school in a US school in the inner city where nobody studied in my class except for me. 65% of the class never graduated. My parents, although very educated in our home country never paid for school and worked very bad jobs initially here such as postal service worker and person who poses census questions.

Although I never did particularly well in school in my home country, I did extremely well in the US because everyone else wasn't doing anything. I was ranked 10th in a graduating class of 900 students and did well on the SATs except for the English section. However, I got into many fights to protect my image in school or things would have gotten worse for me there. This resulted in not being able to get into decent colleges since for whatever reason that is reflected on your "record".

Finally, this apathetic behavior of my classmates and friends transformed me a little and i did poorly first couple of years of college. However, impending struggles with job market made me get back to studying. I took more loans to pay for my undergrad + masters and graduated with a decent GPA + research. Then got a job in software and now almost finished paying off loans.

Let me describe what high school life is like in inner city public high schools:

People growing up in inner cities are treated like animals in the cafeteria and elsewhere. There are police officers with guns. There are literal metal bars on the windows and only plastic utensils are allowed in cafeteria. Fights happen where everyone jumps on the tables and cheers on. There are metal chains on doors for students not to escape midway during school day. There are metal detectors at the entrance in case students bring guns. You can go to the bathroom during class only 5 times in 6 months. You are taught how to add fractions in grade 10 math class. Guidance counselors never help you and always try to do the least amount of work possible. I had to talk to the principal to make them let me take a math test to test out of elementary school math. Had to switch math classes to get a math teacher to let me go to a math olympiad.

The experience for me closely matched what American movies would show prisons are like. The students themselves think "nerds" are incredibly uncool and the coolest people are rappers + sports stars. I think median amount of time people spent doing homework there is about 0 seconds. Almost everyone constantly talks during class and you can barely hear the teacher.

After escaping this circus, I'm expected to feel sympathy for some of the people who were my classmates.

So while I still think I got lucky in terms of intelligence, the solution to this problem is to change the culture. For example, in my old country, there is literally no commonly used word for "nerds" and people who get good grades are considered cool.

Additionally, going to college for vast majority of students especially those who come from high schools like mine is a waste of time. There should be trade schools. There should be a major high school reform. People who act like prisoners should be put in some sort of boarding school so they stop poisoning the well for others. People who participate in a fight by the virtue of being attacked by others shouldn't get detentions. It should be explained to their parents that this behavior is completely not OK. Media should stop idolizing singers + sports players. In fact, MTV programming should be completely remade into a subtle pro-education propaganda channel. Cancer like Jerry Springer et al should be canceled.

It is totally possible to graduate from these high schools and do well.

The problem is not money, but culture. Privilege has _nothing_ to do with it since tons of people in much much poorer countries with schools that have a lot fewer funds do a lot better.

I feel like most people don't understand what American education/school culture is really like in inner cities and what students are really like who go there. Here are a couple of movies that somewhat match my experience:

The Class (2008) - French film but similar (milder) situation.

Kids (1995) - Very accurate but little to do with education.

> I guess my history is almost opposite while achieving similar results. However, I get bunched in the same group and expected to feel privileged and guilty.

My history was also the opposite, and I do not like getting bunched in with privileged.

I've had a job since I could push a lawn mower up and down the street at the age of 12 or 13. In HS, I worked overnights in a grocery store during the summers. My family only had 1 car, so during the school year I had to get up at 5am and take my mom to work so I could go to work right after school. Then I would pick her up on my break and go back to work. I didn't have a computer at my house until I was a freshman in college, and it just happened to be during that time when they gave everyone credit cards (I guess that was lucky?).

The point is that people get to where they are in life all sorts of ways. Some win the lottery, some work their ass off, but most get there through some combination of both.

> I was ranked 10th in a graduating class of 900 students and did well on the SATs except for the English section.

Being born one or two standard deviations away from median on the intelligence scale is a whole lot of luck and privilege.

> The problem is not money, but culture. Privilege has _nothing_ to do with it since tons of people in much much poorer countries with schools that have a lot fewer funds do a lot better.

My dad was born in a village in Bangladesh, but raised my brother and I in an upper middle class household in the US. He's the first to admit that he got lucky. Had he been born as someone of average intelligence, or not had parents who made education a priority, or he hadn't had extremely fortuitous timing in his career, he'd still be in Bangladesh. I'm pretty successful myself and I'd count myself doubly lucky. Had I been born in a village in Bangladesh, I'd have failed out of the rigid unforgiving school system. (I skated by in US K-12 based purely on test-taking ability.) Hell I'd probably be doing manual labor there instead of being a white collar professional in the US.

> ...is a whole lot of luck and privilege.

I really dislike the language of privilege in this context. I'm not sure what point it serves other to diminish someone else. Some people are smart. That's as much a part of them as their skin color or sexual identity. Should they feel apologetic about that?

Also, as a counterpoint, I know brilliant people who wasted that talent on drugs and other things.

Not apologetic, but gracious and humble. It's like how you act about physical attractiveness if you're Chris Pine.

I agree with this attitude. My point was that 'privilege' is a loaded word these days. It doesn't convey this attitude. At least not to me.

I agree totally. I have a friend who has a daughter special needs that includes both cognitive and complex physical challenges. During her divorce proceeding her ex's attorney asked her, "isn't it true that your daughter attends XYZ School for Exceptional Children?" She said yes. The attorney followed up the question with, "so then it is your privilege to have a gifted child, correct?" Her response, "well I guess it depends on how you look at the gift but it is certainly a privilege to have her as my daughter."

It appears that a physician who put himself through school because his family was without means to help is lucky because he had the brains and drive to make good grades. After getting his MD he chooses to focus on finding a cure for cancer and discovers protocols that inhibit cancer cell growth. When asked what drives him he says he lost his sister to cancer when he was a child and since that day he has wanted to be a doctor? So was he lucky to have had a sister w cancer?

Sometimes privilege and luck are not mutually exclusive. He certainly was privileged to find his calling at a young age and I would guess there was a fair amount of luck in there as well (getting into the school that nurtured his passion etc) but you cannot discount the power of personal drive either.

The misconception is that privilege is something people have to answer for, rather than something they simply need to be aware of.

I'm very sorry to hear the trying circumstances in your youth... but I'm very glad that you did manage to break out of it and be successful. The solutions you suggest to changing culture will unfortunately definitely not work. If its one thing I've noticed, its that if you try to ban something it drives it underground and makes it even "cooler". I don't know what the solution is, but changing the culture like that just isn't valuable.

There is also this fact that a lot of people who grew up in better circumstances (including myself and most of my friends) just never get to meet, interact with and understand people who grew up in tough cultures like you did.

I think you touched upon my original sentiment and that intimated by several others, which is that parents look out for their children and try to put them in the best situation. This is why we see competition to move into the best school districts, pricing many hard working and worthy families out. Unfortunately, we see this played out in irrational and societally negative ways like white flight. As a society, we lack role models which do not derive from a promotional/capitalistic agenda (ie. sports stars, musicians). Clustering people by socioeconomic status probably only serves to further deprive lesser privileged children of role models. There is no easy answer. Some solutions are known, but NIMBY is a powerful force.

I'll point out that the poorest parts of the country are actually in small towns with few opportunities. The schools do not tend to be as dangerous or toxic, but home lives for students can be just as bad or worse (statistically speaking).

That's not to have a rural/urban competition, but to say that poverty is not localized and the culture of poverty has many expressions. It has been plugged a lot lately, but urban people who want to be multicultural, intelligent, and informed should really read books like Hillbilly Elegy.

you're experiance sounds horrible. your solutions seem to create a narrow path through but only for people like you. and from what you describe, the problems are far beyond education reform and reflect back on social structures, as you already suggested. Growing weath gaps and shrinking saftey nets -- these and other areas, outside of hign school, should be higher on the list of needed reforms. it's not going to be fixed with better schools

I definitely see this in Palo Alto! Even 15 years ago PA had a lower median income than most surrounding towns; cops and firefighters etc could grow up attending Paly (high school) and live in town. There was an aggressive effort to maintain Section 8 housing and a more mixed population.

But since the real estate interests took over the city counsel that has all collapsed. The SRO housing has been converted to expensive boutique hotels, and a greater "I've got mine jack" attitude has taken hold. There are few blue collar folks who can afford to live in town any more.

Class divergence is the topic of 'Coming Apart' by Charles Murray.

I notice this as well. I think a lot of it comes down to modern society being so complex that most people are unwilling or unable to do anything "extra" like that, at least not regularly. Not only that, but companies and governments are so complex that they resort to bureaucracy as a way to attempt to make things predictable.

Every action people take is driven by such a complex web of incentives these days, that risk-aversion is often seen as the pragmatic option.

Having said that, I will say that I am often pleasantly surprised by how thoughtful and considerate people can be to each other in general. But I do think that risk-averse "fuck you" treatment is on the rise, especially when dealing with people at work being asked to make difficult decisions. Risk aversion is corporate policy.

Just a different perspective to answer this (and I am open to being wrong): competition b/w societies is decreasing. We live in an increasingly bureaucratic, interconnected, globalized world, and I think it is an undiscussed reason for this.

The incentives and disincentives to care for your neighbour or not, or to care for your group, decreased, and it will keep decreasing if this trend continues.

It's a complex issue. I'm willing to help people who work hard on getting out of bad situations. I'm not willing to solve their problems mostly or completely on my own.

