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Americans Want to Believe Jobs Are the Solution to Poverty. They’re Not (nytimes.com)
280 points by tysone on Sept 11, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 612 comments



It's not like meritocracy is completely unrelated to real life, it matters in a certain regime. However, if like Vanessa, you're born to lesser circumstances, you just cannot escape poverty by just working harder. Similarly, if you are born to very well off standards, even if you're a dope and spend money from Dad's inheritance on cocaine, sure, you won't be successful but you'll still have a net of some kind. You can always improve your lot, but where you start has a large impact on how much of phase space you can reach, so to say.

I think the mentality is shifting a little as millenials and gen z are slowly letting go of the meritocratic myth, but blaming internal motivations more than context is a problem in the American conception of the world we still suffer from as a nation. The inability of us to accept that our actions are not the only determining things in our lives seriously limit our ability to fully comprehend the world and how it really works which leads us to thinking ideas like work requirements are actually sane rather than completely counterproductive.


You can escape poverty by working harder; it is just that working harder will not always work. It needs to be coupled with other virtues; of course the solution is not just simply to work harder, but to suggest that working harder is not a great deal part of the solution is false by every measure. Lets say this, you are born into a poor family - you still get to go to school that likely has a great library - the school and the library represent a deposit of great wealth that has been bestowed on you by society and you can take advantage of that - or not; most don't and mostly it is due to laziness. Most children would rather watch TV all day. Say you live in a "bad" neighborhood. You can pick up trash around your house or leave it there, or throw more trash on the ground. My observation is that the poor just throw more trash on the ground, they don't make their beds, they live in filthy or cluttered houses...with all that time on their poverty stricken hands they could at least organize their place. I have seen such stark differences...here in the states, in the middle east, and in Africa. I have seen impoverished people that wallow in their mire, and I have seen those that work hard to improve their situation, and though they may still be financially impoverished - they at least make the things around them a little nicer, educate their minds with what books they have and therefore live a more fulfilled life.


I'm not actually poor and I don't make my bed.

My house is cluttered, mostly because I'm frugal and we live in a house that is a bit too small for our hobbies (art for me, music for the spouse, though we both dabble in the other). I have more money this way.

I'm lazy.

And honeslty, the only time I've really gotten crap for this type of thing is when I'm poor and honestly too freaking tired to do any of this stuff. THere is nothing quite like working for 8 hours, using feet for transportation, and not being able to actually feed yourself well enough to have energy nor keep your house warm enough in the winter to do much. (I kept multiple blankets on). It is really easy to just give up. I wouldn't have gotten anywhere without some help and getting really freaking lucky.

Many schools do not have a great library. That have a library adequate to the school needs. Being able to use said library at school is sometimes difficult. By the time I was in high school, the library was a rare treat in class. They weren't open after school. You could not go there during lunch. My senior year, the school I went to changed and sometimes you could go there during home room period. Before that, not really: It was only 15 minutes most times anyway.

Not everyone has a public library to use either, and even when you do, good luck. You might need transportation.

I will also assume you are talking about older children. Most 13-year olds just don't have a lot of maturity for what you describe. Perhaps a 16 or 17 year old, and hopefully they aren't so poor that they have to work to help support their family or take care of their younger siblings while their parents work.

All in all, it really kind of seems out of touch and looking from the outside in instead of the other way around.


> I'm lazy.

I am as well. And have parents enabling this behavior, with an career outcome as bad as you could expect. I can totally understand that part of the political spectrum doesn't want to encourage this at all (favorable interpretation of them), even though they IMO often overshoot that goal and advance less optimal outcomes.

> I will also assume you are talking about older children. Most 13-year olds just don't have a lot of maturity for what you describe.

Your phrasing makes this seem like a natural fact. Finding ways to deeply engrave important values (work hard, strive for greatness, delayed gratification, stuff like that) into future generations seems like a real challenge right now. And what makes stories like [0] so interesting. Evolution doesn't take care of that job for us anymore in a "work or starve" way. Religious "work or go to hell" probably did an ok job for a while, but comes with a lot of other baggage. A very capitalistic "work if you want a decent live" society over many generations leads to increasingly unequal starting conditions for offspring and thus seems especially incompatible with democracy, since it will lead to "the system is rigged, lets burn it down" votes, as recently observed all over the western world.

So what's next? As mentioned in my prior anecdote, mostly letting your children do what they want, thinking this will naturally make them strive for greatness, will probably not work. What are the necessary environmental factors parents and society should provide to shape future humans into productive members of society? I'm sure with all our knowledge, mankind can do better than the earlier simple carrot & stick systems.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17905657


This is only a problem with the West. The East does not have a culture of laziness. They will simply take the mantel if we falter.

Just because the West is no longer hungry doesn’t mean that nobody is.


Your phrasing makes this seem like a natural fact. Finding ways to deeply engrave important values (work hard, strive for greatness, delayed gratification, stuff like that) into future generations seems like a real challenge right now. A

My comment was really more about brain development, maturity, puberty (and the hormones that go with it), and things like that. It doesn't mean they are lazy or anything like that at all. These things are learned, and these young people aren't even in high school.

"mostly letting them do what they want" isn't true now and I don't think that has ever been true. As far as what to do next, we can start by trying to make sure folks have stable households which include not only things like shelter, food, and medical care but also things like internet access. These things lessen the stresses that are an issue - being poor won't necessarily make you suffer.

Make sure kids have freedom to explore. Treat kids like they are intelligent (they are, just not mature) and teach what sort of work goes into getting things. Be realistic about what to expect out of life (for example, a chem degree might really wind up working in a lab somewhere). We could do things like showing kids how work and patience pays off by allowing "fun" subjects (arts, music, inclusive sports, "hobby" classes). Increases in freedoms as kids get older so they can experiment with some of their choices (Such as being able to have free contact with friends, choosing one's own classes, ability to not follow in the parent's religion). A 13 year old might not be mature enough to realise what to do to make their future better 15 years into the future, but these sorts of lessons can be taught so when the maturity catches up it'll come together.

(I should note that naturally, some kids are geared more towards some of the long-term planning than others and I cannot speak for all young folks, just what I notice).


> You can escape poverty by working harder; it is just that working harder will not always work.

You can escape poverty by buying lottery tickets too. Obviously it is all about the probabilities. But if you earn $10/hour (what kind of insane unlivable wage is that?) even if you work 16h/day you'll still be poor.


If you work harder than yourself you might still be at the bottom of the pole. It's a competition. If you work harder than the next person above you, you'll definitely earn (keyword is earn) better than them or live a more comfortable life than them.


It's all in relatives, but having a better life than the next person above might still be living dirt poor.

I think what a lot of us a eluding to, is that some people can work as much as they can, up to burnout, without ever reaching above the poverty line.

I think that would be basically fate for a minority group single mother with low education living in a poor neighbourhood. People could blame her for her life, but except if her kid is exceptional in some way, he/she would also be doomed to be poor, for instance.


> It's all in relatives, but having a better life than the next person above might still be living dirt poor.

This is true. But the fact that you're not fixed in your position and could live better is an incentive to keep moving. Thus if you don't stop at the person right above you then there's hope you can make the jump to a better living condition.

> I think what a lot of us a eluding to, is that some people can work as much as they can, up to burnout, without ever reaching above the poverty line.

Again, this is true. But whose fault? I think we could get rid of the concept of poverty line and let people decide for themselves. 2 person making $500/mo in California could be living different lives. It's possible for one of them to not consider themselves poor. But they're out of luck since their poverty status isn't defined by them. It's imposed by the state.

> I think that would be basically fate for a minority group single mother with low education living in a poor neighbourhood. People could blame her for her life, but except if her kid is exceptional in some way, he/she would also be doomed to be poor, for instance.

Story of my life. Illiterate parents, but committed to giving their children a better life. My believe that wealth is generational, that state should define a poverty line stems from this story of my life. It's less a matter of fate than decisions and commitment to exiting a terrible situation.


> with all that time on their poverty stricken hands

No offense, but this screams of ignorance. If you take into account the poverty tax [1], poor people pay more for many goods, have worse access to many services, and encounter much higher transaction costs to accomplishing normal life.

For example, if you are a single mother in Southside Chicago living in a food desert and far from the main L/Subway/Metro lines, then you take longer to commute to work, to go grocery shopping, to pick your kids up, etc. There are many additional costs to being poor that easily explain why they don't focus on "making their beds" or "organizing their place".

The Atlantic has a good article on decision fatigue and poverty "Your Brain on Poverty: Why Poor People Seem to Make Bad Decisions And why their "bad" decisions might be more rational than you'd think" that is worth a read [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghetto_tax

[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/11/your-br...


>My observation is that the poor just throw more trash on the ground, they don't make their beds, they live in filthy or cluttered houses...

I would argue here that you've confused correlation with causation.

Perhaps a minimum wage 60 hours/week worker just doesn't have the time or energy to make their bed, not an unwillingness. Maybe the poor conditions in a neighborhood are what make it affordable, not preferable. Etc.


> My observation is that the poor just throw more trash on the ground, they don't make their beds, they live in filthy or cluttered houses

That also matches rich kids going through college. It's hardly an indicator of anything in my opinion.


It's not as simple as cause and effect - there's feedback in effect.

Being poor changes how you think and who you are.


Attributing outcomes to inherent properties, instead of systems and interactions, seems to be a fundamental mental error that is manifested in language, at least in English.

We say that a blanket or jacket "is warm", even though all it's doing is trapping heat that we produce. We say a task "is difficult", even though we are the ones who are having the difficulty in completing it. We say an apple "is red" even if we know that the color we perceive is a property of how light interacts with the apple's matter.

And we often say that people "are poor" rather than "in poverty."

Language exists somewhere between representing the way we think, and affecting the way we think. Attributing poverty to an inherent property of a particular person, rather than their context, seems in line with how we speak (and perhaps think) about a lot of the world around us.

