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Evidence shows that affluence in the US is much more fluid and widespread than the rigid class structure narrative suggests

AEIdeas

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Most of the discussions on income inequality, the reviled “top 1%,” and the hand-wringing about the share of income or wealth going to the “top 1%” typically assume that the top 1/5/10% and bottom 99/95/90% percentile groups by income (pick your favorite percentage) operate like private clubs that are closed to new members. That is, many people assume that various income groups are static and fixed, with very little movement or fluidity among those income groups over one’s career or lifetime. Start out life in the bottom 20% or bottom 50%? Too bad, you’re stuck there forever no matter how hard you try or work, and you can forget about ever being part of the top 1/5/10%. Born into the top 1/5/20%? Great, you’ve got a lifetime membership in that static, closed group.

That rather simplistic interpretation of a static economy is really nothing like the very fluid and dynamic world we actually live in, with significant degrees of income and wealth mobility/fluidity over one’s lifetime. That’s the main conclusion of a new study titled “The Life Course Dynamics of Affluence” by Thomas Hirschl and Mark Rank, based on an empirical investigation of individual lifetime income data in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics over a 44-year period.

For example, one of the authors’ key findings is that by age 60, nearly 70% of the US population experienced at least one year in the top 20% by income, more than half (53.1%) were in the top 10% for at least one year, more than one-third (36.4%) spent at least one year in the top 5%, and 11.1% (one out of nine) spent at least one year with income in the top 1% (see top chart above). Those findings of significant income fluidity for one year periods are further supported when the authors look at longer time periods. For example, although 11.1% of  Americans made it into the top 1% for at least one year, only 1.1% (1 in 91) of Americans stayed in the top 1% for ten years or more during their lifetimes, and only about half that amount (0.60%, or 1 in 167) were able to stay in the top 1% for ten consecutive years (see bottom chart above). That should shatter the myth that the top 1% is a fixed club closed to new members! Likewise, more than 1 out of 3 Americans (36.4%) spent at least a year in the top 5%, but only about 1 in 15 (6.6%) remained there for ten years or more, and only about 1 in 27 (3.7%) spent 10 consecutive years in the top 5%. Lots of movement and fluidity.

Here is a summary of the main findings of the study (emphasis added):

1. There is substantial fluidity in top-level income over ages 25 to 60. Thus a static image of top-level income tenure is at odds with the empirics of how people live out their life course.

2. The study findings indicate that top-level income categories are heterogeneous with respect to time, comprised of a relatively small set of persistent members, and a larger set of short-term members. For example, although over half of the U.S. population experienced one or more years of top 10th percentile income, only about half of this set attained top 10th percentile income for three consecutive years, and fewer than 7 percent persisted at this level for 10 consecutive years. Thus the lifetime top 10th percentile is mostly transitory, moving in and out of this percentile over the life course.

3. There are two contentious social implications related to the finding that top-level income is fluid across time. One is that there is widespread opportunity for top-level income. The opportunity to attain top-level income is widely accessed, and many reap the benefits of opportunity. It is also the case that attaining top-level income in one year does not necessarily predict it for the following year. Indeed, most who attain top-level income do so for a limited number of years, and to the extent that they have expectations of persistence, have some probability of experiencing insecurity relative to their expectations. Income fluidity is a double-edged sword, creating opportunity for many, along with insecurity that this opportunity may end sooner than hoped for.

4. We interpret the widespread attainment of top-level income as materially consistent with the way the majority of Americans tend to characterize their society. In a recently published study, we report evidence that most Americans hold fast to the belief that hard work will be rewarded economically, and the present study finds evidence that many Americans do, in fact, attain top-level income. This evidence is counter-intuitive vis-à-vis popular interpretations regarding the 1 percent versus the 99 percent, and we believe that our findings serve to qualify these interpretations. When interpreting social and economic relationships and trends, it is important to consider not simply one, or even many, cross-sections in time, but also the extent of social and economic mobility across the life course. Individuals experience their lives not as a disconnected set of years, but rather as a continuous lifetime of experience.

MP: Thanks to Thomas Hirschl and Mark Rank for bringing some much-needed attention to the significant income mobility and fluidity in the American economy, which directly contradicts the narrative we hear all the time of a rigid class structure based on static income groups like the top 1/5/10%, a static bottom 20/50/99%, etc.

As one of the authors (Mark Rank) pointed out last year in the New York Times:

It is clear that the image of a static 1 and 99 percent is largely incorrect. The majority of Americans will experience at least one year of affluence at some point during their working careers. (This is just as true at the bottom of the income distribution scale, where 54 percent of Americans will experience poverty or near poverty at least once between the ages of 25 and 60).

Ultimately, this information casts serious doubt on the notion of a rigid class structure in the United States based upon income. It suggests that the United States is indeed a land of opportunity, that the American dream is still possible — but that it is also a land of widespread poverty. And rather than being a place of static, income-based social tiers, America is a place where a large majority of people will experience either wealth or poverty — or both — during their lifetimes.

Rather than talking about the 1 percent and the 99 percent as if they were forever fixed, it would make much more sense to talk about the fact that Americans are likely to be exposed to both prosperity and poverty during their lives, and to shape our policies accordingly. As such, we have much more in common with one another than we dare to realize.

