MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Documenting Humanity's Great Escape from Abject Poverty: Angus Deaton

The Economics Nobel Laureate worries that crony capitalism will kill off economic growth

DeatonPrincetonThe Princeton economist Angus Deaton is singularly devoted to facts and close measurement. The latest winner of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, he is a fierce empiricist who deploys data to slay gauzy theoretical speculations on the sources of economic growth, poverty, and inequality. His work focuses on what counts as economic growth, how to properly measure what people consume, what actually makes them happy, and how development aid has utterly failed to help poor countries.

One of his studies involves the sex ratio between men and women, which is skewed unnaturally toward men in many poor countries. One popular theory in the 1980s for the differential survival of boys over girls was that tradition-minded families allocated more resources, chiefly food, to sons than to daughters. Deaton tested this hypothesis with data from careful surveys of how consumption changed after the birth of children in families in the Ivory Coast and Thailand. He found no significant differences in how resources were distributed between daughters and sons. The anomalous sex ratio in many poor countries must be the result of other dynamics, such as sex-selective abortions and the use of contraception once the desired number of sons is born.

NobelEconomicsNobel CommitteeMore recently, Deaton has been trying to figure out why the number of calories being consumed by people in India has apparently been declining over the past 25 years while their incomes have been increasing. Deaton suggests that Indians may be eating less because they are healthier (thus needing fewer calories to offset disease) and are engaged in less strenuous physical labor. Nevertheless, the undernutrition figures for the subcontinent remain among the highest in the world—that is, 50 percent of children are underweight for their ages and 50 percent of women have a low body mass index.

With regard to well-being, Deaton challenges the Easterlin paradox—the economist Richard Easterlin’s notion that after a certain level of income, more money can’t buy happiness. In 1974, Easterlin argued that that increasing average income did not raise average well-being. Among other evidence he cited survey data that showed that Americans in the 1970s were no happier than Americans in the 1940s, even though their incomes had basically doubled since then.

Deaton compared data that measure emotional well-being versus life evaluation. Emotional well-being does appear to top out at around $75,000 per year in the U.S. But there is no income satiation point using an 11-point life evaluation scale in which 0 represents a person’s worst possible life and 10 his or her best possible life. In general, the higher a person’s income, the more he or she is satisfied with the course of his or her life. It is certainly wonderful and valuable to enjoy the moment, but real and lasting pleasure comes from a life well lived.

GreatEscapeBookPrincetonIn his 2013 book The Great Escape, Deaton reprises his years of research on how, over the past 250 years, a significant proportion of the world’s people managed their “great escape” from humanity’s natural state of abject disease-ridden poverty and ignorance. “Life is better now than at almost any time in history,” he writes. “More people are richer and fewer people live in dire poverty. Lives are longer and parents no longer routinely watch a quarter of their children die.”

How did this great escape occur? Improving health played a big role. Citing English demographic data from 1550 to 1750, Deaton shows that average life expectancy during that period hovered around 35 years. The nobility generally had more food yet did not live any longer, so Deaton argues that “it was disease, not lack of nutrition, that set the limits on life expectancy.” After 1750, the life expectancy of British aristocrats began to increase while that of the commoners remained stuck. By 1850, aristocrats were living 20 years longer, on average, than commoners. Why? Deaton suggests that the divergence arose from different health habits, with the gentry having the wherewithal and knowledge to take advantage of fancy and expensive new medical technologies such as variolation to prevent smallpox and chinchona bark to treat malaria.

In the 19th century, wealthier folk were also the first to accept the germ theory of disease and adopt hygiene practices that fended off deadly infections. Once the germ theory of disease was widely accepted, public sanitation measures followed, including filtered municipal water supplies, pasteurized milk stations, and sewerage, reducing the toll of infectious diseases. The resulting decline in disease, debility, and death set off a virtuous feedback loop in which societies with improved health became ever more well-fed, productive, and innovative. With the spread of health and medical knowledge, life expectancy has increased from the global average of 35 years in 1900 to around 70 years today.

Now rapid growth in China, India, and other countries is propelling hundreds of millions out of poverty. “Both theory and experience suggest that economic growth is the surest and most lasting solution to poverty,” argues Deaton. In 1981, 42 percent of the world’s population lived on incomes beneath the World Bank’s international extreme poverty line. Since then the world gross product has just about tripled. Using its updated international extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day the World Bank in October forecasted that such poverty will fall from 902 million people or 12.8 per cent of the global population in 2012 to 702 million people, or 9.6 per cent of the world’s population in 2015.