I think this is one reason it is so hard to fix social problems: because the first step must be a critical mass of people who can and will overcome a default way of thinking about the world.


It is easier now than ever, though, when we can point to countless examples of class mobility in modern times, both upwards and downwards; and it helps that those are stories people love to tell.


Yes. They must be, how shall we say... "re-educated".


> However, if like Vanessa, you're born to lesser circumstances, you just cannot escape poverty by just working harder.

Wealth and poverty for both society and the individual a generational. This generation lifts themselves to a height that makes life better for the next generation. One life time isn't enough to measure whether working hard will make you successful.

Being born into a well off standard is being born into generations of sacrifices and hard work. If the current generation doesn't work hard to maintain they will certainly make life harder for a few generations down the line.


The slope counts for something, but the y-intercept should not be forgotten. And in the US, the distribution along the y-intercept is huge, but often ignored.


>you just cannot escape poverty by just working harder.

This is a traditional, stereotypical belief that in order to escape poverty you have to work harder. This is old understanding of meritocracy and it's no longer valid. The new meritocracy is that you have to learn harder. And now, given all the learning resources available for free on the internet (which is also very accessible nowadays) it's probably the best time ever to self-educate.

Once in a while I walk past a person selling pens/begging for money in my neighborhood. I always wonder how much he could've learnt and improved his life if he spent his time on learning instead of sitting on a bench and begging for money. I have sympathy for people that are poor due to unbearable circumstances such as mental illness or disability. But I honestly don't understand why an otherwise capable person won't make an effort to self-educate in order to break out of poverty.


The capacity for self-education is not innate for most people. Developing this capacity requires dedication, the ability to delay gratification, significant emotional regulation, and most importantly it requires knowing how to learn. For optimal results, these skills must be fostered from an early age all the way through young adulthood. People who grew up with deprivation or abuse or neglect are unlikely to be good self-learners as adults.


You also forgot the most important factor. Time. When your in school it's paid for. When your in college it's paid for. When you have children and you need to "put food on the table" the equation tips the other direction.


>The capacity for self-education is not innate for most people.

I disagree. Most mentally healthy people are capable of self-education. Self-education is what makes human a human. Being an adult person requires working self-education skill -- using public transit, bank services, mobile phones, internet, microwave ovens, TV sets, driving, etc -- all requires self-education to some extent. Getting professional skills is more difficult, but it just requires more effort, not a completely new skill.


There is a pretty high threshold before book learning provides any payoff. The minimum cutoff that some employers take seriously is 12 years of school or the equivalent. Lets guess the guy selling pens is at a grade level of half that. If he could self-teach at the same rate as the education system would advance him (unlikely), that is still 6 years of sitting in a library before reaching the first threshold of significance (GED). Self-teaching is not a likely road out of a desperate situation!


There is one kind of learning that you do to get a job. But education in general is something that is beyond that.

Learning basic personal finance, or a skill, or learning to exercise, or reading about government services, learning cooking etc can go a great deal in fixing one's problems.

Education often involves learning something, its not always reading text books and writing exams.


Payoff is somewhat proportional to self-education effort. For a big payoff you may need to spend years on learning. But for many people earning extra few hundreds bucks per month can drastically change their lifestyle. And that kind of change doesn't require years of self-education, but a little bit of curiosity, determination and perseverance.


Imagine everyone was able to get "educated" and get a white collar job, what would that look like? No one to work factories or construction, wait tables, etc. Society is made by object moving not papers or digits. And people are getting pissed off because the paper pushers and the digit movers are getting all the rewards and theirs nothing left for the people doing the actual work.

Don't get me wrong I enjoy the benefits of a "good" job and I finished college to get where I am.


Does “learning” really bring you out of poverty?

Or is this the same old trope with an extra step added?


You still need to work hard, but working hard smarter works better than just working hard.


Delayed gratification is the mechanism behind all steps.


someone has to invest in you besides just you. could be parents, government, mentor, investor, teacher.


Do you suggest that 'delayed gratification' is a nature/nurture trait?


As far As I've seen, all traits are a combination of nature/nurture.


> ...But I honestly don't understand...

This is the part you should be focusing on.

You've developed a model to explain why people live in poverty and how they can get out. Yet, as you can plainly see yourself, it doesn't actually jibe with reality.


Learning costs money, especially as an adult.

You still need to cover your basic expenses, homeless or not.


Learning is not just formal education. Learning costs much less money today than it probably ever has. Practically everyone in the US has the access of all the world's collective information.


And all the free time in the world while working 3 jobs:

https://youtu.be/wFNj5sireDo


You don't get ahead by making excuses and you don't help people by defending straw men.


You also don't get ahead if you there's a perfectly valid reason outside of your control that prevents you from 'getting ahead', or makes it extremely unlikely. Most dictionaries would call those 'excuses'. And you especially don't get ahead if those valid reasons exist but are seldom discussed by the people with the most power to solve them, and are instead often reduced to 'excuses', 'lazyness', or any other straw man, like the one you're complaining about.


OP originally said it was expensive. She did not argue that it was easy or the person had free time.

That's a cute clip, but if you look at statistics you'll see Americans with less than a high school degree work on average 7.8 hours a day, and only 30% work on weekends and holidays.

https://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.t04.htm


Statistics hide the raw numbers and emotional reality.

30% is how many people?

What’s their schedule look like if they have kids too?

That’s a cute trick, using cold hard facts to normalize away bullshit


Provide something to back up the claim that less educated Americans are working 3 jobs and that it's impossible for them to receive education. The evidence I provided to support my claim is not perfect but it's better than a video of bush making a joke


While not totally free (access costs) a vast majority of the knowlage I've learned and use for my job has been from free resources online. Realistically, I've probably spent under $500 in 10 years on educational materials (excluding buying my first non-work-sponsored laptop) and am now "Senior" level in my field. Plus almost all that was in more recent years as I'm trying learn more theoretical / academic applications. Combine that with most cities having libraries with free books and in major cities free internet, and I'd argue is cheaper and easier than ever to learn, though it does still cost time.


How much of that could you do pulling multiple low-wage jobs and raising child(ren)? If you yourself had a serious chronic illness? If you yourself was raised in poverty so you had to go to schools with high failure rates and no education in which to acquire your own education?


Oh, don't get me wrong: I don't think its the best option, but the scenario first described in question was a homeless man with indefinite "free" time on their hands.

I personally work 2 full time jobs, I'm aware how scarce free time can get. I'm certainly not saying that everyone can do it on their own either. Just that cost is a very weak barrier to knowledge and that I agree you need to learn your way out of poverty.

I'm also a big proponent of basic income exactly for the reasons above, but I think the core idea is well founded. Hard work at a job (or two jobs) doesn't usually get you out of a shitty job, where as learning enough to get a better job does.


you

1) had a job

2) had access to the internet

now trying learning anything for free online when you don't have money for food because you're jobless and don't have access to the internet because you don't have money for that either.


Yes, for (1) I had a $10/hr job working as a cashier until I saved up enough for a laptop and got an unpaid internship in tech.

For (2) as I said: libraries are free, coffee shops are free. hotel lobbies are free, heck some whole areas have free Wi-Fi. Internet is very easy to find.

I'll be the first to admit I had a good education, caring and supportive family, and my story would be different and harder without them, but I can't imagine a world that I didn't try to learn something new each day.

Again though, people always try and compare the worst. The solution for someone without a living wage job is a society that doesn't allow that to happen and is a different argument IMO. Getting out of abject poverty is very different than getting out of poverty / being poor.

That said, for someone homeless and jobless, time IS their greatest resource, so learning can be a useful resort. Further no one said they had to do it on their own. The main premise here is that learning is better than hard work for increasing your station. I think that's true regardless of feasibility.


I'll be the first to admit I had a good education, caring and supportive family, and my story would be different and harder without them, but I can't imagine a world that I didn't try to learn something new each day.

I don’t think you’re giving this enough weight. I went to a small unknown state college and got a degree in CS. The CS curriculum was horrible. My saving grace, was that I had been a hobbyist programmer since the mid 80s when my parents bought me my first computer. When I graduated in the mid 90s, I knew I wanted to get out of the small town I grew up in. My choices were to move to a slightly larger city and developing using technology that was already out of date, but would have provided me a salary to support myself, or moving to the major metro area where I still live not making nearly enough to support myself as a computer operator based on an internship that I had the previous year.

There was no way that I could have chosen that job if I my parents hadn’t already bought me a car, paid for insurance, paid my moving expenses, and help me pay my other bills for the first six months.

I “worked hard” but I didn’t have to work two jobs to support myself.

There was another guy who graduated with me, who was just as smart, but didn’t have parents that could help him. He had to get a job in the same place that I avoided like the plague. He’s still working there 20 some years later.


try being a person of color in a coffee shop or hotel lobby. Maybe you heard about some difficulties for a pair of young men had in a Philadelphia Starbucks?


As a POC I have never been kicked out of a library or a Starbucks and I'm from the south. Situations happen, but that doesn't mean it happens everywhere. Sometimes I wonder why when you look at me all you see is a helpless POC, it's very demoralizing and trivializes us.


Time is money, as the saying goes.

When you're working a double shift to put food on the table, it's really hard to learn an extra skill set (e.g. programming) and make time to build up a resume on github (or whatever).

The cost isn't really located in the act of "buying" education.


I work 80+ hours a week, you don't need to tell me about time. However EVERY friend I have making significantly less than me / slightly struggling works a single job and spends significant free time in front of TV or games or facebook. My friend that worked hard all the time I taught coding to in under 8 months and he broke 6 figures within 3 years. The ones that were lazy I tried and they didn't put effort in to continue and didnt learn enough to switch jobs and are still doing the same thing.


I see comments like these often enough to convince me that a large portion of the active HN audience are simply out of touch with what's going on outside their major city tech bubble.

Not everyone is going to be able to find a well-paying tech job. How many times have you come onto this forum seeing active HNers who are tech-literate and have a history of programming employment complain that they cannot find a job?