Discussion (62 comments)

  1. Phil says:

    An important message, but a bit imprecise. Affluence is synonymous with wealth, not income. There is a significant difference in the fluidity between groups of wealth holders and groups of income earners. Most of the stereotyping of Top 1%ers is in regard to wealth, not income.

    1. Matt Osterndorf says:

      Well, sure, but then everyone turns around and talks about income inequality.

  2. Joe B. says:

    If this is true, when we tax “the top 1 percent,” we are not engaging in class warfare, but just taxing ourselves when we have a good year and can afford a slightly higher level of taxes.

    1. morganovich says:

      that’s a foolish comment even for you bunny.

      the fact that the members of a group change over time does not mean you cannot discriminate against the group, nor does it mitigate the economically bad effects that come from reallocating capital from the most productive to the least.

  3. Greg G says:

    This was an excellent post but I expect it will be missed by many commenters that it undermines BOTH the narrative that income inequality is unfair AND the narrative that a robust social safety net is unfair.

    To the extent that we all move through the various stages of earning income and receiving safety net benefits the alleged unfairness of it all tends to be substantially mitigated.

    1. givemefreedom says:

      Greg G: “This was an excellent post but I expect it will be missed by many commenters that it undermines BOTH the narrative that income inequality is unfair AND the narrative that a robust social safety net is unfair.”

      Most here do not argue that a robust social safety net is unfair. What I more commonly read in comments, and in fact agree with, is that incentives matter. If you incentivise being poor by having a robust safety net then you will end up with more poor people who are relying on said safety net.

      That is a completely different argument than what your personal bias is describing our arguments on income redistribution.

      1. Greg G says:

        gmf,

        But the social safety net IS the main mechanism through which income redistribution is done. I don’t really understand why you think these are two completely different arguments.

        Yes, incentives matter and there are always trade offs. If you had a policy of executing all the poor people then more people would be incentivized to avoid poverty. That’s a separate question from whether or not it is a good policy when all the trade offs are considered.

        1. givemefreedom says:

          Greg: “But the social safety net IS the main mechanism through which income redistribution is done. I don’t really understand why you think these are two completely different arguments.”

          I said that the argument you claimed many posters here make (the narrative that a robust social safety net is unfair) is a completely different argument than what most posters here actually do make (incentives matter. If you incentivise being poor by having a robust safety net then you will end up with more poor people who are relying on said safety net.)

          Those are the 2 arguments I was talking about.

          To the extent that the robust safety net is unfair, it is unfair to the unfortunate people who are lured onto it and then incentivised to stay on it, thereby removing hope of bettering there own situation…..in short incentives matter and it is unfair to give these disadvantaged people incentives that keep them dependent on the state.

          Are you arguing that incentives do not matter? if you are not, then are you arguing that a robust safety net (lets call it what it is shall we, a overly generous state welfare system), that an overly generous state welfare system is not an incentive for people to stay on welfare and avoid trying to improve their situation on their own?

          1. Greg G says:

            gmf,

            You ask, “Are you arguing that incentives do not matter?”

            Apparently you didn’t read the comment you were responding to because, in it I said, “Yes, incentives matter and there are always trade offs.” I don’t know how to state that any more clearly.

            Incentives always matter but they are rarely the only thing that matters.

            You are suggesting that you know just how much of a social safety net is correct and just how much is “overly generous.”

            I am more inclined to think that any increase in the safety net will provide some benefits to additional people in genuine need and some to additional malingerers.

            Likewise, any decrease is likely to cut benefits to some in both of those groups.

            Of course everyone is opposed by definition to what they see as “overly generous.” How do you feel about “waste, fraud and abuse”?

            It would seem that you see the welfare life as a lot more appealing than I do. It doesn’t look that great to me and I don’t believe that many people really want to be there.

          2. givemefreedom says:

            I just remembered why I stopped bothering to engage with you a while back. It is pointless and not worth my time.

            Your posts remind me of another poster who also went by ***** G.

          3. Greg G says:

            So you demonstrate your intention to disengage by spending more of your valuable time announcing your disengagement with me.

            Hilarious. I’ll try to cope somehow.

          4. Steven Hales says:

            Greg G: You are engaging in moving the goalposts. This is a tiresome exercise of devolving an argument through endless questions. In the end GMF gave up because of that not because he disengaged but because you weren’t interested in cordial debate.

          5. Greg G says:

            Steven,

            Endless questions? I asked gmf a grand total of exactly one question in my three responses to him and that was the rhetorical question about waste, fraud and abuse which I did not expect or receive an answer to.

      2. Seattle Sam says:

        Yes, incentives matter. Compared to the US, taxes in China are terribly “unfair”. Corporate rates are much lower. They have no inheritance taxes. There are no state and local taxes. People cannot live better on welfare than they can working. They also have a growth rate 5X what we do. Fairness has a cost. You can’t assume it away.

