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Gates Says Society Less Inequitable Today Than Any Time in History


Tim Eriksen
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Yes that is what he said - Less Inequitable.

 

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/technologybrierdudleysblog/2016626758_bill_gates_on_being_the_top_1.html

 

Interesting perspective by Gates on the current state of wealth in society.  He argues that the presence of the ultra-rich is not the problem, rather it is a lack of education.  Education is the key to upward mobility.

 

 

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It's unquestionably true that "the world at large is less inequitable today than at any time in history." (emphasis added)

 

Some other nice quotes:

 

"There's some big fortunes and society can't - it's not good to have a society where you don't have mobility in between different income levels."

 

"So if you really look at where we're letting people down in terms of the American dream, I wouldn't say - you can take this as self-serving - I wouldn't say it's because of a few people are very rich. I'd say it's because we haven't been doing a good job on education to give them an opportunity to move up into the top few percent."

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I dont think anyone would argue with Gates. From a quality of life perspective things are probably much closer than in any other period. Poor people do have I Phones, TVs, dish washers, and AC.  But thats fairly irrelevant when it comes to keeping the peace. How people feel and how things are 2 very different things. I would focus on how people feel in the interest of self preservation if I were rich...

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I am not sure about the keeping the peace business.  It is much harder to get folks to riot when they have the basics of life taken care of (and the differences in wealth are not visible - a poor persons iPhone is the same as a rich persons) you have the freedom to do what you want and the rules for obtaining wealth are well defined and independent of who you know.  That is in my opinion why the large disparity of income in the US is less relavent in the US versus other places where folks have less freedom, don't have the basics or the wealth/power comes from who you know versus pre-defined rules.  People will riot if they are starving, don't have freedom or the way to get ahead is based upon relationship (which they don't have).  If you have the basics, freedom and a road map to welth/power, why spend your time caring about what others have.  If the OWS is a reflection of the level of unrest in the US, it is small on a relative basis compared to the rest of the world where the wealth disparities are wider. 

 

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I think that sounds logical, but people arent inherently logical. Riots are based on emotion, opportunity, fairness, and thoughts of wrong and right. Look at Greece, their riots dont make sense from your perspective. They are out in the street because something that was given to them (benefits which haven't been paid for) is being taken away. They arent starving, but they feel threatened. Look at the UK, there its just opportunity and not feeling apart of the system inmo.

 

One painful lesson which I have learned over and over is for most people perception is reality. Wages for the middle class has been stagnant for several decades. On the path we are on I think wages may even start to decline inflation adjusted. That will have effects at some point. I dont see people going gee my country is getting worse, and I am part of the first generation to be worse off then my parents, but I have food to eat and an I Phone oh well. All you need is a charismatic speaker to tap into that anger and .... I think people riot when their quality of life is being affected or when they dont think they have a stake in the system. People have rarely been starving in the US and we have had massive social riots / eruptions over rights and fairness.

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I agree about the the emotional part of riots but most have a logical rationale that gives them life.  In the 1960s, the riots got life from a real lack of opportunity due to racism.  I don't think this is in the US to the extent to give riots a more than a temporary duration.  Greece is different in that to get ahead you have to have either relationships with those in power or be close to the gov't and the goody bag the gov't has is being taken away.  The Greeks do not have a clear rule of law to get ahead and are reliant on relationships/gov't which by definition is exclusive in nature.  That is why I think all Euro countries that have this type of system must be suspended and let back in only when they have established a rule of law.  Just my 2c.

 

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This discussion reinforces what I believe to be a common misconception in the media that it is a “rich vs. non-rich” discussion, and I think that’s an over-simplification. Before offering my thesis, I would offer that, in general, I’m a fiscal conservative whose general thinking is more in line with the 1% than the 99%, but I’m DEFINITELY in the 99% from a financial perspective.

 

I’ve a life-long friend who’s a firefighter, married to an elementary school teacher. They are fully supportive of the occupy movement, and are vocal about it. Their beef is less with the wealthy and are more with governments which, they feel, are coddling the ultra-rich.

 

Firefighter perspective: there was a deal with local governments where firefighters would receive a certain level of pay for doing their jobs. Firefighters have done their jobs and are dismayed that they are looking a workforce reductions and pay cuts, despite having done their jobs. Normally, I would retort something along the lines of “Welcome to the real world, dude, where all of us are subject to getting laid off despite doing our jobs”. However, when it is seen that execs at “too big to fail” companies, who clearly have NOT done their jobs as stewards for their shareholders’ interests, get large bonuses  by their firms who’ve received government bailouts (in effect financed by government bailouts), they feel slighted. And, they’ve a point.