That necessarily implies some degree of American individualism in the person looking for help. Without that the helpee sooner or later will run out of luck (and/or "other people's money") no matter what you do.

Having lived all over the US, I believe that small homogenous rural towns are the most empathetic/friendly places available. The human brain didn't evolved to form strong, productive social bonds in the presence of millions of people. It seems to wear on people after a while. Whenever I visit little towns in ID/MT/WY/TX I always smile at how nice people are.

Unfortunately, those small towns are intellectually understimulating, so you either have to be selective or invent some kind of city I haven't come across yet. The closest I've seen to a friendly large city is actually Hanoi. Maybe the secret sauce is just homogeneity, and small towns are partially just nicer because they're usually more homogenous.

Small, homogenous rural towns aren't so bad if you fit into the culture that is there. You'll always be an outsider, but it'll go well enough. It'll be a bit harder if you seem like an outsider, but if you are normal enough, this'll pass. Lots of folks will act friendly to you in the meantime.

However, if you are weird or alternative enough? Perhaps you aren't keen on religion? Or something similar? Yeah, these places can get pretty lonely and some of those folks don't extend their kindness to you... unless someone will see them.

This is true, but I don't see it as a bad thing. Any community with a solid social structure has a homogeneous culture. This makes communication and social expectations among everyone a lot easier to predict. I think part of the reason bigger cities fail to form a sense of community is because of a lack of a common, positive culture. I think in an attempt to make abnormal people feel comfortable, we've ostracized the majority of normal people in the process.

This is true, but what has the higher net social utility: a system that treats the 1% of social deviants equally at the expense of a loss of social cohesion, or a system that treats the 1% of social deviants poorly while maintaining a friendly social environment for the 99%? The answer isn't immediately obvious, and depends on what degree of deviance the local culture will tolerate, so I could see it going either way.

However, I do think the concern is a bit overstated; especially in northern towns, the primary cultural identity shared by the inhabitants would most accurately be described as "outdoorsman" rather than any religious or ethnic affiliation. There's more to it than that, but overall it was pretty accessible as long as you were willing to adapt.

You may want to consider a move to a happier place, the Midwest is not doing well these days. I moved from an economically depressed city in the midwest to a southern tech boomtown a few years ago and the difference in mood is striking. Everyone is new here, everyone is making good money. Remember how it was right before the housing crisis or before the dotcom bubble burst? That's how it feels here.

The Midwest is messed up. Almost every major city is having budget problems, increasing unemployment and crime, higher taxes. Industry is leaving or has already left, and the rich people (who proportionally pay most of the taxes) are following. The Midwest used to be known for manufacturing and heavy industry and these are the two segments of the economy hit hardest by globalization.

Illinois is the best example of this. It's the only state with a shrinking population, and the average income of people leaving is almost $25,000 more than those moving in. People that can afford to leave easily are jumping ship. The south side collapsed with the steel industry thirty years ago and sent the state into a slow decline. Only the north end of Chicago is even worth visiting these days. The rest of the city and state is functionally bankrupt.

If you don't want to move as far there's a couple cities diversified enough to avoid the decline. Madison WI is the best example I can think of. Otherwise do yourself a favor and visit some reputable cities in the sun belt.

> ...do yourself a favor and visit some reputable cities in the sun belt.

On an individual level this might make sense, but if everyone does this, it just amplifies existing problems. In the city you're leaving, inequality would just grow worse, there would be a brain drain, and family support structures would weaken. In the city you're going to, housing costs would go up, and pockets of area would be insulated from the wider reality of economic decline. This would cause areas of the country that strongly vote one way, and the rest of the country would vote the other.

Instead of encouraging people to just move, why not encourage people to stay and help those who are experiencing a declining quality of life? It would accomplish more than just leaving to "reputable," aka "rich" cities.

Because its like riding a dead horse. I think, there are reasons, why areas go bad, and those reasons will not go away, unless people leave the s* holes. I do not see any obligation to stay, when its bad.

So i'd say, its reasonable to go abroad, to abandon home and make something of life, when you have a chance to do it. And later, if you still feel close to your home, you can return and create something that makes sense for you, with confidence and resources. The root causes, why areas went bad, may have died and there might be space and hunger to grow something new. That is at least my colorful narrative.

I work with many people from so considered poorer countries. They all miss their homes. But actually no one ever said, they want to go back and build something. :)

I think there is no obligation to stay at one place and make it work.

Going back is considerably harder than you may think. Once you move to a new place, you create a life for yourself, you form social networks, relationships, habits etc. Leaving all that for the uncertainty of a place which you left because of whatever reason seems like a huge gamble and something I would personally find hard to do.

Of course, it depends on ones nature. I have friends who miss and pine for their home country and do end up going back. Others like myself enjoy our new lives and identities in the US and stay.

Of course that you personally can't change the situation and you should take care of yourself first. Your are powerless to change a full community. The question is, should we do something collectively?

In a way, I think, this is precisely what the discussion in this thread is about.

It makes sense for everyone if people move to where the jobs are. Why would you encourage people to stay in a place they can't thrive?

Do I care about the state more than myself and my family? No. I'm going to do what's best for us. Encouraging people to stay goes against their best interests.

>everyone is making good money

For some highly restrictive definition of "everyone". I think this statement kind of exemplifies the problem.

In cities with booming economies this is accurate. High income newcomers spend a lot of money which creates more jobs and raises wages for existing residents. Any long time residents that own property have newfound wealth, and local businesses thrive.

Most of the tech boomtowns have significant poverty, and the tech industry seems to have made it somewhat worse, not better.


Thank you for the advice - I'm moving (to the coast). I'm just staying in here for my education (college and post-graduate degree).

What is sad was the town I'm living in is a college town, and I can't imagine it being uninviting before I moved here. I used to live in a smaller college town, and while it was really really small, I didn't feel that way.

For anyone who wants to investigate the connection between poverty and society further, I can highly recommend, Rutger Bregman's book 'Utopia for realists'. It is funny to see cases in history where well researched,cost effective and progressive social programs have been stopped due to plain prejudice from those in power.

I keep hearing Ayn Rand mentioned these days. Reading those long tedious books can give you fodder for some interesting thought experiments, but beyond that I find the ideas not just damaging, but childishly simplistic. When I hear that some bigshot tech mogul is a follower of Rand I feel that they are about to make excuses for their appalling behavior by making appeal to some kind of authority. I associate Rand with white supremacists and debunked myths

>It is funny to see cases in history where well researched,cost effective and progressive social programs have been stopped due to plain prejudice from those in power.

That's how I view free market economics. The benefits of having strong market institutions (e.g. low taxes, private property rights, contract freedom) in fostering economic development and reducing poverty [1] is one of the most empirically validated theories in economics, and yet we have a bevy of social scientists continually advocating for policies, like forced income redistribution in the form of ever expanding welfare programs [2], that undermine it.

>I keep hearing Ayn Rand mentioned these days.

I keep hearing Ayn Rand mentioned in personal attacks against me these days.

>I associate Rand with white supremacists and debunked myths

That's not a constructive comment. Yes you disagree with advocates of the free market. Expressing how vehemently you disagree with them isn't going to help anyone understand each other better.

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-pol...

[2] http://apps.npr.org/unfit-for-work/

Regarding Rand, I hear her referenced more by libertarian detractors than any actual libertarians.

Paul Ryan, the primary author of the House healthcare bill, gives out an Ayn Rand book to all of his interns [0].

Fountainhead and especially Atlas Shrugged are engaging works of science fiction. I recommend everyone read at least one. And then keep in mind this quote [1]:

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

[0] http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/07/7-ways-paul-rya... [1] http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/366635-there-are-two-novels-...

Brad Keywell, the non-lefkofsky half of Lightbank (incubator for Groupon) also gives out Rynd books to his employees for christmas.

Largely because Ayn Rand was not Libertarian, she founded Objectivism and has complete disdain for many Libertarians of the time.

Objectivism shares many things in common with small subset of Right leaning Libertarian Philosophy Anarcho-Capitalism, but not all Libertarians are AnCaps despite what they (anCaps) claim

I'll also recommend Hillbilly Elegy (more narrative and focuses on modern rural poverty in America) and Coming Apart (a bit more data driven and explanatory) on this subject.

Admirers of Rand making appeals to authority? That's an obvious contradiction to anyone who had even read one page of the cliff notes of her philosophy. Someone, you or they, are confused.

When they quote Rand's philosophy as a reason to do something, they are appealing to authority.

I would also reccomend 'The Unwinding' by George Packer.

I'm not sure the proportion, but there do exist certain people who are self destructive yet also self entitled. It's the state of mind that drives a person to gamble everything they own. Either the universe agrees with then and they do become the greatest person they think they are, or more likely, they fail and wallow in rage. In a way, it's like a child throwing a tantrum, threatening all sorts of things, knowing that their mom will break down and acquisce to the demands. In the real world though, this mom doesn't exist. Some have pity for the child's heart that seaches for meaning and love in a world without a mother, most see the child's tantrum and are just annoyed at the immaturity.

The most institutionalized mother replacement is God, the infallible mother of mother's. A pet theory if mine is that religion served as society's safety net in this manner and was incredibly important when only a minority of people had access to knowledge as opposed to the majority today. Knowledge opens the doors to self actualization through various means. Without it you are limited to blue collar repetitive jobs, non-creative work. Without this self actualization path, it's very easy to fall into a spiral of drugs, alcohol, hookers, etc...