Look at your neighbors.. everyday people like your grocer or mechanic or mailperson.. Take a look outside your bubble. Not everyone is going to be able to be fluent in tech even with great effort. It's not so much that it's impossible, but that's it's incredibly unrealistic.

The only reason I've been able to work as a programmer is because I lucked into it. I got hooked when I was 12 or so because I found it fun. I had plenty of time and enjoyed it. If I had to do it all over today out of desperation I'm not sure I could will myself to do something completely foreign and uninteresting.

I think you take for granted the knowledge foundation that you were given.


To an extent, we can agree that poverty is a function of making bad decisions. Certainly, living frugally and using one's time well are necessary for financial success.

That said, making good decisions isn't sufficient, especially when you're trying to claw your way out of deep poverty.

You need more than just hard word. You need the opportunity to do the right kind of hard work, which many people lack.


> I work 80+ hours a week

Why?


Not everyone is cut out to be a programmer


Most people, even poor people, aren't working 2 jobs.


Learning costs is only marginally higher than the cost of idleness.


you assume poor people are idle.


I don't assume anything. I just point out, that cost of self-education is indeed huge, if you measure it in profits not received from performing some labor. However, its 'price' would still be on par with being completely idle. Of course, not all poor people are idle, but some are. And if those who are indeed idle can afford idleness, non-idle people may afford self-learning.


What's the cost of self-education of a person that doesn't much anyway? Sitting on a bench all day is not labor, it's a waste of time.


I don't think any one is saying its easy. People are only saying access to resources and the overall process has only gotten easier.

A person still has to work an uphill run everyday until they reach some financial break through .


The diabetic Vanessa could have chosen not to have her first baby at 16.


You have no idea the kind of mental state, upbringing and understanding of the world Vanessa had at 16. One of the big reasons teen girls get pregnant is a desperate hope to fill the psychological void in their hearts created by neglectful parents.


That does not absolve her of her irresponsibility. 99% of 16-year-olds realize having a kid is a bad idea. She made her bed, and now she sleeps in it. I can empathize with her situation, but I can not empathize with anyone saying she is not herself at least partly responsible.


A modern wealthy society that allows a bad-but-understandable move by a 16 year old girl to basically wreck her entire life, is a cruel society.

Also don't overlook that America is also supposed to be a country of redemption and second chances, and that we as a society derive strength from that. We foster risk-taking, and we don't throw away people who seriously screw up - but rather capitalize on the fact that those who have overcome serious mistakes often become formidable humans. This is one of the bright spots of American culture, lets not throw it away for the cheap thrill of standing in self-righteous judgment.


>America is also supposed to be a country of redemption and second chances

>We foster risk-taking, and we don't throw away people who seriously screw up

These are things some Americans would like to be true, but are actually far from true, and far from universally supported. America IS a cruel society in many ways. Many Americans blame the poor for being poor, and do not support any form of public assistance. The nation does "throw away" people who screw up - the nation has a high incarceration rate.


Because we rejected the local institutions that are there to catch those rejected from the larger society and bring them back into the fold. It's a multi-component, multi-tiered system where we've decided to unplug all but the parts we think are most visible.


Yes, you're absolutely right. I guess what I should have said is that those things are parts of the American mythology, and I would really like the country to start living up to them.


The mythology is part of the situation, IMHO, rather than ideal people want to enable. It's how people avoid the anxiety without letting go of their narcissism.


The level to which you are removing Vanessa’s agency in your attempts to relieve her of responsibility is frankly sexist.

Don’t be sexist. She has agency. She has responsibility. She made her bed and now she lies in it. People with your paternalistic condescending thought process are ultimately what holds people like Vanessa back in society in the first place. Don’t take away her agency. She’s responsible for any decisions she’s made, good or bad. And 99% of her 16yr old female peers know that having a kid at 16 is a “ bad decision.” It’s literally sexist as fuck to suggest she was somehow stupid enough or irresponsible enough not to know what she was getting into. Vanessa KNEW she was making a “bad decision” and she CHOSE to make it anyway. Stop pretending like she didn’t choose it. Stop pretending like she has no agency. Stop being sexist. Thank you


America isn't a cruel society, it's a society that recognizes that life is inherently cruel. No amount of collective effort will ever change that, and so Americans focus on strengthening themselves in order that they will be better able to handle the cruelty of life.


Citation needed.


If she really wants to have a kid, she can have that.

To many people having a family is the #1 thing you know, the 'economics' are in support of that.


At 16, she could have chosen to do a million things that would have messed up her life. Kids can choose to hurt themselves in many ways. We can’t “not allow” kids to do jumps on their dirt bikes or venture into danger in other ways. Once they are given freedom from constant adult supervision, they have to act in self interest. You think that being 16 somehow absolves them from the responsibility of surviving. That’s ridiculous and unnatural.


No, we should precisely look to let kids "down easy" from their errors, rather than ban activities that can lead to those errors, for the very same ends that you're advocating. When too many possible mistakes have big irreversible penalties, everyone becomes much more risk averse, and the society becomes boring and rigid. See: helicopter parenting.


Helicopter parenting basically augments the kids decision making. The parent guides them through everything. When the consequences are real, even permanent sometimes, and the it’s up to the kids to do the right thing, and they know it, and they’ve been educated properly on it, then you get a person who is healthy. They develop risk assessment and management and use it in their adult life where, surprise, you have to make essentially life or death decisions every day. You can rack up 30k on your credit card in a single swipe and, for a lot of people, that would be a kind of death. Almost every decision we make has irreversible consequences. The earlier kids learn to deal with that, the better. As long as they are educated and prepared in some way.


Why are we making motherhood something that cuts into someone’s career at all? Furthermore why are we making motherhood something that should punish the mother? Is it okay that a mother go without resources because she mothered too young? Is it fair/meritocratic to her child?


To some degree most cultures do give assistance to new mothers, at least if they are poor. It seems you are arguing for more of that; the issue is it creates bad outcomes. The poorer you are, the more practical sense it makes to have a child. Then the next generation is more likely to have grown up in less than ideal circumstances.

The only kind of children society should encourage is those in stable financially-secure families.


You may notice I didn’t argue for any of that. I merely argued against the viewing of motherhood as a punishment to the woman, and that it is right for her career to be stunted therefore. “She made her bed” as it were.


In the USA, and most developed countries, you don't have a career at 16. You are either just starting your first job or still finishing your education. You do not start popping out children as soon as or shortly after sexual maturity begins.


Motherhood doesn't cut into someone's career. Motherhood is a career. It's a privilege, not a punishment.

People who make bad decisions will often go without resources. Society thus diverts resources to people who make good decisions. Things work better this way, with much less waste. We get more messed up families if government pays people to have messed up families.

I don't think that "she mothered too young". There is nothing wrong with age 16. The problem is instead that she didn't first find a suitable husband to support her family.


How sure are you that 99% of 16 year olds realize having a kid is a bad idea? Citation needed for your 99% claim.


How about the next kid she had at 19? The 3rd she had at 21?


If you're arguing for widely available free contraception and sex education, I'm with you.

If you're just into shaming people for bad decisions, I'm not.


I don’t see any attempt to shame here. Having a kid is just a really bad financial decision. I should know, I have one! Would not recommend it for someone just starting their career or trying to climb out of poverty. I wish schools would teach about the massive financial consequences of raising a child. That would probably help immensely.


Without access to contraceptives and sex education, it is impossible for women to make a decision about whether or not to have a kid. They can only choose whether or not to have sex; pregnancy just sometimes happens if they do. Good luck getting a 16 year old (any 16 year old) to make good decisions about sex.

By sarcastically pretending that this 16-year-old made an affirmative choice to become a parent, the parent is actually trying to shame her for having sex as a teenager.

This goes directly to the heart of the article's point. Rather than confront a system that places some people at a disadvantage (lack of access to birth control or childcare), it's easier to insinuate that a person's hard life is solely the result of their own bad decisions.


Good point--I guess I was assuming the children were voluntary, i.e. she was not raped or pressured into having children, which might be a bad assumption given her tragic background.


Maybe make abortion free and easy to access?


> the meritocratic myth

I've been around to see people over decades, and how their decisions affect their lives. Meritocracy is not a myth. Where people wind up is very much a consequence of their choices.

This isn't the Soviet Union where one is assigned a career, a job and an apartment.

I've seen immigrants arrive here with nothing and become millionaires. That's why everyone wants to come to America. The opportunity is here.


>I've been around to see people over decades, and how their decisions affect their lives. Meritocracy is not a myth. Where people wind up is very much a consequence of their choices.

Choices is not the same as skills. Meritocracy is about merit, not choices.


People choose to acquire skills, or not. It's the whole point of all the education available to Americans, most of it free. Choose it, or not. Heck, you can even get an MIT education for free over the internet. It's up to you.


>People choose to acquire skills, or not.

>It's the whole point of all the education available to Americans, most of it free. Choose it, or not. Heck, you can even get an MIT education for free over the internet. It's up to you.

It's only free if your time is worthless.

Else you have opportunity costs. Which are not just monetary (e.g. needing to work long hours to put food on the table) but human too (e.g. tending to a sick relative or raising your kid).

One could still study after his shift flipping burgers for their "MIT education for free over the internet". But they'd still be left without an actual MIT degree, and even following that free education will be much harder than the average HN commenter whose parents splurged for their education.


>>It's only free if your time is worthless.

If a person is poor, and they still think sparing an hour watching a Ivy League university lecture(that can vastly increase their opportunity range) isn't worth your time, they have far bigger problems related to entitlement.

>>Else you have opportunity costs.

And there they have a choice. Which opportunity is more important to one's life?

>>and even following that free education will be much harder than the average HN commenter whose parents splurged for their education.

There is often a huge space between Homelessness and being a billionaire.