    2. morganovich says:

      greg-

      actually, no, it does not.

      you are comparing apples and oranges and using the word “fair” in a highly inconsistent manner.

      we can say that the distribution of income is fluid and that many people get a turn at the top.

      we can call this fair for a number of reasons, but the primary one is that people get to keep what they make and that the opportunity to succeed seems widespread.

      but that does NOT imply that it is fair to expect to get to the top.

      to do so requires effort. it is the opposite of fair to expect to gain the rewards of hard work without doing the work.

      it is most emphatically NOT fair for everyone to get a turn at the top regardless of effort, skill, and ability.

      so, the idea that having opportunity to work hard, succeed, and reap the fruits of your labor is fair, but equal outcomes regardless of effort are not fair.

      we can then take this further and ask “why is it fair for you to take from me without my consent because i worked hard and you did not?”

      that is what a welfare state does.

      you are mistaking “even spread” with “fair”.

      they are not the same thing at all.

      if you are fast and i am slow and we run in many races, you will win a lot and i will not.

      THAT is fair.

      if we seek to even out the spread of wins so i get more, that is unfair.

      the notion that opportunity to earn well is present in no way justifies or renders “fair” the idea of taking from those who work hard to give to those who do not.

      saying that “affluence in the US is much more fluid and widespread than the rigid class structure narrative suggests” says absolutely nothing about whether a welfare state is fair.

      1. morganovich says:

        g-

        i would also point out that mark said absolutely nothing about fairness. in fact, the word “fair” does not appear once in his piece.

        he speaks very specifically about mobility and whether or not a system is static, but you are the one injecting the concept of “fair” here.

        in doing so, i believe you have misinterpreted mark’s piece and shifted the discussion to a completely different and untenable area.

        the data above says NOTHING about fairness of income or welfare.

        if we looked at a system where 11% got to be in the top 1% and another where 40% did, we would have no basis at all to judge which was more fair. the latter system might well be the result of incredibly unfair practices (like massive income leveling without regard to ability or effort).

        i think you are trying to take this data into a realm where it cannot speak to the issues you are raising.

      2. Greg G says:

        morganovich,

        First of all, thank you for showing gmf that it is quite common to see people argue here that a robust social safety net is unfair. I knew that wouldn’t take long.

        Of course it is true that different people are likely to have a variety of different views on exactly what is fair.

        I have yet to meet anyone who thinks that everyone deserves “equal outcomes regardless of effort.” Perhaps you can find such a person. In any event that is not my view and we are very, very far from a system where everyone gets a turn at the top (which is as it should be).

        My use of the word “fair” is much closer to the mainstream linguistic conventions of English than yours. Please understand that this is a claim about how language works, not a claim that the policy I advocate is right because it is popular.

        Ironically, language is the most voluntaristic, anarchistic and bottom up of all human practices. Everyone gets decide the meanings they want to attach to what they say and hear. Language is entirely conventional. The word meanings that are shared by the largest number of people are those that are most “correct” at any given time since the purpose of language is to be understood.

        Arguing that most people are using the language wrong is self-defeating. Very few people think that the wealthiest people in America are victims of economic unfairness (present company excepted of course).

        1. Greg G says:

          morganovich,

          You may well be right that Mark intended and preferred a discussion about mobility to one about fairness. So what? One of the things I often like about his posts is that they often open the door to discussions of other related but slightly different issues.

          You are the one always complaining that it is unfair to tax one person to benefit another. To whatever extent that there is more mobility than people realize, people are paying for their own benefits more than they realize. That seems a relevant point to me.

        2. morganovich says:

          greg-

          1. you use of fair is inconsistent and unsupportable. there is nothing in this data that says ANYTHING about fairness. just fluidity and prevalence. it cannot even be used to address the argument you are raising.

          2. your logic is similarly inconsistent. even if we have a system that is “fair” in terms of income distribution, this says nothing, a priori, about whether a welfare system is fair at all.

          try diagramming your logic.

          it will not hold.

          you are equating fluidity with fairness. those are NOT synonyms.

          your logic looks like this:

          the spots in the top of the income ladder are fluid.

          the people at the top pay for the welfare state.

          thus, a welfare state is fair.

          it’s a massive assumptive fallacy.

          the only statement you can prove from that is that “the people who pay for the welfare state are fluid”.

          that says absolutely nothing about whether, on its face taking from some and giving to others by force is fair.

          you are completely begging the question and assuming your conclusion.

          my point is simple: your conclusion is not supportable from the data. your reasoning is assumptive.

          you would need to explain, from first principles, why using the coercive will of the majority is “fair” to take from some and give to others. when those whose property is taken have what they built taken against their will, how do you describe that as fair using any but an appeal to practice fallacy?

          i’ll bet you cannot.

          hint:

          this is an appeal to practice fallacy:

          “Very few people think that the wealthiest people in America are victims of economic unfairness (present company excepted of course).”

          you can always go after 10% of any population and mistreat them and claim that most people do not feel mistreated.

          at the heart of your argument is this:

          you call it “fair” for the majority to coerce the minority.

          would you make that argument around slavery or the disenfranchisement of irish people?

          i doubt that very much.

          you are clinging to a specialized and inconsistent use and a vast semantic distortion.

          please explain from first principles how it would be “fair” for the majority of us here on CD to vote that you must pay us each $20 and imprison you and seize your assets by for4ce if you refuse.