Deaton thinks this mass escape from poverty has nothing to with the fact that rich countries of the world have spent around $5 trillion in real dollars in aid to poor countries since 1960. Rather than helping, aid from rich countries has far more often than not harmed the poverty-stricken in poor countries. That’s chiefly because aid goes to corrupt elites that maintain their power by buying off factions and then squirrel away what’s left over in their offshore bank accounts. Aid is a perverse incentive. It is not too much to say that more immiserated a tyrant keeps his people, the more aid will flow his way.

Deaton’s relentless empiricism is also his weakness: Throughout his work, he unsatisfactorily handwaves that economic growth is the result of the fact that a country had the luck to stumble into the right sort of “politics.” In fairness, he does observe in The Great Escape that poor countries remain poor because they “lack the institutions—government capacity, a functioning legal and tax system, security of property rights, and traditions of trust—that are a necessary background for growth to take place.” Absolutely correct as far as that goes, but he often confuses democracy with liberty. Ultimately, Deaton's analyses never grapple with how the undirected spontaneous activities enabled by the institutions of liberty initiate and sustain the "great escape" that his data and measurements so brilliantly document.

Looking to the future, Deaton is worried about the effects America’s rising inequality could have on future growth. Citing the work of the economic historian Eric Jones, Deaton observes that growth has from time to time taken off in various societies around the world only to be “snuffed out by powerful rulers or priests who either appropriated the innovations for themselves or banned the activity altogether because it threatened their own positions.” His chief concern is that the super-rich will capture our political system and seek to choke off the sources of Schumpeterian creative destruction that threaten to undermine their fortunes. Will a rising class of crony capitalists kill off economic growth here? Good question.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Shikha is the new Captain America?

    http://dailycaller.com/2015/10.....sue-video/

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    I have been more surprised at the sanity of the Economics prize selections than by the expected hand-wringing selections for the Peace prize. The Peace prize has been a joke for ages, probably going back before Kissinger, but that's the first one I remember.

  • Ivan Pike||

    The Peace prize has been a joke for ages, probably going back before Kissinger, but that's the first one I remember.

    Probably since this guy.


    Theodore Roosevelt

    Residence at the time of the award: USA

    Role: Collaborator of various peace treaties, President of United States of America

    Field: negotiation

    Prize share: 1/1
    Imperialist and Peace Arbitrator

    Theodore Roosevelt, President of the USA, received the Peace Prize for having negotiated peace in the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-5. He also resolved a dispute with Mexico by resorting to arbitration as recommended by the peace movement.

    Roosevelt was the first statesman to be awarded the Peace Prize, and for the first time the award was controversial. The Norwegian Left argued that Roosevelt was a "military mad" imperialist who completed the American conquest of the Philippines. Swedish newspapers wrote that Alfred Nobel was turning in his grave, and that Norway awarded the Peace Prize to Roosevelt in order to win powerful friends after the dramatic dissolution of the union with Sweden the previous year.

    In domestic policy, Roosevelt was a radical within the Republican Party. He went in for social reforms and for state control of big capital. Roosevelt's term as President ended in 1908. During World War I he tried in vain to be allowed to serve as an officer, and in 1919 he opposed US membership of the new League of Nations.
  • ||

    "Roosevelt was a radical within the Republican Party. He went in for social reforms and for state control of big capital"

    Not to be pedantic, but this was in no way "radical" for a Republican at the time - he was absolutely following in the footsteps of John Sherman in this.

    "Radical" was Taft embracing laissez-faire capitalism, which was a Democrat thing at the time.

  • Ivan Pike||

    The blockquote was from here:

    http://www.nobelprize.org/nobe.....facts.html

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Yeah, guess so, hadn't realized he'd gotten one. I usually figure Woodrow Wilson was the worst President ever, but sometimes I go for teddy for starting us on the road to empire, even thought that effort goes back at least to the Navy's buildup of modern steel warships in the 1880s, much more than was needed for any kind of coastal protection. But Teddy split the Republican vote which let Wilson win, so it's not hard to blame Teddy for Wilson.