You can always start doing work that is better than flipping burgers. And I don't any one will contest the fact that it will take a person years before they reach 6 figure salaries.

Again, even an entry level QA job could pay you better than flipping burger and you can work from there.


>If a person is poor, and they still think sparing an hour watching a Ivy League university lecture(that can vastly increase their opportunity range) isn't worth your time, they have far bigger problems related to entitlement.

Compared to working to put food on the table?

Not to mention that after back-to-back shifts, your ability to take in a Ivy League university lecture diminishes compared to somebody whose parents pay for their college...

And that's assuming you even have the necessary background in your underfunded school district and impoverished childhood to seek it and understand it in the first place....


The Khan Academy has a complete set of primary and secondary education (and even college level) videos to provide necessary background. All for free, of course. They're just a click away:

https://www.khanacademy.org/


> Where people wind up is very much a consequence of their choices.

True.

But we also have lots of studies showing that the best of the lowest socioeconomic class almost never do better than the laziest of the uppermost socioeconomic class.


> we also have lots of studies showing that the best of the lowest socioeconomic class almost never do better than the laziest of the uppermost socioeconomic class.

Could you point me to one? I've seen a number of studies on averages, and anecdotally, this contradicts my experience, so I'd be interested in whatever data you're referring to.


Also talks about the issues of measuring inter-generational mobility ...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socio-economic_mobility_in_the...


I looked through the article but couldn't find a study to back your claim. Can you please look link directly to a study that specifically looks at the most successful members of the underprivileged and compares them to the laziest members or the upper class? I know a good deal about social mobility and your claim reads like something somebody made up.

Edit: in fact, the Wikipedia article directly contradicts your claim, saying "Looking at larger moves, only 4% of those raised in the bottom quintile moved up to the top quintile as adults. Around twice as many (8%) of children born into the top quintile fell to the bottom" - suggesting that the best of the underprivileged are far more successful than the laziest of the over-privileged.


I will try to find the actual study link.

Percentages hides values:

"However, because US income inequalities have increased substantially, the consequences of the "birth lottery" - the parents to whom a child is born - are larger today than in the past. US wealth is increasingly concentrated in the top 10% of American families, so children of the remaining 90% are more likely to be born at lower starting incomes today than the same children in the past. Even if they are equally mobile and climb the same distance up the US socioeconomic ladder as children born 25 years earlier, the bottom 90% of the ladder is worth less now, so they gain less income value from their climb ... especially when compared to the top 10%."

And, those who fall from the top quintile are likely starting at the 80% point and not the 95% point.


So why do penniless immigrants keep coming here? Do they know something poor people in America don't, or are they simply misinformed?


> So why do penniless immigrants keep coming here? Do they know something poor people in America don't, or are they simply misinformed?

My ancestors came here because life in the "Old Country" was so bad that braving the crossing of the Atlantic in cattle class on a ship, coming through Ellis Island, finding out that working in New York wasn't much better, and finally landing in the steel mills and coal mines of Western Pennsylvania was a step UP--but not by much.

Those same ancestors also stood in front of bullets from Pinkertons because that was preferable to allowing their working conditions to continue.

The fact that immigrants move is generally a sign of how shitty the place they are leaving is, not necessarily a sign of how good their destination is.


And yet they still come to the US in great waves, 1.49 million a year, and many more try to get here.


This is the most ridiculous proof that America is the land of opportunity I can imagine.

From https://www.wola.org/analysis/fact-sheet-united-states-immig...

"While the total number of migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border is near its lowest level since the early 1970s, the number of apprehended unaccompanied children and families is again on the rise after a dramatic drop in the months following Trump’s inauguration.

This is a vulnerable population who, for the most part, are deliberately seeking out U.S. border security authorities and asking for protection. Affirmative requests for asylum of individuals from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have increased by 25 percent in fiscal year 2017 compared to 2016.

These people are fleeing for a reason. As White House Chief of Staff John Kelley once put it, the mass migration of children from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border primarily consists of “[parents that] are trying to save their children.” The countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are facing unparalleled levels of violent crime, with El Salvador and Honduras ranking among the top five most violent countries in the world."


"The United States has been the top destination for international migrants since at least 1960, with one-fifth of the world's migrants living there as of 2017."

That doesn't make much sense if the US is a hell-hole of capitalism grinding people into poverty (as immigrants usually have little).

In 2016, 1.49 million immigrants came to the US. The median age is 44, so they're hardly all children.

Meanwhile, an awful lot more want to come but can't get in legally.

> This is the most ridiculous proof that America is the land of opportunity I can imagine.

People run to opportunity, not away from it. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/frequently-requested...


People aren't rational you can't prove anything about anything by supposing that people make sense.

A lot of the planet is just terrible. Of the places that aren't terrible many wont let you just sneak in and make a living if you live a cash and carry lifestyle.

At best you can prove that the US is viewed as better than their current abode by people that don't live here.

This is the definition of damning with faint praise.


If you actually believe that, it will be come a self-fulfilling prophecy for you. And that will be your choice, as the US is full of opportunity.

For example, you can get an MIT education for free on youtube, you can open a business on github for free, you can get funding for free from kickstarter, you can advertise for free on reddit, you can reach a worldwide market for free via the internet, you can write and sell a book on Amazon for free, and on and on. Nobody needs to know your age, gender, ethnicity, religion, location, disability, marital status, etc.

There's never been such opportunity, right here anywhere in America.


Nobody said there wasn't wealth and promise for many in America. If you remember the first comment you replied to.

"But we also have lots of studies showing that the best of the lowest socioeconomic class almost never do better than the laziest of the uppermost socioeconomic class."

The entire point is that there is inequality of opportunity and unequal return on equal potential not that there isn't opportunity.

If you recall the post I replied to you said

"So why do penniless immigrants keep coming here? Do they know something poor people in America don't, or are they simply misinformed?"

This is terrible logic. This is a wealthy nation with lots to offer but people here have actual problems here too. You are glibly dismissing these actual problems with bad logic which personally makes me very angry. Who the heck are you.

Imagine if someone was talking about how racism was still a problem in America and you piped in with how your black doctor friend's practice was doing great and people shouldn't let negatives become a self fulfilling prophesy.

Well no shit but what we were actually talking about was inequality in America which we can actually do something about.

From the individual's prospective whatever society does the individual ought to do the best they can and for many decent lives await in spite of challenges. From the perspective of society we ought to try to maximize everyone's chances as best we can.


We have social mobility, not a social lottery. Moving all the way from the bottom to the top might take a couple generations, which will obviously involve needing to win at a fierce competition.

That looks an awful lot like a meritocracy.


Social mobility doesn't have anything to do with it really. Even if it is easier for the average citizen to become wealthy, that doesn't entail that the ones actually doing meritorious work are being rewarded accordingly. The "merit" in your idea of a meritocracy only measures the ability to accrue wealth, which is meaningless (as proxy for the more general notion of merit) when rich assholes are rewriting the laws to their own benefit.


The US is among the worst of the developed nations for social mobility.


That sounds like a crap deal honestly. Come to the US, you'll probably still die poor, but at least maybe your grandchildren will do well. *

* does not apply if you or your children get shot by the police for being the wrong shade of brown, maimed by unsafe working conditions associated with low-skilled labour, get sacked because you ask for a raise, etc.


Seriously? I'm guessing you don't have children. Working to improve the life of your kids and grandkids is a real driver, and is the subject of the classic immigrant story for millions of people the world over.

Police kill ~1000 people per year in the US and roughly half are white. While there is an inarguabale disparity there, that means your chances of getting shot by police are extremely, vanishingly rare. And the numbers killed each year is in steep decline. Let's abandon the fear mongering rhetoric of getting shot by police is any real threat. It makes good headlines but it's just not likely to happen to 99.9999% of people no matter their "shade of brown" as you say.

There are more worker protections, more systemic empowerment of people in all classes, all genders, all faiths, all backgrounds than ever in history. There's a lot of work to be done and the system is by no means equal. Wealth disparity is real. But the fact is there's more learning resources available for free with which to bootstrap yourself than ever. As someone descended from hard working immigrants who valued education, and who is part of an incredibly racially diverse family, I don't think it's a crap deal at all.


I knew a girl from a bad part of la. She was Latino. One time she complained to me how the cops harass her friends when they walk around the neighborhood. I asked her what kind of clothes her friends wear, and she obviously replied that they wear saggy pants and black hoodies and so on. I said that if I were in their situation, I would dress in clothes that are impossible to get you mistaken for a drug dealer or a gang banger — simple jeans and a tucked in shirt with a collar. That would be my plan if I were in their situation and I wanted the cops to stop. She just scrunched her eyebrows and said that “we don’t have to change they way we dress!” Well you don’t have to go to college or start your own business or wear any clothes at all but unfortunately you are subject to the economy and the world and you can’t have a nice life and never do anything at all to deliberately secure that end. Sorry.


I understand the US has very low social mobility, which would imply that if it is a meritocracy, it's a very bad one.

As an aside, when the word "meritocracy" was coined, it wasn't considered a good thing. It was a bad thing.


That last point really hits home with me. Everyone keeps saying the american dream is bullshit, but I know many people who lived it, including my own parents. I know people that came here on a boat with nothing, and now living in 10 million dollar homes. America is the only country where one can experience both extremes in one lifetime.


What you've seen is irrelevant, when on the whole the lower and middle classes suffer due to lack of a social safety net and an extreme form of capitalism. There's a large amount of news articles which describe the situation of labour in the US.

If things keep going like this, those millionares will soon have to build their own fortress cities to keep all the undesirable and disgruntled poor people away.

The fact that poor people come to the US doesn't prove anything either, 99,(9)% of them will never be millionares, just like most people won't.


> when on the whole the lower and middle classes suffer due to lack of a social safety net and an extreme form of capitalism.

Which policies hurt the poor and middle class the most?

Our housing policies, our immigration policies, our trade policies, and our anti-family policies.


