Search This Blog

Monday, March 16, 2015

Lies, Damn Lies, and Government Statistics: Part II

At Marginal Revolution, economist Tyler Cowen asks: "How much has the U.S. poverty rate declined?" He notes two government statistics:
Official percent poor in 1964: 19.0%Official percent poor in 2013: 14.5%
He then notes that depending on which government statistics are used to derive "percent poor," such as using the PCE price deflator rather than CPI-U, you can get radically different results:
Adjusted percent poor in 2013: 4.8%
You can show anything you want using government statistics.

20 comments:

erp said...

Did they define "poor"?

Clovis e Adri said...

This is one rare occasion where words did better than numbers: Cowen's link to Douthat was the best of it.

An excerpt worth mentioning:

"Instead, our upper class should be judged first — for being too solipsistic to recognize that its present ideal of “safe” permissiveness works (sort of) only for the privileged, and for failing to take any moral responsibility"

Wonderful how that describes many "Libertarians" and "Collectivists", isn't it? So we finally see they are not opposites at everything...

Bret said...

Clovis,

I can't decipher any of that. Or perhaps it's just all news to me.

For example, I didn't know that the "upper class" (or Libertarians) had both defined a "present ideal of safe permissiveness" and was given ruling authority to enforce said permissiveness on others, or the opposite, that they were given ruling authority to prohibit that permissiveness from the non-"privileged."

Looking a little further beyond the excerpt, I didn't know that the "upper class" and Libertarians ran schools, were at anywhere near a critical mass in the entertainment industry, or pushed social agendas of permissiveness.

Indeed, I think that the huge shift in economic activity from industrial to service and information has a far more profound impact on the culture and we are where we are because of those forces.

Lastly, Doubthat can blather on about the "poor" and "vulnerable populations" but, as usual, I see no objective measures about how they're doing poorly. As erp points out, they're fat, dumb, and happy. Note happy. Let me repeat that: happy. Nothing wrong with that. They have more children per capita than the rich", so by that objective, evolutionary measure they're doing wonderfully well.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
Looking a little further beyond the excerpt, I didn't know that the "upper class" and Libertarians ran schools, were at anywhere near a critical mass in the entertainment industry, or pushed social agendas of permissiveness.
---

Maybe you can better understand his argument by going to his other column (in the original excerpt I quotes above, he linked it to explain his "safe permisiviness" point).

Please tell me if you recognize yourself being at any of the (social/ideological) camps he describes there.


---
I think that the huge shift in economic activity from industrial to service and information has a far more profound impact on the culture and we are where we are because of those forces.
---
I see - and we have one more point of contact between you, our good Libertarian, and one of our favorite Collectivists - Mr. Krugman. How do you like his company?

---
As erp points out, they're fat, dumb, and happy. Note happy.
---
I am not quite sure she agreed on the "happy" part after you both argued this point, but I guess she can tell it herself.

In my experience, Bret, kids in houses where the father (or the mother) changes every couple of years can rarely be described as "happy". Or take a look again at that pictures referenced by Hey Skipper in a post a while ago. I don't see much happiness there either,for both adults and kids.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

This is all very old hat for libertarians and conservatives in this country. Net search on "Murphy Brown controversy" to see this exact thing discussed a couple of decades or so.

It doesn't describe libertarians at all because being a libertarian requires taking moral responsibility for one's own actions, where as Douthat is describing elites who do not. My view is that the greatest enabler of this sort of destructive moral rot is our government and this is a major reason I want to see it radically reduced in size and scope.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

---
This is all very old hat for libertarians and conservatives in this country.
---
Indeed, as Douthat recognizes from the begin. As for...

---
It doesn't describe libertarians at all because being a libertarian requires taking moral responsibility for one's own actions, where as Douthat is describing elites who do not.
---
... I believe you partially miss his point. Or maybe I see points which are not there, who knows.

He looks to take issue with the "being libertarian requires taking moral responsibility for one's own actions", by pointing out that your actions may still impact others, whether you take responsibility for your own mess or not.