Online Games are the modern day less dangerous replacement for these shallow meaning makers. It's usage as a stabilizer for the poor is especially apparent in the Asian countries.

Note that money in the end will always be spent on meaning regardless of rich or poor. . The poor don't save because they can't see what to do with it. The immediate meaning makers of drugs and alcohol are much more achievable. I save and go to Costco because I know moneys power to transform into different degrees of freedom and creative pursuits. Others desire a family. Some desire an empire, a middle finger to God. (Pop culture is the main stabilizing force for the middle class)

> Note that money in the end will always be spent on meaning regardless of rich or poor. . The poor don't save because they can't see what to do with it.

The type of "easy come, easy go" behavior is way more prevalent among poor than rich. I remember reading an article (impossible to dig out with generic keywords I can come up with) describing a study in savings pattern where they distributed small amounts of extra cash to poor households. Some of the money went to cover bills, so deleveraging previous debts, but even at those households that ended up with a surplus of cash the savings never materialized into anything meaningful and long-term. Several reasons for that:

1) Accumulated previous debts for things like cars, medical debts, furniture rentals. Some with ballooning interests, some with predatory late fees that have their own ballooning interests.

2) Accumulated ongoing liabilities for things such as parental support.

3) Because of the way collection agencies or government can always freeze the current assets and garnish the paycheck, general distrust of US banking system and preference for hard, cold cash.

4) General feeling of lack of control over one's finances, and surprisingly rational decision to blow the extra cash immediately because #yolo, and one never knows when a relative, an ex, a random bill collector or The Man will take that money anyway with nothing to show for it.

It could also be that the frivolous purchases mean more to the poor, that they are something to be excited about and not just an arbitrary indulgence.

I used to be a lot more careful with my money before a few years ago, when I experienced being too poor to feed myself and routinely went for several days without even a small snack, just looking at pictures of food for hours on end.

Ever since that time I've found that as soon as I have surplus cash I have a strong desire to spend it on expensive food or eating out etc. and I often do. Even the cheapest meal from the local takeaway feels like a huge thing for me now and fills me with a joy I struggle to communicate.

There are a couple of things that I would like to add to your excellent comment.

* the feeling of lack of control over finances is lead by the higher level of crimes in poorer neighborhoods. So, if you constantly live under the fear of being mugged, or your car or house risks being broken into... these are things that could drive any person crazy.

* unable to afford or live a healthy lifestyle (healthy foods, exercise etc.) the poor also suffer from worse health problems, which exacerbates their problems.

If you've ever been mugged or had your car broken into, you will understand the feeling of helpless rage and loss of control... I just can't imagine living in a neighborhood where such things are commonplace.

I found some of your comments quite insightful, especially about varying stabilising forces for varying income/social classes.

I think the old (paraphrased) quote is relavent here: A rich man saves up for a £300 pair of new shoes that will last him a decade, while a poor man buys a £5 pair of boots every month because they wear down quickly.

Honestly, being able to fix some things is one of the most important traits to have if you want to save money. Learn some motor maintenance skills (well, with DRM'ed cars now that may be a bit harder), basic shoe repairs, computer repair, woodwork, etc.

I think we've lost our way with technology somewhat (and i'm a young millenial!). I see my dad and how he helped build some of the rooms in our house, did basic diagnostics for our car when it acted up, made our home's wooden stair railing from scratch. And he worked as a manager for a small basic factory. I can't see anybody my age being able to even just sand some rough edges down from freshly-cut wood, or being able to jack-up a car. It's depressing what advanced technology and increased societal specialisation has done to us younger generations...

It is both a personal choice and a reflection of society. I am not sure which one has bigger weight. But if you live in the US , are not physically impaired, and high school educated. Personal choice definitely has much more weight. I know many friends who come to US from Myanmar. Don't speak English , no degrees. But almost all of them live above average several years later. But they sure need to work really hard.

I anecdotally know far more people who coast and don't do well than I know who either coast and do well or don't coast and don't do well.

I think part of the problem is a combination of a bias against impugning others effort because "you don't know their struggle" and just enough counter examples (where hard work doesn't pay off) to feed confirmation bias.

The question that I have is this: is the growing narrative about the United States not being a meritocracy a self-fulfilling prophecy. If so, does not thriving because you believe that narrative a personal choice?

I think you are complicated the issue too much.

Who cares if a society it's a meritocracy or not? The point, it seems to me, is, is it a meritocracy that work for most of the people? Because what is the point of a society that doesn't work for most of the people?

I know that if I train hard every day I could improve my 100m sprinter time. I also know that never mind what I do, not in a million years I could beat Usain Bolt.

If we live in societies where the life of the average guy improve at the same time that the pie grows there is not a problem.

If we live in a society where, even when the pie grow my life is worst, and when I complain, you point to Usain Bolt and say "see? it can be done!"; well, I don't think that it's going to work for long.

It seems to me that feeling explain a lot of the "populist" movements around the world.

> never mind what I do, not in a million years I could beat Usain Bolt

Maybe this is just a bad analogy, but if you're objectively worse than Usain Bolt then in a meritocracy you should justifiably be worse off. That's a bad expectation anyway, at a population level 0% of people are Usain Bolt. This ultimately leads to a question I've been thinking about a lot; should we as a society be okay with a hard working naturally gifted person being higher paid than an equally hard working non-gifted person.

>The question that I have is this: is the growing narrative about the United States not being a meritocracy a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Yes, and particularly on the personal level. You'll never be employed if you don't look for a job.

"It may be said that of this hard lot no one has any reason to complain, because it befalls those only who are outstripped by others, from inferiority of energy or of prudence. This, even were it true, would be a very small alleviation of the evil. If some Nero or Domitian were to require a hundred persons to run a race for their lives, on condition that the fifty or twenty who came in hindmost should be put to death, it would not be any diminution of the injustice that the strongest or nimblest would, except through some untoward accident, be certain to escape. The misery and the crime would be that any were put to death at all. So in the economy of society; if there be any who suffer physical privation or moral degradation, whose bodily necessities are either not satisfied or satisfied in a manner which only brutish creatures can be content with, this, though not necessarily the crime of society, is pro tanto a failure of the social arrangements."

John Stuart Mill, Chapters on Socialism


I have no idea how to solve the poverty issue. I don't think there is a way other than subsidizing a portion of the population. Even in Soviet Russia you had some very dedicated people (say scientists and bureaucrats who made things happen) and you also had very unproductive people who retained jobs they had contempt for.

That said, with regard to health wellbeing we need a few things:

-Reduce costs (cost per person is astronomical compared to other developed countries)

-Provide Basic Universal healthcare for all citizens (elevate the health of the average person to a sustainable level)

-Allow insurance for people who want to insure against grey swan health issues. Ensure this remains "affordable".

Government regulations created the twisted non-market for healthcare that exists in the united states. Pretty please don't sign us up for more government.

You know there are 7 big health care providers in my state building spectacular facilities as fast as they can, and they don't have to compete with each other? There's no competition. Every pleb goes dutifully to the assigned provider his employer sends him to.

You think it's an accident there's weak consumer protections in the U.S. of A? You think it's just dumb luck that health care has no market forces to control costs? We're all about rapacious crony capitalism here!

Why do most people in the US seem to never look abroad when it comes to healthcare?

The US healthcare system is probably the most privatized in the developed world. The systems in other developed countries (e.g. any European country) give more weight to the government, and have been shown by all sorts of metric to work much better. How can you still say "don't sign us up for more government"?

> Why do most people in the US seem to never look abroad when it comes to healthcare?

The Brits were just debating how much nurses should get paid. When government runs your organization, math and economics become subservient to politics.

> The US healthcare system is probably the most privatized in the developed world.

It has privatized profits, but the whole system is heavily regulated. Prices for things are certainly not set on open markets.

> Prices for things are certainly not set on open markets.

You say this, yet Americans pay twice as much for care that is of considerably lower quality than other civilized countries. Do you think it's a coincidence that in one of the most privatized for-profit healthcare industries in the civilized world, we pay more? Sure, other systems have issues and are not perfect, but that doesn't excuse America's substandard healthcare system.

Again, it's private and for profit, but it's not market based. It's just a big ball of bureaucracy, unintended consequences, and corruption (at least in the sense that the system isn't following its intended purposes). If it were market based, there would be a trivially discoverable price for commodity operations and such.

How much does it cost for a skin cancer screening in Topeka? It depends? Well, that's a routine procedure that isn't really offered in the open market. It should just have published (and even advertised!) prices so normal consumers can shop around for quality screenings at fair prices.

I'm very critical of the American healthcare system, if that wasn't clear. But its failings are certainly not being too market based or too unregulated.

"Golly, I may be having a heart attack. I think I should take a moment to shop around for a cardiologist, so I can get quality treatment for fair prices."

Don't expect market forces to come to the rescue. It doesn't work that way.

Emergency rooms and insurance makes a ton of sense for heart attacks. They makes little sense for routine things like cholesterol tests.

Some things are very expensive but also predictable. Like giving birth. Or reparative plastic surgery. Or non-emergency heart surgery. People would shop around for those things as appropriate.


There is no need to have faith in anything special. As I said in my original post, it's just a matter of looking at healthcare systems in most of the developed world. The healthcare systems that work best, in any published study and metric, have much more public involvement that the US system.

"Fervor" is what it takes to believe in utopian solutions that go exactly in the opposite direction to the success stories, and with no evidence whatsoever that they work in the real world.

