The one in which I get cross-eyed angry

OK -- so I'm minding my own business, and someone sends me a link to this video:

It's from the BBC so I am inclined to watch it because I love the BBC every time even when it is appalling. But as I watch this video, I get to this frame:

If you can't read the text and the graph lines, let me improve them for you:

Now: what gets me cross-eyed angry here is that he called this "per person income". What he most certainly means, if you listen to his talk here, is "per capita income" -- which is in no way the same thing. The per-capita income in the US, for example, $46,000 in 2007. (thx, What that DOES NOT MEAN is that every man-jack person in the country makes $46,000 a year: it means when you take the total personal income in the US and divide it by the total population, you get the average income per person. But he says, "per person income," doesn't he?

Now: why does he say it that way? Here's my theory: the crypto-socialist in the video wants to sneak in on you that $46,000 a year as a person's income is rich!

If the US really had an income "per person" of $46,000/year, my house would be making twice what I bring home today. But my house doesn't come up to that standard.

And let me say something clearly: I'm OK with that. I'm OK with not making $46,000 per person in my house. We make plenty of money and we live extremely well.

Bookmark this post, because the next time someone wants to complain to you about "the rich", you have to show them this and stop on that frame at about 53 seconds in and ask them: "who do you mean by 'the rich'?" Because this fellow with the edgy Euro-intellectual accent would tell you that anyone who makes more than $46,000 a year is rich.


David Regier said...

1. He read the moving bubbles as if they were in a race ("catching up", etc.). It looked to me more like a caterpillar with the head moving deliberately in a particular direction.

2. Equating income "per person" with wealth displays an ignorance of the received wisdom of any culture at any time but our own.

WV: logiste

Doug Hibbard said...

If all 5 persons in my house made $46,000, I would be rich.

As it is, we don't make that put together.

So, do we qualify as poor? Or rich?

Andy Dollahite said...

I find it moderately interesting how two guys I really enjoy reading could have such different reactions to the same video.

I'm sure Doug Wilson wouldn't dispute the issue about per capita income, but I'm not sure that's the point.

FX Turk said...

I'm not sure Doug's point contradicts mine, Andy. He approached it from the theological standpoint, I came at it from the merely-political.

Paula Bolyard said...

First, what a super-cool graphical animation. Love it!

Good catch on the per person.

His "cures" for this health/wealth disparity are also flawed: aid, trade, green technology and peace. For most of the countries at the bottom of the scale, the issue is political corruption. Pouring green technology into a country like Haiti will do nothing to cure the ills that beset that country.

It reminds me of DS's econ book from a public university last year, written by leftist Paul Krugmann. It listed the causes of poverty as lack of education, racial discrimination, and bad luck. Do the math to figure out the cause of wealth.

Both of these men fail to see (as seen on the super-cool graphic) that everyone's standard of living has gone up and that's a GOOD thing. The industrial revolution was a GOOD thing that raised the standard of living for a good hunk of the world, including those at the bottom of the scale.

However, in their ethos, the pack needs to stay together at all costs, even if that means everyone stays at the bottom.

Andy Dollahite said...


Of course your points didn't contradict one another. It's just...amusing (not quite the word I want)... how two really insightful/provocative/talented writers and thinkers can find the same piece worthy of comment, but have such divergent points of emphasis. Since I'm a fanboy of you both, it made me smile. Keep up the fabulous work.

Robert said...

Wow...quite a low bar there. Does he consider making any adjustments for cost of living?

Tony E said...

When I watched the video I thought he was sticking it to the liberals who complain about the income disparity in America. Compared to most of the world and especially to history, we are all amazingly well off.

FX Turk said...

Tony --

I think that's one way to see it, but I'm not convinced that it takes into account the Professor's final statement about everyone being wealthy and healthy.

One thing his summary analysis lacks is, as others have said here, some account of the fact that there has been a massive improvement of the health/lifespan of those in the middle -- almost to the same level of those in the top quintile. The cause of that improvement in objective terms is simply not addressed in his presentation -- which we might forgive as a function of brevity.

But when he resorts to the utopian language of "everyone" being "rich", I don't think he's giving it to the liberals. I think he's using their mother tongue.

Steve Berven said...

Considering that our poor are better off than most of the world, where making $46,000 would make you incredibly wealthy, one would hope we'd take a look at WHY the standard of living in the US is so high.

And maybe give it a few kudos, rather than keep dinging it as the source of all the world's ills. I've seen true poverty (in placed Like Bangladesh, the Philippines, Afrcia) and our definition of "poverty" is way, way WAY above the life and death struggle people face every day.

I get tired of the "success guilt" I'm supposed to feel because our system works.

Rob Steele said...

Um, Frank? You are rich. Maybe not by Park Ave. standards but certainly in the context of all human history and even all U. S. history. I think you're being over-sensitive about "person" vs. "capita"--he's probably just trying to use non-technical language.

Rental Mobil 911 said...

Nice article, thanks.

Rachael Starke said...

Thought about this graphic as I sat in my third class on elementary statistics class. Turns out the depravity of man extends even unto when to use the median and when to use the mean. Whoda thunk it?