  • ||

    "to the Navy's buildup of modern steel warships in the 1880s,"

    The navy was needed for protection of trade routes as well as costal protections.

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    Here is Peter Klein on Deaton:

    http://mises.org/blog/angus-de.....-economics

    And +1 to Bailey for calling this prize by the correct name, rather than the Nobel Prize in Economics, which it is not. Let's always remember that this is a prize awarded by a central bank.

  • toolkien||

    And yet the "learned" fears passed along by genetics are still with us, and we are neurotic and we'll invent the beast under the bed if there isn't one there. And we'll hire agents all too happy to swing wildly and broadly in the dark regardless of what chin the mailed fist hits - in a quest to kill or injure the beast. Is the choice between a short, itchy, smelly, drippy sored life and a life of fear drenched collectivism?

  • prolefeed||

    The anomalous sex ratio in many poor countries must be the result of other dynamics, such as ... the use of contraception once the desired number of sons is born.

    This makes no sense at all. Taking contraceptives does not retroactively change the approximately 50/50 distribution of gender of kids born before the contraception takes place.

  • Free Society||

    It makes some pretty decent sense actually. Let's suppose that a given society tends towards favoring boys and people tend to stop having kids once they have a boy, in a large enough group you'll see that 50/50 dichotomy erode and there would naturally be more boys in the population.

  • Free Society||

    maybe "naturally" isn't the best word

  • Zeb||

    Yeah. It's similar to the reason why there are more odd numbered street addresses than even. It becomes much less interesting once you realize why it is.

  • Illocust||

    What's the reason behind odd numbered street addresses?

  • Zeb||

    If there are an even number of houses on a street, then there are the same number with even and odd numbers. If there are an odd number, then there is one more odd numbered house.
    Of course, not all streets use all of the numbers, especially in rural areas. But assuming that is fairly random, it all works out.

  • Free Society||

    *mind explodes*

  • Illocust||

    Huh, that's pretty cool.

  • David Case||

    This is only true if the first house on streets with an odd number of houses has an odd number. Consider these 'streets' to see what I mean: 1,2,3 and 2,3,4. As long as the first house on a street has an equal chance of having an even number as an odd number there will be no more odd numbered houses.

  • Zeb||

    This is true. I don't know if anyone has tried to show empirically that it actually holds. It's just an amusing little thing that seems surprising until you think it through.

  • LarryA||

    ^This.

    The obvious exception is where a street's numbers start with 100, in which the effect is reversed.

  • ||

    The idea is that once you have a majority of boys, you stop. If you don't have a majority of boys, you keep going. This will skew the ratio in favor of more boys.

  • Cloudbuster||

    I dunno. I wrote a little perl script to test it empirically and that doesn't seem to be true. The version below caps the maximum family size, because running it without that cap sometimes produces outlier families with huge numbers of girls before you get to two boys, but no matter how I run it, the numbers of boys and girls run neck & neck and as often as not the number of girls slightly exceeds the number of boys. If, over a sufficiently large population, there's a boy-positive effect, it appears to be very minor.

    #!/usr/bin/perl

    $starting_couples = 1000000;

    $boys = 0;
    $girls = 0;
    $max_size_of_family;
    $min_size_of_family;
    $avg_size_of_family;
    $family_size_cap = 10;

    for ( $x = 0; $x < $starting_couples; $x++ ) {
    $f = 0;
    $b = 0;
    $g = 0;
    while ( $b < 2 and $f < $family_size_cap ) {
    $s = int(rand(2));
    ( $s ) ? ( $g++ ) : ( $b++ );
    $f++;
    }
    $boys += $b;
    $girls += $g;
    if ( $min_size_of_family == 0 or $f < $min_size_of_family ) {
    $min_size_of_family = $f;
    }
    if ( $f $max_size_of_family ) {
    $max_size_of_family = $f;
    }
    }

    $avg_size_of_family = int( ( $boys + $girls ) / $starting_couples );

    print "If each family stops reproducing when it has two boys:\n";
    print "A population of $starting_couples couples produced $boys boys and $girls girls.\nMaximum number of children per family was $max_size_of_family.\nMinumum number of children per family was $min_size_of_family.\nAverage number of children per family was $avg_size_of_family\n";

  • Cloudbuster||

    Note, my script stops when some particular desired number of boys is achieved -- 2 in the sample above. I didn't try it yet to check what happens when your goal is "majority boys" because that doesn't seem to me to be how people do it.