Oh, we look abroad. We like what Indonesia is doing with mandatory health savings accounts that is owned by the citizen (can't be raided by crooked politicians, a la social security). I wonder if you can explain: if socialized health care is so great, why do so many Brits purchase supplemental private health insurance?

Any study or metric, huh? Sounds like you prefer lies, damn lies, and statistics.

For instance, the US is hands-down the best in the world for intensive care after premature births. But you wouldn't know that if you just looked at infant mortality rates as compared to other countries because they use a different standard for what constitutes a "live birth". We actually place some value on life and work really hard to rescue the preemies, but that skews our numbers because lots of them still die.

When you make blanket statements, try bolstering them with some truth or else you sound like an ideologue.

Drill down a little. Make sure you shake those assumptions you've been fed and make the ideas resilient to attacks.

You are my people.

Often the goal is to let the like-minded know they're not alone. Other times it's to let the open minded know there's a rational position they might not have considered.

I think part of combating our bubble-filled culture is to speak up even when it's not popular.

You are my people.

It does for skin cancer screenings and most other care.

60% of health care nationally is paid for by the government. In more liberal states, it's closer to 75%.

Lack of good government regulation is what created the mess you are in, the real world isn't like some Ayn Rand novel.

There is an implication in your message here: government can do no wrong. Or, at the very least, "this government is the best we got and I'm willing to sacrifice a lot to see my government does its good works."

But I just made a 360° slam dunk of an argument that pops your best/good-works bubble: 7 providers, no competition, no market forces, wildly expensive care - all demonstrably because of bad laws and cronyism in government.

Will you un-360° slam dunk my argument now, please?

There is no such implication in my message.

No? My bad. I thought we were 1-dimensionalizing one another like tribalists rather than having a rational argument. Perhaps you do have something to contribute? I shall give you the benefit of the doubt that you are a razor sharp intellect and a force to be reckoned with.

Here's how I was able to get there in a split second. Perhaps, JUST PERHAPS, you can analyze yourself for similar flaws: "He tossed out Ayn Rand, probably never read her. Ugh, what a bore he must be at parties! So he's a progressive thinker. His weaknesses are a bias towards government, a lack of critical thinking, and a victim mentality. Can't do anything about the victimhood, he needs a shrink for that. Okay, attack his center by opposing his faith in government with the epic fail that is the rigged U.S. health care system."

I know nothing about you and did no research, so the chances any of those assumptions were right are close to nil. That kind of wretched thinking about someone I don't know is not only unproductive, but psychologically harmful to me. (Which is why I try to avoid it.) But as you can see, it's easy for me to let my brat out of his cage.

I think your problem is you assume you're right and you're indignant when someone challenges your beliefs to the point of being emotional about it. You don't feel the need to present an opposing argument with any detail, which is a shame since you probably have wisdom to share. (EDIT: oops, my brat is still off his leash...)

>Perhaps you do have something to contribute?

Stopped reading at that point.

I hope that's not true, this could be catharsis for you.

You can't win the debate if you don't attend.

"Good" government regulation is what created the mess. Patents on prescriptions. When loopholes can be applied or not to offer generics. Licensing and certifications. What counts as "health insurance". What kinds of medical practices can be opened. What drugs can be offered across state or national boundaries. Who gets discounts on health insurance (employers) and who doesn't (employees).

The list goes on.

This is simply not true. What you seem to be suggesting is that we leave the healthcare market completely open to market forces. This would be a disaster of epic proportions because, realistically, not everyone can afford their own healthcare costs.

This is why we have health insurance, and regulations exist to protect citizens against predatory practices. Some of these regulations are misguided, and others are a result of lobbying by special interests. Most of them are OK.

> What you seem to be suggesting is that we leave the healthcare market completely open to market forces.

I suggested nothing of the sort. I said our current regulation regime is harmful, however good the intentions were when it was passed.

> This would be a disaster of epic proportions because, realistically, not everyone can afford their own healthcare costs.

I also never said the impoverished should be left to die in the streets. The government clearly needs to help people afford things. But the current regulatory approach is both too heavy and too complex.

> ...regulations exist to protect citizens against predatory practices.

And they're clearly not working, no matter the intention when they were passed.

> Most of them are OK.

Like the ones that let pharma companies keep generic drugs off the market? Or the ones that heavily regulate drug releases but could not prevent the opioid epidemic?

There should be regulations. There should be welfare. They should both be simple (anything else is not fair, especially for the consumer) and they should use markets to figure out what the price of things should be (anything else is still not fair and is subject to special interests).

Reading your comment, it just occurred to me that I don't know if there is any country where healthcare works well without government intervention.

We always talk about the USA vs. Europe, but I don't know if there are other examples that we can borrow.

When you talk about market directed healthcare, do you have any example in mind?

I can only talk about the situation here in Romania.

State health care is "free" (that is, everybody pays 6.5% of their income as health insurance) and of very poor quality. You have to bribe everyone - doctors, nurses, cleaning people - in order to get any treatment.

Private health care is somewhat more expensive; you can either pay as needed (which is what I usually do) or you can buy private insurance. The lowest private insurance I know of is $3 / month; the highest I have heard of is about $300 / month. The latter includes emergency surgery in a foreign country (Germany or Switzerland, their doctors are considered better).

Has it even been tried in a developed country in the last 100 years? The US has had distorted markets dating back to the 1930s at least.

The more time goes by, the more I am wary of the false dilemma.

Almost anytime I see someone argue "you might think it's because of X, but it's really because of Y," the person speaking is selling a particular ideology. That ideology magnifies Y and minimizes X.

It would be perfectly fine to say "you might be aware of X, but you should also be aware of Y." But pieces like this don't do that. They seek to tell you you are wrong if you think X. It doesn't sit will with people who have personally experienced X.

I don't know... there are such things as facts.

In 2014, "Vulnerable Populations" made up 80% of the poor in the USA. That essentially means children and the elderly. On top of that, it's like another 7% of people that are in poverty that are fully employed!


Nov 7, 2016 "fact": Hillary Clinton has a 98.2% chance of winning the presidency: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/polls-hillary-clinton-wi...

There are facts, but it does them no service to overstate what the evidence actually says.

Sure, if you want to ignore that 538 put the odds as a toss-up.

But the types of statistics here are fundamentally different. If you look at the huffington post numbers as how many people will vote for a candidate, then even their prediction is pretty close to correct. A few million votes make the difference between 50% and 99%, but a few million votes is a reasonably tight accuracy range for "how many". Similarly I would expect something like the 80% number to be pretty close to correct, at least based on the definitions chosen.

I don't especially doubt the 80% statistic. I do think it's far overstating the evidence to say that it proves the author's thesis. I think it is far harder to prove the causes of poverty than it is to prove the incidence of poverty. I probably could have been more clear about this. The fault I find with the HuffPo prediction is overconfidence and under-skepticism about the ability of their data to say what they claimed it did.

You know that events with probability less than 1.8% are happening all the time, right?

The probability of dying in a car crash is way less than 1% and still some people are unlucky enough to die in this way every day. It's a matter of sample size. In the same way, the vast majority of the time a candidate with a very slim chance won't make it to presidency, but it happened that Trump did.

This is an excellent non sequitur. What does that have to do with most of the poor being elderly or children? Are you saying they aren't?

Grandparent's statement "there are such things as facts" seems to support the idea that the evidence provides unambiguous support for the author's thesis.

I think people discussing complex phenomena (like poverty) tend to overstate the power of their evidence; they overstate its ability to support the conclusions they want to draw from it.

This was illustrated in dramatic fashion when many/most of the most educated, "enlightened" people in the US had a reality check that their model was off last November. If there hadn't been an actual vote, people would probably still be insisting that Hillary Clinton would have won, had there been an actual vote on Nov 8.

And that was the simple question of "how many people will show up to a polling station and mark a box for HC vs DT"! And the evidence consisted of pollsters who were asking hundreds or thousands of people that precise question every day! That should have been much easier to model and predict than poverty! It didn't even get into the causes of why people think or vote in certain ways.

And yet still we have people looking at complex systems and problems like poverty and saying "it's not because of X, it's because of Y" with a feeling of certainty. And thinking that they are justified in their certainty because they claim this is what the "facts" say.

I think, first of all, that grandparent hasn't even accurately summarized their own link, which says "Children and eldery make up slightly more than half of the market poor." Their statement that "essentially" 80% of the poor are children and elderly has already caused a significant amount of the underlying data to be "lost in translation".

I think, second of all, that bucketing elderly, children, the disabled, etc into "vulnerable populations" and saying they comprise 80% of the poor doesn't really support the author's thesis at all.

No one blames a child for being poor. It is not a child's responsibility to support themselves. So saying children are poor doesn't really speak to whether poverty is a personal choice. Children are the responsibility of their parents, so it is the parents choices that would be relevant here.

Elderly people, on the other hand, generally spend their lives realizing they will be old someday, and therefore poverty of an elderly person does not necessarily say anything about whether poverty is a personal choice. It could be a lack of effort put into saving during their working years.

I want to be clear that I'm not against safety nets, or in favor of doling out blame and judgement towards poor people.

What I am against is the (to me) crazy amount of overconfidence many people (on the left especially) have in the ability of their data to "prove" their political positions and arguments.

And I'm not even against people's right to hold convictions that the evidence doesn't fully justify. What I am especially against is when people use those convictions to pass blame and judgment on others. The clear subtext of this article is that we are all guilty, as a society, for making poor people poor.