Basically, the Libertarian ethos conforms to the trend of supporting a "safe permisiviness" environment, without regard to the consequences for those who won't be exactly safe in such environment.

Maybe examples are in order. Let's take the standard Libertarian position on prostitution. As long as it is a transaction between two consenting adults, that shouldn't be anyone else business. Right?

Not taken in the picture is the personal condition and history of the party offering those services. Who cares that she may have had (and still has) a troubled life and her profession is a burden for her health and family (particularly for her kids)?

That exclusive focus on individuals in a Libertarian setting often purposedly ignores that human societies answer to trends and collective behaviors, or IOW, that "collectivity" is still an important component of our relationships.

---
My view is that the greatest enabler of this sort of destructive moral rot is our government [...]
---
My view is that it is not. The greates enabler is really the "collective ethos" - I know it probably hurt your eyes to read that, but it still matters.

As I've pointed out many times before, the permisiviness and lack of values that leads to poverty are easily found in places with little to no government around to in order to enable it.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "Please tell me if you recognize yourself being at any of the (social/ideological) camps he describes there. "

No, but I probably don't get where you're going with this. I'm not a libertine, pro-bdsm, 50 shades of gray kinda guy. Perhaps you meant to link to a different article?

Clovis asks: "How do you like [Krugman's] company?"

I don't mind it when he's right. Unfortunately that happens so rarely. For example, his solution is federal government control of everything which I think is basically horrible. My solution? Let 'em be, support 'em locally at a low level if needed.

Clovis wrote: "I don't see much happiness..."

Except for the photo of the woman who had to give up her baby, they don't look particularly unhappy either. Remember, these pictures were taken by a journalist trying to depict misery. That's the best she could do? My goodness, the tabloids show "photos" of the rich and famous being much, much more miserable. I'm not impressed. This reminds of the link you once gave about starvation in america that had as its top photo a bunch of fat people.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "...the Libertarian ethos conforms to the trend of supporting a "safe permisiviness" environment, without regard to the consequences for those who won't be exactly safe in such environment."

I see, why didn't you just say so in the first place, instead of pointing me to the Douthat article. Damn, that guy's writing is way less clear than mud.

To be slightly clearer, I do NOT support "a safe permissiveness environment," but I also do NOT support punishing those whose behaviors don't hurt anyone else.

For your example of prostitution, I don't support prostitution. Even if it were legal and I wasn't married I wouldn't hire prostitutes. On the other hand, I have no interest in putting prostitutes in jail and no interest in the criminalization of prostitution.

Clovis wrote: "Libertarian setting often purposedly ignores that human societies answer to trends and collective behaviors..."

Not at all. We just don't believe that the central government is an effective and moral entity with which to address those trends.

We also tend to be very, very careful when thinking we can run other people's lives better than they can themselves.

erp said...

Clovis, If a community enacts laws against prostitution, or anything else not protected by the Constitution, and they are enforced, problem solved. We, as a rule obey the law, the elites on the left as depicted in the media on almost an hourly basis, do not think any laws apply to them.

Bret, "Fat, Dumb & Happy" is not a condition to be envied and as Clovis points out, the people in that category are not happy, they are the opposite of happy.

I had a chance encounter with a young lady of eleven who's desperately trying to jump out of that category and we're going to do everything we can to help her reach her goals. Her happiness in entering into a program that will require a commitment to very hard work with possible great rewards is palpable.

All kids should be given the same opportunity and since taxpayers are spending trillions on education anyway, there is no reason every kid can't have the same opportunity and not have to rely on the "kindness of strangers" for a leg up and out of poverty.

Bret said...

erp wrote: '"Fat, Dumb & Happy" is not a condition to be envied...'

I didn't say it was to be envied. But I don't pity them either. They make their choices, I'm going to assume they are capable beings and let them live their lives.

Bret said...

erp wrote: "...the people in that category are not happy, they are the opposite of happy."

I have not found the evidence to be convincing. Nor is it really a worthwhile argument because then we have to define "happy" versus "content" and "fulfilled" and it just gets silly, in my opinion.

