Capitalism

Why Big Business Spread the Invisible Hand Ideology

Can we evolve a more nurturing capitalism?

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By Anthony Biglan

Is it possible that evolutionary theory can explain how the U.S. came to have the highest levels of child poverty and economic inequality of any developed nation? I think it can. It also can help us evolve a more nurturing form of capitalism, one in which people are more caring and productive, and they place greater value on the wellbeing of every member of society.

We certainly have room for improvement. The U.S. has one the highest rates of child poverty among economically developed countries and it is harming our children. Families living in poverty have more conflict, which leads to childhood aggression and all of the social and academic failures that result from being aggressive.1 When you are raised in poverty, it produces life-long changes in your physiology, which increases your chances of diabetes and death from heart attacks and strokes. Even if you escaped from poverty as an adult, you would have a 20 to 40% higher risk of developing heart disease.2

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Most Americans think that we have an egalitarian society in which a young person on the bottom rung of the economic ladder can readily move up. But it is a myth. A young American is much less likely to get out of poverty than a young person in Germany, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Norway, or Denmark.

Inequality matters. Countries with higher levels of inequality have lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, more homicides, more teenage births, less trust, more obesity, more mental illness and drug abuse, and less social mobility.3 Even if you are one of the wealthier people in society, you have a lower life expectancy than wealthy people in societies that are more egalitarian.

If you are under forty, you may not realize how much the U.S. has changed since the 1960s. Poverty among the elderly has declined from 30% to 8.9% thanks to Medicare. But in most other respects, the wellbeing of a sizable proportion of our population has diminished. Child poverty has risen from about 15% in 1975 to 22% in 2014. So has inequality.

Hacker and Pierson4 enumerated the ways in which changes in U.S. laws and regulations led to this situation. Policymakers failed to (a) increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation; (b) update or enforce laws regulating unions; (c) expand the Earned Income Tax Credit or government efforts to encourage its use; and (d) prevent the erosion of company-provided pension plans. And under the thrall of free-market ideology, government has failed to regulate the financial industry. It has allowed the development of usurious lending practices, such as payday loans, which have led many poor people to fall into inescapable indebtedness. They failed to regulate new financial instruments, which fueled the housing bubble. Once bankers could bundle mortgages and sell them to investors, the incentive to be sure the borrower could repay the mortgage was undermined. The result was more than a million Americans losing their homes when the recession hit.

Last but far from least, the business advocacy movement has been able to change public policy regarding campaign contributions. One facet of the movement was the creation of the Federalist Society, an organization of lawyers dedicated to conservative and libertarian principles that was formed in 1980 by law students at Yale, Harvard, and the University of Chicago. Among its members are four Supreme Court justices: Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alioto, Clarence Thomas, and John Roberts. All of these justices voted in favor of decisions that expanded the ability of wealthy people and corporations to give money in support of their candidates.

So why did public policymaking take us where we didn’t want to go? It is a matter of cultural evolution—perhaps the most important example in our history.

I summarized the recent evolution of corporate capitalism in The Nurture Effect. However, when I wrote that summary, I had not appreciated that the process is a stellar example of multi-level cultural selection, guided by a compelling theory.

By 1970, respect for business was at an all-time low. From February through May of that year, arson and bombings of businesses and public property, such as the fire-bombing of the Isla Vista branch of the Bank of America, were an almost daily occurrence.5 This prompted Lewis Powell, who was soon to be appointed to the Supreme Court, to write a memo to Eugene Sydnor at the US Chamber of Commerce. Powell argued that business had fallen into disrepute because the business community had failed to advocate for its interests. His key insight was that businesses needed a much higher degree of cooperation to improve its status and influence:

“…independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.”6

Powell’s memo is widely credited4, 7 with leading to an extraordinary transformation in public opinion about free-market economics, government regulation, and the efficacy of government. The transformation resulted from the creation of a loose network of business people and advocacy organizations that organized around the ideology of unfettered free market economics. The theory was masterfully articulated by Milton and Rose Friedman in their book and TV series Free to Choose. Based on Adam Smith’s metaphor of the invisible hand, the Friedmans argued that market systems produce greater economic development than “command economies.” As a result, Americans came to believe that the individual pursuit of profit is not just good for an individual: it benefits all of society.

The movement cultivated a cadre of spokespeople for business through scholarships to major universities and subsidies for the writing and publication of materials favorable to business. They funded the development of organizations that carry on this advocacy, such as the Business Roundtable, the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the Cato Institute.