> What I am against is the (to me) crazy amount of overconfidence many people (on the left especially) have in the ability of their data to "prove" their political positions and arguments.

Part of this statement seems to reflect a high degree of confidence in the idea that this is phenomenon "especially" afflicts the left, but there doesn't seem to have been a presentation of evidence which provides unambiguous support for the thesis.

I meant to delete that part actually. I thought I had. On reflection, it seemed likely that this could be a distortion in my viewpoint based on the fact that most of my Facebook sphere leans heavily left. So I probably don't see as much of the right's poor argumentation.

> but there doesn't seem to have been a presentation of evidence which provides unambiguous support for the thesis.

I said "(to me)" as a disclaimer that I was offering my opinion/belief, and not a provable thesis.

Different pundits had different odds on that race. No matter which one you go with, what makes you think those odds weren’t true facts?

Remember, n=1 in this scenario.

You can look at:

1. the specific circumstances of the outcome. Hillary Clinton didn't lose just barely, she lost by a lot. And she lost states like Wisconsin, which wasn't even supposed to be in play.

2. the fact that predictions like HuffPo's were far off from more credible pundits like 538.

3. the fact that HuffPo so aggressively mocked anyone who took a more measured view. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/whats-wrong-with-538_us_...

Drilling down to the state level is a good way to really trash those "predictions" from HuffPo. 538 really did get it right. They constantly noted the high correlation among related states, saying that if the polls are wrong in MI, they'd probably be wrong by the same amount in WI and PA. And that's exactly what happened.

It was factually true that their method of weighting and averaging polling data produced that result.

What part of this is a fact? I'd argue this is literally the opposite of a fact - it's a model and a prediction based on it. Those are things that may be based on facts, but that in no way makes the theorized conclusion a fact. https://xkcd.com/605/

Nearly every statistical fact anyone ever cites does exactly the same thing. When a fact says something like "13% of people are poor," they don't investigate every single person and determine whether they are poor. They create what is intended to be a representative sample, then they create a model that extrapolates the sample set to the entire population. They predict that their sample is representative and that a measure of the whole population would match the sample.

The only difference here is that there's no "poverty election day" where the entire population goes to register their poverty level. So we never actually get to see if the prediction was correct!

There's a day every decade where the U.S. Census does their best to get an accurate count of every human in the U.S. [0]

Combine that with the data from the correspondinc Apr 15th, and we should have something pretty close to a "poverty election day".

[0]: cell phone and spotty network made it too hard to look up a good source - please feel free to add them if you can)

This is the sad state of politics today (particularly in the US). Choose your god, individualism or collectivism, and all of the answers will be presented to you in black and white in a way that supports your god.

The federal system was supposed to help with this by allowing various approaches in various parts of the country. I think the state of politics today is due to the nationalization of every issue.

If California and Texas (for example) each decided it was more important to govern themselves than each other, it would be lower stakes and more productive to talk about issues like this.

Unfortunately people are really bad at reigning in their own power. So whichever side holds the federal office will naturally impose their view on the rest of the country.

There were constitutional protections for exactly this reason. We just decided they didn't count any more.

There are many people who find the collectivisim/individualism distinction facile and inadequate, though. I feel you're making a point about ideology in general, however I can't see what's wrong with subscribing to a particular ideology, so long as you agree with it. The point is not to follow it dogmatically.

The point I was trying to make was that the discourse is so dogmatic it's as if people live in alternate universes.

People can't even mention certain topics because the word you use to describe the topic reveals which "side" you are on (e.g. the "Muslim ban").

>(e.g. the "Muslim ban").

And "sanctuary cities".

Sometimes, perhaps often, "people who have personally experienced X" don't realize their experience is an exception to the rule.

I think this overestimates our ability to establish a solid "rule" when it comes to a complex social phenomenon.

It's so reductionist to think that complex systems can be boiled down to simple, all-encompassing explanations. This has failed over and over, from nutrition to economics. And yet people of all political persuasions still want to argue that "the REAL problem is Y" and claim smug superiority over anyone who disagrees.

I agree. Although to be fair, I think there is somewhat of a difference between saying "your experience is valid, though it may be an outlier" vs discounting the experience altogether.

Well it can't be often if it's exceptional.

These articles also sell it without a solution. "It isn't X, it is Y. I have no idea how to fix Y, or a single policy idea to suggest, but, yeh, definitely Y."

We are all obsessed with what policy makes us feel, rather than its impact. Example: Seattle minimum wage laws https://www.facebook.com/jonathan.meer/posts/101031868860665... let me quote here:

> This is the official study that was commissioned several years ago by the city of Seattle to study the impacts of raising the minimum wage, in a move that I applauded at the time as an honest and transparent attempt towards self-examination of a bold policy. > The losses were so dramatic that this increase "reduced income paid to low-wage employees of single-location Seattle businesses by roughly $120 million on an annual basis." On average, low-wage workers lost $125 per month.

So the official government study found this to be an horrific law for the poor. So we'll accept this, roll it back and move on yeh? Of course not!

> This paper not only makes numerous valuable contributions to the economics literature, but should give serious pause to minimum wage advocates. Of course, that's not what's happening, to the extent that the mayor of Seattle commissioned another study, by an advocacy group at Berkeley whose previous work on the minimum wage is so consistently one-sided that you can set your watch by it, that unsurprisingly finds no effect. They deliberately timed its release for several days before this paper came out, and I find that whole affair abhorrent. Seattle politicians are so unwilling to accept reality that they'll undermine their own researchers and waste taxpayer dollars on what is barely a cut above propoganda (sic).

Now, here's a policy aimed directly at the poor, that we are researching well, and the findings are being thrown out because, well why if not because "my feelings". Maybe it is because the political climate won;t accept the decision, but how is that better than climate deniers on the right? It seems to me both sides of politics are deniers of inconvenient truths.

So I am done with articles that aim to explain, raise awareness, shine a light on etc. I want tangible, actionable policy with a measurement framework in place that we as a society both believe and accept. If society tries a UBI, and it proves bad for society for what ever pre-decided reason, we should ditch it. Policy -> measurement -> keep or drop -> repeat. That's what I want.

Sadly, that is a bridge way too far these days.

That study had serious flaws in the data they were looking at, and their analysis.

Which "study"?

As a really poor immigrant to the US who succeeded financially, I can tell you with absolute certainty, poverty in the US (barring mental illness cases or health issues) is the result of poor choices. Most of it stems from society's lack of planning for the future of the young people. Young people are consistently being told lies like "you can be anything you want", forgetting to tell them that most of the fun choices lead to very low pay in the future. Young people regularly send $50-250k on financially useless degrees. They like, say, art, so they spend 4 years studying something they could learn in a library or on YouTube, only to find out that the market for painters is crowded and tiny.

We need much better guidance for the young.

>As a really poor immigrant to the US who succeeded financially, I can tell you with absolute certainty, poverty in the US (barring mental illness cases or health issues) is the result of poor choices.

I'm an immigrant too, and I used to think I was in a bad situation. However, I think you don't understand how bad it could get for some American people. Being a poor immigrant won't give you a free pass when you talk about being in a shitty situation.

The other day, I talked to an white male American student worked with me in the same lab for an REU program. He was attending college in computer science, not a "fun choice" like you said. He had to deal with and provide food for a drunk dad, an ill mom, and a sister. The whole family depended on him and at the time had no social security. He complained to me about his sister's boyfriend stealing food from his fridge. Now, how the fuck do you blame him for being poor because of making poor choices? What choices could he make?

>Young people are consistently being told lies like "you can be anything you want"

They have been told that way since forever. Why should that all the sudden make a difference?

>They like, say, art, so they spend 4 years studying something they could learn in a library or on YouTube, only to find out that the market for painters is crowded and tiny.

You're ignorant in thinking that people can learn art by watching Youtube and go to the library. That's what all the people who did MOOC thought, and guess what happened to the MOOC hype? The reality is way more nuanced than that. People learn to draw by taking long lessons and looking for hours at real scenes, real people, real sculptures in the studio, not watching 10 minutes youtube video and looking at the 2D Instagram picture on the 25 inches screen. We're very far from that "learn shit from Youtube" pipe dream.

>We need much better guidance for the young.

We need it but we also need people to understand not to blame people for being poor. You were poor due to no fault of your own, so why do you think others are poor because of their fault? You were given your chance to success, so the best you can do is to think that way about other people.

I have friends who grew up in situations like that. Nowadays, they are doing ok. Solidly lower-middle-class, but considering where they came from, that's a huge deal.

But even with these success stories, I think, nobody should have been in the situation they were in to begin with. No 16 year old should have to pick up a second job so they can pay their parents rent. Nobody should have to deal with a drug addicted parent that has no clinical route to sobriety. Nobody should have to take on their parents massive debt because their single mother got breast cancer in her early 40's.

If you want to blame people who make bad choices, fine. But at least try and remember the people in their orbit who are solid people who could really use some help dealing with a situation they are in by absolutely no fault of their own.

> No 16 year old should have to pick up a second job so they can pay their parents rent.

I helped pay the bills as a teenager. It wasn't the worst thing in the world. It's not preferable, but it's not cancer.

> Nobody should have to take on their parents massive debt because their single mother got breast cancer in her early 40's.

Agreed on this, but at some point we're angry at nature, not society. I'm not sure at what point I'm supposed to be mad at society or individuals or whatever about natural disasters, disease, and death.

