New York Daily News obituary:
Obituary in The Nation:
A list of his articles published in Harper's:
The takeaway point? The ones applying were the ones who were motivated to learn (or had family who encouraged them to take education more seriously). Those that want to learn, will learn.
Not to be discouraging, (as I read this article and found it incredibly inspiring), but the students in these classes are the exceptionally motivated, who stuck through this education despite the difficulties. The hurdle that must be overcome for this to have widespread implication is how we get more people to find that motivation.
In the book, it was referring to lottery based admission to the better schools. The result was that it didn't matter whether the students won the lottery or not. They performed equally well (on whatever generic criteria you use to judge academic performance in hs, most likely state standardized tests). The point being that students who cared enough to want to be in the better school would do well no matter where they were.
That might just be measuring the stability, resources, and values of the family. I can easily see how a kid with a supportive family can do well, even under challenging circumstances.
But is that fair to the kid who was born into a more chaotic environment?
Or, a family where the parents make a rational choice not to send their kid to this school? Perhaps they can't afford increased activity fees. Or perhaps they worry about their kid being a fish out of water, competing with kids from more privileged backgrounds?
Or, a family where the parents are actively anti-learning -- either through internalized racism or sexism, fear of their kids becoming alien to them, or a belief that the rest of society is so racist that education isn't helpful?
 A friend of mine from rural Quebec was dissuaded by her mother from getting a college degree, because, quote, "we're not made for great things".
At least a good school does provide the opportunity, from stories I've heard from people who have worked at or attended bad schools it would be an environment where it would be basically impossible to learn anything even if you wanted to.
OK, this is just one anecdote, but...
I grew up in a fairly rural, poor part of North Carolina, went to generic, poor to below average public schools, came from a dirt-poor family that most people would describe as "white trash" or "redneck" or whatever... my father dropped out of school in 8th grade, and my mom finished H.S. but never college.
But, despite not going to a "good school," or growing up in a household full of academics, or living in an affluent neighborhood or anything, I always managed to keep learning, and things turned out fairly well for me (to date). I went to college, gaining (over the years) 3 A.S degrees, and not quite bothering to finish my B.S. I've worked professionally as a software developer for the past 12 years, and have broken the 6 figure / year salary margin (while still living in NC, mind you).
When I look back at my own travails, I agree with the sentiment that "people who want to learn, will." If the classes I was in were boring as %!#^ (and they were) I went to the library and checked out books. Even my poor ass rural public school managed to have a library, and there was the local public library. And even though my family was poor, we went to things like the once per year "library book sale" at the main public library branch, and bought books for $0.25 / each... I'd go and bring back boxes of books on science, math, electronics, software, etc. And I read, and I hacked on shit in my spare time, and read more, and pursued the stuff that interested me. Honestly, I'd say my school (I'm talking elementary school through high-school here, not college) had little to nothing to do with what I learned, and my outcome in life.
Again, just one anecdote, and admittedly a personal and biased one from one limited perspective... but I don't put much stock in the idea that it's "impossible to learn anything" pretty much regardless of what school you attend.
I guess it's one reason I get annoyed when people talk about "Horatio Alger stories" as though they were a myth, or believing in them was some kind of logical fallacy. I %!#^ng lived that story, so I know first-hand that it's possible to ascend from poverty to a decent lifestyle through a lot of hard work and determination.
However the reality is that almost nobody in the world or evn your town even knows you exist, much less is actively working to keep you down. If you grow up being told that life is (largely) what you make it, you will tend to do what it takes to achieve what you want, rather than remaining mired in self-pity and victimhood.
My story is similar to mindcrimes. I don't remember my parents ever blaming anyone else or being victims. My moms lessons were fairly simple. Work hard, don't get a girl pregnant, and go to college.
My dad was a quiet guy who just worked hard. If I complained about something not being fair he didn't care. "Life isn't fair. Now what are you going to do?" I can still clearly remember him and my mom fighting over food stamps. We qualified, and my mom wanted to get them but he refused. Instead he got another side job.
The other thing he always did was put outcomes squarely on me. It didn't matter if it really was another persons fault, he always asked what could I have done differently to change the situation.
I'll quit rambling now, but let me say y level of perfectionism and work ethic clearly came from my dad. It's probably not always healthy, but it has worked out pretty well so far :)
Oh yeah... that. My parents absolutely hammered a sense of personal responsibility into me, and a "you control your own destiny" sentiment. My dad also instilled a sense of work ethic through demonstration (although, if you'd asked him when I was 14, he probably would have disagreed!). The thing is, we were poor, but my dad always worked and worked hard... and he was an entrepreneur, even a serial entrepreneur even though I doubt he knew that word. In between stints of working on dredge boats and doing auto-mechanic work, etc., my dad started business after business: building and selling crab traps, bought a dump trunk and did "hauling fill dirt," then "building docks and bulkheads" and then it was cutting down trees and hauling pulpwood to the mills, etc., etc. He finally "made it" so to speak, doing a business pouring and finishing cement (foundations, slabs, etc.)
So in that regard, I had a strong sense of personal responsibility (I think my parents essentially were libertarians, even though they had probably never heard that word either) and a demonstration of work ethic and the entrepreneurial drive.
However the reality is that almost nobody in the world or evn your town even knows you exist, much less is actively working to keep you down. If you grow up being told that life is (largely) what you make it, you will tend to do what it takes to achieve what you want, rather than remaining mired in self-pity and victimhood.
"The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light."
The bottom line is that you can do a lot to better your fortune, and there might be some quite powerful forces working against you. So your life outcome is a combination of your effort, social circumstances and a lot of sheer luck.
Whether or not victims could overcome their actual victimhood through some intense effort on their part is a different question.
Try reframing from an oppressor-victim category matrix to simply co-competitors because that is evolution's perspective.
Moreover, the oppressor-victim matrix provides competitive benefits to its promoters because it induces complacency in those who adopt it as correct.
Stop reading so much Occupy BS.
You will be right within a certain subset of human lives, but for others - say a favela dweller in a Rio slum, or a taxi driver in dharavi - both of whom are motivated, willing to learn and doing everything they can to get ahead, their outcomes can be vastly different.
Heck I don't know if this has been covered on HN yet, but a few months ago 2 MBA grads decided to see if they could live on the poverty line decided by the Indian govt. Something like rs 28 a day - a about than $0.5 today.
They even went below the poverty line, at which point just being able to afford transport was impossible because they had to scrounge to maintain basic calorific intake. If they had to go beyond a certain KM radius, it was impossible because of the constraints they faced.
And these were guys who had to cut down their food intake, and when they did shower, they did so by cutting their soap in half iirc.
Their final comment was that if they had fallen sick during their below poverty line experiment, they would have had it because they would have had no recourse whatsoever.
Ah found the link - http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/living-like-the-ot...
Actually, they have a great website of their own with a lot of data which probably deserves a post of its own on HN, now that I've seen it.
So the question then, as I see it, is "how do we make it more likely?" I mean, if I can overcome all sorts of obstacles that are frequently cited as reasons people remain in poverty, and I am not anybody particularly special, then why shouldn't anybody else be able to? What separates a kid like me from my elementary school class-mates who are still living in poverty? And that's not exactly a rhetorical question, but it's one that I honestly don't know the answer to. The only obvious thing I can come up with is some degree of intrinsic motivation, some drive or pull that I felt, that compelled me to make the sacrifices to improve my life. But even if that were true, I'm not sure how you'd explain that.
Well, I came from a fairly modest background in rural Scotland (mind you, not what anyone would call "poor") and one thing that has always been very obvious to me is that my motivation was not intrinsic - my parents, siblings (all of who have done pretty well), teachers and school friends were very positive and encouraging.
Looking back on it I find it remarkable at how positive my school friends were towards me having an obvious route out of the community through academic success - they had hard lives of working in deep-sea fishing, offshore oil or farming to look forward to. I never encountered any resentment or bitterness - people seemed genuinely pleased that I was going to go to university.
However, it was relatively late in life (30s) that I actually realised that this kind of supportive background is not the norm and many people, especially from modest backgrounds, face actual hostility and discouragement from when they try to "get out of their box". As my wife, who although she is now a succesful lawyer, came from a background where academic success was not encouraged has commented to me - success was easy for me because it was expected of me from an early age.
Sadly, for many people nobody expects them to succeed and so therefore they don't. For me this is one of the real tragedies of our society.
I am in the UK so it may be somewhat different here but I certainly know people with similar stories to yours over here.
However there are plenty of families over here who live in poverty where either both parents are unemployed , or dad is a drug dealer and mum is a prostitute. In many of these cases the children are simply not encouraged to learn anything, never provided with books (the parents might not even be able to read themselves).