Over the ensuing 45 years, public support for business-friendly policies has grown enormously. In 1965, Democrats controlled the White House and had two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress. Also, Democrats were decidedly more liberal on economic issues than they are now.

Of course, an evolutionary analysis must point to the consequences that have shaped and maintained the free market ideology and the policymaking it stimulated.  Taxes on the wealthiest people were reduced significantly, dropping from 70% to 28% between 1982 and 1986 and returning to 40% in 2014. As a result, the top 1% of earners increased their share of all income from 8% in 1979 to over 17% in 2007. Other benefits included reduction in the estate tax, changes in the alternative minimum tax, and reduction in the number of IRS audits of high earners. Another benefit was the failure of government to bring tax policy in line with new forms of economic activity. For example, under existing law, hedge fund managers have been able to treat their income as capital gains and pay a 15% rate. The top 25 hedge fund managers averaged $972 million in income in 2013.

I submit that the very successful advocacy for unregulated free markets and minimal government is an example of group-level selection in which a higher level of cooperation enabled the free-market movement to dominate public discussion and policymaking. Before the Powell memo, business people were suffering because they were not cultivating public support for their interests. The higher level of cooperation they achieved allowed them to make the case for their interests and reap very significant financial rewards. The irony is that, contrary to the notion that each person’s pursuit of his or her individual interests will benefit the group, the effective cooperation among business people has enabled their success. But this success has harmed society as a whole. It undermined the communitarian values that came about thanks to Americans’ uniting to fight the Second World War.8

The analysis has direct implications for what we can do to evolve a more nurturing society. In recent months, I have been speaking to a wide variety of scientific and human service organizations as well as foundations. In many cases, these groups did not even know about the existence of the other groups. Yet every one of them shared the same basic analysis of what people need to thrive. They didn’t necessarily put it in terms of nurturing environments, but all agree that it is vital to wellbeing that we decrease stress and threat in human environments, that poverty and inequality are major contributors to these conditions, and that we need to promote reinforcement and support for prosocial behavior, including the cultivation of caring relationships.

The convergence among all these groups stems from the convergence of the empirical evidence. Just as free-market theory and evidence provided the intellectual framework that guided free-market advocacy, we have the empirically supported theory that is needed to make the case for evolving a society in which the dominant value is ensuring that every person has the basic conditions necessary to lead a productive life in caring relationships with others.9

So let this be my Powell memo. If you don’t like where the evolution of capitalism has taken us in the past forty years, join with others who share your understanding of what humans need to thrive and build a super-coalition of individuals and organizations working to influence public understanding, public policy, and direct action. Fund scholarships to create a new generation of behavioral scientists, healthcare and social service providers, and policymakers who make the creation of a nurturing society their highest priority. Create and support organizations that are working for greater nurturance in our families, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities—and in public discussion. Demand that political organizations and candidates support the policies needed to move society in this direction.

  1. Biglan, A., 2015. The nurture effect: How the science of human behavior can improve our lives and our world. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
  2. Galobardes, B., J.W. Lynch, and G.D. Smith, 2008. Is the association between childhood socioeconomic circumstances and cause-specific mortality established? Update of a systematic review. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 62: 387-390.
  3. Wilkinson, R., and K. Pickett, 2009. The spirit level: Why greater equality makes societies stronger. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.
  4. Hacker, J.S., and P. Pierson, 2010. Winner-take-all politics: Public policy, political organization, and the precipitous rise of top incomes in the United States. Politics & Society, 38: 152-204.
  5. Hewitt, C., 2005. Political violence and terrorism in modern America: A chronology. Greenwood Publishing Group.
  6. Alterman, E., 2003. What liberal media? New York: Basic Books.
  7. Ambrose, S.E., 1994. D-Day: June 6, 1944–The Climactic Battle of WWII. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  8. Wilson, D.S., S. Hayes, A. Biglan, and D. D. Embry, 2014. Evolving the future: toward a science of intentional change. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 37: 395-416.

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  • Swami Cat

    I disagree and can empirically and logically back up my disagreement with pretty much every paragraph in the above article. If the author is interested in a point by point dialectic, I would be glad to engage. Otherwise, it would be a waste of time.

    Let me know if you still have an open mind, Anthony.