> The whole family depended on him and at the time had no social security. He complained to me about his sister's boyfriend stealing food from his fridge. Now, how the fuck do you blame him for being poor because of making poor choices? What choices could he make?

I respect what he's trying to do to support his family, but at some point, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others.

IMO, he can choose to support his family to the extent that he's doing (and many people would), but recognize that that's a choice.

I agree. That's a choice, but regardless of whether he decides to put on an oxygen mask or not, he has a huge emotional baggage he has to carry.

That example is only used illustrate the difference with an immigrant who has no money but doesn't have to carry the emotional baggage. The immigrant in the same situation who chooses to support the family back home financially might very well be better off compared to the American one. That is because the cost of living in the home country was so low, so he can both support the family, be OK financially, feel good about it emotionally, and doesn't have to deal with the annoyance every day.

It should also be noted that other actors in the situation are also making choices. The sister is staying with the bad boyfriend. The bad boyfriend is stealing food. Neither of these two is sustaining themselves. And that's ignoring the father.

What really jumps out of the story is that even just if one out of four people in the situation makes good choices, he can uphold all three others plus the ill mom. Its remarkable how little it takes.

The average student loan debt in 2016 was $37,172. And while there are those that do take on significant amounts of debt, they typically are those seeking professional degrees, eg: M.D. or J.D. There are of course those who both take on large amounts of debt AND don't get a professional degree, and those people certainly made a mistake in their lives, but they are not your average graduating college student.

Additionally, those with even an associates degree can, on average, expect to make more than the typical high school graduate. An Associates will net you about $400M over your lifetime, a Bachelors about $1MM, and a doctoral or professional degree will be about $2MM more. Now of course these are averages, and there are certainly overlaps where a high school graduate will out earn someone with a professional degree, but that is not the common case and should be considered an outlier.

Taken even a step beyond that, if you fall into one of the top 10 occupations for a bachelor's degree, even in the worst case scenario, on average you will still make $400M more than your typical high school graduate.



"The average student loan debt in 2016 was $37,172"

To be clear, the opportunity costs of unearned and non-debt payments generally would be in north of 150k range. Assume 30k/year income 4x years is 120k, plus the 37k debt, plus non-debt spending.

" An Associates will net you about $400M over your lifetime, a Bachelors about $1MM,"

And the same monetary investment in a fund earning 7% interest will be worth more than three times that over the same time frame.

It is not a good financial investment, on average. Some degrees have positive ROI. Many - most - do not.

Good luck finding a bank that will let an 18 year old with no assets make a leveraged investment in stocks.

> To be clear, the opportunity costs of unearned and non-debt payments generally would be in north of 150k range. Assume 30k/year income 4x years is 120k, plus the 37k debt, plus non-debt spending.

Do people no longer work while in college?

They necessarily do not work as much as they might otherwise. Even if we lower the wage opportunity loss to a mere $15k/yr, a 4 year degree falls short by a factor of two -- or a cool million dollars over one's lifetime.

And that's without factoring in the non-debt costs. Realistically, the gap is much greater.

Did you just claim a 20x return on investment wasn't good? A 7% investment adjust for inflation will return about 4x over the same time period (40 years). I have no clue what the hell you are talking about.

Saying "20x" return is meaningless without considering time. 1% growth will have a "20x return" if you're willing to wait 300 years. So no, a "20x return" is not necessarily good.

What I've said is that the return from a degree program is less than half of a moderate investment return in the stock market. It's a very simple point I'm making here.

You don't need to get confused with inflation - it applies similarly to both scenarios and drops out of the equation.

Turning $150k into $3m over 45 years could be described as "average market performance." Turning $150k into $1m over 45 years using a degree could be accurately described as "a below average performing investment."

> Most of it stems from society's lack of planning for the future of the young people.

Doesn't this mean that it's actually NOT the result of poor choices, or at least the type of choices people generally accuse people of like being lazy or spending beyond their means? This seems more like a societal problem.

I suppose it's true that it's the result of someone's choices but it seems unfair to pin it on the people who don't know better. Then again, I studied CS because it was practical and work at a great company but I always find myself wanting to do something else.

Maybe the problem is that everyone keeps listening to the people who say follow your passion when the reality is that not everyone's passion will lead to something that can pay the bills. Frankly, it should totally be okay to not be in love with your job and do it because you need to.

Majority of students go for practical degrees - business and such. They follow market. Non practical students (gender studies, history of art) tend to be clustered in top schools and students tend to be from wealthy families.

Blaming population of young students for economy is worst then red herring.

By what metric is the US economy bad? I didn't win a lottery, I just finished the state college, then went on to work. I'm making great money. Anybody willing to do that can do it.

My home country doesn't have that option, the salaries are 1/20th of what the US has to offer.

I think the most important experience a poor man can have is "Selbstwirksamkeit", the experience, that one can influence ones own destiny and not remain a puppet to be pushed around, slaved and sheparded by bosses, police and landlords.

We should make that epxerience part of any curiculum on public schools.

In America as globalization and large multinational corporations have taken root, workers have lost leverage. The idea that poor people have the strength and stability to not be pushed around or controlled by the rich simply is not possible at the moment. Union-busting, globalization, student loan debt, rising cost of living, and stagnant wages mean poor Americans can do less and less with each passing year.

I'd say poverty is a reflection of Pyramid schemes.

Like the pyramid scheme on the back of the one dollar bill? That floating eye makes me poorer every time I see it.

Sorry if I'm killing a joke or something, but could you please clarify?

Yep, you're killing it. The Great Seal of The United States [0] is printed on the back of USD $1 bills. The motif on the obverse side of the seal is an uncapped pyramid with a floating eye on top. Thus, the pyramid "scheme". Then, the "All-Seeing-Eye", being some kind of symbol for God, is used to represent authority, or higher power, thus making me, a mortal and a peasant, feel less empowered, thus "poorer". Hope that clarifies things a bit. (note to self: stop joking on HN)

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Seal_of_the_United_State...

As a person who was extremely poor by western standards (in 2002, I earned 10 USD per month in Uzbekistan) and who lived among poor people for 22 years, I can say that poverty is a personal choice, period.

Here is my answer on Quora with more details:


I copy this answer here:

I born in Uzbekistan in relatively poor family. At age of 18 (2002 year), I started work in internet cafe (~5 computers) as a network administrator (although, I was blatantly ignorant at that moment) for salary … 10 USD per month. I didn’t studied at school and dropped of university since education system in Uzbekistan is just literally fake.

Since then, I lived and worked in Moscow, Stockholm and currently in Amsterdam and receive good salary as a software developer (pretty close to upper bound according to GlassDoor). Although, I still don’t have any degree!

So I think I’m qualified to answer this question.

Short answer: From my long and close experience living among poor people I can say that most people stay in poverty all their live because they are lazy. And in most cases, it’s their fault that they stay in poverty (especially for those who live in english speaking rich western countries like US).

Long answer:

You may wonder how poor people can be lazy if they do hard manual job 10 hours per day. I think laziness have several different dimensions.

In general, I consider laziness as unwillingness to do some actions which could be beneficial for you in long term but require sacrifices in short term.

What does it mean for poor hard working people in practice?

It means that although they are willing to do hard job for 10 hours per day, they are unwilling to invest their free time to learn skills which can give them higher income in distant future.

They consider it’s easier and more realistic to do hard work right now because they almost instantly benefited from their job even if it’s hard labor job than studying something which don’t bring them instant profit and require commitment over very long period of time.

It may sound counter-intuitive but it’s fairly logical. If you wash dishes, you guaranteed to get almost instant profit (by end of the day, or week, or month). If you are reading some theory in a book, you don’t get instant profit at all. For them, it seem a big sacrifice to do something and get nothing in relatively short term.

Also, they have little time aside from their main job. For them, it looks quite irrational to read some technical books instead of drinking beer and watching football.

So poor people are quite lazy for learning new skills and prefer to do any hard job with instant profit instead.

All my life, I heard from poor people that I read completely useless stuff and waste my time. Learning mathematics and algorithms for them is completely nuts, useless stuff. I very often heard popular jokes like (this joke was popular in my post-soviet school in Uzbekistan): Why anyone need an integral? Integral is needed only when you need to get some stuff dropped into public toilet (they refer to stick having form of integral symbol).

So they drank a beer for years while I studied “useless garbage”. Now, they are still in Uzbekistan struggling to feed their new families and I’m in Amsterdam, able to travel around the world.

To me, it’s very unlikely to image highly curious person who are hungry to lean new stuff and still staying in poverty for years.

Those who are not lazy to learn get out of poverty soon or later. Just like me :)

Interesting life experience. However, I think you will agree that being lazy in the sense you describe is a trait of most humans, rich or poor. Non-poor people are just conditioned by their social environment to study, get a degree, etc. instead of not to. Many successful people would have been poor if they were born in your situation, because they don't have the personality or guts to go against peer pressure. And many of the poor Uzbek people you mention would probably have been successful if they had been born in a social environment where people were highly qualified and studied.

Taking this into account, I can agree that it's possible to get out of poverty, but I don't think one can say being poor is poor people's fault.

Your description of 'laziness', in part, sounds similar to lack of mental bandwith – although the latter is not so much a choice or an implied character defect.


>To me, it’s very unlikely to image highly curious person who are hungry to lean new stuff and still staying in poverty for years.

Google 'genius died in poverty'. You don't have to imagine it. It happens.

