Anonymous asked: Uh huh uh huh sure yeah great uh huh totally yeah "we're all roman emperors now" yeah so what's all this quibbling about? The rich haven't made any gains at all! They're just like us now!! Thanks Friedman's!!!
I think a response in the spirit of Milton & Rose Friedman’s argument might be: “Provided you’re financially able to cover all the basic necessities of life, why should you care about the rich? And if you aren’t, what’s the use seething about it? Be happy with what you have.” Consider the following statistics (from globalrichlist.com, via pragcap):
- The median household income in the USA is roughly $50,500. Did you know that that is the top 0.27% of world incomes? That’s right. The average American is the global 1%. You think you have it bad? Most of us in the USA have no idea what “bad” even is.
- The average wage in the USA is $26.30 per hour - Meanwhile, the average labourer in Indonesia makes just $0.39 in the same time.
- The median household income is $50,500 per year in the USA. It would take the average labourer in Indonesia 68 years to earn the same amount.
- It takes you 2 minutes to earn enough for a can of soda. It takes the average laborer in Indonesia around 2 hours for it.
- Your monthly income could pay the monthly salaries of 226 doctors in Pakistan.
Obviously the purchasing power of a dollar is different in Indonesia than in the USA, which complicates things. For that reason the site lets you compare in terms of wealth. Median net worth was $126,400 in 2007, but dropped to $77,300 by 2010 because of the recession (via). You can enter the values into globalrichlist.com yourself. (The calculator doesn’t take into account proportions of home equity, value of possessions, and investments—all it cares about is the sum total.) They’re still pretty shocking.
Of course, there are many compilations of statistics telling horror stories about poverty in the USA, such as this one that I came across just today. I’ve posted several such compilations myself, because I’m interested in the data. But to act like the USA is a third world country (like that guy does) makes me want to hit my head against a wall. (So does attributing blame solely to Obama, but that’s another story.)
To me, any question about the ethics of capitalism (and national wealth distribution) is inseparable from global wealth distribution. And despite the way Marxists act (following Luxemburg), it is not self-evident that capitalism forces rich countries to exploit third world countries in order to stave off the law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit. So many people like to attribute all the evils of the world to capitalism because it’s nice and simple, and presents a clear prescriptive conclusion: get rid of capitalism. But I will repeat until I get hoarse, Chomsky demonstrates in perhaps the clearest possible way the contingency of the Marxist concept of capitalism—that you don’t need it in order to say that you don’t like the way the world is being run.
I’ll also repeat that Chomsky’s account leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to economics. But I know that Chomsky is the only person I can bring up in a conversation with anticapitalists that won’t cause me to be instantly ignored. There are maybe 50 theorists who anticapitalists will actually take seriously (e.g. Althusser, Debord, David Harvey, Richard Wolff), but as soon as I mention someone outside that circle (e.g. Amartya Sen, George Soros, or even freaking Dale Carnegie) I’m instantly dismissed as ‘corrupted by ideology’ or whatever. Someone once got to my wordpress blog with a google search about what Wittgenstein would have to say about the financial crisis. Wittgenstein didn’t even read the freaking newspaper! He made Sraffa recapitulate whatever recent events were going on before they could start talking about them. But of course, no one would think of seeing what an economist might have to say about the financial crisis, oh no! They’re all stupid, as demonstrated by the fact that they aren’t Marxists!
As I hope is obvious, I’m playing devil’s advocate, and am hardly an uncritical supporter of capitalism in all its aspects. But Milton & Rose Friedman make a valid point: as long as you look at historical growth of wealth in absolute rather than relative terms, capitalism looks pretty appealing. By acting as if they’re stupid, all you’re doing is showing that you’ve already decided your political position once and for all, and are screening out any ideas that contradict it.