There is often a bias in these communities against anybody who is seen to be working hard to learn anything educational and this is carried into school.
Semi-stable might be a better term. My parents divorced when I was 16, and through most of my childhood my dad wasn't around through big chunks of it, because a lot of the jobs he took (in between attempts at entrepreneurial initiatives) involved working "on the road" a lot (mainly dredge-boats). But yeah, we were poor, but mostly not so poor that we couldn't afford food (although we had stints on foodstamps and what not, to be honest), and we did have enough money at times, that yeah, I managed to accumulate a decent little home library through yard-sales, library book sales, etc., and I had a little toolset, a soldering iron, and the ocassional trip to Radio Shack to acquire components (along with whatever components I could scavenge from old discarded TVs acquired from around the neighborhood, etc).
However there are plenty of families over here who live in poverty where either both parents are unemployed , or dad is a drug dealer and mum is a prostitute.
Yeah, thankfully my own situation wasn't quite that bad.
In many of these cases the children are simply not encouraged to learn anything, never provided with books (the parents might not even be able to read themselves).
Luckily for me, my mom was (and is) an avid reader and she read to me a lot as a kid, so I could already read when I started kindergarten, and I was always reading books from a few grade levels ahead of my grade. I remember once, in elementary school, trying to check out a book that was reserved for a grade higher than my own grade, and they wouldn't let me, and I raised such a fuss that my mom eventually came down to the school, talked to the school officials and got me permission to check out higher grade books. So yeah, in that regard, I had some positive things on my side.
We'd have to change the structure of society. Its a class structure, and there's only so much room at the top. The wealth of the upper class comes from extracting rents from the lower class. This happens on a global scale (core countries exploiting the periphery) as well as a local scale (landlords with good credit collect more in rent than they pay on the mortgage).
If this were true, then when the colonists from "core" countries left a colonized area, then that area should have seen an increase in wealth because those rent monies would have remained in the colony. The history of numerous areas, such as Haiti, Kinshasa, and Zimbabwe say that this did not happen.
The wealth of the upper class comes from courage, determination, intelligence, organization, and productive use of time.
Furthermore, following your rule, Mark Zuckerberg, who is formerly a long time renter, should be less rich than his former landlords.
Actually, according to Wikipedia, Haiti paid off their debt to France that resulted from the Haitian Revolution in 1883: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/External_debt_of_Haiti.
Free of their French "landlords" the Haitian "renters" should have seen increasing prosperity since they were sitting on one of the most agriculturally productive (in terms of sale price for crops grown, not total amount of all products grown) regions of the New World. So, what went wrong?
Sometimes it's not just a matter of being intrinsically motivated, and no matter what you sacrifice, you never seem to have enough.
"Many young people, who have the ability to attend post secondary institutions, will not get that opportunity because of limited family financial resources." - http://rotarycs.org/local.aspx
This is my anecdotal story.
Not only did I fit into that category, I was also not initially intrinsically motivated. But the good people at the Rotary Club accessed my high risk of dropping out and gave me a "Stay in School" scholarship.
Having people believe in me and put $5000 on it - well, I can't say enough good things about them. I believe I would have given up on school in grade 7 (and I still missed a large chunk of it (long story)), but instead here I am with a BSc in Computer Science with "Great Distinction" instead. I imagine I would still be a min-wage Courtesy Clerk at the local IGA if I hadn't been given this opportunity.
Part of the trouble is that only 3 of these scholarships were given out when there were plenty of other kids who could have used them too. Not necessarily hand outs, but a hand up. These scholarships come with mentoring and support to develop motivation in the student to not only stay in school, but to do well at it.
It's not that I think they owe me a scholarship and mentoring, but just that it's not really my fault I was born in to a situation where I would have otherwise had virtually no idea and no means of escaping. I suppose maybe I could have tried worked for it all by myself and for myself (and I did pay for the rest of my schooling myself), but I can't imagine how I would have known to without intervention and I'm not sure I wouldn't have worked myself to death before getting anywhere.
I wish I had more profound and coherent things to say about this, but it's a subject that is pretty close to home and I could start rambling pretty quick.
You could look at the richer kids, do what they did (read books, learn stuff), and succeed. In a ghetto school, the only rich kids are drug dealers.
I'd love to see some evidence showing that middle class folks aren't financially mobile.
I mean seriously? Rich people (oh you qualified it with a "most") are stupid, unmotivated, and boring. I should know not to feed the trolls, but on HN, I can't let this type of stuff slide.
I was simply replying to the commenter who said that most poor people he grew up with were boring and didn't want to learn. He then made the implicit or even explicit claim that if only poor people were less boring or more eager to learn, more of them would succeed. While perhaps true (though there are forces at work that make it hard for them), this isn't required of rich people. They can do well while being boring, lazy and stupid.
I certainly don't think the rich are somehow more boring or more stupid than the poor.
I could totally believe that it's totally irrational on the rich parents' part: kids and health are places where people lose much sense of rationality and perspective. But it's still worth considering that the people who are typically most invested and knowledgeable about their kids and the benefits of a good education do usually go for private school if they have the means to.
Perhaps rich people are getting the result they believe they are supposed to receive? As in, their behavior is modified in minor ways they do not perceive but all towards the goal of increasing the success of the children they enroll?
It really comes down to parents. Children are not autonomous for the early formative years and how the parents treat them, from setting their morals and encouraging good behavior sets the course for most of their life barring abrupt unforeseen external forces.
I have only one issue with private schools, I do not believe any politician should be allowed to send their children to one.
So, they need to sleep in the bed they make. If they don't offer parents the choice of what schools to send their kids too on the basis that their schools are perfectly fine then why don't they stand behind their words and send their own kids there.
Yes I support vouchers, I think schools should have to compete for the money. The money needs to follow the student, not the school. In the nearly forty years we have had a Department of Education the only thing that has gone up is the cost per pupil, scores certainly have not.
In the mid-80's I went to an NYC public school that used to be one of the best and by the time I went there, it was... Well let's just say it was quite subpar. The school had an honors program where I spent almost all my time, and I didn't really think it was anything special, just OK. Never had to work hard to get A's. Then Senior year they realized I couldn't graduate without taking Music Appreciation(!) and the only way to do it on time was to take that class with the "regular" students.
Bedlam would have been calmer. It was simply impossible to learn anything in that class. There were students constantly screaming, throwing things, walking in and out of the room all the time, etc. Maybe 5 people out of 35 paid any attention to the teacher. Hell, once he realized I was one of the better behaved ones, he guaranteed me an A just for coming in and cleaning the blackboard every day and then sitting there quietly. I'm not an idiot; I did it and got my A.
I could go on, but suffice to say that one experience opened my eyes to the difference in classes in the same school. I shudder to think how some of the really bad schools were.
Yet, unless I'm misreading your comment, it appears as if a majority of students in the worse schools appear to be in the "unmotivated" class. Heck, even in my middle/upper-middle class suburban high school, that same divide between the "honors" and the "regular" kids was there.
I think the bigger societal issue is finding some way to get this majority interested in learning. That would have a far larger impact than giving more to the already motivated (if only due to sheer numbers). I realize this is a HUGE issue to tackle and unfortunately, its something that I have no answers for.
One thing we (favorite teacher and me) observed (this with 30+ year-old memory) is that one or two students in the large student body being recognized academically motivated others to work hard to get the same recognition. I graduated before I could see how far this went, but it was showing promise.
At some point, a long, long time ago, people had to have made discoveries and learn from that without teachers or materials. The education we have come to take for granted didn't just appear out of thin air.
You might be reinventing the wheel, but it's still a great achievement. The lack of teachers and materials isn't going to stop anyone who wants to learn.
If I was without teachers and materials and I discovered the square wheel, does the fact that people with teachers are aware of the round wheel discount everything I achieved? I think not. It is still amazing, even if others can do it better.
I guess I'm just not quite seeing where you are coming from. It's not a question of what kind of materials are available, it's the idea that learning is impossible without them. The fact that these people could carry on any kind of interaction, even if done poorly by our society's standards, speaks to me that learning does occur despite what is available.
I would say it is uneducated behavior. Yes, everyone learns naturally; that's what it is to exist. Education is eduction--the drawing out--not mere "learning".
The easier it is to learn the more people will be able to get over the hump. It won't ever be everyone, but it's basic behavioral economics: the easier it is to get the same payoff the more people will do it.
I'm not sure how you came to that conclusion. In fact, it seems like the study you mention supports the exact opposite. Those that wanted to learn (as evidenced by being first to apply) didn't show signs of being better able to learn given the same environment and resources. Wanting to learn isn't enough, but requires an environment in which to flourish.