          1. morganovich says:

            greg-

            also note:

            you are erecting a serious straw man here and putting word in my mouth.

            you claim:

            “First of all, thank you for showing gmf that it is quite common to see people argue here that a robust social safety net is unfair. I knew that wouldn’t take long.”

            i did nothing of the sort.

            in fact, i made no comment about whether a welfare state is fair or not at all.

            all i did was point out the logical faults in your comment.

            i am simply pointing out that, at core, your logic is bad.

            because the top income percentiles are mobile does speaks to the movement of people based upon their own voluntary actions.

            to equate that with the assumption that therefore coercion is fair is simply untenable.

            it’s not a valid construction.

            it’s apples and oranges.

          2. Greg G says:

            morganovich,

            You are right about us disagreeing on first principles but wrong about me making an appeal to practice argument. I was quite clear that my point about “practice” was in regard to the practice of linguistic conventions and not a moral justification for policy.

            Our first principles disagreement comes down to the fact that you think politics and ethics work through unchanging physics-like laws that you have a full understanding of and I think they are the messy result of evolution and all policies have unintended consequences and involve unwanted trade-offs.

            You think positive rights are illegitimate and I think they are crucial. Do you think that, if people are accused of a serious crime, they have the right to a fair trial before they are punished?

            If so, you are asserting a positive right. If not, your libertarian world sounds like a dystopian nightmare to me. Trials are expensive and the accused will not always be able to afford the cost.

            As I understand it you are not an anarcho-capitalist. ALL taxation is a redistribution of income through threat of force. You are happy enough to have government perform the functions you think it should perform. How do you justify that?

          3. Ron H. says:

            Greg

            Do you think that, if people are accused of a serious crime, they have the right to a fair trial before they are punished?

            Interesting. actually, I would say that people have a negative right to not be unjustly punished. The concept of a “fair trial” is societies way of attempting to help ensure that outcome as often possible.

            Based on your question, may I assume you also believe that there are “crimes against the state”?

          4. Ron H. says:

            Greg

            Do you think that, if people are accused of a serious crime, they have the right to a fair trial before they are punished?

            Interesting. actually, I would say that people have a negative right to not be unjustly punished. The concept of a “fair trial” is society’s way of attempting to help ensure that outcome as often possible.

            As I’m sure you’re aware, a trial by a jury of one’s peers is a defense against the tyranny of the state.

            The positive rights you believe are crucial, require that one person be placed in service of another, against their will if necessary. Not sure how you justify that.

          5. Greg G says:

            Ron,

            >—” I would say that people have a negative right to not be unjustly punished.”

            That is just a transparent linguistic dodge. It’s like if I said you have a negative right to not be unjustly denied food, shelter, medical care or whatever.

            Of course we are all against injustice. When you smuggle in the word “unjustly” you are simply begging the question.

            The right to a fair trial is quite unambiguously a positive right. Trials are expensive and many defendants cannot afford to pay for them. That means if they are to happen someone else will have to pay.

            Being a member of a social species does mean that, to some extent we are in the service of one another.

          6. Ron H. says:

            Greg

            That is just a transparent linguistic dodge. It’s like if I said you have a negative right to not be unjustly denied food, shelter, medical care or whatever.

            Not a dodge at all. You may be having trouble with the concept of negative rights. You have no positive right to food, shelter, medical care, or anything else. You DO have a negative right to not be kept from seeking them on your own.

            You have no right to a job or to a “living wage”, but you have a right to seek one.

            You have a right to seek an abortion, but no one is obligated to provide you with one.

            I have a moral obligation to help that starving child on my doorstep, but he has no positive right to be fed.

            You have a right to a ham sandwich but no one may be forced to make you one.

            Hope that helps clear things up.

            Perhaps you could more accurately say that people are entitled to a fair trial because others wish it to be that way.

            Being a member of a social species does mean that, to some extent we are in the service of one another.

            Yes, Adam Smith understood that. We serve others in order to promote our own self interest. Everyone wins.

          7. Greg G says:

            Ron,

            I am afraid that your discovering a “right to a ham sandwich” while denying a right to a fair trial didn’t help clear things up at all.

          8. Greg G says:

            Ron,

            >—“Yes, Adam Smith understood that. ”

            He sure did. He was not an anarcho-capitalist and was unapologetic about the need for the state to exist.

          9. Ron H. says:

            Greg

            It seems you are conflating rights and privileges.

          10. Ron H. says:

            Greg

            He sure did. He was not an anarcho-capitalist and was unapologetic about the need for the state to exist.

            Well, no one’s perfect. He got enough things right that his economic insights are well regarded to this very day.

          11. Greg G says:

            Ron,

            You have yet to explain why the right to a fair trial is not a valid right. Does any of the following sound familiar from the Bill of RIGHTS?

            Amendment VI

            In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

          12. Ron H. says:

            Greg

            You have yet to explain why the right to a fair trial is not a valid right. Does any of the following sound familiar from the Bill of RIGHTS?

            Unlike natural rights which are part of our nature as human beings, and which pretty much all living creatures instinctively act to defend, the Bill of Rights includes specific prohibitions against actions by the state against individuals.

            In your example, the state must provide a process known as a “fair trial” to any individual accused by the state of a crime.

            If you believe a group of people can grant “rights” to an individual, then you are correct to call them “rights”, but the state could as easily take those “rights” away, so you could also say that my rights are whatever you say they are.

            Not a very satisfying definition of rights.