 

Teacher perspective: Local governments are in the red, substantially, and teacher’s salaries are in the crosshairs. Normally, I would retort something to the extent of “This is simply supply and demand…there is more school teacher supply than demand, so pay will decline”. However, they feel that their salaries are looked as a potential cost reduction targets when, when you look at it, isn’t the money spent educating our children among the best uses of taxation? Do we really think our governments are such outstanding stewards for our taxes that there are no better places to cut costs than teachers’ salaries? Again, they have a point.

 

The subject is sufficiently complex that there are certainly other perspectives out there not referenced above. The details are different but the basis is the same. This is not a rich v. poor discussion, IMHO; it’s a discussion of accepting responsibility by big business and/or Wall Street execs who’ve collected millions or tens of millions over the past decade while screwing up our world financial system (and many of whom are still employed) or priorities putting Wall Street and/or governmental financial mismanagement ahead of educating our future. The seeds of much of the discontent seen out there are planted in these soils, not in the “someone has more money than me and I’m not digging it” soil.

 

It’s entirely possible that I’ve projected my personal knowledge on an entire movement, and that this is all about rich vs. poor. But, I don’t see that being the case. Summed up differently, people are not mad because others have more money, they are mad because those who helped create this mess have still reaped ridiculous compensation while others, who’ve simply done they jobs, are being asked to accept pay cuts.

 

Capitalism works, it is wonderful, but it’s not 100% perfect. One of the most glaring imperfections are that the “Left vs. Right” or “Rich vs. Poor”, “Worker vs. executive” or “Tea Party vs. everyone else” conflicts we see currently are dominated by talking, with listening taking a distant second. Listening is far ahead, however, of searching for an answer and far, far ahead of actively engaging those with whom I disagree in mutually respectful and meaningful dialogue.

 

Buffalo Springfield had it right years ago: “Singing songs and carrying signs, mostly say, hooray for our side

 

-Crip

 

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Whats strange to me and has always been is a Fireman and Teacher with a decent amount of overtime for the firefighter puts them in the top 10%.

 

I agree with Crip1's friends which is why I dont think logically thinking about this makes sense. People feel a certain way and are looking at income charts and graphs to justify their feelings. They arent looking at those documents then determining how they feel. The feeling is there and real, and they are simple looking for a logical way to express it.

 

Smart folks like Parker then try to debate the logic and graphs and charts with sound economic reasoning without dealing with the core feelings. Basically as Crip said people simply feel the rich win no matter what. They win when we grow, win we fail, and win in a depression because of their connections with government. There is no downside to being rich, is probably what most people think. They have a heads I win, and tails I win situation. The middle class though, gets hammered all the way through and hasnt won much of anything. They have been basically under attack. They want a sacrifice by the Rich, and the rich and their backers are basically trying to organize another tax cut via a flat tax as a way to "grow the economy".

 

You can continue debating the merits of the argument or just give up a token tax rise and some regulation changes and things go away. I know what I would do...  This is moral hazard, you cant ask everyone to give up something, if you arent willing to give up anything, and arent even willing to fire people who caused the issue.

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Interesting TED talk on various correlations associated with income inequality.

 

Would love to see the details of the data behind the mental illness chart at 6:46. Cultural differences seem more relevant (for data quality purposes) than correlation to income inequality. Let's interview some Japanese, Spaniards and Italians on their stance towards mental illness and compare with the rest... Also, the Scandinavian countries are conspicously missing, whilst they are present on every other chart. I find it extremely hard to believe that there is no comparable data from our countries on that.

 

A quick google gave me some numbers on Sweden from our government statistics bureau. Self-reported numbers of 23% of women ages 16-84 feeling mentally unwell and 13% of men. I don't know if those numbers are comparable to the statistic that is reported in the chart, but if they are they would emphatically break the correlation to income equality in the chart and to me seem to suggest there is some cherry-picking of data going on, despite what professor Wilkinson says at the end.

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Interesting TED talk on various correlations associated with income inequality.

 

Would love to see the details of the data behind the mental illness chart at 6:46. Cultural differences seem more relevant (for data quality purposes) than correlation to income inequality. Let's interview some Japanese, Spaniards and Italians on their stance towards mental illness and compare with the rest... Also, the Scandinavian countries are conspicously missing, whilst they are present on every other chart. I find it extremely hard to believe that there is no comparable data from our countries on that.

 

A quick google gave me some numbers on Sweden from our government statistics bureau. Self-reported numbers of 23% of women ages 16-84 feeling mentally unwell and 13% of men. I don't know if those numbers are comparable to the statistic that is reported in the chart, but if they are they would emphatically break the correlation to income equality in the chart and to me seem to suggest there is some cherry-picking of data going on, despite what professor Wilkinson says at the end.

 

I'm not sure I would rely on a quick Google search to determine whether is cherry-picking of data going on.  I'm sure there are peer reviews that discuss the methodology of the guy's research and that find that his data has or has not been cherry-picked.  I could be convinced that there's something wrong about his presentation if you could cite those critiques.