If it was being used for a study, though, it was probably a lottery out of those who applied, not first-come, first-served.
The students who applied for the program performed about the same, regardless of whether they went to the "good" schools or the "bad" ones.
I'm not arguing that an environment which promotes learning isn't better. I believe that having the resources and support probably motivates people to learn more. I was just saying that for the already motivated, it didn't make much of a difference.
I can't find the exact reference but I believe somewhere in the book they talk about the mere fact of entering your student into this lottery to go to a better school meant that the student would have better outcomes (regardless of whether they "won" the lottery or not).
The idea being that it was the mere "intent" of a parent wanting better for their child that had the most impact on student performance.
http://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/2007/RAND_WR460.pdf (section 2.3).
Some people wish to extrapolate that lottery results proves that a (statistically) lower quality pupil going to a a good school is without benefit.
Wasn't it their parents that were applying? Doesn't that change the conclusion you drew?
Small disadvantages multiply, as to small advantages.
That said, regardless of your starting point it pays to try to position yourself to gain as many positive points as you can - with luck you can ride that same multiplicative unfairness to achieve better than linear progress.
But you're partly right. Simulate random exchanges at random prices and the wealth distribution will come out Pareto.
However, we cannot conclude that because [a] random exchanges lead to a power-law dist and [b] we observe a power-law in reality, that [c] the real wealth distribution is tantamount to random.
EDIT: google search suggests power law tail - log normal bulk.
But look: http://globalrichlist.com/how.html The bulk is indeed powerlaw.
Maybe you are thinking that a sufficiently winsorised US income distribution is lognormal.
There are several papers discussing log-normal bulk and then power law tail.
For what it's worth my initial statement was meant to hold beyond income and wealth and generalize to say achievement and productivity and so a lognormal assumption was fitting as the distribution to pick. It also chimed well with grandalf's statement on how advantages multiply.
The universe tends toward clumpiness.
What she's completely wrong about is that it's their morality that makes it so.
We, the rich, the middle and upper classes, are the ones who fund prisons, we are the ones who do not share our food with our neighbors, we are the ones who refuse to mix with them and share our culture.
It's like Terrence McKenna said - "Culture is not your friend". Culture is a tribal way of life - it's a gang sign, whether that sign be dressing in red or blue or wearing a suit. It's our culture which judges that those who perform certain jobs are more deserving of comfort than others. Yet without that farmer growing his crops how would you eat? Without that garbage collector removing waste, how would you stay healthy? Without that secretary, how would your business function properly? It's these value judgements which really hurt us. Someone will always need to do those jobs (until our machinery is smart enough, anyway) and, as it stands, they will always be deemed by the rest of us to be undeserving of the comfort that we have just because we do something essentially far less fundamental.
Just as power corrupts, so inequality breeds resentment and poisons society. There's a word for the solution I'm hinting at but it's too dangerous to even mention.
So, our society (which may or may not be structured around our competing cultures) has a mechanism for valuing these goods. We have the principles of economics - supply and demand. The things you mentioned are all objectively good to have. They're essential, even. But we've become very good at generating these goods. We've studied crops and health to maximize the good that these things provide, and we can now generate them with fairly little skill and effort. The reason that people who perform these ESSENTIAL tasks earn so little is that the supply of people ready and willing to do them is so great compared to the amount we need them to produce. If the supply of people who could perform these jobs decreased, or the demand for the goods they produce increased, the workers could demand higher wages.
I don't disagree that there are many factors that can and are used by "the rich" to keep "the poor" down, but I disagree that how society values these basic goods is really a significant source of this discrimination.
Now, there is a solution that will work and is dangerous: Huxley's eugenics/genetic engineering solution described in Brave New World. And we're fast approaching that solution, I think.
If it's inherent then why are there examples of societies which lack it?
One can say that's not what this discussion is about, i.e. it's the potential for equality, the right to be equal rather than the radical definition above, but then the discussion becomes muddled, how to measure inequality, economically (e.g. the Gini index), by asking people, etc. "Inequality" then becomes a very complicated word like "democracy" or "justice".
I think it's interesting to draw a comparison with democracy: "true" democracy, i.e. radical democracy, is likewise impossible to maintain. The closest form in Athens degenerated to tyranny many times. And probably Athens was the largest collection of people where such pure democracy is feasible, i.e. it cannot be scaled up to a whole country. Judging from the lack of other examples in human history, one can see that the order of things in Athens was not the natural state of society.
So, I maintain that pure forms "liberté, égalité, fraternité" are not practical and cannot be achieved.
Now, one can argue back, saying "Yeah, yeah, we know that, but surely you can rank countries on how much they have achieved these, e.g. surely no one would debate that the US is more democratic than Saudi Arabia." This, of course, is true, but (i) means that we should leave behind "a brotherhood of men, and no possession, too" crap behind and (ii) leads us back to the question of measuring inequality.
>One can say that's not what this discussion is about, i.e. it's the potential for equality, the right to be equal rather than the radical definition above, but then the discussion becomes muddled, how to measure inequality, economically (e.g. the Gini index), by asking people, etc. "Inequality" then becomes a very complicated word like "democracy" or "justice".
Personally, I think that it's very simple to define. We know from research that having more money, past the point of no longer being in poverty, does nothing significant to increase happiness. So, in my opinion, equality, in terms of money, is about nobody having to live in poverty and discomfort.
The democracy we are used to is Representative Democracy. When a few people hold all of the power, and we just get to vote for our dictators, what kind of democracy is that!? Personally, I think that Direct Democracy deserves more attention and experimentation. Some countries have been running it for years and their quality of life is among the best in the world.
>Anarchy is a condition of life without the intrusion of governance and the mechanisms and institutions of the state.
>Anarchism is the political philosophy which has anarchy as its goal.
How many of you were taught in school that if you pay yourself a minimum wage and make up the rest as a dividend/bonus you can avoid paying a significant amount of tax (legally)?
Or how many of you were taught how to become "employable" so that you can earn the same amount of money and pay considerably more tax, unavoidably - because you aren't in control of your own finance.
How many of you were taught to open a bank account as a good way of "organizing your finances" (read: filling the pockets of fat men).
How many of you were taught anything about running your own business and being in control of yourself and your securities?
There's a reason this isn't taught in public schools folks - it's because the people at the top want more for themselves and less for you. They don't care about you - except when you're gullible enough to believe you're making a choice when voting season arrives.
The poor are poor because they think "that's just the way it is," and continue about their lives. It's only when you realize that's not the way it should be, because you're being fucked, that you start to do something about it and make yourself.
Then there's the moral effect. You either see the need to do something to change the system, and remain poor - or you accept it, and realize that the best way for you to make more money is to keep poor people poor (and gullible) - thus prolonging the system.
But anyway, I agree with you in principle, sparkie. What we're taught about how the world works, when we are young, is tremendously influential.
I'm perhaps most irritated by this because I'm mostly self-taught (in computer science) and university did very little for me. I should've studied business instead, but probably like you suggest, I would've considered that idea incredibly boring at school leaving age.
Boredom aside though, I do wish I'd learned more about business and life in general during school. I'm still trying to learn my way around the system now, but there aren't enough hours in the day. I'm sincerely grateful for the people who've taken the time to explain things to me anyway.
The best place to start is my book: http://personalmba.com/book/
Hope you find it useful!
I do fully intend to get through the Personal MBA stuff eventually; but right now, I'm spending more time with the stuff from Steve Blank, Eric Ries, Ash Maurya, etc. :-)
There lies the rub between many of us and higher education. Making you more employable is supposed to be a side-effect of college, not the end goal. I found that the people who went to school so that they could write down that they did so got exactly what the came for and not much more, while those of us who were there to learn got what we came for. It's an old idea, but true that what you get out of education depends on what you put into it.
From my experience with business people? those with degrees seem to be generally of less skill than those without. (maybe it's just that if you are good and have a business degree you are high enough I don't encounter you? Possible.)
I don't see this correlation in computer science; I have no degree, but I certainly don't think less of people that work alongside me that do have technical degrees. Usually (but not always) it's obvious that they learned something that I missed.
It doesn't need to be an academic course though, gaining the experience through work is good too, and I'm guessing that's what you meant about the "less skill" of graduates - their lack of actual experience.
Unfortunately for someone who didn't really know any accountant or business person until recently, I had no knowledge or confidence of getting my foot in the door, but if I'd studied the subject back in school, I would've been more competent earlier.
I don't see how that's obvious at all.
