Friday, March 14, 2008

Some questions

  • Are things (globally) better now than they've been before? Are things much better?
  • Is pay closely related to productivity?
  • How much of the West's wealth resulted from exploitation of, or damage done to other countries (note that it's possible to screw up other places without getting richer from doing so)?
  • How politically powerful are people in liberal Western countries by virtue of being rich (what do we by political power)?
  • When we buy something, are we usually better off for it? If you spend R200 on cutlery, is it true that you value the cutlery more than the R200? Or are you suffering from some kind of false consciousness?


Greg Torr said...

Q1: Yes, definitely better. Probably much better, I'd guess. Main reason is the welfare effects of fast economic growth in countries like China and India. There are lots of people in those countries. It doesn't take long for compound growth rates of 10% to make these peoples' live MUCH better.

Q2: Yes, there is a definite and very strong relationship. But it's easy to find particular instances where there are very dramatic departures from this rule e.g. some finance/investment/CEO types who are just lucky; people like Trevor Manuel probably get paid far less than their true "productivity" e.g. he probably gets the same as the health minister. Nicholas Nassim Taleb would say that it depends on whether you live in Mediocristan or Extremistan.

Q3: A very insignificant amount. I'd say the West's wealth is probably driven mainly by technological innovation. How did Bill Gates exploit the Africans?

Q4: Not very powerful. Depends what level of wealth you're talking about I guess.

Q5: Generally, yes we're better off. But there are all sorts of psycological biases and problems that make this very murky and variable. Again, it'll be easy to find lots of specific instances where you can make a strong case that it isn't so.

mutt said...

I have strong opinions on these questions, but I doubt that even top academics would agree much at all.

Naturally my answers are quite similar...