> is a personal choice

It is, in the sense, that your personality determines it. But you can't determine your personality. If you are born curious and independent, you'll probably find your way. You cannot chose your genes. This thing about immediate gratification is a lot about genes and environment. If you are born in an environment where only instant gratification is valued, and if you don't get the right genes, there is no chance, you can change your life by yourself.

Why do you assume those with debt can afford to invest instead of get immediate payoff so they can survive?

Isn't that a classic example of survivorship bias.

Staying out of poverty is simple. By in large it takes three things: graduate high school, maintain employment, and don't have children out of wedlock. These three things are important to remember whenever we're discussing social policy. Any policy that subsidizes or encourages people to not do those three things is a social policy that behaves like a poverty factory.

Just get a job! Brilliant! Why don't all these poor people think of that?

Sarcastic, but you willfully lack imagination.

There are urchins who choose not to work and do just fine. It's fairly straightforward to scam Social Security Disability for main income and then collect EBT, food stamps, and get some housing in the projects.

It's not a great life, but it's a living, and there's plenty more help to pay for phone and utilities. If one is wicked, then they can sprinkle in some identity theft or plain old theft to pay for luxuries like a car or the newest iphone!

Work does suck, I can sympathize with wanting to avoid it. And if you're constantly told you'll never make anything of yourself and that you're a perpetual victim from childhood, well that'll beat you down too. I just don't buy the assumption that every impoverished soul is noble.

What about all the poor people who want to work but can't find a job, or all the poor people who do work but just don't earn enough to stop being poor?

If those people managed to graduate high school and didn't have children out of wedlock, then there's a 98% chance they'll escape poverty. https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/three-simple-rules-poor-t...

Graduate, hold off on kids, and get a full time job.

Thus my sarcasm. Escape poverty by making money. It's a miracle!

By the way, your 98% figure is incorrect. The study says that 2% of all Americans who did these three things are in poverty. The vast majority of those people were never in poverty to begin with, so didn't escape it.

Escape/avoid, now you're just arguing semantics. I'm not even really sure what your point is. The only thing I stated is that we know the recipe for avoiding and/or leaving poverty. It's not necessarily easy but it is simple and it has three major factors. All I stated was our social policies should reflect the things we know work. Yes, to a certain extent jobs don't just fall out of the sky. But it's much harder to get and maintain a job and/or move up the ladder when you don't graduate high school and pop out kids in a single parent household. And don't pretend it's that hard to maintain basic employment. We're not talking about making everyone doctors here.

There's a huuuuge difference between escaping poverty and avoiding poverty.

70% of Americans who are born poor will die poor. I can't find solid number for how many non-poor Americans will become poor, but given that the poverty rate is about 15%, and 70% of that 15% was born into poverty, we can straightforwardly estimate that about 6% of non-poor Americans become poor.

In other words, the chances of any random poor American escaping poverty are about 30%, while the chances of any random non-poor American avoiding poverty are about 94%.

With 94% of non-poor Americans avoiding poverty, saying that 98% of Americans who do X, Y, and Z escape or avoid poverty is not terribly compelling.

I'm sure that obtaining and maintaining full-time employment really helps people escape from poverty. My point is just that this is not really useful to say, because it's fairly obvious, and because the difficult part is having jobs for poor people to work. Saying that we should help poor people escape poverty by ensuring they can work full-time jobs is like saying we should help put people on the moon by giving them altitude. Yes, it's true, but not really helpful advice.

So much social policy already revolves around jobs that I just don't see why you act like this is some revolutionary idea. The question is not whether we should help poor people work. The question is how.

95% of people in poverty in the US escape poverty during their lifetime. The poverty rate stays the same, but the people who are impoverished is changing all the time.

>The question is not whether we should help poor people work.

You keep repeatedly and intentionally dodging the fact that all three things I listed are symbiotic of one another. Single motherhood is one of the largest contributors to poverty, and it tends to be cyclical/generational as single mothers tend to have children who have children out of wedlock, are more likely to drop out of high school, and as a result have a harder time maintaining employment. And no, I'm not picking on the mothers here, because it takes two people to make a single mother.

>The question is how.

We can stop by not subsidizing poverty producing behaviors while continuing to subsidize or change policy to further subsidize behaviors that don't increase poverty. Increase funding for birth control, decrease funding/subsidies/tax breaks for having children, change middle and high school curriculum to include sociology/life skills for avoiding poverty producing behavior. Determine the efficacy of stricter divorce laws and potentially apply reasonable measures to encourage people to stay married.

"95% of people in poverty in the US escape poverty during their lifetime."

Do you have a source for that? As I mentioned, the number I found was 30%.

My mistake it's not out of poverty, it's out of the lowest quintile of income.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty >For example, one study finds that in a sixteen-year period (1975 to 1991 in the U.S.) only 5% of those in the lower fifth of the income level were still at that level, while 95% transitioned to a higher income category.

I see this message as the first time you really contributed new ideas to the conversation that go beyond I disagree. Which is nice because it seems like you're ready to converse.

Ultimately, I read your point here as poor people can't find work. My immediate counter-argument is that there are tons of high paying jobs in the trades that don't require an advanced degree. So getting a living wage is possible even for poor people.

I know there's a pivot point right here in this counter-argument that we will probably disagree on and that I'd like to explore. You might say, "it takes knowledge and connections and money to get those kinds of jobs". To which I will respond, "there are charities and government retraining and corporate sponsorships for journeymen all begging for solid people to apply themselves and land great jobs". To which you might respond, "these people are shut out, institutional barriers".

So, here's the pivot point I see, and we can go two ways here. This may be too crude and you can refine this, but I frame your "poor people can't find work" argument in a belief system that says there exist class hierarchies in the U.S. that are structured to keep poor people poor and generally keep people from rising. And, also too crude, but I frame my "but there are jobs, and they're well-paying" argument under a world view wherein people don't rise because of a culture of victimhood where they will settle into an impoverished state and accept welfare to get by.

I can't deny the fact that uninformed people won't have the innate ability to identify opportunities, and by-and-large there isn't any cultural crossover between classes any more to help spread the knowledge of opportunities more widely. (See Coming Apart by Charles Murray for a deep study on this.)

But it also cannot be denied that unprotected sex leads to babies, and that condoms are free for the taking, and the pill is basically free if you're poor. Noone can claim ignorance to the fact that sex often leads to babies and babies cost money. So, there must be some culture issue with the lower class as @Consultant32452 was alluding to where poverty is allowed to become multi-generational.

Please don't break off here and zero in on one thing that bugs you about a response. Right now I'd ask you to go back and address @Consultant32452's point that I think was, at its root, a criticism of culture:

> You keep repeatedly and intentionally dodging the fact that all three things I listed are symbiotic of one another. Single motherhood is one of the largest contributors to poverty, and it tends to be cyclical/generational as single mothers tend to have children who have children out of wedlock, are more likely to drop out of high school, and as a result have a harder time maintaining employment. And no, I'm not picking on the mothers here, because it takes two people to make a single mother.

I think @Consultant32452 addressed your open ended "The question is how" directly from his world view. His response might not be sufficient or relevant to you (I don't know, you didn't respond.) Would you please do the same with @Consultant32452's point about single motherhood, and from your world view? I want to understand where your head is at on that.

I wasn't talking about those people, was that not clear? I wrote because you were being either sarcastic or snarky or chronically compassionate.

There are scam artists that stitch the rich tapestry of welfare programs together to make a living. You might choose to look the other way, out of compassion, whereas I choose to look straight at it and call it theft, out of compassion. I am being compassionate (tough love). You are being compassionate (empathy). Both of our voices are important in this discussion.

I actually don't believe you have to sacrifice your belief system to acknowledge there are fraudsters in the system who are a drain on society. Everything I have read about SSD says the fraudulent claims are anywhere between 1% and 25% of the total. I'm willing to accept that as few as 1% of claims are fraudulent, but even 1% would be 106000 out of 10.6 million (2011 numbers), and that's still a ton of fraud just in that one benefit.

I was talking about those people. Was that not clear?

I was being sarcastic because I was replying to a person who said that avoiding poverty was simple, all you have to do is get a job.

I don't see what any of your comment has to do with this.


This is an interesting tactic: try to forcibly shift the conversation in a completely different direction, and then criticize the other person when they don't follow. I can't say it's working, but it's not a bad attempt.

That's far from enough... But regardless.

The discussion of who is at fault for poverty is pointless. We should never tolerate poverty regardless of how it came to be.

The discussion has to be: Can we afford to have poverty?

We need people to be productive members of society. This can be achieved by making good choices easier to make. Making it easier to get back on your feet when you get down...

Health care, mental health, social security are ways to help people become productive members of society.

You can't afford not to help people! You can't afford to tolerate poverty!

Every minute a poor person is using tax subsidized luxuries like iPhones or refrigerators is a minute they're not on the streets looking to rob me.

That's just far too simplistic to be accurate. Poverty is a complex issue and avoiding it requires substantial luck that those who have managed to do so often don't seem to realize they've benefitted from.

Whether that claim is accurate or not can be judged on data, no? Out of curiosity I googled "graduate high school, maintain employment, and don't have children out of wedlock" and this is the first result:

> Let politicians, (...) and parents drill into children the message that in a free society, they enter adulthood with three major responsibilities: at least finish high school, get a full-time job and wait until age 21 to get married and have children. Our research shows that of American adults who followed these three simple rules, only about 2 percent are in poverty and nearly 75 percent have joined the middle class (defined as earning around $55,000 or more per year). There are surely influences other than these principles at play, but following them guides a young adult away from poverty and toward the middle class. [0]

It's not saying anyone can get rich. It's not saying poor people are lazy. It's saying these 3 things will have a major, measurable impact on your future and your children's.