            Notice that the 6th Amendment allows the state to “compel” witnesses. Hardly an ideal source of truth. The state also compels jury service, although I’m not aware of anyone being prosecuted for ignoring a summons.

          13. Greg G says:

            Ron

            Yes, I do believe that rights are to be found in the behavior, traditions and institutions of people. I do not believe they have some independent Platonic metaphysical existence apart from human actions.

            And yes, human behavior in this regard can often be “not very satisfying.” Reality is often not as satisfying as we would like. You don’t have to go far back in human history to find modern notions of human rights nearly completely absent.

            Instinctive actions by animals in nature are far more likely to demonstrate aggression than a concept of rights. I believe in evolution through natural selection and I can’t see how it makes any sense at all to think that humans evolved from much simpler forms of life but their rights weren’t subject to any such evolution.

          14. Ron H. says:

            Greg

            New thread at bottom.

        3. Ron H. says:

          Greg

          First of all, thank you for showing gmf that it is quite common to see people argue here that a robust social safety net is unfair. I knew that wouldn’t take long.

          You are missing the point. It isn’t a robust social safety net that’s unfair, it is forcing people to contribute to such a system that is unfair.

          1. Paul says:

            It isn’t a robust social safety net that’s unfair. it is forcing people to contribute to such a system that is unfair.

            And it’s also unfair that said contributors are forced to absorb the dysfunction that is turbo-charged by the so-called “safety net.”

            I’ll laugh like a hyena if Obama’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing comes to Greg’s neighborhood.

          2. Greg G says:

            Ron,

            Yes, I fully understand that it is the mandatory nature of the contributions to our social safety net that that you object to.

            In light of all the squealing about it I just assumed that was part of the background knowledge assumed by all parties to the discussion. I didn’t realize anyone thought anyone was unaware of that but I am happy to acknowledge your point and clear up that confusion.

          3. Greg G says:

            Paul,

            Did you even read the article you linked to? The Fair Housing Act is not an Obama initiative. It is 47 years old.

            I’m also pretty sure Obama wasn’t responsible for the stuff shown in the three minute video of broken windows and menacing music. I suppose this is what passes for an argument in your world.

            As It happens, we had a black family as next door neighbors for several years recently. They were fine neighbors. Back in 1968 there were no black families in this neighborhood.

          4. Paul says:

            Greg,

            “The Fair Housing Act is not an Obama initiative. It is 47 years old.”

            So who said it was? My point was about how the safety net subsidizes bad behavior and then victimizes the people who are forced to fund it.

            I’m also pretty sure Obama wasn’t responsible for the stuff shown in the three minute video of broken windows and menacing music.

            Again, nobody claimed otherwise. AFFH is a new initiative from President Wrecking Ball. It promises to expand those broken windows and the menacing music to nice neighborhoods all across the country.

            As It happens, we had a black family as next door neighbors for several years recently.

            Non-sequitur. The topic, and I believe you brought it up, was the “safety net.”

          5. Che is dead says:

            “Non-sequitur. The topic, and I believe you brought it up, was the “safety net.”

            Yes, but Greg knows black people, so he wins by default. Where have you been?

          6. Greg G says:

            Paul,

            I brought up fairness and, as usual YOU brought up race. See if this sounds familiar:

            >—“I’ll laugh like a hyena if Obama’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing comes to Greg’s neighborhood.”

          7. Paul says:

            Greg,

            LOL. I bring up an expansion of the “safety net” and you immediately think “black people.”

            Tsk. Tsk. Your liberal friends would not be pleased.

          8. Greg G says:

            Paul,

            Actually you brought up Fair Housing legislation which is all about promoting integration. Then you suggested you would “laugh like a hyena” if such a thing came to my neighborhood. That did cause me to remember your many previous comments about black people.

            If anyone else doesn’t like my comments their disapproval won’t worry me any more than yours does.

          9. Ron H. says:

            Greg

            I will quote your earlier comment:

            This was an excellent post but I expect it will be missed by many commenters that it undermines BOTH the narrative that income inequality is unfair AND the narrative that a robust social safety net is unfair.

            If everyone understands that it’s the mandatory nature of contributing to a safety net, that is objectionable, then how, exactly, is that objection undermines by a post in income mobility – something that results mostly from voluntary actions?

            It is equally as objectionable to be required to contribute to your own past or future well-being as it is to be required to contribute to the well-being of unknown others.

          10. Paul says:

            Actually you brought up Fair Housing legislation which is all about promoting integration.

            Wait…so your contention is only black people are eligible for Section 8, or Obama’s expansion of it via AFFH?

            You can go right to HUD’s website and see: “improving integrated living patterns and overcoming historic patterns of segregation; reducing racial and ethnic concentrations of poverty; reducing disparities by race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, “

            http://www.huduser.org/portal/affht_pt.html

            I see lots of different groups there. But you only see black people, even though they are not even named specifically. LOL

  4. Todd Mason says:

    The study discusses “fairness” even if Dr Perry does not:

    “The demographic pattern of who gets top-level income is familiar and expected for researchers of U.S. social and economic inequality. Education, marriage, and race are among the strongest predictors of top-level income, and in particular the race effect suggests persisting
    patterns of social inequality related to past and present discrimination and exclusion. Thus it
    would be misguided to presume that top-level income attainment is solely a function of hard
    work, diligence, and equality of opportunity. A more nuanced interpretation includes the proposition
    that access to top–level income is influenced by historic patterns of race and class inequality.”