    • Carlos Andres Parra H

      Did you read “supercooperators”? If yes, we can debate. If not, go read it, and then we can debate 🙂

      • Swami

        Novak’s book? Yes, I read it four years ago.

        • Carlos Andres Parra H

          Then I am waiting for the point to point dialectic.

          • Swami

            It is posted above. I await your rebuttal.

  • Shirley0401

    Thanks for this article. Nice survey of how we got to where we are and a possible path to something that might work better for all of us than what we’ve got now.

  • Swami

    Biglan:
    “Is it possible that evolutionary theory can explain how the U.S. came to have the highest levels of child poverty and economic inequality of any developed nation? I think it can. It also can help us evolve a more nurturing form of capitalism, one in which people are more caring and productive, and they place greater value on the wellbeing of every member of society.”

    Response:
    Child poverty is primarily being measured in relative not absolute terms. In absolute terms, the poor in the US have higher living standards than most large diverse developed nations, and they are higher than the living standards of the average person thirty years ago, and actually in the top quintile of living standards globally. Our poor are part of the global elite. The author is capitulating back and forth between absolute and relative measures. In addition, he assumes causality, and neglects the possibility that lower inequality developed nations are drafting upon the economic progress gained by higher skill payoff nations such as the US.

    Biglan
    “Most Americans think that we have an egalitarian society in which a young person on the bottom rung of the economic ladder can readily move up. But it is a myth. A young American is much less likely to get out of poverty than a young person in Germany, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Norway, or Denmark.”

    Response:
    I assume he means rule egalitarian, but he needs to clarify. The assumption which most reasonable people who have actually thought about the topic believe is that a capable person, who is interested in trying hard in socially acceptable ways to do well can move up. As revealed by Hanushek, the US has the highest correlation of skill and effort to success of developed nations. In the US, long term poverty is strongly correlated with not graduating high school, having children out of wedlock, not getting married, and not working much or at all. Studies of mobility by Winslow shows statistical insignificance in mobility between the US and Europe, and between the present and the past with the exception of poor young males. Here the data shows the problem isn’t economic opportunity so much as it is the absence of fathers. Not sure how this is Milt Friedman’s fault.

    Biglan
    “Inequality matters. Countries with higher levels of inequality have lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, more homicides, more teenage births, less trust, more obesity, more mental illness and drug abuse, and less social mobility. Even if you are one of the wealthier people in society, you have a lower life expectancy than wealthy people in societies that are more egalitarian.”

    Response:
    Here he clearly pivots to outcome egalitarianism. It is essential in comparisons of equality to separate developed nations from undeveloped nations which fo clearly have institutional inequality and privilege. I do not disagree that the US, has some of the above mentioned problems (not all), but one cannot assume that it is inequality of opportunity which is the cause. It could be inequality of capability within a diverse nation, perverse sub-cultures, iatrogenic effects of poorly designed safety nets and so on. My analysis of the issue is that it is a combination of all of the above.

    Biglan
    “If you are under forty, you may not realize how much the U.S. has changed since the 1960s. Poverty among the elderly has declined from 30% to 8.9% thanks to Medicare. But in most other respects, the wellbeing of a sizable proportion of our population has diminished. Child poverty has risen from about 15% in 1975 to 22% in 2014. So has inequality.”

    Response
    This paragraph is a mess. First, it attributes the gains to the elderly to one program. I would add, two generations of economic growth, social security, pensions and so on (I have no quibble with Medicare, but it isn’t funded from fairy dust).

    Next he neglects to mention that this is based upon a relative ranking of poverty (see my comment above on quality of life of American poor). More damning, most conventional measures of US poverty tend to exclude:
    In kind transfers (food and housing)
    The EITC
    Black market (off the books) income such including much self employment and Craigslist
    Government aid is usually self reported and usually under reported by half
    Student loans
    People living off assets (reverse mortgages or off relatives or savings)
    Public goods (such as the $10k+ per student in actual education that we all get)

    When these are included, poor families incomes tend to roughly double.

    In addition, he fails to mention that poverty stats include tens of millions of immigrants who move here improving their lives, yet pulling down the stats. And I won’t even bring up the issue of the use of the CPI inflation rather than the more accurate PCE measure.