I mean, I have a reasonable understanding of the creation side of business, and I can do straightforward sales; That side of things is easy enough to learn via trial and error.
Now, obviously, that's not /all/ there is to business, and maybe b-school teaches you about the bits I don't understand. But from a pure "you shall know him by his fruits" perspective, antidotialy, people with MBAs tend to be less successful (at sustainably growing the business... not at getting paid) than people without.
But yeah. as a small business that gives customers products or services in exchange for money? the most valuable thing you can learn is something about the product or the process that creates the product. The most valuable thing a small company has is the owner's labour. I mean, even with the ridiculous $150K/year salary numbers I hear friends throwing around these days... if I was working for someone else? I would have quit yesterday. (well, I would have gotten another job first, but... that has never been difficult for me.)
Your parent's generation had savings accounts that paid actual interest. Today you get a token 0.25% on a good day. With the prime rate being so low there's not much to be made by leaving your money sitting around.
As much as it's important to save money, it's also important to not save too much. Living a life of frugality in the hope of having a happy future is the deferred life plan and for many it never pans out.
Spend what you need to have an enjoyable life now and if you can save, by all means. Life within your means and spend wisely, but don't be such a cheapskate in the hopes that your accumulated pennies will somehow make you a billionaire some day.
The thing is, I did actually pick up a book on stock investing as a teen... one more of my "library book sale" pick ups, but I skimmed through it, but the value of investing and taking advantage of the capital markets didn't "click" for me back then. Also, considering this was in the 80's, far before there was E-Trade or Sharebuilder or anything of that nature, the markets didn't seem very accessible to a poor kid growing up in rural NC.
At least that's one advantage we have today... something like Sharebuilder is a nice way to dip your toes in the water.
Now you need to be educated. You need to know the tools at your disposal and how best to make use of them.
My advice to anyone looking to invest is to first read up on gambling. Any book worth reading spends a good chunk of time explaining one thing over and over: bankroll management. For investment this is the same idea. Don't over-commit.
I'd also advocate reading on gambling scams as there's far too many dodgy investments out there promising impossible returns or companies with a "business plan" that's so full of holes it whistles when it moves.
Perhaps people who grew up in an environment filled with mistrust and the constant risk of thievery would be better prepared for investing in the stock market than most.
You shouldn't do that, it's not permissible under current tax rules… IRS requires that officer shareholders be paid a reasonable salary, and if you're making enough money to pay dividends, minimum wage will be hard to justify as "reasonable." I'm not sure how paying bonuses will help with tax avoidance as those are taxable like regular wage income.
Note to term, "tax avoidance". "Tax evasion" is illegal, but there are plenty of legal ways to avoid tax, many of which I'm not aware of myself, but will be grateful for anyone willing to share.
And that's a big part of it - people don't share the knowledge - it's "insider" knowledge, and you aren't in the club. The fewer that know, the more money those who do, can make.
1) Having your own company is more risky as opposed to a Permanent employee role in the government's eyes, hence more opportunities to pay less taxes
2) Companies are far more likely to work towards creating employment than individuals working for companies, benefiting the economy
3) Dividend income is taxed at a reduced bracket to stimulate investment, regardless whether you're investing in your own company or getting dividends from a large public corporation by being a shareholder
10 years of filing corporate taxes, having every accountant follow this practice, and an official audit with no complaints shows the Canadian Revenue Agency has no issues with this system.
Sure, they don't teach you it at school, because most people at school won't start their own companies.
2) You're recommending that we defraud our federal government in your original post.
Those are just few of the tax avoidance schemes that come to light - which it should be noted are not necessarily illegal. The reality is that the rich and famous are involved in these schemes - earning big money and paying less tax than hard working, honest men.
The government doesn't take the necessary steps to put an end to these kinds of schemes in any haste - probably because they're involved in many themselves, along with their friends. If everyone was doing it, the schemes would be closed. I therefore recommend everyone do it, when legal.
My linking to the article wasn't just to point out these specific schemes, but more to just highlight the scope of tax avoidance/evasion. There are many loopholes that get abused, some get fixed, although not always in a timely manner.
People are led to believe that the richest pay ~40-50% in tax, or whatnot depending on where you are - but that couldn't be further from the truth - they generally pay less (as a percentage of their total earnings) than the middle or working classes.
You know, when these bankers pay themselves a $9 million tax free bonus at the end of the year - are they defrauding the government?
Work it out, say a banker is on a nice $1m salary, which he pays 50% in tax, but pays zero tax on his fat $9 million bonus.
1) Top marginal tax rate is 35%.
2) Bonuses are taxed as income as well.
3) The rich pay the majority of taxes. (http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/taxes/story/2011-09-20/b...)
The world isn't out to screw you.
1) Perhaps you missed the part where I said IRS only applies to US? Tax rates do differ in different countries, if you weren't aware. That's one of the major tax avoidance methods - do what you can offshore, wherever you benefit by paying less.
2) Again, depends where you are. While all bonuses may not be tax free, they are usually taxed differently to income tax anyway - such that less tax is paid. Why do you think people pay bonuses rather than just increasing salaries?
3) I wasn't claiming otherwise - my claim is that the rich don't aren't paying more as a proportion of their total earnings, which is what is claimed to be the case by the system.
Whether the world is out to screw you or not I'd debate. It's more like the world is out to get as rich as possible, and you get screwed as a side effect.
If you live in the US and you make money, you owe US taxes on the money, regardless of where the company is.
As others have pointed out, bonuses in the US are taxed as ordinary income, and they're taxed at the same rate or higher (!) than ordinary income in the EU. Take a quick Google trip through a search of "banker tax EU" to come up with some real doom and gloom there.
This is simple. Rich people have more long-term capital gains and less ordinary income. It is 100% not because of bonuses.
Bonuses are income. They are taxed as ordinary income (or the equivalent of ordinary income in E.U. nations). Bonuses are not given lower rates; if anything, certain types of bonuses are subject to higher rates than ordinary income. Companies pay bonuses because bonuses are discretionary, while salaries are contractual. In other words, giving a bonus one year does not commit them to paying the bonus again the following year.
Falsely allocating dividends, using offshore tax accounts are what big companies are actively doing, and many getting away with it. And yes, these include your favorite tech companies and such. (http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/334737/20120429/apple-avoid-...)
The banking secrecy in some countries is the real enabler of tax evasion though - because corporations can simply fudge the numbers to reduce the tax bill.
Almost everything you wrote is false. Not all bonuses are income, they may or may not be taxed, they may or may not be subject to higher taxation than ordinary income. You have a very US-centric view of the world.
Distributing profit as dividends is "falsely allocating income" if you are not paying yourself a reasonable salary, to the extent that you have redirected salary income to dividend income. Once you do this, it is no longer up to you to decide what a "reasonable salary" is. The IRS (or the local tax authority, if not in the US) will decide that number.
Most forms of bonuses are income in: 1) the US, Canada, China, Australia, the UK, France, Spain, and India. There are various exceptions, but the general rule in the nations where most people conduct business is that bonuses are income. As income, bonuses are taxed at the same rate as income is ordinarily taxed in those nations. In some nations, certain types of bonuses are subject to a higher rate of tax than the ordinary income rates. If bonuses were not taxed, or were taxed at lower rates, most income would be paid out as bonuses.
Yeah, running a business means that you have a possibility of making a whole lot of money, and yeah, if you have the contacts to get investors to give you money in a situation where you get paid well if things go well and the company closes (with no fallthrough to you) if things go poorly, sure, you are doing pretty good; but that's not how most real businesses work.
A small business should never be run in such a way that the employees are making more than the owner. How would any business work that way?
People typically pay a premium for a temporary service rather than employing someone full time. That is how you make money. It is why I pay a plumber a crap ton when my pipes break because it is still cheaper than employing one full time.
What business are you in that causes you to make a third of what you would make as an employee doing the same thing?
-Generous portion of health insurance premiums
-Vacation, holiday, and sick time
In a tech business with an office and Valley-level benefits, the all-in cost for an employee is ~2.5x their base salary. Here  is an old article by Joe Hadzima talking about how this is figured.
I don't see anything wrong with that; as the owner, the upside accrues to me, so it makes sense that I'd be willing to work for less compensation in the short term. (I've been in situations where my compensation was negative while employees were getting paid. If you can't get investors, it makes a lot of sense, I think. For me, even living in silicon valley, after $40K/year or so, the improvements to my life brought by every additional dollar diminish rapidly, and as I'm in silicon valley, 3x-4x that is not unreasonable compensation for my skillset, even sticking with year+ long gigs; this is how I funded my company until recently.)