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Interesting TED talk on various correlations associated with income inequality.

 

Would love to see the details of the data behind the mental illness chart at 6:46. Cultural differences seem more relevant (for data quality purposes) than correlation to income inequality. Let's interview some Japanese, Spaniards and Italians on their stance towards mental illness and compare with the rest... Also, the Scandinavian countries are conspicously missing, whilst they are present on every other chart. I find it extremely hard to believe that there is no comparable data from our countries on that.

 

A quick google gave me some numbers on Sweden from our government statistics bureau. Self-reported numbers of 23% of women ages 16-84 feeling mentally unwell and 13% of men. I don't know if those numbers are comparable to the statistic that is reported in the chart, but if they are they would emphatically break the correlation to income equality in the chart and to me seem to suggest there is some cherry-picking of data going on, despite what professor Wilkinson says at the end.

 

I'm not sure I would rely on a quick Google search to determine whether is cherry-picking of data going on.  I'm sure there are peer reviews that discuss the methodology of the guy's research and that find that his data has or has not been cherry-picked.  I could be convinced that there's something wrong about his presentation if you could cite those critiques.

I didn't determine anything from that, although I find it very curious that the Scandinavian countries are left out of that chart and since I'm aware that rising mental health problems are a big part of our domestic debate it got me a bit suspicious. That there wouldn't be comparable statistics for Scandinavia strikes me as pure nonsense (the Nordic countries probably have more extensive data on their populations in all respects than any other country and the suggestion that they wouldn't fit with the other data while numbers from a dozen separate countries can be justly compared seem far-fetched), which was what he seemed to suggest in the last part of the speech. That then begs the question: why are the numbers left out?

 

Of course I'm not critiquing his research - I'm not competent to do that - but his presentation is clearly lacking in that specific area, whatever the reason for that is. As for the numbers I googled: like I said they are from SCB, the government agency that handles official statistics in Sweden, and should therefore have been subject to severe scrutiny. But since I don't know what methodology was used for the data in the chart professor Wilkinson presented, I cannot make a direct comparison (although anything but a self-report questionnaire would be unlikely). What those numbers seem to suggest to me is that there is an untold story, though. I don't know how anyone could disagree with that.

 

The accuracy of his research or even the rest of his presentation was not something that I addressed.

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Interesting TED talk on various correlations associated with income inequality.

 

Would love to see the details of the data behind the mental illness chart at 6:46. Cultural differences seem more relevant (for data quality purposes) than correlation to income inequality. Let's interview some Japanese, Spaniards and Italians on their stance towards mental illness and compare with the rest... Also, the Scandinavian countries are conspicously missing, whilst they are present on every other chart. I find it extremely hard to believe that there is no comparable data from our countries on that.

 

A quick google gave me some numbers on Sweden from our government statistics bureau. Self-reported numbers of 23% of women ages 16-84 feeling mentally unwell and 13% of men. I don't know if those numbers are comparable to the statistic that is reported in the chart, but if they are they would emphatically break the correlation to income equality in the chart and to me seem to suggest there is some cherry-picking of data going on, despite what professor Wilkinson says at the end.

 

I'm not sure I would rely on a quick Google search to determine whether is cherry-picking of data going on.  I'm sure there are peer reviews that discuss the methodology of the guy's research and that find that his data has or has not been cherry-picked.  I could be convinced that there's something wrong about his presentation if you could cite those critiques.

I didn't determine anything from that, although I find it very curious that the Scandinavian countries are left out of that chart and since I'm aware that rising mental health problems are a big part of our domestic debate it got me a bit suspicious. That there wouldn't be comparable statistics for Scandinavia strikes me as pure nonsense (the Nordic countries probably have more extensive data on their populations in all respects than any other country and the suggestion that they wouldn't fit with the other data while numbers from a dozen separate countries can be justly compared seem far-fetched), which was what he seemed to suggest in the last part of the speech. That then begs the question: why are the numbers left out?

 

Of course I'm not critiquing his research - I'm not competent to do that - but his presentation is clearly lacking in that specific area, whatever the reason for that is. As for the numbers I googled: like I said they are from SCB, the government agency that handles official statistics in Sweden, and should therefore have been subject to severe scrutiny. But since I don't know what methodology was used for the data in the chart professor Wilkinson presented, I cannot make a direct comparison (although anything but a self-report questionnaire would be unlikely). What those numbers seem to suggest to me is that there is an untold story, though. I don't know how anyone could disagree with that.

 

The accuracy of his research or even the rest of his presentation was not something that I addressed.

 

My apologies.  I may have read more into your post than what you were saying.

 

Your point is well taken -- it is odd, indeed, that he does not present any data on the Scandinavian countries on the mental illness chart. 

 

I think it makes sense to be a little skeptical.  I don't know enough about the guy's political background or the methodology of the study to comment on the accuracy of the research either. 

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