[eDebate] dylan Agents/States/False Dichotomy - "K" and "policy"

Dylan Keenan dylan.keenan
Mon Apr 13 19:03:22 CDT 2009

Josh gave away the focus of my response but there?s a key difference between
?good? and ?better?. Things are not good if measured against an ideal of no
poverty, no war, healthcare, candy and Portuguese water dogs for everyone.
My point, however, was that things are *better* in comparison to most of
human history. Nothing in the article Malgor cites disproves this point. It
shows, instead, a snapshot of the world. Let?s put the snapshot in
historical perspective:

- ?the share of the world population living in poverty diminishes from 94,4%
in 1820 to 44% in 2001, that of those living in extreme poverty from 83,9 in
1820 down to 18% in 2001.? (Chilosi, Prof. Econ. and Financial Policy @ U.
Pisa, http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/10659/1/ejce_mc.pdf)

- The article Malgor cites concludes the same way at the bottom with a graph
showing that poverty has been trending down. It then takes a curious move of
excluding China claiming that the non-Chinese world has seen basically no
change in poverty. That?s funny. The haters who complain about who gets
excluded from globalization can only make their poverty arguments work by
excluding the 1.5 billion Chinese people who have moved towards free market
capitalism from the count.

- Life expectancy has increased dramatically. ?*Early estimates of human
longevity* *suggest that life expectancy at birth* (or  e0; in the notation
of demographers and actuaries) *was probably in the 20s.* Some very
disadvantaged societies might have had life expectancies in their teens,
whereas others may have been in their 30s. *Since historical levels of life
expectancy were in the 20s, compared to around 75?80 years today in wealthy
countries, the average length of life has roughly tripled.?* (Wilmoth, Dept.
Demography @ UC, Experimental Gerontology, 35:9-10)

And by the way the LOWEST life expectancy in Sub-Saharan Africa is still
higher than early human history ??within the group of low-income countries
(under $1000 GNP per capita) *Sub-Saharan Africa, life expectancy ranges
from 38 in Guinea-Bissau to 58 in Keny*a (World Health Report 1999)?
(McCarthy, World Bank, and Wolf, NBER,
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=632736) which means even
those who have been most ?hurt? by globalization are still probably better

- The only claim that any trend is occurring is regarding inequality. Notice
that Malgor?s article says 80% of people live in countries where inequality
is increasing. Kind of curious wording? The reason is because on the
relevant scale, amalgamating the global population, inequality is actually
decreasing: ?*Although it is true that within-country inequalities are
increasing on average, and it is also true that income per capita across
countries have been diverging, the conclusion that global income inequality
has risen does not follow logically *from these premises. The reason is that
Claim 1 refers to the income of ?individuals,? and Claim 2 refers to per
capita incomes of ?countries. By adding up two different concepts of
inequality to somehow analyze the evolution of world income inequality, the
UNDP falls into the fallacy of comparing apples to oranges. ... The main
lessons are first, *all indexes show a remarkably similar pattern of
worldwide inequality over time.* Second, inequality remained more or less
constant (or possibly increased) during the 1970s. Third, inequality
declined substantially during the 1980s and 1990s. The size of the decline
depends a bit on the exact measure: the largest reduction occurred in the
top-20- percent-to-bottom-20-percent ratio, which declined by almost 30
percent between 1979 and 2000??, (Sala-i-Martin, Prof. Econ. @ Columbia,
Quarterly Journal of Economics, CXXI:2)

Let?s also be clear that inequality shouldn?t matter compared to the
condition of the poor. If poor people are getting richer, it really
shouldn?t matter if the rich are also getting richer. The evidence on life
expectancy and increases in per capital wealth suggests the poor are doing
better over time.

Recognizing the difference between a trend and an absolute condition is
important because it guides what solution we seek. If capitalism and tech
rule everything right now and are thus responsible for all the human
condition than capitalism is pretty tough to defend. Fortunately, this isn?t
the case. Most of the poverty in the world is concentrated in countries like
North Korea, Russia and Zimbabwe that have rejected free markets. Almost
everyone is better off then their ancestors 500 years ago and those who have
gained the most are those who live in countries that have adopted free
market economies.

My choices is thus not between two sets of data saying different things, but
what conclusion to draw from some fairly uniform data. One conclusion is
that bad stuff happens now and capitalism happens now so capitalism is bad.
The other conclusion is that things are getting better and that the
improvement correlates with the degree and territory of capitalism, so the
answer is more trade and (generally) less central planning leading to more
technology and more innovation.

Jackie says ?progress? and all those things you say we benefit from have
come at the expense of cultures, the environment, animal torture and
cruelty, and mass genocides.

Genocide isn?t a product of ?western culture? or ?progress?. It?s been
around for an awful long time. Indigenous people and hunter-gatherers were
killing each other off in large numbers long before the west intervened.