>People typically pay a premium for a temporary service rather than employing someone full time. That is how you make money. It is why I pay a plumber a crap ton when my pipes break because it is still cheaper than employing one full time.
That is not how I make money. Selling hours... is difficult to scale. My goal is to get into a situation where my capital (plus a little bit of scalable labour, or labour I can easily hire out because I've worked in the field my entire life and I can recognise good people) multiplies every year. You know, own some means of production. Become, as the communists would say, bourgeois.
This is part of why my marketing message is so consistently "we don't provide a lot of support" - I'm happy to accept a slightly lower (but still ridiculous, by investment standards) return on my capital if the labour bit becomes more scalable.
So yeah, that's why I'm willing to take a loss on my labour (or even on total compensation) - for the chance to have a business that grows without being limited by my labour.
I'm renting, essentially, unix servers, so while my capital equipment depreciates at a terrifying rate, my capital is my primary tool for generating revenue. (and as far as investments in capital go, the margin on VPSs is pretty high. A server will pay for itself in under 4 months, on average.)
I mean, the whole revenue of the company is about a quarter million a year right now, which is about what me and my full timer would get paid, combined, if we both went and worked for a local big company. (the lion's share of that is eaten by power and new hardware.) I know why I'm here; revenue doubles every year, and this is the sort of business where capital cancan make money with minimal labour, I mean, potentially I'm sitting on something that can double my capital investment every year. I mean, if I don't screw it up.
But yeah; if you are looking at a business that scales? this long period of not getting paid a whole lot is pretty normal. You go out and buy a retail store? a restaurant? etc, etc, - it's going to be a long time before you earn back the initial investment.
It's really only contracting/consulting where you make more from day one; and that's a great way to get your hands on some capital, but from my point of view, long-term? it's not nearly as attractive as having my capital do the work.
Now, I think I'm stabbing in the right direction, but it has yet to be seen if I'm doing it wrong. Certainly, if I sold today for 1x revenue (not at all unusual for small businesses) I'd have made less money for more work than if I had just done consulting for that time period and put the money in T bills or whatever. But if current trends continue; it doesn't take very many years before we're talking about real money. (now, such doubling never continues forever. But I don't need forever. I'd be dang comfortable with another 3.)
That's the one I don't get. At tax time, it's still income. It's not like that bonus/dividend is magically untaxed because it doesn't show up bi-weekly or monthly.
The rest of isn't taught because The Man wants to keep you down - it's because teachers aren't taught those things either (at any level) and most of them have enough on their plate just trying to satisfy state requirements. You make it sound like a grand conspiracy of old, rich white people and it's not.
What the wealthy do have that most of us do not is the access to resources and a bit more free time to use those resources because they're not scrambling for a dollar like the rest of us.
I generally agree on the rest of it, but I'll add this: sometimes you're so far down a hole that the existence of light or that someone gives a damn about you is not even imaginable. Sure, you may have people that will get your back in a tight spot, but that's a far cry from knowing people who can make your life materially and spiritually better and would willingly do so.
While I agree with you that schools should do more to encourage people to own their own business, do you really think school curriculums in the US are decided by a shadowy cabal of the wealthy?
Whether to teach business and entrepreneurship would be almost entirely up to the local school district. There are thousands of them and each one is independent--that's a pretty far reaching conspiracy. I know members of my local school board, and I can assure you they aren't part of the "people at the top" trying to keep the poor man down.
The real reason people more people aren't self employed is that we've managed to link health insurance with employment.
The reality is different for poor people, but my point was more about "what could be", rather than "what is". Trying to think about it in terms of the current system is flawed, because the current system is designed to enrich people.
If everyone was avoiding tax then the tax would need to rise, or the laws would need to change - this may or may not be a good thing to the masses - but it's certainly not a good thing to the rich - which is why they make sure it doesn't happen.
It's clear that in your world view, a bunch of rich, white "fat men" (read: Republicans, according to you) are controlling everything from banks to schools to everything else. I feel sorry for you. The world is not the gigantic conspiracy you've created in your mind.
The penalties (higher back-interest rates and fines) for tax evasion are quite severe. Jailtime is also a possibility.
The only point I've mentioned is one of tax avoidance, which is in common practice. I've not advised you to do it either, just making a point that it is done - the system is unfair - people avoid tax (legally), whilst you are paying your honest share.
And please, Americans - are you able to think outside of your own country and it's laws?
Brakes are the things that slow you down. Accelerators are the things that give you a boost.
Any one of us has these both imposed on us and has some degree of influence over them, though to what specific extent varies a lot.
The point of the essay (confession: I skimmed it) is that an effective education is among the more powerful accelerators which can be applied. It's actionable (lifting a concept from a thread here) in the sense that both individuals and communities / society as a whole can engage productively in efforts to increase the availability / efficacy of education.
It's a fact recognized by the father of capitalism, Adam Smith, and the founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson.
What I learned, clawing myself to where I am (I currently make more than twice what both my parents combined ever made), is that independent of the person, you HAVE to get the out of the situation they are in. Being "poor" or below the poverty line, life is not what you would expect. There is nothing extra, there is not even enough to sustain yourself. Each month, you make decisions of what bills to pay (food, electricity, gas, rent) based on which is most likely to be shut off. You spend money you can't afford on things you don't "need" because you need just something, anything, to make it feel like you are actually alive and not just some "thing", only there to feed on the remains you can come across. Learning about the humanities doesn't change the fact that you're working a minimum wage job 3rd shift and rarely making it to your classes at high school (just often enough to keep from being expelled) just so you don't end up homeless. It doesn't change the fact that you try to cheat and go through the lunch line twice to get two free meals just so you can have something to eat that evening (breakfast? The programs that give kids breakfast ends at middle school).
I escaped from poverty because I am significantly above the average intelligence level and I managed to make the right decision at the right time. For a point of reference, not the last time I talked to my dad, but the time before that, he was letting me know he may not have a phone for a while because the lady's cell phone plan he was on had passed away almost a year ago, and now that it was up for renewal and she was dead, he likely would not be able to put it in his name. I was paying someone I knew $30 a month to sleep in a sleeping bag in their closet when I joined the Army (shipped out January of 2000). I blew the ASVAB out of the water and had my choice of MOSes with all sorts of bonuses as well. But none of that mattered. What mattered was that I was removed from the environment I was in. I was able to see how other people lived while being provided for and then having some extra money on top. When my enlistment was over, I moved on and have done great things and I am now in a wonderful place in life now. But I'm unique in that aspect. A large number of people I served with would not be able to once they were discharged and I hope most of them stay in, because it's a better life for them.
Just as having middle class or better contacts, friends, network and confidants can help you maintain or better your station, being poor and having poor contacts, friends, network and confidants will help you maintain or lose ground. If everyone you know is working for minimum wage, you don't ask where a good place to work is expecting good work, you're expecting somewhere that will actually give you full-time hours, or enough to barely sustain yourself.
Downvote me, rail against me, disagree, defend the article all you want to, but the article is full of as much hope and potential as the government programs that are available to help the poor go to college, all the way up to covering the entirety of their tuition. It sounds like such a great idea, but the reality is that fully covered tuition means jack shit when they are working 70-80 hours a week just to make rent and keep the lights on. It's feel-good drivel by people who never truly understood (and never will understand) what it's like to be at the poverty level or below.
The author is saying the same thing, though perhaps more to do with mental models than physicality.
PS: Mental illness runs in my family so I have plenty of poor relatives, and a few rich ones. It's not hard to find two people that make about the same amount of money living vastly different lives. Just compare grad students with other people living on what they make.
Graduate student stipends run from $15,000 to as much as $40,000 (for 20 hours of work!) The median wage in America is around $26,000. Many graduate students make more money than the average worker.
This is a perfect example of how out of touch we, the professional class, are. Most of us have no idea how little capital (social, financial, and otherwise) the working poor have at hand.
Graduate student pay: http://www.cas.usf.edu/business-services/data/osu-survey.pdf
Median wage statistics from the SSA: http://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2010
But, I can also point out a friend who graduated from collage in 2002 without debt working at Denny's for 9$ an hour at who also supported his wife and 2 children. (He did get a 13$ / hour internship his senior year, but it was only 20 hours a week so he kept the Denny's job.) What's important is he knew it was no sustainable, but he saw a light at the end of a tunnel that made 80-90 hour weeks acceptable in the short term.
PS: While poor is often transitory, poor and uneducated, hopeless, addicted, and desperate is rarely transitory.
What would have been good for her? 1) A liveable wage. 2) A society that doesn't fuck her over for wanting a liveable wage. 3) A society that doesn't fuck her over for trying to get a liveable wage by unionizing.