I know people who profess to be victims, too. I'll tick off the choices they made that got them where they are. Of course, they get angry with me. Nobody wants to hear the truth.

Where I am, the good and the bad, is nearly entirely the sum of my choices. For example, if you floss or not eventually has a large effect on your health. Ditto for the amount you choose to drink, smoke, and exercise. Where you choose to live, who you choose to marry, who you pick for friends, what you do with your free time, do you work to excel in school or do just enough to squeak by, what major do you select in college, it just goes on and on.


When one US citizen can barely make ends meet, it's reasonable maybe to tell them to try harder.

When millions can barely do it, the political and business classes fucked up and they need to fix it. That's the point of goverment, they can tackle systemic issues.


>I know people who profess to be victims, too. I'll tick off the choices they made that got them where they are. Of course, they get angry with me. Nobody wants to hear the truth.

Who told you poor people are capable of as good choices as richer people?

When you live life in easy mode is easy to make the right choices.

It's also easy to see some people who managed to play in hard mode and win, and extrapolate to everybody (especially if you don't account for lucky breaks and mitigating factors in their course).

But because a handful managed to win in hard mode, it doesn't make it as easy as those who play in easy mode, nor it makes it any more statistically possible for the masses to win the hard mode gameplay they were dealt.

>Where I am, the good and the bad, is nearly entirely the sum of my choices.

LOL. http://thewireless.co.nz/articles/the-pencilsword-on-a-plate

(One is even tempted to wish upon people saying hat a couple some serious accident or decease that kills their savings or takes their job, or puts them into depression, or have them tend to another family member, and such, to see whether their tune will remain the same...)


> nor it makes it any more statistically possible for the masses to win the hard mode gameplay they were dealt.

You don’t have to go back many generations to see that compared to today almost everyone played on hard mode.


How does that apply to today’s people, who are dealing with today’s problems and today’s struggles? Is it okay that a child in America is malnourished today because malnourishment existed?


>You don’t have to go back many generations to see that compared to today almost everyone played on hard mode.

Hard mode is comparable across the same game. Those in 1800 played 1800s game, those in Nigeria play the Nigerian game, etc.

You wouldn't consider it much of a success if a person with huge work, skills, and effort got themselves to 1800-era middle class possessions TODAY, would you?


> Hard mode is comparable across the same game.

Our ancestors struggled in a much harsher world and got us to a point where we can enjoy easy mode.

Why can’t the poorest Americans do the same?


Because those ancestors "struggled in a much harsher world" in easy mode.

They struggled in an era of economic upward momentum, much mobility, job creation, with a population boom, and when the US emerged as global leader. And from 30s to 70s, in a much more labor and working class friendly climate, when lots of protections and rights were established (the 8-hour work day, pensions, minimum wages, equal rights for women and foreign workers, work safety, etc).

Not on an era of stagnant wages, job outsourcing, automation, over-concentration of money to too few hands, precariousness, eroded labour rights, when other countries emerge as global leaders, and so on.

When playing life's levels, it's not just the conditions you meet that matter, it's the momentum of the whole game environment too. If the game environment constantly upgrades, gives you more guns, ammo, etc, it's easier than playing easier initial conditions but seeing very slow or negative game environment progress.


> Who told you poor people are capable of as good choices as richer people?

The first step in making better choices is to realize that one is making choices.


The first step in being rational though is to realize that choices are made under certain conditions, and are affected by them, not by some external agent that is totally neutral and impartial to the body's material conditions and social circumstances.

In other words, you "make" decisions only partially, and your choices are shaped by your status in life, before your conscious self can "chose".

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/338/6107/682

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/11/your-br...

https://qz.com/964920/data-show-poor-people-make-better-fina...

http://news.berkeley.edu/2015/03/02/anxious-people-decisions...


The lady in the example is 33 has a diabetes, 3 kids to support, and presumably also have to support for her disabled mother. To make the matter even more sad she had no higher level education. I can imagine how hard and tough it is for her. But I don't think raising the minimum wage or a mandated salary increase/promotion is the real solution here. The real solutions would be to: 1. Educate parents on the importance of children education. 2. Educate people to not have kids before they're financially and emotionally ready. 3. The importance and responsibilities that come with having kids.

Having been born in a developing countries and went to US for university and work sometime there, I can say that US minimum salary and the other related perks are already significantly way better of most of emerging countries.


You don't need to 'educate' parents as to the importance of education. It is a typical rich person bias to believe that poor and disadvanted people need to be told that.

Likewise, people know that getting pregnant at 16 is not a great life plan. But the fundamentalist right have been campaigning for decades to control women's reproduction, including to prevent sexual health education, prevent contraception, and to deny access to abortion.

Lack of a social safety net (including health care) means that if you get a few bad breaks you could be living in your car with your kids. Essential medicine (like insulin) which should only cost a few dollars actually costs someone on minimum wage all their disposable income.

Saying that its better than a developing economy misses the point, the US is one of the richest countries in the world, and ordinary people are systematically taken advantage of by their own system of government. It's just tragic.


What's tragic is that millions of poor children are being raised in households considered poor because there is only a single earner. We have to address the cultural issues leading to the epidemic of single parent households.

That will do far more for the children of the future than anything else.


That is one part of the problem, but I think you are being hyperbolic in describing it as the key. In many countries single parents (or single income families) are not automatically poor. Having a single income (at minimum wage) be above the poverty/food stamp line would be a start. Sick/carers leave and subsidised childcare also have huge impacts in allowing mothers to retain higher paying jobs.

The real question is: why won't America care about children?

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brycecovert/2012/07/16/the-rise...

https://singlemotherguide.com/single-mother-statistics/


Because the American philosophy is that people who make good decisions should not have to subsidize the poor decision making of others.

America has a significant social safety net, but should responsible citizens pay for the upkeep of someone who has multiple children out of wedlock before the age of 20 without any means to support those children? Absolutely not.

People must take responsibility for their own actions.


Lolol. The old any and the grasshopper fallacy.

Well, the grasshopper's parents couldn't get a bank loan because they were PoC so they had poor investment options, missed out on promotions for similar reasons. Grasshopper got arrested for standing on the street while black and spent 2 months in jail because he didn't have a spare $10k for bond, and lost his job, even though charges were dropped. Ms grasshopper got sick while pregnant and had to pay $30k in hospital fees with an expensive loan. Loss of income meant they couldn't service the loan and they declared bankruptcy. Now they can't get credit for decades. Meanwhile the ant went to college and gets a good job, maximum access to tax breaks, social mobility etc.

So yeah, the poor choice to be born disadvantaged. Seriously, go back to your troll hole.


Kids don‘t ask to be born, they don’t choose poor parents.


So blame parents, not the society for not taking care of kids.


Does that mean we should choose good parents for the kids? They didn't ask to have a crackhead for a father, after all.

But somehow I think you meant we should improve the lot of the parents in the hope that that would help the kids.


What do parents who understand the importance of child education do?

(1) choose a better school district, i.e. buy or rent housing in a more expensive location -- not applicable to poor parents

(2) read with their young kids; help older kids with homework -- requires time and a good enough living situation and enough education of the parents. Encouraging reading to kids is one of the top parent-education strategies being tried. The amount of help a parent can provide is limited by their own education level and time availability.

(3) Provide a stable environment where kids have good food, space to work quietly and access to books and computers -- this can be hard to impossible for the poor!

(4) transport kids to school every day -- most families in the US are expected to transport kids to neighborhood schools. For the poor, this means walking regardless of weather. In bad weather, attendence of the poor is way down, understandably.

(5) extracurriculars -- other than in-school sports, these typically require fees, parents to drive kids places, and parental time. Not possible for many poor families.


How exactly do you intend to fund the design, implementation, and ongoing maintenance of such a massive social engineering program?

Your anecdote doesn’t really mean much. “Significantly way better” is apparently still not enough.

Similar to why food stamps are cheaper than food education. The administrative burden is prohibitively expensive.

Let’s not consider the thesis at hand here; jobs aren’t the answer. That flies in the face of our corporate sponsored religion.

Of course believing that inherently threatens your status.

This site should best stick to discussion of technology. Whenever social topics come along, the community quickly reveals its ignorance of reality for the majority, and knee jerk defense of its status quo


>How exactly do you intend to fund the design, implementation, and ongoing maintenance of such a massive social engineering program?

Maybe take some money out of military spending? Educate the population, the economy soars, and then you can re-increase the military budget 30 years down the line.


Let’s fix one political boondoggle with another!


This is just social darwinist moralising imo. If you're going to really prescribe that as a solution, can you point to cases where "telling poor people not to have kids" has proven effective to improve society? Even if it is effective, it's still sickening to me, the idea that you should only have kids if you either inherit money or you're lucky enough to climb out of poverty. If population control ever becomes necessary in the west it has to be by random ballot not privilege.


I'm not saying poor people should not have kids. I'm saying having kids is a responsibility. If someone is poor but willing to take on extra miles, say to have double jobs, living very frugally to save for kid's future, etc, sure go ahead. Having a kid is not a privilege, it's a responsibility. Kids deserve comfy home, loving parents, adequate education, etc..


It's entertaining that we, as a society, prevent people under the age of 18 from voting, and under 21 from drinking, and we say (truthfully) that it's because they aren't fully developed yet.

But when a person of 16 makes a life altering decision, and we shrug our shoulders and say "they should have known better".


> 1. Educate parents on the importance of children education

I'm not sure most parents, Vanessa included, don't know that education is important to their children's future. She likely lacks the opportunity to send her children to a school where they would receive a good education.

> 2. Educate people to not have kids before they're financially and emotionally ready.

I would argue that most people look at having children in terms of opportunity cost. If you're wealthy and have a good career, you tend to put off having children or have fewer children. That's why the birth rate is so low in developed countries compared to that of the developing world.


Absolutely. Refrain from having children if you cannot afford to have children.

People love to tell me I'm insensitive but I say the community needs to step up and do it part to help raise the children. We won't do that. We harp on about "personal responsibility".