  • Cloudbuster||

    If you run the script with 'while ( $b

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    INTJizzy in the hizzy!

  • JWatts||

    I think you made a mistake somewhere. I coded your script into VBA and it shows a strong bias towards Boys. Around 50% more boys than girls.

  • JWatts||

    Ok, I found the bug in my code.

  • Ivan Pike||

    This makes no sense at all. Taking contraceptives does not retroactively change the approximately 50/50 distribution of gender of kids born before the contraception takes place.

    Probably not, but the part of the quote you left out probably accounts for the higher ratio of boys/girls.

  • ||

    Actually, the quote itself explains it.

  • Ivan Pike||

    Actually, the quote itself explains it.

    I agree with you. What I was saying is that the ratio would be higher if you also used sex-selective abortions. That would skew the normal distribution even more, no?

  • ||

    If everyone decided they would stop having children after their first boy, then half the time families would have one child, a boy, the other half they would have a boy plus however many girls it takes to get to a boy, with each attempt having half a chance of it being a boy and therefore no more girls.

    I'm too lazy to do that math but the distribution would definitely be greater than 50% boys.

  • Spartacus||

    It results in a 2:1 expected ratio, so 2/3 boys.

  • Spartacus||

    Sorry, I was thinking of a different problem. Actually, the expected number of girls in that distribution is also 1, so it would be 50-50.

  • kbolino||

    Indeed:

    Half the time, you get 1 boy.
    A quarter of the time, you get 1 boy and 1 girl.
    An eighth of the time, you get 1 boy and 2 girls.
    ...

    The expected number of girls is 0 + 1/4 + 2/8 + ... + n/2^(n+1) + ...
    The expected number of boys is 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + ... + 1/2^(n+1) + ...

    Both sums are equal to 1.

  • Spartacus||

    Yep. The first sum dates back to Richard Swineshead (or Swinsed), although Oresme often gets credit for it. The second one is obvious to anyone not named Zeno.

  • kbolino||

    I'm too lazy to do that math but the distribution would definitely be greater than 50% boys.

    I show the math in another reply, but no, the distribution would be exactly 50-50. Each time you fail to get a boy, you end up with another girl. The increasing number of girls "cancels out" the decreasing likelihood that there will be more of them.

    The more noteworthy outcome is that the steady-state population growth rate would be 0 absent other factors, since the expected number of children for a couple is exactly 2.

  • kbolino||

    Thinking more on the problem, it may be an unstated assumption that after a certain number of girls, people may stop trying to have boys (or, at least, become less likely to continue trying). But that would only tilt the distribution in favor of girls, not boys.

  • BigT||

    Each birth is an independent event, with a 50/50 ratio (actually just a bit above 50% boys). So it makes no difference how many kids of either sex that anyone had, the ratio remains 50/50 in the absence of sex selective abortion or infanticide.

    Math, it's hard.

  • Win Bear||

    Except that what you did isn't math, it's merely informal reasoning based on mathematical intuition.

  • johnl||

    No this is a very famous problem and the process leads to 5050. Cloudbuster posted a Perl script above but you could write a simulation in a sensible language too and you will get the same result.

  • johnl||

    Thank you prole. Ron Baily please pay attention to this because "use of contraception once the desired number of sons is born" can not change the ratio of baby genders. There is no reason why births avoided by contraception once the desired number of sons is born would have otherwise been mostly girls.

  • Faber||

    If I remember my biology correctly slightly more boys are born naturally. I have seen that is caused by the Y-chromosome being lighter and giving those sperm a better chance of reaching the egg. This is not a large difference (it works out to something like a 50.2/49.8 M/F ratio) but add in sex selective abortions and it can quickly become noticeable.

  • Free Society||

    Sort off track, I had a painful debate with my leftoid aunt the other day. She was asserting that GMOs are to blame for the rise in cancer rates. I told her the rise in cancer rates follows the rise in life expectancy and the increased ability of doctors to diagnose different cancers. She basically responded with "Nuh uh, Monsanto."

    Similarly, I won't hold my breath waiting for the left to acknowledge the failings of government policy and superiority of free markets in promoting wealth and health.

  • GILMORE™||

    "She was asserting that GMOs are to blame for the rise in cancer rates. I told her the rise in cancer rates follows the rise in life expectancy and the increased ability of doctors to diagnose different cancers. "

    You are right and she is wrong. But you knew that already.