> I escaped from poverty because I am significantly above the average intelligence level and I managed to make the right decision at the right time.
LOL. Dunning-Kruger comes to mind.
It's Viniece Walker's idea, the woman he met in prison, who earned the idea with her struggles.
I wish more people of privilege were aware of how often they "forget" to give credit where credit is due, especially when credit is due to someone of less privilege.
To imply that this most selfless, compassionate, and generous person not only forgot to give credit but did so as a result of some inbuilt insensitivity to wealth disparity is an egregious misrepresentation. I mean, did you read what the guy's work was about? Is this really a nit to be picked?
[Edit] and still relevant...just pointing out the date.
As civilization gained wealth, some people became rich, but they were only rich relative to everyone else's poverty. The wealthiest people of Rome had, in most respects, less than what someone on Western unemployment benefits may have now. They could do better on basics(which are important), but the technology of today was unfathomable.
But one of the technologies we haven't found is a way to escape the status differentials, complexities, and failures of our debt system; solving that problem is the key to solving poverty.
1. Luck to be born in Germany
2. My parents did everything despite their low incomes to get me to university and support me with everything I've ever tried - and got me out of stupid situations I got myself into
3. Luck to get a job in the early 90s for programming web sites when very few people could do that, although the job offer was out there already for 3 months. Because someone at university told me during holiday about something called "WWW"
4. Luck that my girl friend left me - somehow - and I wanted to get over that by working a lot
5. Luck that I got VC financed and become CTO of a startup during the dot com boom
Individuals and societies that don't do this grow poorer.
You can invest in a business that makes things for businesses or things that are actually investments for consumers.
An education is not (usually) consumption for a consumer. Neither is a car that more than pays for itself with the time it saves. Using the same car to go traveling around the country instead of getting an education is more consumption than investment.
Our society has chosen to water down the natural incentives to make prudent investments. Saving money no longer pays meaningful interest. The government gives you large incentives to buy a much bigger house than you might otherwise buy or rent. That "extra" house is consumption.
It is a good approximation of reality, created by the fact that people have varying preferences for consumption versus investment.
An education is not (usually) consumption for a consumer. Neither is a car that more than pays for itself with the time it saves.
In neither of these cases does the provider of the car or education receive monetary returns for the car or education beyond the actual price. When I said "investment", I should perhaps have specified capital gains: interest, dividends, or asset appreciation that return monetized value to the investor.
So an education is metaphorically investment for the student, but not for the university. Even for the student, there is no asset owned that can be sold and no legal contract of debt or equity that "their education" has to pay for. There's just a hope of a better-paying job. Hence, "metaphorically" an investment.
Our society has chosen to water down the natural incentives to make prudent investments.
Well no. Our society is struggling to keep its head far-enough above water to avoid a deflationary spiral.
A return is not guaranteed, of course. But if there were no return possible, no one would go into the car business.
You say for student there is no asset that can be sold. Not true, at least when the student chooses his education wisely. He can now sell his time for more money. Education is a "factor of production" of his work, which he then can sell.
When I first spoke about investment, I did not mean the narrow meaning you've understood. I was talking about why people are poor and I discussed consuming resources versus using them to produce more resources.
Investing in one's own capabilities or making your own garden are investments that don't involve giving money to someone else and waiting for a return. Successful businesses and successful people make such investments.
Ok, but in that case, most poor people simply don't have much to invest in themselves. Most of their efforts are consumed each day in just getting a living (by implication: most people are poor).
Where people are not free, where the government or thieves take their resources, they cannot accumulate anything. And in countries that are still largely poor, that is exactly what happens.
But, when people are able to escape these countries to where they can be free, they are then free to improve their situation. And many do.
But I seem to recall seeing many other forums about university, mortgages, etc, where people who's parents paid for their education, helped with a house, etc, are ridiculed - and I don't mean super rich dynastic trust fund babies....
It only takes a generation and some common thinking for a family to stick together and get ahead, and ensure their children never need to borrow money from a bank to get an education, or buy a house. You don't have to be rich... but why can't we live, you know, a generation ahead?
I know a guy who told me his parents paid for all his stuff, his house, etc, and therefore all his work and all that (good tech guy) was just being saved up for HIS kids, ad-infinitum. They aren't trying to be rich - they just stay a generation ahead.
How many people, 10 years into their working life, have a year's minimum expenses in liquid cash, a cushion, just in case? How about 6 months? Most don't even have 2 weeks.... most live hours away from disaster if they don't get paid on time, and they blame everyone else. Get a couple months ahead and you no longer think about when payday is.... it's not relevant.
Want to be an entrepreneur? great. Do it.
People don't understand what money is for, or how to really use it to their advantage. They learn abou their "credit rating" - that's it.
- There's nothing wrong with cash in the bank (really secure, liquid assetts). People tell you you are losing out because of inflation..... most of those people got smashed when the stock market crashed. I'm not knocking investment, I'm just saying, cash is okay. I've weathered the ups and downs of the financial world without worry or concern while everyone else was freaking out.
A good credit rating is good - but it should be a side effect of good financial practices, not a goal in and of itself.
My credit rating probably isn't great - it's not bad because I've done nothing wrong, but I haven't borrowed large sums and paid them back, that kind of thing.
Credit cards should work for you, they are not a privilege. They should protect you from risk of theft, and help you balance out and manage cache flow. They should never be used for money you don't have. There are other ways to go about that (and in a circle of friends with similar practices, you borrow from friends - imagine a society based on the same)
Avoid debt. Debt is okay - but don't get over your head... stay far, far away from that kind of debt. Debt carries a psychological burden as well.... for me it feels great knowing that when I get paid, my money is mine. If I borrow some money, pay some interest so I can keep some liquidity rather than spend cash on something big the interest payments are worth keeping my security cushion adequate - but if push comes to shove, I can just pay it off - that's what I mean.
You want a simple credit card without fees or nasty interest rates. You want protection and no nonsense.
You want cash in the bank, always growing - I don't mean retirement savings, I mean a cushion - it should grow all the time. After 20 years of working you should be in a position where you could have no job for a year or more without screwing up your life. (not saying you SHOULD do that, you probably shouldn't - but you should be able to - that makes negotating salaries and dealing with employers much, much easier).
It's really simple.
Build and keep adding to a cash cushion. Dip in once in a while, no problem, but keep it growing. It'll hurt at first, but before long you'll LOVE it. Be as aggressive as you can.
Liquidity = opportunity.
(Imagine having a rented home and lots of cash in the bank rather than an underwater mortgage when the housing market crashed. Most people tragically sufferred - you would be in a position to take advantage of the situation immediately.
You are talking about unbelievable sums of wealth that are completely unavailable to the working poor. This is great advice for people who are already unbelievably privileged (probably most of us at HN) but it does jack shit for people who are living pay cheque to pay cheque because their pay cheque is barely enough to sustain any standard of living.
People who live cheque to cheque, if given double the salary, would very shortly still end up living cheque to cheque. Triple it, same thing.
I'm not dismissing problems with the system - but I've seen people who make in a month what I make in a day (more because of where I live, only a little becuase I make a good wage - it's not something that would impress anyone on this forum, let me assure you) who still manage to save money slowly, raise kids, buy a house eventually, etc....).
It's about your attitude towards money, not the amount.
It's very likely that you are, in fact, unbelievably rich. If you look at the condition that most of the people in the world live in, and even large groups of Westerners, I would bet that you are doing very, very well.
There's nothing wrong with wanting more, or discussing how to better manage your finances, I just don't think that we're really talking about poverty anymore at that point.
Post WWII saw the rise of the middle class, it's not really fair to compare it to now and tell poor people "hey, just do that!"
Bootstrapping is for websites, it's not a solution to widespread poverty.
I agree with your sentiments about being conservative with your finances, and there's no doubt a huge portion of poor people are terrible with money. You see people struggling to pay rent, but queuing up for the new iPhone - such way of living is ludicrous, and they are bound to stay poor that way. The reality is they don't need it - you don't need gadgets, fashion accessories, takeaways, beer, drugs and other money drains - but at the same time, if you're not buying the latest and greatest, someone else isn't making enough money - which is considered bad for the economy. They encourage you to spend.
We call it - "Go fuck yourself, boss" money.
A lot of social factors can be blamed for that situation and truly though; but the important fact is 'it starts with the very individual'. Unless that individual feels the need, the situation won't change, no matter what. So if non-poor part of the society wants to do anything about it, the first thing that should be tried is to 'awaken' the poor.