    Comparisons of actual physical wellbeing in terms of household goods reveals the poor of today live lives better in general than the average person of forty years ago. Better health care, more likely to have air conditioning, more consumer electronics, more appliances. Heck, the average poor person in the US has more square footage than the median person today in Europe. I am sure there are some holes and gaps in our safety nets which could use improving, but in terms of average welfare, the long term poor are doing quite well, and to the extent they aren’t it is due more toward their life choices or character than some free market Powell letter.

    Biglan
    “Hacker and Pierson4 enumerated the ways in which changes in U.S. laws and regulations led to this situation. Policymakers failed to (a) increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation; (b) update or enforce laws regulating unions; (c) expand the Earned Income Tax Credit or government efforts to encourage its use; and (d) prevent the erosion of company-provided pension plans. And under the thrall of free-market ideology, government has failed to regulate the financial industry. It has allowed the development of usurious lending practices, such as payday loans, which have led many poor people to fall into inescapable indebtedness. They failed to regulate new financial instruments, which fueled the housing bubble. Once bankers could bundle mortgages and sell them to investors, the incentive to be sure the borrower could repay the mortgage was undermined. The result was more than a million Americans losing their homes when the recession hit.”

    Response:
    Where do I start?
    The minimum wage is clearly harmful to both total equality and the well being of the poor. Pure ruse.

    Unions do indeed compress wages, but they do it by beggaring non union members and promoting economic inefficiency. The net effect of a closed shop Union is to harm general welfare, as they act as labor cartels.

    There was no EITC forty years ago,

    As for the financial bubble, this occurred in the most over-regulated and stupidly regulated industry in the US. Most of the mortgages were perversely guaranteed by the government, with absurd goals/ aka requirements to give significant portions of the loans to under qualified people with inadequate down payments. This isn’t an example of no regulation, or deregulation, it is an example of a market which is so perversely regulated as to actively encourage problems. I couldn’t design a regulatory scheme more likely to blow up.

    Biglan
    “Powell’s memo is widely credited with leading to an extraordinary transformation in public opinion about free-market economics, government regulation, and the efficacy of government. The transformation resulted from the creation of a loose network of business people and advocacy organizations that organized around the ideology of unfettered free market economics. The theory was masterfully articulated by Milton and Rose Friedman in their book and TV series Free to Choose. Based on Adam Smith’s metaphor of the invisible hand, the Friedmans argued that market systems produce greater economic development than “command economies.” As a result, Americans came to believe that the individual pursuit of profit is not just good for an individual: it benefits all of society.”

    Response
    What part of the financial market was unfettered? How many thousand of pages and mountains of regulations and regulators and government interference does it take to earn the word free market? This argument is simply Orwellian. There is absolutely nobody familiar with business (consider California, though my experience is that it is bad even in places like Texas) who believes regulation has on average diminished over the past four decades. I suppose it did a bit in airlines, but in general, the trend is more regulation, bureaucracy and interference, not less.

    Market economies DO produce greater prosperity than command economies. This is not contested by much of anyone. And pursuit of self interest can result in the advance of all society assuming institutions are established to assure the situation is positive sum (such as is the case in properly functioning markets). I just have to assume Biglan is so dismissive of his audience that he can attempt to pass a whopper like this without being caught.

    This entire stream of Biglan’s amounts to a desire for those opposing his views to shut up. The nerve of people believing markets add value actually standing up for their position! He of course throws in a token “evolutionary analysis” to make it sound respectable. Pure empty rhetoric.

    Biglan:
    “Of course, an evolutionary analysis must point to the consequences that have shaped and maintained the free market ideology and the policymaking it stimulated. Taxes on the wealthiest people were reduced significantly, dropping from 70% to 28% between 1982 and 1986 and returning to 40% in 2014. As a result, the top 1% of earners increased their share of all income from 8% in 1979 to over 17% in 2007.”

    Response
    He is conflating ideal or maximum tax rates and effective tax rates. The period in question had actual tax rates on the top in the realm of 30-35% after deductions. The wealthiest 10% pay a higher share of income taxes than any developed nation. Corporate taxes are higher too. The average top one percenter paid $438k in income taxes. That is more than four hundred poor families pay. Who is free riding here?

    Yes incomes have gone up as has the spread, but Biglan assumes it is a factor of taxes, ignoring taxes went down more on a percentage basis for the poor and median, and ignoring global and demographic trends.

    Biglan:
    “I submit that the very successful advocacy for unregulated free markets and minimal government is an example of group-level selection in which a higher level of cooperation enabled the free-market movement to dominate public discussion and policymaking. …But this success has harmed society as a whole. It undermined the communitarian values that came about thanks to Americans’ uniting to fight the Second World War.