I think most* people who don't already have children (me included) should elect to not have children in the current situation. There is no benefit to having children in the west. We don't care after our parents. How can we expect our children to provide care for us? It makes no sense to have children on am individual level. Yes, a shrinking population can wreak havoc to GDP growth rate but what is this GDP growth doing for people out of work and unable to afford health care in Wisconsin?

There is a stigma associated with not having children. It needs to go away. It needs to be the norm and not the exception to have zero children.


> Refrain from having children if you cannot afford to have children.

I'm 100% on board with this. You can make a lot of mistakes in your life and still pull yourself up if you're unencumbered by marriage and kids. I know from personal experience. I was deep in debt and making poor life decisions in my twenties. It took until until my thirties to get my act together. It was hard, but would have probably been impossible if I had kids to worry about providing for. I'd even say that if you are financially able to support a family, I'd still wait until I get through my twenties before starting. With life expectancy up, there's no reason one can't wait.

> It needs to be the norm and not the exception to have zero children.

I get where you're coming from, and I don't look down on anyone who chooses to never have children, but I don't agree on this point. I know quite a few people who have chosen this lifestyle. I thought for a long time I'd never have kids as well. But now that I do, I couldn't imagine not having any. I think it's more important to wait until you're emotionally mature and financially secure enough to do it. If it's not for you, by all means, don't have kids. Being on the other side of it now, though, I can say that it's quite a transformative experience.


> I think it's more important to wait until you're emotionally mature and financially secure enough to do it. If it's not for you, by all means, don't have kids. Being on the other side of it now, though, I can say that it's quite a transformative experience.

>> financially secure

I think the point of the article is that based on the current trajectory, a big chunk of the population will never get there.

I just searched this on Google:

> According to a 2016 GOBankingRates survey, 35 percent of all adults in the U.S. have only several hundred dollars in their savings accounts and 34 percent have zero. Only 15 percent have over $10,000 stashed away.

https://screenshotscdn.firefoxusercontent.com/images/7323d18...


I wonder, though, what percentage of those people already have families. I was part of that demographic not that long ago. Had I needed to support a family then, I'd likely still be in that demographic. No doubt, many people will not be able to pull themselves up regardless.

As an aside, my wife and I are good friends with a couple who only recently let us know that the husband (single earner for the family) has been unemployed since last year, and that they were completely broke and on assistance programs. We were floored, we had no idea, but in hindsight it explained some behaviors we'd witnessed. Anyways, I mention it because they have two young kids, and are trying to have another one. I just can't fathom how, given what they're going through, that having another child is in any way a sensible decision.

It's a sad state of affairs we find ourselves in. Housing prices are astronomical, healthcare costs keep increasing, all while wages remain stagnant. I have great empathy for what people are going through. I'm always mindful that you never know what can happen, one major health issue and it can all go away.


> As an aside, my wife and I are good friends with a couple who only recently let us know that the husband (single earner for the family) has been unemployed since last year, and that they were completely broke and on assistance programs. We were floored, we had no idea, but in hindsight it explained some behaviors we'd witnessed. Anyways, I mention it because they have two young kids, and are trying to have another one. I just can't fathom how, given what they're going through, that having another child is in any way a sensible decision.

Something has to give. Perhaps people like me will offset others who want multiple children staying at home.

The meta is that in general people will want fewer children if they are better off. Does that mean poor people will have more children by design? Does that mean we can never get rid of poverty?


The US is not a developing country, it's the most wealthy country in the world. This comparison does not seem useful.


While the US is technically listed as a "Developed country", and is of course the most wealthy country in the world, that wealth does not extend to a majority of it's citizens.

In fact, the US is at or very near the worst among OECD countries in all of the following, and is much closer to Developing countries than Developed countries: infant mortality, child poverty, child health and safety, life expectancy at birth, healthy life expectancy, rate of obesity, disability-adjusted life years, doctors per 1000 people, deaths from treatable conditions, rate of mental health disorders, rate of drug abuse, rate of prescription drug use, incarceration rate, rate of assaults, rate of homicides, income inequality, wealth inequality, and economic mobility. [1]

[1] https://stats.oecd.org/


Okay but changing the minimum wage would have a real impact in her life now going forward. Does your plan retroactively change her state?

Also, there will always be some worse off country to say "look it could be worse, see how lucky you are?" I think that is such a disingenuous and irrelevant point.


What I'm trying to say is that increasing minimum wage is not a sustainable solution. Salary should really be determined by economic rules of supply and demand. While it's true that Government needs to step in here and there to ensure fairness, I don't think Vanessa's case falls into it.

This might sound harsh, but I do think it's better of for her to hand her children over to foster care or something. Having to support 3 kids with such salary is just too much for her. What I was proposing was "how to prevent future Vanessa"


2.5. Educate people how not to have kids before they want to, and give them the supplies they need to make it happen.


I would expect US minimums to be far greater than developing countries.


Well your expectations are wrong. As a poster a little above shows, the USA is closer to developing countries than developed on many metrics.


What I mean is, I would expect it to be given the wealth of the country. The fact that it isn't is damning.


A few threads seem to believe that the minimum wage is high enough / need not be increased. I don’t actually want to argue about mechanism, but think that it’s imoortant to note that the math says our (current) minimum wage is demonstrably insufficient to remove poverty.

With the Federal minimum wage currently at $7.25/hr, that’s just $15k/year at full-time. That puts many minimum wage workers below many countries’ average wages [1]. But that’s before adjusting for purchasing power parity.

Being a single earner on minimum wage effectively guarantees you and your family will be in poverty in the US. That is effectively not true in most countries in Europe, even the poor ones. You don’t get to live well or anything, but you certainly aren’t planning on poverty.

[1] California, and San Francisco in particular, have a higher minimum wage but also higher expenses. Worse, many low-education workers are waitresses, which often have a “tipped minimum wage” as low as $2.15/hr before tips (again, San Francisco doesn’t do this, but it’s expensive to live here).


I think you'd need stronger evidence than has ever been given that raising minimum wage concurrently raises purchasing power, _especially_ for staples. In the end, it's a feel-good solution - politically, it's hard to pass up, as a great deal of people would be very happy about seeing their paycheck get bigger, without also examining whether the prices around them are going up as well, or noticing that their coworker cohorts are thinning out.


Interestingly enough, $7.25 would be enough for me to get by just fine where I'm at in Mississippi. I wouldn't have much left over, but it would more than cover my bills, food, and transportation. Not everyone could do it, but based on the numbers and my current expenses, I could. It's also a bit rare to find a job paying that little around here, based on what I saw during my job search in the beginning of the year. McDonald's, Lowe's and Walmart are all paying several dollars more than that. The dollar stores tend to pay that low, or slightly more, though.


Do you have any children?


I do not.


It changes your perspective 1000%.


I am well aware that I would not be able to support children in my current situation if I were paid minimum wage.


No minimum wage is able to remove poverty. Set it too low and it has no effect, since it will be below the price you are able to get on a free market. Set it too high and fewer jobs will be available, and thus less people are able to earn money to fight their poverty.


As far as I understand it, minimum wage helps people in employer markets. Prices would go down to zero or at least the minimum cost of living if people would fully compete for jobs in markets with more workers than jobs available.

Inevitably, the market for unskilled labor is an employer market because there will always be a supply of workers unless each and everybody has a job. However skilled somebody is, if he doesn't find a job in his profession, he falls back onto the unskilled labor market in every other profession.

It is correct that minimum wage prevents the existence of some jobs. But it ensures higher wages for all of the unskilled workers who create more value and who are not replaced by a lower bidder.

The jobs that create less value than minimum wage are still available for freelancers. Companies have to buy them as a product or service.


> minimum wage helps people in employer markets

No.

Minimum wage helps software developers to take away jobs from low skilled workers (because it forces employers to automate low-paying jobs).

Most of workers are hurt by minimum wage limit. The higher minimum wage limit is - the more workers are hurt by it.

It does NOT matter if job market is "employer market" or "candidate market". The impact of "minimum wage limit" increase is the same: lower skilled workers lose their jobs to software developers and other higher skilled workers.


Only the work of those who create value below minimum wage has to be automated. I agree with you that their jobs have to be automated by software developers, or restructured in another way. E.g. delivery or Uber drivers can earn less than minimum wage because they are often not paid for their time.

However, every other job can be continued. Why should people be fired if employers can still make a profit? Minimum wage is like a hidden union that ensures that unskilled workers don't outbid themselves.


> Why should people be fired if employers can still make a profit?

In the situation when employer is forced to pay more -- he, usually, would benefit more if he hires more qualified person (for that higher rate of pay). So less qualified (but cheaper) worker will be fired (or not hired in the first place, if you consider long-term effects of minimum wage increase).


That’s theoretically true, but we’ve (seemingly) never come close to that in the US. Moreover, as the article reminds us, the minimum wage has been drastically higher (in real terms) than it is now.

Regardless of the correct level before causing a crowding out of employment, what do you believe the purpose of having a minimum wage is (if not to prevent poverty)? Why not just let the market decide?

Edit: I mean this seriously, and don’t intend it as an attack. I’m (personally) unclear on the perceived purpose of the minimum wage.

Edit 2: like many folks, my “we’ve never come close to it” is influenced by http://www.nber.org/papers/w4509 and similar studies, and I’m aware of the opinions that the study was flawed or doesn’t generalize (e.g., https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/timworstal...).


There are nearly twice as many Americans working below the minimum wage than at the minimum wage [0]. The BLS data is from self reported numbers. It doesn't include information about Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or by individual state or local minimum wage laws. But if even a portion of those individuals working below the federal minimum wage in the gray market or under the table, it kind of makes minimum wage rates less important. If there is that much flexibility of employees to shift from (presumably) legal minimum wage jobs to under the table jobs paying below minimum wage, then increasing the minimum wage could serve to move some of those minimum wage workers to the informal sector. In the informal sector, they don't benefit from legal protections and would harm them in the long run (IMO).