They make a series of choices and I see no solid evidence that they've chosen poorly from their point of view. Just because it wouldn't be your choice doesn't mean it's a bad choice.

erp said...

Bret, all things being equal, I'd agree with you, but I'm talking about kids who know no different way of life. How can a young girl flattered and having her head turned by some older boy or even man with money to spend be said to be making a choice to become sexually active when promiscuity is all she's ever known in her family or community and becoming old and worn out before her time is all she's ever seen.

It's not much better for boys, but I empathize more with the girls who have at least two strikes against them that boys don't have both connected to their biology.

Bret said...

erp wrote: "How can a young girl flattered and having her head turned by some older boy or even man with money to spend be said to be making a choice to become sexually active when promiscuity is all she's ever known in her family or community and becoming old and worn out before her time is all she's ever seen."

Say what?

Being "sexually active" makes a woman "old and worn out before her time?" Really? That's news to me - I've never heard of a doctor telling a woman to avoid sex in order to stay younger and more energetic.

erp said...

... Operative word = promiscuity > unwanted children > poverty > drudgery > women old before their time.

Bret, I don't know where you're coming from on this? Hang on a few more years. When your daughters are grown, you can become a beach bum and people will point to you and say, "See that guy -- he used to build robots" and you can reply, yeah, but I wised up and now I’m fat and happy. Alas, you never say dumb. That one is out of your control. :-)

Bret said...

erp wrote: "promiscuity > unwanted children"

Nope.

There's this thing called birth control. And there's this other thing called abortion. And another thing called adoption.

(Also, note you didn't mention "unwanted children" in your original comment.)

Over half of poor mothers, regardless of race, have children young without being married. That percentage is high enough that I'm thoroughly convinced that it's a deliberate choice by the vast majority of those women, at least at some level. They want to have those children, at least once they're pregnant.

Do you suppose that if they weren't promiscuous, or if they at least didn't get pregnant, that some handsome prince would come along and they'd live happily ever after? Or that they'd become rocket scientists? Or that they'd even want that if they could be a rocket scientist?

Instead they are satisfying the basic human desire of having children, of having someone to love. It looks to me like they're making a very good choice for themselves.

To add a little humor or horror or both, here's a little story. My younger daughter (who likes dancing ballet and other forms) and I were in the car, waiting in the drive through at a hamburger chain. Here's the conversation:

Daughter: "I'm glad I'll never have to choose between the two, but if the choice was between flipping burgers and being a stripper, I'd choose being a stripper."

Me, caught by surprise, to say the least: "Really?"

Daughter: "Yeah, the pay is better and I'd be dancing."

Me, suddenly wondering about the wisdom of buying her all of those ballet lessons: "I see. Well, you know, being a stripper is a rather seamy and gritty occupation and you'd be in front of a lot of not nice men."

Daughter: "Yeah, I'm glad I won't have to make that choice, but I really wouldn't want to have to flip burgers."

Me: "I'm glad you won't have to make that choice too."

erp said...

... another opportunity for us to agree to disagree. My apologies for not making it clear that young teenage girls' pregnancies don't IMO usually result because of their conscious desire to have a baby to love.

Daughters are wonderful things and granddaughters, well ... nothing like 'em. Enjoy.

Bret said...

erp wrote: "...young teenage girls' pregnancies don't IMO usually result because of their conscious desire to have a baby to love."

How is it then, that they manage to not only get pregnant, but stay pregnant, and then keep the baby?

erp said...

They get pregnant the regular way and keep their babies because the welfare steps in and gives them a lot of attention, not to mention welfare checks, apartments, credit cards, doctors' visits, classes on child care ...


You'd be quite surprised as to what happens when a kid get the star treatment with social workers coming out of the woodwork. I was on a lot of boards from local to state level and it's enough to curl your eyelashes.

Bret said...

erp wrote: "...keep their babies because the welfare steps in and gives them a lot..."

If so, that's a very good reason from their perspective to keep the child.

If not, they apparently have some other very good reason (again, from their perspective) to keep the child.

Annoying Old Guy said...

"We [libertarians] just don't believe that the central government is an effective and moral entity with which to address those trends."

This.