    The analysis has direct implications for what we can do to evolve a more nurturing society. In recent months, I have been speaking to a wide variety of scientific and human service organizations as well as foundations. In many cases, these groups did not even know about the existence of the other groups. Yet every one of them shared the same basic analysis of what people need to thrive. They didn’t necessarily put it in terms of nurturing environments, but all agree that it is vital to wellbeing that we decrease stress and threat in human environments, that poverty and inequality are major contributors to these conditions, and that we need to promote reinforcement and support for prosocial behavior, including the cultivation of caring relationships.”

    Response:
    First, living standards are up. They are higher here than in most other large developed nations. Unemployment is lower than average. Growth is slightly higher. Our poor are in the global elite and are living better lives than the median forty years ago. What is this guy even talking about? He has completely distorted reality and causation. More importantly, he is ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room. What has changed in forty years is the entrance of India, China, and SE Asia into global markets. This has acted as a headwind to the income gains of less skilled workers in developed nations, but was the most important humanitarian advance in the history of the universe.

    Historians will look back at the last forty years as the era with the greatest humanitarian gains ever. Yet somehow Biglan tries to spin this as an era of out of control free market advocacy and greed.

    Biglan
    “If you don’t like where the evolution of capitalism has taken us in the past forty years,…”

    Proving my point.

    • Carlos Andres Parra H

      Omg. You are an informed BELIEVER. To reply to every point would take is into a neverending discussion, so I will just ask about the axioms of the system you defend (neo-liberal).
      1. Do you really believe that hard workers always thrive??
      2. Do you believe that “intelligence” and other human capacities have been pre-distributted equally no matter your income? (Globally).
      3. Do you think that actors are rational and so take rational desitions?
      4. How much longer do you think we can keep going on the growing economy (gdp) until the resources completely run out? Do you think that earth resources are enough to succesfully apply Usa living standars to the whole world population??
      5. Your evolutionary (economic) span is about 200 years long, if you expand it around 2.000 years you can see group selection working. Your attention to detail (the tree) in your point by point dialectic is not allowing you to appreciate the forest.
      6. In social sciences, what you believe in shape your actions, and so shape reality. Different authors have different names for it, that is why in short periods your little answers may look fit.

      • Swami

        Carlos,

        “I will just ask about the axioms of the system you defend (neo-liberal).”

        So instead of dealing with anything I said you want to dismiss me and my factual statements with a pejorative label? Could you please respond to me, not to some odd axioms, which I neither argued for nor support?

        You specifically asked me to take the time to respond point by point to THIS article. I did so. My assertions and arguments are easily verified. Feel free to agree, disagree or counter. However, please try to concentrate on what I wrote, similar to how I responded to Biglan. If you are now not interested in the discussion I wish you had not asked me specifically to do so. I find the quote and response method keeps the conversation more honest and on-point.

        In response though, you insist on labeling me in a dismissive manner and then you throw out some really odd left field questions, that seem to have nothing to do with what I wrote. But to be respectful of your time, I will answer them.

        “1. Do you really believe that hard workers always thrive??”

        No. Does anybody believe this? They are probably more likely to thrive than those who give up or don’t try at all though, all else equal. Odd question.

        “2. Do you believe that “intelligence” and other human capacities have been pre-distributted equally no matter your income? (Globally).”

        No. Why are you asking? I am well aware of intelligence measures by country. They are most certainly NOT distributed anywhere close to equally. I am also well aware that intelligence and income are positively correlated both within and between countries (not to imply firm causality though).

        “3. Do you think that actors are rational and so take rational desitions?”

        Not always, but rationality does play a role. Does anyone think rationality is irrelevant?

        “4. How much longer do you think we can keep going on the growing economy (gdp) until the resources completely run out? Do you think that earth resources are enough to succesfully apply Usa living standars to the whole world population??”

        I believe that there is no practical limit on economic or scientific growth, at least in the shorter term (next century or so). Those who believe there is do not understand the nature of VALUE. I think it is quite possible (though by no means inevitable) that global living standards in the next century or two will be several orders of magnitude higher than the average today in the US. I could even lay out the recipe to increase the odds that this happens.