[0] https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/three-simple-rules-poor-t...

Its actually a quantitative result from the (left wing) Brookings Institute: Of the people who do all 3 of these things, 98% are not in poverty.

That may be. The contentious part is how simple that is. It's simplistic to suggest that it's simple, in other words.

By the same logic, you could reach 100 years old by being scrupulous with your health, avoiding any mistakes while performing risky activities, and fleeing from any violence comming your way. It is kind of neat advice in retrospective, but it fails to address the fact that most people is unable to keep doing it flawlessly for decades.

Maybe so, but it doesn't answer the question on why some people make the right choices and some doesn't. It also doesn't address the interesting fact that making the right choice is strongly correlated with factor that are outside of one control (Socio-economical position, phyisical attractiveness race ) etc...

does "out of wedlock" really matter? I think the benefit of marriage in that context, is that there are 2 income generators, instead of a single parent. Isn't that accomplishable without marriage?

That said, I don't think you're wrong.

Genuinely looking for thoughts on this.

Deliberately vs Accidentally is how I'd phrase it.

Maybe it's planned parenthood rather than having children that are not planned.

Even assuming your assumptions are correct, none of these things are entirely within a person's control. Whether or not you graduate high school can depend as much on you as on your family, school, neighborhood, etc. Unemployment exists, and is not due merely to a lack of will on the part of the potentially employed, so that doesn't make sense either. And there are ways to become a single parent which don't involve intentionally having children out of wedlock. So it looks like you're 0 for 3 there.

What does the degree of control a person has over those things have to do with whether social policy should encourage behavior known to increase poverty?

As was noted more than a decade ago: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2004/11/two-income-trap/ "Middle-class parents are stretched thin these days. Between health care costs, child care hassles, looking for a home in a good district, and paying for college, raising a child is becoming increasingly expensive. Little wonder, then, that married couples with children are more than twice as likely to file for bankruptcy as their childless counterparts, and 75 percent more likely to have their homes foreclosed. And the danger is growing worse by the year: In 2002 1.6 million people filed for bankruptcy, many of those middle-class parents. a record . As Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi note in their book, The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers & Fathers Are Going Broke, having a child is now “the single best predictor” of bankruptcy.“"

What kind of society have we made for ourselves in the USA where such a thing is true?

Maybe that also helps explain why the US birth rate is below the replacement rate. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/02/24/is-u-s-ferti...

It is worse in other countries like Italy though, where one woman has on average about 1.4 children, leading to about a 30% population reduction every generation. Some countries are looking out of desperation to pay people to have kids. Or, of course, increase immigration. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/14/world/europe/italy-births...

Further, as economic trends change, marriage is becoming less feasible, with women seeing less and less value in a long-term relationship with a man (and vice versa). https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/07/why-are... "The study, published this month in the journal American Sociological Review, found that in areas with the greatest income inequality, young men and women were more likely to have their first child before marriage. ... The researchers give this explanation: Men without well-paying jobs are not seen as marriage material."

Most modern schools are essentially prisons: http://www.salon.com/2013/08/26/school_is_a_prison_and_damag... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_on_Kids

And they remain mental prisons even at the PhD and postdoc level: http://disciplinedminds.tripod.com/ "In this riveting book about the world of professional work, Jeff Schmidt demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. He shows that professional work is inherently political, and that professionals are hired to subordinate their own vision and maintain strict "ideological discipline." The hidden root of much career dissatisfaction, argues Schmidt, is the professional's lack of control over the political component of his or her creative work. Many professionals set out to make a contribution to society and add meaning to their lives. Yet our system of professional education and employment abusively inculcates an acceptance of politically subordinate roles in which professionals typically do not make a significant difference, undermining the creative potential of individuals, organizations and even democracy."

Why should parents voluntarily send their children to prisons? Why should anyone want to live their lives in a prison if they have alternatives? As NYS Teacher of the year John Taylor Gatto put it: https://www.johntaylorgatto.com/uncategorized/two-social-rev... "I’ll bring this down to earth. Try to see that an intricately subordinated industrial/commercial system has only limited use for hundreds of millions of self-reliant, resourceful readers and critical thinkers. In an egalitarian, entrepreneurially based economy of confederated families like the one the Amish have or the Mondragon folk in the Basque region of Spain, any number of self-reliant people can be accommodated usefully, but not in a concentrated command-type economy like our own. Where on earth would they fit? In a great fanfare of moral fervor some years back, the Ford Motor Company opened the world’s most productive auto engine plant in Chihuahua, Mexico. It insisted on hiring employees with 50 percent more school training than the Mexican norm of six years, but as time passed Ford removed its requirements and began to hire school dropouts, training them quite well in four to twelve weeks. The hype that education is essential to robot-like work was quietly abandoned. Our economy has no adequate outlet of expression for its artists, dancers, poets, painters, farmers, filmmakers, wildcat business people, handcraft workers, whiskey makers, intellectuals, or a thousand other useful human enterprises—no outlet except corporate work or fringe slots on the periphery of things. Unless you do “creative” work the company way, you run afoul of a host of laws and regulations put on the books to control the dangerous products of imagination which can never be safely tolerated by a centralized command system. Before you can reach a point of effectiveness in defending your own children or your principles against the assault of blind social machinery, you have to stop conspiring against yourself by attempting to negotiate with a set of abstract principles and rules which, by its nature, cannot respond. Under all its disguises, that is what institutional schooling is, an abstraction which has escaped its handlers. Nobody can reform it. First you have to realize that human values are the stuff of madness to a system; in systems-logic the schools we have are already the schools the system needs; the only way they could be much improved is to have kids eat, sleep, live, and die there."

Many jobs are likely going away with increasing AI, robotics and other automation, voluntary social networks, 3D printing, and so on. http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/08/06/future-of-jobs/ "Half of these experts (48%) envision a future in which robots and digital agents have displaced significant numbers of both blue- and white-collar workers—with many expressing concern that this will lead to vast increases in income inequality, masses of people who are effectively unemployable, and breakdowns in the social order."

While the USSR had to guard its borders to keep people from escaping, the USA has to guard its medicine cabinets. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Park "Alexander's hypothesis was that drugs do not cause addiction, and that the apparent addiction to opiate drugs commonly observed in laboratory rats exposed to them is attributable to their living conditions, and not to any addictive property of the drug itself."

So, without necessarily disagreeing with you about the minimum needed for most people to not fall quickly into poverty right now, where do we go from here?

Here are about fifty options to consider of all sorts (both good and bad) I collected about a decade ago (basic income being one of them, but there are many others): http://pdfernhout.net/beyond-a-jobless-recovery-knol.html

Study after study has proven that a society that cares for its members is an order of magnitude better off for it. And yet, we always fall back on this moral argument that people failures are 100% their fault, and we have no obligation to do anything about it.

It's getting exhausting.

Yes, for example the book "The Impact of Inequality: How to Make Sick Societies Healthier".

From the Amazon blurb: "Comparing the United States with other market democracies and one state with another, this book offers irrefutable evidence that unequal societies create poor health, more social conflict, and more violence. Richard Wilkinson, a pioneering social scientist, addresses the growing feeling — so common in the United States — that modern societies, despite their material success, are social failures. The Impact of Inequality explains why inequality has such devastating effects on the quality and length of our lives. Wilkinson shows that inequality leads to stress, stress creates sickness on the individual and mass level, and overall society suffers widespread unhappiness and high levels of violence, depression, and mistrust across the social spectrum. The evidence he presents is incontrovertible: social and political equality are essential to improve life for everyone. Wilkinson argues that even small reductions in inequality can make an important difference—for, as this book explains, social relations are always built on material foundations."

See also: "Economics for the Rest of Us: Debunking the Science That Makes Life Dismal" by Moshe Adler.

From that blurb: "At a time when growing numbers of people are deeply anxious about the workings of our economy—and when our very future as a society is up for grabs—economist Moshe Adler offers a lively and accessible debunking of two elements that make economics the science” of the rich: the definition of what is efficient and the theory of how wages are determined"

The only evolutionary justification I can see is that some people who have accumulated assets of some sort (or wannabees of that sort) expect themselves or their children to be sexually advantaged by making everyone else suffer, as a form of amplified Social Darwinism. See for example: "The Mythology of Wealth" https://web.archive.org/web/20101028013317/http://conceptual... "The Wrath of the Millionaire Wannabe's" https://web.archive.org/web/20081223191749/http://conceptual...

So, in that sense, perhaps it is meant to be exhausting? As financier Jay Gould is claimed to have said in 1886: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Jay_Gould "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half."

Today, he might say: "I can always hire half of the working class to misinform the other half through social media, schooling, and the press."

Even if such an advantage was even true in the past (ignoring that egalitarian hunter/gatherer tribes had numerous ways of dealing with that issue), in a world of nukes, designer plagues, and autonomous drones (which could get unleashed as society breaks down), such an approach to try to increase relative personal fecundity seems like a very a risky proposition.

Some ideas from the past include reverse dominance by teasing, shunning, and ridicule, encouraging play, and permissive/trusting child rearing. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201105/ho...

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact