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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Matt gets around. One post on John Paul II and then one on Karl Marx.

This one is serious because I really should know about "The hedonics literature suggests that in international comparisons, greater national wealth stops reaping dividends in terms of happiness at an average income level about one third of this -- $12,000 per person, or so." I only know about physical quality of life and stuff.

Now in the post Yglesias criticises Brad DeLong for criticizing the Marxian theory of exploitation. The criticism is unfair. Matt claims that Brad claimed that Marx thought that any world without exploitation was better than any world with exploitation. A simpler proof that this is false is that Marx would not have been pleased by the extermination of humanity. Brad, however, wrote no such thing. He wrote only that Marx would have perceived exploitation in a case where Brad thinks there was none and where Brad challenges the reader to try to agree with Marx ... OK I tried... can't do it.

Matt's post is every interesting even aside from the literature which I really should know about and why does he always know things I don't know.

He argues roughly that in the US it would be an improvement if income were distributed perfectly equally and there was no further economic growth. This is a pure hypothetical. Even for a hypothetical it is extreme. If one required perfect equality, GNP would not only stop growing but fall to probably close to zero (you know that OP curve Matt ?). But it is just hypothetical.

It doesn't have much to do with Marx except that Marx and Yglesias agree that such equality is a pipe dream for the forseeable future "it is not until work ceases to be a burden on life and becomes its chief aim and pleasure that we can inscribe on our banner 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs'" Note the word "not" which is always removed from the quote and rather changes the meaning wouldn't you say ?

It seems to me to that Matt make the obviously right choice to make in the extremely hypothetical case where we had to decide which was better equality or further economic growth. Yet it also seems to me that his view places him out of the US main stream. I wish I thought it was just that most people can't imagine highly counterfactual hypotheticals, but I am afraid that the vast majority of Americans are totally confused about how much happiness they could derive from further growth and don't value equality enough.

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