?One obvious conclusion is that warfare was frequent long before complex
societies developed. This generalization is clearly established by Lawrence
Keeley in War Before Civilization, and was also discussed recently by
Richard Wrangham and Raymond C. Kelly.1  Such warfare was chronic, virtually
annual. Few societies experienced even one generation without significant
warfare. Regardless of its frequency, almost all societies lived in fear of
attack. Great efforts, often at considerable costs, were made to live in
protected places - such as on the tops of windswept hills and on the faces
of cliffs far from water supplies - and to build fortifications. Some groups
lived in settlements that were larger or more compact than optimum, simply
for defense. The deadliness of war made these measures inevitable. *Estimates
of around 25 percent of males dying from warfare are derived for virtually
all continents, for foragers and egalitarian farmers alike. The probability
of dying as a result of warfare was, in fact, much higher in the past than
it is today*.? (LeBlanc, Dir. Collections @ Peabody Museum of Archaeology
and Ethnology @ Harvard U., Daedalus, 136:1))

Environmental destruction even less so. In fact, "For example, *the
megafaunal extinction in the Americas during the Pleistocene (in which 57
species of large mammals went extinct, including mammoths and mastodons, in
a sudden ecological collapse*) is usually attributed to climate change.
Alfred Russell Wallace suggested otherwise: ?I am convinced that the
rapidity of . . . the extinction of so many large Mammalia is actually due
to man?s agency? (cited in Leakey and Lewin 1995:172). *Much evidence now
indicates that the Pleistocene extinctions in North America correspond to
the time of arrival of human migrations from Asia* (Martin 1978; Martin and
Klein 1984)" (Penn, Dir. And Senior Scientist @ Konrad Lorenz Institute of
Comparative Ethology and former Visiting Prof. Zoology @ U. Vienna,
Quarterly Review of Biology,78:3).

Lots of these mammals like North American camels and sloths were also really
cool, which means bonus negative karma for the indigenous people who killed
them off. The environmental destruction wasn?t limited to megafauna. The
forests of the North American continent were devastated by those who crossed
over from Siberia. Try google scholar search for ?ecologically noble

The present era certainly has some environmental problems but again the
trend is positive. Air pollution and water pollution are both down in the
US. More importantly I see no reason to care about the environment or animal
cruelty if humans are benefitting. Seriously, I say this as a vegan. People

Jackie asks how we know some people are hungry. Relative deprivation is
perhaps culturally defined but whether or not someone is hungry can be
determined pretty objectively from stunted growth and other maladies.
Lacking specific nutrients can cause stuff like blindness (vitamin A),
pellagra (niacin) or rickets (vitamin D). So I guess you could say that
malnutrition becomes evident when remains like this (
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/193/4248/141) turn up. People
need food to live. That some people live on less is OK but people do need a
certain amount of balanced food to live, be healthy and stave off disease.
As for archaeology you can look for a variety of objective indicators. One
of them,  enamel hypoplasias, basically messed up enamel formation in teeth
is an excellent objective indicator of malnutrition. Incidentally it has a
significant presence among a representative population of Native Americans
who had a pretty low life expectancy (you can read about it here, I won?t
bore with all the cards AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 99:275-286

April 15th is two days away. In the intervening time we can celebrate
freedom. Sorry for the long post.


On Mon, Apr 13, 2009 at 5:14 PM, malcolm gordon <
malgorthewarrior at hotmail.com> wrote:

>  Your post seems to be summed up as ?things are getting better.?
> Almost half the world ? over three billion people ? live on less than $2.50
> a day.
> At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.
> More than 80 percent of the world?s population lives in countries where
> income differentials are widening.Source<http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats#src2>
>  2
>   <http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats#src2>
> The poorest 40 percent of the world?s population accounts for 5 percent of
> global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world
> income.Source 3<http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats#src2>
> According to UNICEF, 25,000 children die each day due to poverty.<http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats#src2>
> Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was
> needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn?t
> happen.<http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats#src3>
> <http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats#src3>
> Here is the site so you can waste time scrutinizing sources:
> http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats<http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats#src3>
> <http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats#src3>
> For shits and giggles for now I?ll just spot you that statistical studies
> are a good, valid guide for understanding our world.  But there is clearly
> data to suggest that things are getting worse economically. I won?t bother
> posting any evidence about war because frankly I think that deaths due to
> poverty are also an act of war, albeit a silent war.  Of course it?s very
> hard to call these deaths an act of war because the beauty of an economy
> centered on markets and equilibrium models is very good at diffusing the
> question of agency-who caused these deaths? Sorry, ranting.  The point:
> these deaths can be legitimately considered acts of violence against the
> world?s population.  I know this because there are enough resources on
> this planet to feed, clothe, house, and educate every person on earth.<http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats>
> <http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats>
> Anyway things really aren?t so hot for billions of people right now, easy
> as it is to hop onto google and find out statistics to the contrary (it
> wouldn?t be so easy if not for all those poor people).  Yes you can find
> data that says things are getting better.  But if there is data to support
> ?hey things are doing great let?s stay the course? and data to support ?hey
> the f****ing ship is sinking for billions of people?, why wouldn?t you be
> on the safe side of things and think maybe some new perspective is in order?<http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats>
> <http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats>
> I wanted to answer all your other reasons you don?t understand and hate Ks
> cause frankly, they were quite lame, but I have to go now.  I?ll have to
> post other things at a later time.
> <http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats>
> <http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats>
> Ure freynd<http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats>
> <http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats>
> malgor <http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats>
>   <http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats>
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Dylan Keenan
Debate Coach
Barkley Forum
Emory University
dylan.keenan at gmail.com
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