It's a shame that most comments here respond to the title of the article and not its contents. Hint: it's not what you think
Shorris' argues that the key to escaping poverty is the study of the humanities. His evidence is that a group of carefully selected students who, after being given a year of quality education, seem to be able to escape the poverty that entrapped them. Learning the humanities therefore provides a way out of poverty. While this is an uplifting, perhaps even inspirational message, the conclusions he draws are highly questionable for a plethora of reasons.
1. Response bias: Students expressing interest in the course are likely the most motivated individuals in their respective circles.
2. Selection bias: Students deemed "too impoverished" or "too uneducated" were rejected.
3. Intervention by study conductor: Education and career advice was not only given freely, but volunteered to promising pupils.
3. Variables not controlled: The education included high quality instructors who might have been capable of "inspiring" their students, regardless of the subject being taught, as well as providing an "in" to their respective institutions. Disruption of routine: Students were required to leave their immediate neighborhood and social circles regularly and engage in rigorous study.
4. No control group.
I could go on for a while, but this is sufficient. Shorris' study group consisted of the most highly motivated members of the poor minus those who were the least educated. He then intervened in their lives, not just to give them a quality education, but also by changing their habits, exposing them to the unfamiliar, enhancing their motivation and giving them career/education counseling plus networking connections to the educational institutes of the participating teachers.
I will not dispute that this course was a fantastic idea that enriched the lives of those lucky enough to take it, but it simply cannot be used as evidence for the notion that study of the humanities specifically can be used to combat poverty. Instead, it should be used a model for other similar courses.
I suggest you not only read the article but also the book it is about. It is one of the more important books I have read.
I suspect, like most projects, it didn't meet both of those criteria. However, if it did, I would be extremely interested.
It sounds like it was successful to me.
Also, pay alone does not determine if one is poor. It is not possible to avoid having people who are "relatively poor" as measured by absolute income. But it is possible to take better care of people and reduce real problems like malnutrition, even if you have phd's waiting tables because there are too many of them.
I'm just saying, education has been improving steadily over the last century yet the wealth gap has increased. It's clearly only one element of the solution.
I am currently homeless and most homeless people are not penniless. Most of them have too little income for a middle class lifestyle but do have some kind of income. I would like to start a business at some point which would not be aimed solely at homeless people but which I think would probably have high appeal for them. In other words, I expect them to be a significant percentage of the customer base. Treating them like customers instead of charity cases in a business aimed at adding value to their lives for a reasonable fee would improve their situation, not necessarily helping them get off the street but helping make life more bearable while on the street. Also making life more affordable for folks who are barely hanging on, thus likely preventing some people from slipping into homelessness. Charities have their place, but there is a reason why the expression "charity case" is basically insulting.
1. Answering the first quesiton directly:
No, that's not the solution proposed by the article. The goal was to get the poor involved in politics, in the largest sense of the word. At the end, he reported that almost everyone in the first class was either in school or employed full-time. No mention of managerial roles, or what they were training to be. One tried to start a union, so she is not heading towards a managerial role.
There are plenty of programs out there that do try to train people in technical skills, like nursing, engineering, or management, but this was _not_ one of those programs. This is a way to help the poor break out of the vicious cycle of poverty themselves by giving them the tools to think about their situation. Who knows what they'll do with those tools.
2. Answering the second question, allowing for your premise:
Robots, programmed by all of these engineers we wouldn't've had otherwise, and the people that are too poor to be helped, or unable for other reasons. This is what we call a _good_ problem.
3. Making fun of you/sarcasm:
OK, sure, lets not help the poor at all, because what if we're _too successful?!?_ That would be horrible! We'd starve to death in dirty streets, because people would be too busy nursing, engineering, and managing each other, and not realize there was no food!
4. Rejecting your premise and addressing the second question:
Who's going to do the blue collar jobs? Mostly the same kinds of people that do them now, except they will have more political empowerment, and a greater capacity for reflection and critical thinking. I know a few educated people that choose to work as farmhands, so it's not impossible, and I myself enjoy an "honest day's work" (speaking as someone with the privilege of an education in the humanities).
Can you imagine how awesome it would be if we had a society of critical thinkers and moral philosophers, instead of the reactionary, anti-intellectual, gullible, fundamentalist society we have now? Can you imagine if the lowest common denominator weren't so low? I'm not saying it would be a utopia, but for at least the last few hundred years, people have been dreaming of a time when machines had taken over every menial task, and humans could spend their time as they wished, free to follow pursuits of their own choosing.
 I'm not trying to say 100% of society is like that I'm just saying that significant fractions of the American population at least show one or more of these characteristics, and I don't think it's making for a better society.
I agree that education is a must, but it's also about addressing the social structures we currently have in place and recognising that they will fight tooth and nail to keep things the way they currently are.
> And the implication of everybody being well educated is that everyone will have white collar jobs or prestigious blue collar jobs. If everyone is well educated then who will want to take a job as a street cleaner when they've just spent $80k on their education? The solution is clearly not limited to just educating everyone, is it?
While the latter part of your statement is the same as the beginning of what you just said, I took the former to mean that educating everybody would cause additional problems, not that it wouldn't solve all the problems we have. If you didn't mean to imply this line of thinking, or if you have abandoned it, then great.
To address this new point, did you see anything in my comment that suggests I want to keep our current social structure? The very act of empowering the poor into participating in politics (again, not just in the election sense) on a large scale will change the structure of society. And then, instead of the privileged deciding what the poor need and pushing potential solutions, we would probably start to see the poor creating their own solutions, and further changing our societal structure. I imagine that their solutions would work better than those that came from outside, and they might even be highly resistant to recommendations from a model society (some didn't even trust that this education would help, since "the white man wouldn’t let you up no matter what.").
It's like the various Housing First problems out there. Most of the homeless have a host of other problems (addiction, mental illness/disorder, lack of education, etc) but these programs get them an apartment first, and merely make the other services available. And from what I've read, they work. People stay off the streets and clean themselves up, for the most part.
That said, there is _no_ reason we can't educate everyone in the humanities and do other things, too.
In other words, our entire society needs to be re-educated in order to solve this problem, not just the poor.
>we would probably start to see the poor creating their own solutions, and further changing our societal structure.
Indeed we would, but we would also see a great deal of resistance to it from the powers that be. This needs to be addressed with equal importance. What's the point of bringing people up when others will just try to push them down more? We need to bring them up and make space to accommodate them.
In terms of educating the rich, what exactly do you propose to teach them and how do you suggest convincing them to give you the time of day?
That is a completely different issue from arguing about definitions themselves. We can indeed hold opinions on what constitutes a true Scotsman, and even argue about which of those opinions is correct -- so long as it's the subject of the conversation.
You can't change definitions in the middle of a discussion. But you can certainly hold, support, and defend the consistent opinion that something is not a REAL education. It's not the word "real" that makes something problem. It's changing your mind.
More specifically, NTS is moving the goalposts based on irrelevant criteria.
There are times when the goalposts are in the wrong spot, and it's appropriate to stop the main argument, take the time to get your definitions straight, and then move back to the main argument with appropriate goalposts. If you realize that two parties are using different definitions, it's completely appropriate to argue about which definition is correct (possibly "the correct usage for these purposes" rather than "universally correct") before returning to the larger argument.
Knowing that a tidal wave is headed your way when you've got safe ground that's reachable, is actionable. You can take action to change the outcome.
Knowing that, say, that within the next century the sun would go nova, or a local star would go supernova, for all practical intents, is not actionable in any manner that action could be taken which would preserve civilization / the human species.
Would liberal arts help some African child in a remote village? I am asking because I think I wouldn't last long in such an environment, despite of my capability to read...
In the experiment described in the article, the ability to read was a prerequisite for the course, not the desired outcome. The desired outcome was to teach a method of reflection that goes beyond your first immediate reaction, and show people that thinking about what you do can be useful. The effects on the test population were continued education, employment, prevention of violence, and the confidence to demand better working conditions at the workplace. This for only a half-year's work and a cost of 2000USD per person. If you do not consider that valuable enough to read, what are you doing reading its comments?
The only indicator that it might be worthwhile to read is a couple of people here claiming it is important. But there are also people who claim reading the bible is important. I was simply asking for some convincing reasons to invest my time into reading that article.
In a purely capitalist job market the hardest working, most productive people would get paid the best and have job security.
I can imagine that if we could somehow make compensation transparent to the point that, say, buying bananas is so that every single worker has a rough idea of the value their work provides that would help raise wages but I would still struggle for a definition of "hard working" that would mean those that engage in it will become the richest.
The 1% have been working very hard to pull up and destroy the ladders they used to get where they are.
In the current fascist economy there is simply no way 100 out of 100 people can all strike it rich. The handful at the top are busy cementing their position.
The game is rigged.