    And before Morganovich expounds (and expounds and expounds) let it be noted that the six poorest performing high schools in Chicago have exactly one Asian student and a smattering of Hispanics (aka exclusion.)

    1. Paul says:

      ” I was visiting my older sister shortly after I had begun working at the Wall Street Journal, and I was chatting with her daughter, my niece, who was maybe in the second grade at the time. I was asking her about school, her favorite subjects, that sort of thing, when she stopped me and said, “Uncle Jason, why you talk white?” Then she turned to her little friend who was there and said, “Don’t my uncle sound white? Why he tryin’ to sound so smart?”

      http://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/

      1. givemefreedom says:

        Thanks for the link Paul.

        Great speech from a clear thinking man.

      2. Ron H. says:

        Paul

        You’re aware that Jason Riley also advocates open borders, right?

    2. Ron H. says:

      And before Morganovich expounds (and expounds and expounds) let it be noted that the six poorest performing high schools in Chicago have exactly one Asian student and a smattering of Hispanics (aka exclusion.)

      One can only wonder why those schools discriminate against Asians and Hispanics. It’s just not fair. After all, Asians and Hispanic minority students deserve a shitty education too.

      School choice and vouchers would allow affluent suburban minority students to attend those dysfunctional schools also.

      Fairness demands it.

  5. Todd Mason says:

    The late historian Lawrence Levine wrote this groundbreaking book in 1978:
    http://www.amazon.com/Black-Culture-Consciousness-Afro-American-Thought/dp/019530568X

    The book argues that blacks talk “white” to whites and “black” to blacks to preserve a distinctive sense of themselves that doesn’t rely on white approval. I could name a couple dozen subcultures, from ’20s gangsters to today’s hipsters, who developed unique speech for the same purpose. So what say we toss a couple bronsons then maybe bust a moby, eh Puke?

    Better yet, you might read Levine’s book and see how much of your racism owes to plain ignorance.

    BTW the problem arises when black children, in their isolation, don’t see the need to talk “white.”

  6. Ron H. says:

    Todd

    BTW the problem arises when black children, in their isolation, don’t see the need to talk “white.”

    Well then, the simple solution is for black parents to periodically take their isolated children to settings where they can experience white folks speaking their native language.

  7. Ron H. says:

    Greg

    Yes, I do believe that rights are to be found in the behavior, traditions and institutions of people. I do not believe they have some independent Platonic metaphysical existence apart from human actions.

    What of the supposed natural rights to life, liberty, and property? Do they not exist outside of the behavior, traditions, and institutions of people?

    If they do not, then you must believe you can determine what my rights are, and of course I and my friends can determine what yours are. Might makes right, so to speak.

    Instinctive actions by animals in nature are far more likely to demonstrate aggression than a concept of rights.

    You can easily observe that any animal and any human will defend their lives, their liberty, and their property. It is an instinctive response that helps ensure the survival of the individual, and by extension the species. There is no thinking or conceptualizing required. The aggression you speak of is almost exclusively in the service of ensuring survival of the individual and the species: defending territory, acquiring mates and food, or defending young.

    I believe in evolution through natural selection…

    So do I.

    …and I can’t see how it makes any sense at all to think that humans evolved from much simpler forms of life but their rights weren’t subject to any such evolution.

    The rights you speak of are purely intellectual concepts, and as you point out, are very recent in human history. They reflect a growing recognition of individuals as sovereign. They have no basis in our hard wired evolutionary brains.

    We aren’t born with a sense of a fair trial or freedom of speech. That kind of abstract thinking is only possible when people’s basic needs are met consistently and they have time for idle thoughts beyond the source of their next meal.

    The concept of a fair trial, is not a universally held concept in the world even today. Would you say that human evolution has progressed at drastically different rates within the same species?

    1. Greg G says:

      Ron,

      We have been over this territory before. You want to talk about rights as a description of an optimal ethical situation building on a foundation of an-cap theory.

      I want to talk about rights as a description of the extent of actual human freedom in the real world building on the foundation of actual human history.

      You are very influenced by a desire to find a simple formula to cut the Gordian knot of ethical problems and you are very influenced by a desire to find a theory that is satisfying to you. I don’t believe that human evolution, history and behavior answer to our desire for simplicity and satisfaction.

      Obviously these two approaches will yield very different results.

      Of course different populations within the same species can evolve at very different rates when selection pressures on different populations are very different. Two caveats though: Almost all biological evolution looks very slow from the perspective of a single human life. And separate evolutionary characteristics of separate populations will quickly remix when interbreeding between these separate populations resumes.

      While biological evolution is slow, cultural evolution (especially in regard to ideas about human rights) can be astonishingly fast. Just look at the evolution of the actual exercise of human rights for racial minorities and homosexuals in our lifetimes.

      As recently as the 1960’s it was illegal in some American states for a black and white person to marry. They used to arrest people for that. Now people of different races but the same sex can marry. Even as these changes have happened in America there are other places in the world where the rights of racial minorities and homosexuals have worsened.