        “5. Your evolutionary (economic) span is about 200 years long, if you expand it around 2.000 years you can see group selection working. Your attention to detail (the tree) in your point by point dialectic is not allowing you to appreciate the forest.”

        Disagree. I am a student of long term human history and biological evolution. When I read Supercooperators, I was actually doing research on the topic of forager cooperation. I do not in any way deny group selection as a driver of cultural evolution and social progress (though I believe Wilson’s theories of group selection on biological evolution are silly). Indeed I believe group selection in culture is absolutely essential. Could you clarify your objection, please?

        “6. In social sciences, what you believe in shape your actions, and so shape reality. Different authors have different names for it, that is why in short periods your little answers may look fit.”

        Please expand on this train of thought. Could you be more specific?

        But back to my initial lengthy response. You specifically asked me for my point by point disagreement. I pretty much countered every substantial “fact” that Biglan wrote, and I pointed out how his reasoning was frequently faulty. Granted, others can counter that my facts are wrong (though I have references and links available for them if anyone is interested), and claim that my arguments are less than perfect. Fair enough, if someone wishes to engage, I will be glad to engage in the learning process.

        Specifically,
        Do you disagree that poor in America are doing better than the median globally?

        Do you disagree that the American poor are doing substantially better than official measures when you add in EITC, black market activity, in kind transfers, public goods, and adjust for PCE inflation and influx of immigrants at the bottom of the scale?

        Do you disagree that graduating high school, waiting to have kids until you can afford to support them, and working full time are reasonable rule-of-thumb advice for someone wishing to avoid long term poverty?

        Do you disagree that America has greater inequality of outcome and higher returns to skill and effort than most of Europe?

        Do you disagree that more people have exited extreme poverty globally in last two generations than any time since the advent of humanity and that expanding markets played a role?

        Do you disagree that the historically unprecedented influx of Chinese and SE Asian workers has held down demand for lower skilled wages in developed nations?

        Do you disagree that union labor cartels are harmful to economic efficiency and that the minimum wage is harmful on net to the less skilled and experienced?

        Do you disagree that the one percent pay over $400,000 per year in income taxes and that this is hundreds of times higher than a poor family in the US pays, and that income taxes are more progressive in the US than in most developed nations?

        Do you disagree that effective tax rates in the “90% max era” were effectively actually in the mid thirties range?

        Do you disagree that market economies generate more economic growth (I would stress substantially more) than command economies?

        Do you disagree that global per capita income and life spans are higher now than at any time since the advent of the human race and that markets contributed to this advancement.

        If so, put on your dialectical boxing gloves and step in the ring. My guess is you cannot counter any of these claims (though the union/minimum wage one is at least somewhat debatable).

        • Carlos Andres Parra H

          Omg. You are so full of yourself, but out of respect of your time I will anwer this.
          You felt correctly the aim of my questions, your analysis (response to the article) is closed to the passed 200 years in the developed countries.
          It is IMPOSSIBLE to keep economically growing and not run out the earth resources. Ad it is IMPOSSIBLE to extend the Usa living stadards to all humanity simply because there are not enough resources.
          It is indeniable that the living standards have increased greatly in the last 200 years (the free economy that you like) but is also indeniable that we have destroyed the place we live in at an amazing pace, we survived for more than 5.000 years and destryed the earth in 500.
          If China and India achieve the Usa living standards we would destroy earth in less than the next 100 years. (Giddens, luhmann, beck, bauman).

          If I explain the global and historical economics we would go out of topic radically and use too much space, but the development of the centre was not because of a bunch of intelligent people guided by profit, but because of the centralization of all the wealth made around the earth, through different methods.
          There was a industrial period when the surplus was absorbed through tech surplus (chang), but nowadays the industrial sector is moving to the developing world. The money is coming to the centre through the third sector and the invention of the country-risk totally controlled by some for-profit agencies in the Usa.
          People dont thrive because of their personal skills or hard work, but because there is a STRUCTURE that allows it. And that structure is made out of beliefs like the “invisible hand” which is pushing people to abandon cooperation in favor of individual competition. Nevertheless, the economic power od the Usa and Erope is coming to an end, and that is why poverty is growing in the Usa and state help is being reduced in europe.
          If you see the 5.000 year game, China, India and other great empires are coming back to power, and the dominance of a small period of 200 years that the Usa had will end very soon.