[0] https://stats.bls.gov/opub/reports/minimum-wage/2016/home.ht...


Hmm. I don’t think that data necessarily leads to that conclusion. Two things:

- Many states have a higher minimum wage, so the BLS reports are annoying. They do strictly less-than-or-equal rather than also including “nearby” or even “minimum in state”, making the overall percentage fairly low. I’m guessing data for “What percentage of the labor force makes less than $15/hr” would be more helpful, but is too far from the current minimum wage to be a reasonable discussion.

- Anecdotally, informal labor is driven by workers without the right to work (whether due to immigration status or otherwise). So I don’t think it’s reasonable to suggest that people would suddenly end up below minimum wage; the more likely outcome is as others have suggested: companies will raise prices (keeping the job), invest in automation (removing the job), or both.


It’s too late, but I found that the BLS has a decent histogram of pay: https://www.bls.gov/oes/2017/may/distribution.htm including broken out by industry.


> minimum wage is demonstrably insufficient to remove poverty

Minimum wage is insufficient yet to put all population into poverty.

If we increase minimum wage to, say, $100/hour, then 99% of population would be not able to find any jobs [that pay minimum wage or more] and that would, effectively, put 99% of population into poverty.

With current $7.25/hr minimum wage only few percent of population cannot find jobs because they do not have enough skills to get minimum wage job.


(Accepting everything you've stated.)

What are some optimal tax rates? What are the target individual finances (food, housing, retirement, etc)? What should government spend money on?

I manifestly do not care what the absolute values are for minimum wage, fees, various tax rates, government spending, etc.

I do care about fairness, equal opportunity, rule of law, and empowerment. I care that people can feed and educate their kids, grow old, and play with their grandkids.

---

I want a SimCity for IRL policy.

Policy makers first simulate their proposals. Then repeat their experiments in the real world.

First a little, then a lot.

Hypothesis, experiment, evaluate. Rinse, lather, repeat.

As circumstances change and new ideas crop up, better strategies displace old strategies.

--

We're geeks. We should be thinking about this stuff systematically. Lead by example.


Servers still have to receive the standard minimum wage. If their tips don’t bring them up to that level, their employer has to make up the difference. Of course, not all employers follow the law, but that’s the requirement.


On a related note, wouldn't an employer likely fire a server that doesn't earn enough tips, say, two months in their employment?


Hell yeah they can. At will work states and all.

The other states just have to find a reason to can them so i imagine its "somewhat" more difficult.


Is that true, nationally? (I’ve heard conflicting things, and on my phone this is awfully hard to verify)


I worked in restaurants for 6 years before I graduated from college. Yes it is true, if your tips + $2 something per hour doesn’t equal minimum wage you will get paid more hourly.

A lot of States (or maybe cities) have much much higher minimum wages for servers than my state. California, Las Vegas, and maybe New York pay higher than the $2.


Yes it is. See a link from the Department of Labor below.

https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/faq/esa/flsa/002.htm


Awesome, thanks! In the future, I won’t need to confuse the issue.


It's true, but not all employers track this or are willing to pay it unless forced.


- Why or how would the minimum wage be compared to the average wage of another country? It's the minimum.

- Agreed on the single earner families on minimum wage guaranteed to be in poverty. But, pointing somewhere else and saying "It's better there!" seems off to me. Pick a specific policy and advocate for it. Higher minimum wage? Guaranteed housing? Universal basic income?


Sorry, my comment started as a reply to the comment about “better than most countries” [1] (hence the comparison).

I explicitly didn’t want to make this comment about advocating for a policy, but first to make sure we’re all on the same page: the US minimum wage isn’t enough to get by on. I should have added that a huge portion of the labor force is at or near this rate, except again I’m on my phone, so I couldn’t back that with the precise number.

Since you asked, I’m one of the Basic Income folks :).

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17966080


> the US minimum wage isn’t enough to get by on

Depends on where in the US you live.


Legally, employers have to make sure that wait staged are making at least minimum wage after tips, or make up the difference themselves. I've heard enforced enfircement can be lax though.


If there are only 19 bones for every 20 dogs, then it doesn't matter how good a bone hunter they all are there will always be one dog disappointed and the other 19 will be grateful for the bone no matter how thin and weedy it is. Systemically the 'interest rate targeting' approach starts to tighten up policy when unemployment gets below 5% - which they consider 'full employment' even though 1 in 20 haven't got jobs.

Interest rate targeting uses an unemployment buffer to keep wages and therefore prices under control. Poverty for those in work is entirely part of the plan. To fix the poverty problem you need to fix the structural viewpoint and return to the Beveridge condition - everybody must have an alternative living wage job offer available to them so that job competition works properly in favour of people. There must always be more jobs available than people that want them, not slightly fewer.

But that then runs into what Kalecki called "The Political Aspects of Full Employment" - a recommended read if you haven't already: https://mronline.org/2010/05/22/political-aspects-of-full-em...

Truly a 'wicked problem' - tied up with the concept of power


There is something wrong with this: "There must always be more jobs available than people that want them, not slightly fewer."

Even at 5% unemployment, your condition can be satisfied. For example, jobs might be unfilled because the candidates are unwilling to move. The candidates might be unqualified... shall we hire a random person as a brain surgeon? There could be a dozen job openings per person, and still the unemployment rate remains above zero.

As you move toward 0% unemployment, you push harder and harder against the problem of unsuitable workers. Reaching 0% is a bit like traveling at the speed of light: it is an unreachable goal, with difficulty rising dramatically as you get close.


> The candidates might be unqualified... shall we hire a random person as a brain surgeon?

I know you've chosen this because you think it's a reductio ad absurdum counterxample, but really, if the market is desperately short of brain surgeons, you might think it would create more, cheaper places at medical schools.

Medicine is a uniquely restrictive market, hemmed in by legal protections and a labor guild system, but some version of this dynamic is operating in many sectors of the American economy: Companies refuse to pay for training, then whine that they can't find suitable candidates.


Yes, there's frictional unemployment. How much, though?

This may differ by country, but you typically only show up in the numbers if you were fired. After all, if you quit your job, you aren't involuntarily unemployed, which is what the numbers are supposed to measure.

How often do people get fired? I remember reading numbers of every 20 years on average (don't have the source handy, I'm afraid), but let's call it every 10 years to make it conservative.

In a situation of true full employment, with a plethora of employers looking for employees, at least low to medium skill workers should be able to find a new job basically immediately -- within a week perhaps. Let's be conservative again and call it two months.

This means people are unemployed for two months every 10 years on average, which translates to ~1.7% frictional unemployment. That's way less than the 5% number you cite.

In fact, several industrialized nations saw unemployment rates below 1% for some time between the Second World War and the 1970s. In other words, achieving well below 2% unemployment rate is absolutely realistic.

If you convert the delta to the 5% number you cite to the US workforce, you get about 5 million people. 5 million people who are suffering simply due to political ideology.

On a more political level, I think it's important to keep in mind that the current situation (where people misleadingly talk about full employment even for unemployment rates much higher than 2%) is very beneficial to employers, because it greatly strengthens their bargaining position. Now add the fact that the majority of funding for economics think tanks is aligned with employer interests, and it's clear why the public discourse may be somewhat skewed and biased towards accepting inhumanely high rates of unemployment.


> This may differ by country, but you typically only show up in the numbers if you were fired.

We're discussing the US here, and for the US this is not correct: https://www.bls.gov/cps/cps_htgm.htm#unemployed


>If there are only 19 bones for every 20 dogs, then it doesn't matter how good a bone hunter they all are there will always be one dog disappointed and the other 19 will be grateful for the bone no matter how thin and weedy it is.

Or, if the dogs are intelligent, they could split those 19 bones to 20 pieces...


That wouldn't make them intelligent at all. This idea that there should always be fairness and equality in existence is very naive.


Okay, you are conflating fairness and equality, which are totally separate concepts.

Let's assume you are talking about sharing, as that's what the original point was about. Specifically the sharing of 19 bones among 20 dogs, by dividing up the bones.

Assumign by 'naive' you mean wrong, are you saying that it is simply a more optimal situation for one dog to go hungry?

Does the one dog always go hungry, or does one dog (but a different one each time) go hungry?

Do we just let the one dog go hungry each time intentionally, so that in future no dog goes hungry? What if then one day there are only 18 bones for 19 dogs? Do we let that dog die too?

What if a group of 18 dogs is required to take down an animal that provides enough bones, but we let the two other dogs die because sharing is naive?

Well, that pretty fundamentally calls into question rather a lot of all the principles civilisation is founded upon and which permeate nature, even (nature!).

So you better provide some amazing scientifically backed proof of that statement. No, Atlas Shrugged is not scientific proof.


The only "civilization" I care about is me. Is it really that difficult for you to understand and accept that there are people like me out there who only care about themselves and the resources they can acquire for themselves?

The dog can die. It isn't my problem.


Even if all you care about is yourself your survival depends on others. Both their helping you acquire the things you need and their not actively wanting to kill you. Societal collapse is your problem.


Now try to convince other people that they should do what you say. Not gonna happen, there will always be people that are selfish. That's one of the reasons why communism failed, there were too many people which didn't care about others or were just plain parasitic. I heard one phrase which sums communism up perfectly "Whether you stand or lie, 2 thousands is due" which means you can go to work, do almost nothing and still earn because employment is guaranteed. Not everyone is caring like you or me. There are many assholes, I'm sure you've seen some in your life.


> Now try to convince other people that they should do what you say.

What am I saying people should do?


Then maybe you should move into the woods and see how many resources you can acquire for yourself without the help of others.


Aside from the callousness of your remarks, you do realize that having 19 bones isn't an absolute, right?

Once there are only 19 dogs left, the number of bones will simply be reduced to (slightly more than) 18, because the prevailing ideology is that there must be 5% unemployment. (This is greatly simplified, of course, but that's the gist of it.)