    As they say, " You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into ""

    I've found on some of these "proggy-feelz" issues that its better to simply *say that* to people, hopefully in a way that makes them realize what they're doing... if only to leave you alone.

    i.e. "There's no point discussing this if its just "your belief" - its like a hindu debating cows with a cattle rancher. The discussion is cross-purposes - If you're interested in facts why you're incorrect, I can help. But i'm not going to 'debate' you when all you're doing is reinforcing an emotional conviction by lashing out."

    It doesn't always work, of course. I've gotten to that point and had otherwise-rational people say they still prefer the simplicity of their beliefs to a more-complex reality that provides no emptional-rewards.

  • Free Society||

    I think it does really boil down to an unwillingness of people to invest their intellectual energy into thinking these things out, since they've been getting by just fine up to this point with their head being full of nonsense.

  • american socialist||

    Yeah, we should just trust Monsanto, because libertarian-feelz

    http://www.chemicalindustryarc...../intro.asp

    I grew up in this town and the people these highly paid engineers were poisoning were pretty much all Black.

  • See Double You||

    *whoosh*

  • american socialist||

    Nono... I think I get it. Smug right-winger thinks Leftists are immune to empiricism or argument. Is that a fair assessment?

  • Sevo||

    american socialist|10.16.15 @ 11:08PM|#
    "Nono... I think I get it."

    Your problem is the assumption you are capable of thought. You're not.
    Fuck off, slaver.

  • JPyrate||

    So.. Biotechnology should be banned by a government mandate, because a government regulated monopoly harmed a bunch of people ? Your logic is astounding.

    "I grew up in this town"

    Given your penchant for lying, and not living up to your contracts. I have a hard time believing anything you say.

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    Yo, let me jump in here for a sec. Where the fuck did AmSoc say that biotechnology should be banned? He was just saying that Monsanto is no saint. Surely you are familiar with Salatin's arguments about how Monsanto is guilty of repeated trespasses by spreading their GMO seed to farms that are trying to stay GMO free. That right there is a libertarian property rights argument against Monstanto. On the other hand, AmSoc is wrong to make the non-sequitor jump from Monsanto poisoning workers with chemicals to GMOs being poison.

    What's my point. Both sides are guilty of faulty logic, and this is true in many arguments. No one has the monopoly on logical fallacies and it does no good do dismiss all lefties as being incapable of reason, because that right there is a logical fallacy in itself.

  • Brian||

    I think the alternative, salient point is that we should know that Monsanto GMO's cause cancer, because Monsanto is bad corp.

    Just like we know that vaccines cause autism, because big pharma is bad corp.

    Duh.

  • Brian||

    Nigga, please.

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    You better be black.

  • Sevo||

    american socialist|10.16.15 @ 7:42PM|#
    "Yeah, we should just trust Monsanto, because libertarian-feelz"

    Commie-kid drags up some watermelon blog loaded with blind links supposedly proving the point, without so much as a pull quote or an aim as to where these claims are shown, cites that fact that he 'grew up there' and from that we're to presume:
    1) The showing of the claims are somehow buried in there if we're willing to search for some bullshit or other
    2) Commie-kid is other than a fucking brain-dead lefty.
    What a dumbass.

  • Cytotoxic||

    There is no increase in cancer rates. They are falling. What 'cancer epidemic' America had at all was because of smoking.

  • Free Society||

    The sources I've looked at forecast increases in cases of all sorts of cancers. It's a natural consequence of people living longer. On a long enough time line, once your cells have divided enough times, DNA damage and mutations accumulate, malignant tumors become more and more likely.

  • kbolino||

    I'd be interested in a comparison of the rates controlled for changing population demographics. E.g., what is the rate of cancer incidence for people who live no more than 70 years?

  • kbolino||

    On second thought, 70 years is probably too far out. You would probably have to break it out in age brackets, instead.

  • Free Society||

    Or perhaps they should be measuring the cancer rate of 35 year olds specifically, so you could rule out the effects of aging in driving up the absolute numbers.

  • kbolino||

    "Or perhaps they should be measuring the cancer rate of 35 year olds specifically"

    That's still an age bracket (assuming you saw my second comment)--just defined more narrowly,

  • Free Society||

    Yeah I'd responded to the first one before I notice the second one somehow

  • Zeb||

    Aren't more people dying of cancer because they are living longer? Aside from that, cancer incidence is generally going down as far as I can tell.