One was unintentional poverty- someone falls into trouble due to no fault of their own. Maybe illness, trauma etc
The other is intentional- individuals taking full advantage of government benefits. In the UK generations of families have been stuck in this category.
One group feel more deserving...
The UK tax and benefits system creates perverse incentives. The systems are baffling (advisors for tax or for benefits need a lot of training (accountants need degree level studying and qualifications)) and interlocking. They are handled by different government departments. Mistakes are common. If the people paying the benefit make a mistake to your detriment nothing happens. (Or if you make a mistake to your detriment.) (And if you don't notice in time you're unlikely to get that money ever.) But if they make a mistake in your favour that money will be clawed back, no matter how long ago the mistake was made. And if you make a mistake in your favour, or if you don't report their mistakes in your favour, you risk interview under caution, arrest, and prosecution.
Compare this treatment of people who are poor with, for example, very wealthy companies taking extreme borderline legal tax avoidance measures.
People who have learned dependence might not feel deserving, but getting them off benefit and into work isn't as easy as clubbing them with punishments. Especially since it was society that put them there.
Here's an example of Vodafone:
They owed maybe £6bn, probably £4bn. They paid £1.2bn in a deal.
While you can argue about 'deserving', it is the government's fault that they have set up a system which encourages people not to work.
Unforuntatly, the current attempts to fix this are (in my opinion) just creating a more confusing system where it is easier to get trapped or confused.
But since you want sources, here we go:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21826061 "Genome-wide association studies establish that human intelligence is highly heritable and polygenic."
The other half, that intelligence is correlated with income, should be fairly obvious from everyday experience, but nonetheless here's a nice graph
Next up I will provide citations for the fact that the sky is blue, since we seem to be on a prove-the-bloody-obvious kick today:
"Human color vision and the unsaturated blue color of the daytime sky", Glenn S. Smith, American Journal of Physics, Volume 73, Issue 7, pp. 590-597 (2005).
You can, and should, make your point without being so insulting and demeaning. We can do better than this.
Methinks you are not completely familiar with what "extremely heritable" really implies in studies of human behavioral genetics. (I attribute this to a knowledge gap, as I have generally found your other comments about natural science to be highly reliable, if they are close to the field you work in.) I am blessed with the opportunity to attend the weekly behavioral genetics seminar ("journal club") at my alma mater university each week during the school year, and from the seminar I have learned about professional articles that dispel common misconceptions about human behavioral genetics.
Turkheimer, E. (2012). Genome wide association studies of behavior are social science. In K. S. Plaisance & T.A.C. Reydon (Eds.) Philosophy of Behavioral Biology (pp. 43-64). New York, NY: Springer.
"If the history of empirical psychology has taught researchers anything, it is that correlations between causally distant variables cannot be counted on to lead to coherent etiological models."
Johnson, W., Turkheimer, E., Gottesman, I. I., & Bouchard, T. J. (2009). Beyond heritability: Twin studies in behavioral research. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 217-220. [I am personally acquainted with three of the four co-authors of this paper, one of whom regularly exchanges links with me by email.]
"Moreover, even highly heritable traits can be strongly manipulated by the environment, so heritability has little if anything to do with controllability. For example, height is on the order of 90% heritable, yet North and South Koreans, who come from the same genetic background, presently differ in average height by a full 6 inches (Pak, 2004; Schwekendiek, 2008)."
Turkheimer, E. (2008, Spring). A better way to use twins for developmental research. LIFE Newsletter, 2, 1-5.
"Unfortunately, that fundamental intuition is wrong. Heritability isn’t an index of how genetic a trait is. A great deal of time has been wasted in the effort of measuring the heritability of traits in the false expectation that somehow the genetic nature of psychological phenomena would be revealed. There are many reasons for making this strong statement, but the most important of them harkens back to the description of heritability as an effect size."
To sum up, individual human differences in poverty (on a relative basis, within any one society) probably have something to do with individual human differences in the genes shuffled into each person at conception, but those differences neither fix an absolute level of poverty nor fix a stable rank-ordering of relative poverty. Other factors that are properly called "environmental," both at the societal and individual level of analysis, can and do overcome the odds influenced by individual genomes.
A link I just discovered yesterday
leads to a LONG, detailed article about reasonable social policies that may do much to alleviate poverty in the United States.
Comments like these remind me of HN of the past.
Contra-point: the rich have more resources to invest in beauty.
Contra-point: but surely there are some beautiful poor people, denied the opportunity to maintain, develop and leverage their beauty for material gain. What of them, the deserving poor?
Contra-point: it's not just good genes, it takes hard work too, with proper diet, exercise, plenty of sleep and good grooming. I deserve my success, I earned it.
Contra-point: do beautiful parents necessarily have beautiful children, and vice-versa? I know this girl, she's really hot, but her sister is such a dog....
However, keep in mind that this is one part of the puzzle, and always explicitly note that when talking about this subject in public to minimize negative reactions.
Look at pigeons. They eat out of garbage cans. They die within a few years. They get run over by cars rather a lot. But we don't really worry about this, because they're just fucking pigeons.
Gosh I'd be ashamed to make such an argument. It's a) incredibly loaded, and b) carries incredible risk in the event that someone takes it to heart and actually starts acting along those lines. Though perhaps you are just not used to your words having any force, and have yet to learn circumspection.
And I sense a certain hubris: "I am not a pigeon." Well, so you think.
There is a limited amount of money/wealth in the world. If some people take/earn/inherit more than average, then less wealth will remain available to others. The only way to fight poverty is to prevent exaggerated accumulation of wealth (the rich must be incited to spend his money, if not through creating jobs, then through taxes).
This article is elitist bullshit coming from someone who has lived their life completely alien to poverty, who struggles to understand it.
When every type of worker makes enough money to afford to live in a school district with resources and quality educators, have health care, buy groceries, and care for their kids, we'll be in a lot better condition as a society.
Evolution is predicated on some distribution of genetically inheritable characteristics with differential survival / reproductive benefits. Depending on a number of other characteristics, one might end up with highly diverse, or highly homogeneous local or regional populations.
In the case of humans, evolution did encourage diversity, if only because it created sexual reproduction in humans, which increases the diversity of offspring. And of course, humans are not all identical today, implying an evolutionary response to different environmental conditions.
It is a monstrous ideology that has produced nothing but suffering.
Have a great day.
Peace and have a great day (and an upvote).
I recommend Asimov's article on the matter: http://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScience/RelativityofWrong.htm
It is not a stretch to think that natural selection could apply pressure to traits that are passed on through culture and exposure to ideas.
That's quite a general statement for the discussion here, which you then use to make a specific conclusion about the human behavioral issue under discussion in this thread. Could you kindly fill out the reasoning steps you are implicitly following with more citations to research on each factual assertion you are relying on?
even though their standard of living is rising continually
This is generally correct. A popular book on the issue (I don't endorse ALL its conclusions, but I like its citation of many different reliable references) is The Rational Optimist.
However, this is just background color, it doesn't change the argument. As long as humans are generically and epigenetically diverse there will be differences in fitness. In capitalist societies it makes people more or less wealthy; in other societies it makes them more or less powerful, or influential, or with more or less social status. There are other factors that can make someone poor but this one seems impossoble to completely remedy.
There is no question genetics play a role, the question is how big of a role do they play? You haven't gotten anywhere close to answering that.
Personally, I disagree that evolution encourages diversity. It seems to me that diversity occurs in spite of it, as a result of our ever changing, dynamic, earth.
Consider a genetic variation that if you inherit one copy you communicate well but if you inherit two copies you stutter. Communicating well will be selected for, but stuttering will be selected against. If the probability of having one copy is P, then the probability of having two copies is P squared. For example, if 5% of people have one copy, then 0.25% will have two. The variation will be selected for until it is so common that the gain in fitness for one-copy people is balanced by the loss in fitness two-copy people. (The real situation is more complicated, since variations in many genes interact to affect each other's fitness.)
Inequality is built-in to the structure of our 'civilization'. There are social science studies which have demonstrated how that works. http://scholar.google.com/scholar?start=10&q=inequality&... Some of those might not be as ludicrous as the article (although many of the authors of those studies may be social Darwinists which would probably invalidate many of the results).
My current perspective is this: there is a very simple, stupid set of beliefs which are supporting the structure which leads to the maintenance of vast inequality. Basically, we still have castes and have gone through a few different rationalizations and slight variations over the centuries.
So I think that good social science will look at income inequality over generations in terms of social class and look at social class as an extension of ancient caste systems. I also think that at one time caste systems may have provided an overall benefits to societies, but modern technology has long since made them obsolete.