Eventually you'll stop being lucky. And in any case, it's not always the same dog who gets unlucky. So yes, it is your problem, or at least it will be.


What’s wrong with the idea of sharing?


Nothing, unless you force a dog which hunted its bone to share it with one who slept the whole day, and call it "equality".


Or you can share 5% of your hunt to keep the lazy dog from attacking you while you sleep. Is it 'fair'? No. Is it a wise move? Maybe.


> Or you can share 5% of your hunt to keep the lazy dog from attacking you while you sleep. Is it 'fair'? No. Is it a wise move? Maybe.

Then you'll get used to share your 5% , after some time he'll want to have 6.75% and you'll think- well , compared to 5% additional 1.75% is nothing for my safety! After some time other dogs will start to look with keen eyes on lazy dog lifestyle.


Lazy dog is well-rested, can probably take more than 50% from a tired dog that hunted, if not even outright killing the hunter.


I agree, we can probably reduce tensions in society by some redistribution. But there's an important point to which too many people are blind: you cannot do it without limits. As more and more of the bone is taken away for "sharing", tensions start to grow again just from other side. And economic motivation is more, and more distorted leaving less bones for all.


Or I can eliminate that dog so I don't have to share my 5% of the kill every single time.


Or the other dogs can pack together to eliminate you.

Considering the number of times this has happened in human history, any ideas of kingly invincibility you may have are unlikely to be realistic.


That's completely fine. The problem with this entire thread is the thought that there is some kind of inherent value to human life. There isn't.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It's the nature of any gamble, and life certainly is one.


Sleeping the whole day is an interesting metaphor for living off of charity or being homeless, two demographics notorious for being unhappier than the working population on average. Did you choose it because spending whole days in bed is a classic symptom of depression,the illness that makes one unhappier than the average employee? I'm not sure transfering money from the later to the former would correct the inequality between their respective qualities of life, so I wouldn't call that equality, no.


Having no ability to read your mind, I cannot tell of you are trying to invent an alternative meaning of my comment to beat a strawman, or you are really a great poet.


I find my reply in the spirit of your comment. What's wrong with sharing is that sharing is inequality...


So you are not a great poet then, and it's strawman argument.


That's fair and i don't delude myself that perfect equality exists in any meaningful sense. Continuously aspiring towards a kinder and fairer society however is a good thing.


I can't answer that until we establish what you mean by "wrong".


Or maybe they realize that the 20th dog, who receives no bone and has to watch the other 19 enjoy theirs, might become angry and start causing problems. The 19 dogs, realizing that group performance and cohesion is far more important than 1/19th of their individual bones, all donate a small portion (1/19) of their own bones.

Conflict is adverted, and every dog continues to work together, as they all feel like participants in a mutually beneficial relationship between themselves as individuals, and the group as a whole.


Support your position please.


Sharing resources with other people has absolutely nothing to do with being intelligent.


And not sharing them doesn't either.

You still haven't made a point.

Is the intelligent action the action that is most likely to benefit the group?

Is a group of 20 fed dogs stronger than a group of 20 dogs where one goes hungry and becomes a weak or unstable element?

Seems like you're just trying to somehow rally against equality and/or sharing, by associating them with naivité, like you have some knowledge others do not, because you don't like those words, rather than trying to actually discuss the concepts they represent, specifically in this context, properly.


I'm not trying to make a point or rallying against anything. I'm simply saying that I work hard to acquire resources for myself and will never give them away. We can all make moral/ethical/humane arguments about equality and fairness but I simply don't care. If that makes me unintelligent, then I suppose that's just something I'll have to accept.


You seem to overlook a wide range of resources - trust, admiration and friendship of others are also resources. So is a society in which people don't let each other live in poverty. The willingness of others to work with you is a resource, which you acknowledge by using a throwaway.

You don't 'give away' resources, they are transformed into other resources. Would you give up the ability to own seven cars for the knowledge that you'll never live under a bridge, no matter what? Many people would.


Are you really working hard, or are you working in IT, in a first world country?


Probably working more intelligently but less hard than the average person at Walmart.


Probably in finance, at a guess.


Wow, how bright you are sir... If everybody thought like you, we would have a wonderful world, I am sure!


So you choose the suboptimal box in the prisoners’ dilemma?


Hopefully useful nitpick: In the "prisoner's dilemma", it's the dominant strategy. It's only sub-optimal in the /iterated/ prisoner's dilemma, the ominous reason being an expectation of continuity.


Why not?

We are a social species that attained our dominant position on the planet through co-operation.


In fact we're a social species on top of an interconnected ecosystem which only started being interesting when cells worked out how to cooperate.

All complex life on earth exists because of cooperation. Competition drives some feature drift, but the biggest step changes happened because of the increase in complexity made possible by cooperation.


> If there are only 19 bones for every 20 dogs, then it doesn't matter how good a bone hunter they all are there will always be one dog disappointed and the other 19 will be grateful for the bone no matter how thin and weedy it is.

The example I've come across was of musical chairs. If there are 3 seats and 10 people, no matter what, some people will be out of luck.

I find it strange reading all the "get an education" or "don't have babies out of wedlock" attacks. If everyone in the country got PhDs, we still have the same level of poverty. If everyone married and then had babies, we'd still have the same level of poverty.

Lets say every american went to medical school and become doctors. You know what we'd have? A lot of doctors in poverty. If everyone became a software developer like me, we'd have hordes of poor developers.

The dominant economic system ( quasi mercantilistic capitalism with some social protections ) today pretty much guarantees poverty for a portion of the population. It's structurally systematic. The system is designed for income inequality and no matter what, we will have few extraordinary wealthy and lots of people in poverty. This is the dominant trend with a few blips ( the burgeoning of the middle class post ww2 US, but that was an anomally ).


The world is not zero sum.

If everyone had PhDs then those PhDs would be able to produce many more goods and services than exist now.

If everyone was doctors, then healthcare would be plentiful, and nobody would suffer from not having access to healthcare.

If the world was full of software engineers, then we would have a plentiful amount of software.

This is easier to consider by thinking about the opposite situation.

Imagine if we got rid of all of the doctors, software engineers, and farmers? What would happen?

We would quickly lose access to all of our healthcare, new software and then all of our food.


If the hungry dog is always the same, maybe the problem is not the missing bone.


I'm not sure what is the point of the first paragraph but it's considered full employment at 5% because not everyone is interested in having a job. It is impossible to have 100% employment rate. So there's no point in pursuing it.

Its a kind of thing like the average number of hands per population is less than two. Seems counter intuitive, but when you think about it, it does make sense. One shouldn't relay on the expected value of people having two hands, for global population it's a tad lower.


People who aren't looking for a job aren't included in those figures.

The reason 5% is considered full employment is there will always be a number of people who are unemployed because they are between jobs, for instance their partner has moved or they are rejoining the workforce after pregnancy or even looking for their first job.


> I'm not sure what is the point of the first paragraph but it's considered full employment at 5% because not everyone is interested in having a job. It is impossible to have 100% employment rate. So there's no point in pursuing it.

People not looking for a job aren't included in that 5%, to be considered unemployed you have to be working less than 2 hours a week and looking for work.

More importantly that figure doesn't include the underemployed, those working at least 2 hours but looking for more.


The maximum entropy situation is one dog with 6+ bones and lots with none. It is structurally broken at a statistical mechanics level if you are concerned about fairness.


It's not easy to imagine somebody having 6+ full time jobs. Just because the time of the worker is the limiting resource.


It is however easy to imagine "royalty employment": 1 executive employing 20 "clergymen" who don't work a lot but keep the executive happy, and who's needs are then maintained by 200 "peasants".


I was thinking of the financial rewards of said jobs (and probably stretching the metaphor a little thin). I think that without more constraints then you end up with a distribution that most people would consider unfair.


> Thus in the not too remote future, the rate of interest would have to be negative and income tax would have to be replaced by an income subsidy.

Interesting. We definitely have negative interest rates in some places by now. Now waiting for the income subsidy.


I'd like to see a simulation of this scenario.


The economy is not a fixed sum. Wealth can be created and destroyed.


And, of course you need a way to prevent employers from using various alternatives available to them.

* You need very high import taxes, so goods have to be produced with local labour

* If truly automation were to become pervasive, that needs taxing

* You probably need restrictions to prevent money from crossing borders too easily

* You can't have open borders

(or)

* You have to strongly respond to illegals working (or legalize them, while still killing those illegal jobs), because they'll destroy the bargaining power of others

(this is, incidentally, why for 90% of history leftists and communists were strongly against immigration, and the right was pro-immigration. Even today, the right is still in favor of (limited) immigration, that doesn't seem to have changed much. But I sometimes wonder if it isn't the case that Trump won because a significant portion of the left electorate voted for him because of the labour competition due to immigration and tolerating of illegal immigrants and illegal immigrants' labour)


Alternatively, we could ditch the neo-feudalism, embrace automation, and give people a more meaningful live than having to slave 60 hour weeks to be allowed to survive, at meaningless jobs that could easily be done by machines.


But the neo-feudalism makes like 100 people happy, so, checkmate, you communist!!

(On a more serious note, I fully expect automation to simply lead to automated armies defending the rich from the poor, rather than relieving any suffering anywhere. Productivity increases have not lead to (proportional) wage increases, have not lead to (proportional) reductions in working hours. The internet has not lead to information-driven utopia, but instead ad-serving dystopia. Automation will also fall to the deathly grip of capitalism, as does everything else.)


> leftists and communists were strongly against immigration

This is revisionism and ignores the whole "internationalism" vs "socialism in one country" debate. It also fails to recognise the history of nativist (far-)right anti-immigration parties and lefty anti-borders activists.


Internationalism on the left was going to force the world to become leftist by having a border between leftist and other governments. THAT border was going to have huge import taxes.

So no, I think not revisionist at all.


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