  • Free Society||

    Aside from that, cancer incidence is generally going down as far as I can tell.

    Got sauce for that? Maybe your thinking of 5-year survival rates getting better? I've been looking for some stats that point to lowering incidence rate and I can't find one.

    Here's a graph.

    Global Cancer Rates Set to Soar by 2030 - WebMD
    www.webmd.comwebmd.com/cancer/.....al-cancer-

    http://www.cancer.gov/about-ca.....statistics

    Please forgive the .gov link for a moment, because they don't seem to be saying anything that private studies aren't also saying.

  • Zeb||

    I haven't done a lot of reading on the subject. I may be thinking of the survival rate or something else like that.

    It seems clear that as people live longer, the chance of getting cancer at some point in your life gets greater. I think that for younger, healthier people both incidence and death rates are mostly declining. I could have that mixed up too. I'll have to read that chapter in Bailey's book again which made a good case that there is no significant increase in cancer due to modern lifestyles once you account for the fact that if yo ulive long enough you will pretty much get cancer.

  • Sevo||

    Free Society|10.16.15 @ 2:38PM|#
    "...I've been looking for some stats that point to lowering incidence rate and I can't find one..."

    From your third link:
    "As the overall cancer death rate has declined, the number of cancer survivors has increased. These trends show that progress is being made against the disease, but much work remains."

  • Win Bear||

    What 'cancer epidemic' America had at all was because of smoking.

    No, it has been due to longer life and better diagnostics.

  • Ron Bailey||

    FS: Two chapters in The End of Doom - Chapter 4: What Cancer Epidemic? and Chapter 5: The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes are relevant.

    Why not buy a copy for your aunt? Just saying

    BTW U.S. age-adjusted cancer rates have been declining at a rate of 0.6 percent per year since 1994.

  • Ron Bailey||

    FS: Also -
    From the opening of the Killer Tomatoes chapter:

    THE CRYSTALS AND GEMS GALLERY IN HANALEI, A trendy little town on Kauai, displayed several posters protesting GMOs and oered flyers urging a ban on biotech crops. The gallery is the sort of place where, when my wife picked up an attractive stone and asked a clerk what it was, the reply came back, “Do you mean, what does it do?” Apparently, that particular rock can dispel negativity.

    After being advised on the therapeutic properties of various crys- tals, we asked the clerk what all the anti-biotech literature around the shop was about. Among other things, she informed us that biotech crops cause cancer, stating emphatically that Kauai’s cancer rates were excep- tionally high, especially among people who live close to the seed com- pany fields on the island where biotech crop varieties are grown.

    As it happens, the state Health Department reported earlier in 2013 that “overall cancer incidence rates (all cancers combined) were significantly lower on Kauai compared to the entire state of Hawaii.” Nor did the department find higher rates of cancer in those districts where the seed company farms are located.

  • Free Society||

    Nor did the department find higher rates of cancer in those districts where the seed company farms are located.

    Yeah I can hardly imagine the mental gymnastics required to accept that as plausible. I'd like to ask that hippie store owner;
    -So GMO crops excrete airborne carcinogens?
    -How could it be possible that all genetic modifications result in carcinogens? If a genetically modified potato had one single gene modified, like say, to diminish the amount of acrylamide (a carcinogen) produced by the plant, how doies that correlate with your claim? If not, then they can't really argue that GMO=cancer.

  • Free Society||

    BTW U.S. age-adjusted cancer rates have been declining at a rate of 0.6 percent per year since 1994.

    That's what I was thinking. But I haven't easily found any age adjusted studies to point to.

  • ||

    "the increased ability of doctors to diagnose different cancers"

    Did you point out to her that almost no one dies of consumption anymore?

  • Free Society||

    There's so many things I should have argued to make my point, though none of it would have done much convincing. I think I am going to buy my aunt Ron Bailey's book and I know she'll actually read it. But I suspect that she'll dig in her heels and begin to search high and low for dubious studies that confirm her preferred version of reality, I just want to observe her cognitive dissonance in action.

  • Eric L||

    'His chief concern is that the super-rich will capture our political system and seek to choke off the sources of Schumpeterian creative destruction that threaten to undermine their fortunes.'