      So yes, the evolution, and particularly the cultural evolution of the exercise of human rights can proceed at very different rates within different populations.

      1. Ron H. says:

        Greg

        We have been over this territory before.

        Indeed we have! 🙂

        I want to talk about rights as a description of the extent of actual human freedom in the real world building on the foundation of actual human history.

        Actually I want to talk about rights as being inherent in our nature, and you want to consider them as privileges allowed by others.

        You are very influenced by a desire to find a simple formula to cut the Gordian knot of ethical problems…

        And I have a simple solution: What if we each leave other people alone to make their own choices and pursue their own interests if they aren’t interfering with our right to do the same?

        Just look at the evolution of the actual exercise of human rights for racial minorities and homosexuals in our lifetimes.

        That’s correct. Did minorities and homosexuals have those rights all along, or were they only invented recently? Having rights and being permitted are not the same thing.

        As recently as the 1960’s it was illegal in some American states for a black and white person to marry. They used to arrest people for that. Now people of different races but the same sex can marry.

        Assuming you see this as a positive development, as I do, thank you for supporting my argument that people should be left alone to pursue their own interests. It is the *state* that forbade interracial and same-sex marriages. Such laws are perfect examples of one group of people forcing their will on peaceful others.

        Even as these changes have happened in America there are other places in the world where the rights of racial minorities and homosexuals have worsened.

        Or at least we are more aware of repression in other parts of the world – places with VERY strong state governments.

        1. Greg G says:

          Ron,

          I don’t think of rights as privileges allowed by others. That is just your misunderstanding of what I am saying.

          I think of rights as traditions and practices at first achieved only by those strong enough to claim and defend them…and then later institutionalized and extended to those too weak to defend themselves.

          Governments may or may not be used for this purpose but all the places where rights have been the most secure in human history are the places where there were governments able and willing to defend human rights.

          When you go back in human history you will find that oppression preceded nations states and governments by a lot. Homosexuals and racial minorities are now and long have been persecuted by non-state actors in many places.

          I have no problem with saying that a desire to preserve our own rights is inherent in human nature but it would seem that a desire to extend them to others is quite a bit less pervasive.

          You see the state as the biggest threat to human rights. I see it as having produced the biggest successes so far in institutionalizing rights…like the right to a fair trial for example.

          There are now a number of places in the world where national governments have broken down and lost their authority and ability to govern. We do not see a flowering of human rights in these regions. We see tribal violence and non-state actors crushing whatever instinctive desire for human rights people have. No matter how much you wish for it they don’t just leave other people alone in the absence of government.

          Yes, I know you can cite lots of examples of governments abusing people’s rights. What you can’t do is cite examples of rights advancing anywhere near as much in the absence of state authority as they often have done in its presence.

          1. Ron H. says:

            Greg

            I think of rights as traditions and practices at first achieved only by those strong enough to claim and defend them…and then later institutionalized and extended to those too weak to defend themselves.

            … extended by those strong enough to claim and defend them. The distinction between privileges and rights defined and extended by others is one that’s hard to see.

            My natural rights exist whether or not you acknowledge them and/or defend them. It’s possible for you to *violate* those rights, but you didn’t create them.

            Governments may or may not be used for this purpose but all the places where rights have been the most secure in human history are the places where there were governments able and willing to defend human rights.

            Government is a difficult word for me because it can mean so many different things – from small to large, and from an innocuous neighborhood watch committee to an oppressive Islamic State.

            I have no problem with people joining together for a common purpose, in fact that is source, in my view, of all the benefits you see in government. The key is choice.

            If I don’t want to join, I shouldn’t have to, and I will get none of the benefits of membership. The notion that I should be forced to join, pay dues and abide by the rules under threat of violence is not different than what is expected in the Islamic State except in degree. To believe I should be forced, is to believe that others, including you perhaps, know better than I do what is in my best interest.

            When you go back in human history you will find that oppression preceded nations states and governments by a lot.

            Yes, and I remember. You advocate the Biggest Bully” theory.

            Homosexuals and racial minorities are now and long have been persecuted by non-state actors in many places.

            AND by state actors. Not sure your point.

            I have no problem with saying that a desire to preserve our own rights is inherent in human nature but it would seem that a desire to extend them to others is quite a bit less pervasive.

            I see it as having produced the biggest successes so far in institutionalizing rights…like the right to a fair trial for example.

            Who, exactly, has a “right” to a fair trial? All people? citizens? If it’s all people, then how would you explain the detainees at Gitmo. Otherwise, you must explain why some people are more equal than others.

            There are now a number of places in the world where national governments have broken down and lost their authority and ability to govern.

            Hmm. What’s that saying? “Consent of the governed”? Did those governments lose popular support, or were they displaced by foreign military forces?

            We do not see a flowering of human rights in these regions. We see tribal violence and non-state actors crushing whatever instinctive desire for human rights people have. No matter how much you wish for it they don’t just leave other people alone in the absence of government.

            As I wrote, I’m not against government, I object to mandatory government.

          2. Greg G says:

            Ron,

            I have often heard you say that being governed by a nation state should be voluntary like being a member of a private club or bowling league. I have often heard you say that voters should have the choice of “none of the above” by which you meaning not being subject to the laws of the government unless you want to be.