          Ps. I dont exactly agree with the article, be ause that idea is too difficult to prove, but

          • Swami

            Carlos, your approach is not very conducive to sincere dialogue. You specifically requested that I take the time to do a point by point rebuttal of Biglan, despite my professed reluctance to waste the time on it, I then did so. You then promptly ignored my points and instead brought up some kind of strange critique of the central axioms of a political philosophy that neither of us holds and which I explicitly reject.

            Out of courtesy of your time, I actually responded as best I could to all your questions, and redirected back to my points. Which you again ignore, instead switching the topic now to the the long term sustainability of economic progress, a topic which is way outside of the scope of Biglan’s article,had nothing to do with Novack’s book, and which I assure you I know as much about as anybody you are likely to encounter. (omg, so full of himself!)

            I could engage you and easily refute what you are saying (you are making the mistake of confusing quantity and quality in value) . But considering the extended pattern of personal attacks and evasions, I have to conclude that your response to topics that don’t go according to your view is to switch the topic and give people derogatory labels or question their reading comprehension.
            So, I will wait to show you how you are wrong on the issue of long term progress, until you engage on the initial discussion. I am assuming you will not for obvious reasons, but the opportunity is yours…

          • Carlos Andres Parra H

            First, I DID NOT ask you to a point by point discussion, that was your over-confident offering always accompanied by the words “I could easily refute”.
            Second, I could also refute your minimalistic point by point logic, but at the end of a long discussion which I dont have the time to do (Im sure you will keep replying on a stubborn and proud manner until you are declared winner), we will come to debate about the axioms, beliefs and foundations.
            So to evaluate the results or the validity of this axioms we have to observe the LONG GAME, and that is why Novak comes into play, and political economy.
            Your arguments are just on details when I am talking about the basis, your point by point is useless because you cannot see (and apparently not willing to discuss) the faulty in the basis of your thinking, and your assumptions.
            Third, in your argument (which didnt count on that all knowledge is made by humans, see constructionism and epistemology) you just argue based on indexes that are totally constructed, and could easily be changed, and exist several to measure the same thing, and others much better (for example to measure “poverty”).
            Fourth, as you defend the increasing living standards on the Usa, you havent said ANYTHING about the extention of the same standards to all humanity, and also you havent mentioned any solution to the limited resources issue.

            Or you think that is normal and acceptable that only the population of some regions in the north of the planet live well while the others (mostly deserved) endure poverty and hunger?

          • Swami

            Five days ago:
            “Then I am waiting for the point to point dialectic.”

            Today:
            “I DID NOT ask you to a point by point discussion…”

            Umm, OK. You should probably look into the doppelgänger posting under your account.

          • Carlos Andres Parra H

            the point-by-point discussion it was YOUR offer which I decided to accept, but then you showed your minimalistic reply which I have stated several times I will not engage because it will lead to nothing, as you will keep responding over-confident and stubburn.
            As I said before you are an informed BELIEVER, and nothing I say will change your beliefs.

            You havent responded yet about what I said about the resources, extending the Usa living standards to all humanity, and the 5.000 year game.

            And I as I have proved that you are an over-confident believer, and you keep avoiding the epistemological and fundamental discution, Nor I or anybody else will extract anything positive from this discussion.
            Anybody who reads this will agree with me. If you are soo conviced that you can “easily show” that this article is wrong, then go ahead and write one better that will be published in a serious journal, and re-new the theory that is in decline.
            If you can succesfully do that you will become the next nobel prize, if not respect the other nobel prizes such as Stiglitz, Shiller and Akerlof.
            And if you want to prove that the invisible hand is more helpful than economic cooperation, do your research and publish it, overcome Novaks work.

            I put an End here to this discussion, as nothing good comes from arguing with a fool, much less when he is convinced he is a genius.

        • Micah

          Swami, I admire the patience and resilience you display in addressing the author’s points. I could not go beyond the third paragraph in the main article given the claims of i) child poverty in the US without distinguishing between absolute and relativist values, ii) the red herring of US youth taking longer to rise out of poverty then their counterparts in US-SUBSIDIZED nations and iii) moving the goalposts regarding the definition of poverty. And of course, the grand specter of INEQUALITY needs to be exorcised, regardless of the fact that economic classes are fluid and the gini coefficient is negatively correlated with GDP.
          Thank you for your well-informed piece. Unfortunately, numbers and history cannot compete with the “feel-good” elicited by abstracted notions of social equality. Hats off to you for even attempting the debate