    Which the left will use as proof that free-markets do not work and therefore the need for more government intervention, while never admitting that those same super-rich currently tend to favor non-free market policies.

  • Peter Verkooijen||

    And that is how gullible millennials can go from Obama to Sanders. Forward! Mugabe next?

  • Vapourwear||

    They all got trophies in Tee-ball, now they all want six figure compensation. Who are you to tell them no?

  • american socialist||

    "he is a fierce empiricist who deploys data to slay gauzy theoretical speculations"

    I guess I'm surprised to see this reported as a virtue. When I post statistics showing that unemployment doesn't rise in response to changes in the minimum wage, I'm confronted with gauzy theoretical speculations-- followed usually by attacks on my character-- about supply and demand. Can you define gauzy for me and use it in a complete sentence. Thanks, man.

  • DenverJ||

    Really? That's great news! We can just raise the minimum wage to $200/ hr and everybody will be rich!

  • Sevo||

    american socialist|10.16.15 @ 6:37PM|#
    "When I post statistics showing that unemployment doesn't rise in response to changes in the minimum wage,"

    So when you cherry-pick data, we're to presume you have an ability to understand research?
    Doesn't compute.

  • Win Bear||

    When I post statistics showing that unemployment doesn't rise in response to changes in the minimum wage,

    That's because it's the wrong statistic to look at: the unemployment rate can remain constant even if large numbers of people lose their jobs.

  • Vapourwear||

    Hint: the stat you're looking for is "labor force participation rate."

  • ||

    "His chief concern is that the super-rich will capture our political system and seek to choke off the sources of Schumpeterian creative destruction that threaten to undermine their fortunes"

    Too late !

  • Christophe||

    It could get even worse on that front, just saying.

  • Peter Verkooijen||

    "Will a rising class of crony capitalists kill off economic growth here?"

    Yes, that has already happened, most clearly with the 2008 bailouts and ever since.

  • Win Bear||

    Don't kid yourself: the bailouts happened because powerful American voting blocks wanted them to happen. The GM bailout was to make unions and retirees happy. Ditto with the bailout of banks and financial institutions.

    The calculus politicians engage in here is that a small group of voters cares enough about something to vote for them, while the rest of the voters don't care enough about the issue to vote against them because of it.

  • Arthur45||

    God, what a jerk. Being super rich doesn't convey political power of the sort this bozo assumes.
    and hsi notion that new inventions will endanger their wealth is ridiculous. Their money isn't going anywhere.

  • Akira||

    I always like to ask them how it's possible that Obama won two terms if this sinister cabal of "big money interests" is pulling the strings behind everything. It leaves them only two choices: that "big money" does not in fact decide every election, or that Obama is actually quite cozy with those "big money interests".

  • Win Bear||

    His chief concern is that the super-rich will capture our political system and seek to choke off the sources of Schumpeterian creative destruction that threaten to undermine their fortunes. Will a rising class of crony capitalists kill off economic growth here? Good question.

    There are major problems with that line of thinking. First, while crony capitalism certainly can make you super rich, many super rich folks are not super rich as the result of of crony capitalism (just look at the founders of Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc.). Second, the statistical measures of inequality we have are generally not dominated by the super rich, but by the upper middle class and lower end of the wealthy. Third, it's unclear how "the super rich" actually would "capture our political system", or that the political dysfunctions we have are a result of such a capture; in fact, most of our political system seems to have been captures by powerful voting blocks, not money.

    While some of Deaton's empirical analyses are interesting, it seems deep down, he suffers from many of the same political biases and hubris that are so common among academic economists.

  • PM||

    (just look at the founders of Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc.)

    All of those examples without exception spend substantial fortunes on lobbying and have been successful at least in part by obtaining favorable treatment by the government - mostly in IP, but also in immigration, antitrust, spectrum licensing, FCC regulations, and probably many other areas of law. The unfortunate reality of operating in the sort of regulatory environment we have today is that there is absolutely no honest way to grow a company to that size. You will either do dishonest things to gain market advantage, or your growth will be limited by those who do.

  • Vapourwear||

    He needs to change his name to Fail Bear...

  • ||

    Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do...... ✹✹✹✹✹✹ www.buzznews99.com

  • MildredBird||

    Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this - 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,

    http://www.onlinejobs100.com

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online