            But that is simply not what it’s like to be a member of a social species. The idea that you can choose “none of the above” in regard to voluntary associations is an illusion. Even the most anti-social sociopaths experience the absence of all human contact as a kind of torture. You really do have to choose some from among the “voluntary” associations on offer. Everyone does. No one chooses none. Likewise you have to chose among the nations that the world has to offer when you decide where to live.

            In this regard I think family is a much better analogy to the nation state than a bowling league or private club is. A nation state is like a family in several ways and not only in the good ways.

            First of all, you are born into both nations and families without choosing them. In both cases they will make a lot of decisions that affect you but may not have your consent. In both cases they will provide you with some important benefits it would be hard to receive without them. In both cases you can choose to leave but it will be difficult.

            You have to chose among the “voluntary” associations the world has on offer. You have to choose among the products the marketplace has on offer. You have to choose among the nations that the world has on offer.

            In each case you may be disappointed by the choices available but the idea you can or should be able to just choose “none of the above” is a silly illusion.

            I am leaving early in the morning for a four day ski trip and not taking a computer so don’t count on a reply but I will check my phone to read your response. In the meantime you and other CD commenters may run amok without me correcting your errors. Enjoy.

          3. Ron H. says:

            Greg

            Hopefully my delayed response hasn’t caused you any distress. I hope you have enjoyed skiing rather than sitting in your room checking over and over for a response from me.

            I have often heard you say that being governed by a nation state should be voluntary like being a member of a private club or bowling league. I have often heard you say that voters should have the choice of “none of the above” by which you meaning not being subject to the laws of the government unless you want to be.

            That’s two different issues. First of all, I would question whether people need to be governed. People have fought for hundreds of years to get out from under a condition of being governed. Subjects are governed. Citizens establish governments to do their bidding.

            You have heard me say that I believe all membership should be voluntary, and you have heard me suggest that an additional box labeled “none of the above” on every ballot choice would allow people to reject ALL of the proffered candidates.

            A majority or plurality of “none of the above” would indicate that most people preferred that position not be filled. What could be more democratic than that, Mr. Majority Rule?

            But that is simply not what it’s like to be a member of a social species. The idea that you can choose “none of the above” in regard to voluntary associations is an illusion.

            But I didn’t suggest that. Obviously people prefer to associate with and work cooperatively with others, and find benefit in joint efforts.

            My objection, as always, is to forced inclusion.

            You really do have to choose some from among the “voluntary” associations on offer.”

            Or, if I none are satisfactory. I can join with others to form a new one. There is not a limited number of possible associations.

            Likewise you have to chose among the nations that the world has to offer when you decide where to live.

            Or perhaps I can join with other like minded individuals to form my own.

            In this regard I think family is a much better analogy to the nation state than a bowling league or private club is.

            First of all, you are born into both nat”ions and families without choosing them. In both cases they will make a lot of decisions that affect you but may not have your consent.

            Sure, and for children this is a good arrangement. As a child I benefited from membership in the family into which I was born. When I grew up I left that “club”, and with a like minded other, formed a family of my own.

            In both cases they will provide you with some important benefits it would be hard to receive without them.

            And now that I’m no longer a child, I can provide my own benefits, and make my own choices. Unlike a family, a nation state never let’s go. I will always be a child to my nation state, require help from “those who know best” and will be forced to pay for that help.

            You have to choose among the products the marketplace has on offer.

            And those choices are virtually unlimited. Unlike a nation state, actors in the marketplace must offer me things I want and need. My nation state provides me with a very limited number of things whether I want them or not, and forces me to pay for them. I can’t choose a competitor’s product.

    2. Todd Mason says:

      > They have no basis in our hard wired evolutionary brains.

      Umm, yes, they have. Even chimpanzees have a well developed sense of fairness.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/wildlife/9801946/Chimpanzees-have-sense-of-fairness.html

      1. Ron H. says:

        Umm, yes, they have. Even chimpanzees have a well developed sense of fairness.

        Actually, no. The Ultimatum Game, as described in the article only demonstrates that the ‘proposer’ prefers getting something to getting nothing, and the ‘acceptor/decliner’ would prefer nothing to seeing their partner get a larger share.

        True fairness would require that there be no negative consequences for being selfish.

        1. Todd Mason says:

          Umm, wrong again. Fairness is simply evenhandedness without any emotional or philosophical baggage. What you describe is altruism, which is clearly beyond monkeys, not to mention many/most humans.
          Turn it around if you prefer. A chimp who gets a cucumber slice instead of the grapes his mates are eating will hurl it back in anger.

          http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/09/18/349514734/life-s-unfair-but-chimps-and-humans-know-when-to-even-the-score

          In species as highly cooperative as chimpanzees and humans, POed individuals are a detriment to group welfare, Ergo an innate sense expressed even by human toddlers: No fair!

  8. Tom Sullivan says:

    ” by age 60, nearly 70% of the US population experienced at least one year in the top 20% by income, ”

    I’m pretty sure you mean workers, not population.

    “Fair” is a nonsense word. It has little objective value. The komrades love it because they can use it as a weapon, forcing others to accept their criteria.

    Great article by great authors. Boy, I hate that evil 53.1% top 10% more than ever.

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