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Bloggingheads 03-22-2010 09:39 AM

Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 

graz 03-22-2010 02:11 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Just Wow. A really fascinating conversation. Also, a starting point for further inquiry. I hope more will follow.

BornAgainDemocrat 03-22-2010 02:14 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Interesting discussion. A couple of points from my own experience. One has to do with habit formation and the amount of "mental energy" required to establish a new habit compared to the amount of energy required to sustain it. If behavioral economists could figure out more efficient ways to establish new habits -- new forms of training and intervention that actually work, for instance, perhaps involving some kinds of incentives -- that would be a valuable area of research.

The second point involves what it is like to be poor and disorganized in a complex society. I was there once -- drug induced discombobulation -- during which time I would fantasize about ways to reduced the stresses I was constantly facing. Making monthly payments for example: I could never remember when the payments were due. I had no habit of paying my bills on a regular schedule and ended up with a lot of overdue penalties. How much simpler it would be, I thought, if I could arrange for automatic deposits and withdrawals from my bank accounts in a way that would make it physically impossible for me to make discretionary purchases that I could not afford. Not sure how to do that (might require a cashless economy) but that would be an interesting area to explore: making life simpler for simple minded people.

graz 03-22-2010 02:53 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by BornAgainDemocrat (Post 155339)
... How much simpler it would be, I thought, if I could arrange for automatic deposits and withdrawals from my bank accounts in a way that would make it physically impossible for me to make discretionary purchases that I could not afford. Not sure how to do that (might require a cashless economy) but that would be an interesting area to explore: making life simpler for simple minded people.

Direct deposit and auto bill-pay are available now to address your basic concern. As for the bolded portion: Even in prison, you're free to choose which junk food to purchase against your account. A scenario that might help monitor choices is possible, but if it's controlled by forces outside of oneself... I've seen that movie... no thanks.

Don Zeko 03-22-2010 03:59 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by graz (Post 155341)
A scenario that might help monitor choices is possible, but if it's controlled by forces outside of oneself... I've seen that movie... no thanks.

It sounded to me like Born-Again Dem was discussing voluntary constraints on his own behavior, which doesn't raise any particular red flags to me.

claymisher 03-22-2010 04:24 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Terrific episode.

People who enjoyed this one will probably like this podcast with Raj Chetty:
http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/3201

I think Mullainathan's too modest. I don't think behavioral economics needs to come up with its own grand theory of everything within 20 years to displace neoclassical economics. There's no grand theory of biology (not since the great chain of being) and that's a strength, not a weakness. "Behavioral economics" ought to be called "economics" and "economics" ought to be called something vaguely pejorative like "cyborg economics" or "theory of perfectly consistent preferences."

claymisher 03-22-2010 04:28 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Mike Konczal had a post in the same spirit of rethinking supply and demand:

Quote:

Here’s the normal story. Picture you are in a room with 10 people. Each of them has a slice of cake. How much you are willing to pay for a slice of the cake is the ‘marginal utility’ of having it, and the more cake you have the less any more cake is worth to you. You’d be willing to pay a $1 for the first slice of cake, but you’d only be will to pay 90 cents for the second slice. You’d only be willing to pay 10 cents for the 9th slice, and a penny for the 10th slice. Eating the 10th slice of cake in that room would probably make you sick, hence you want it a lot less than the first slice, which is delicious. That’s declining marginal utility.

Now picture you are in a room with 10 people screaming. You hate it when people scream, and you can pay a person to get them to stop screaming. Would you pay in a similar way to the cake example? Would you pay a $1 to get the first person to stop screaming, and a penny for the 10th person to stop screaming?

No. Getting one person to stop screaming would make very little difference in how much you dislike being in the room. Modern psychology tells us you might not even notice it. You’d probably only pay a penny to get that first guy to stop screaming. However getting the second guy to stop screaming might be worth 10 cents. And the last guy, the difference between some screaming and no screaming, might be worth the full dollar to you. The more quiet it got, the more a marginal difference in how quiet it is would be worth to you. There’s increasing returns to this good; the 10th guy not screaming is worth more than the first guy not screaming, which is the exact opposite dynamic of the 10th cake being less delicious than the first.

graz 03-22-2010 04:28 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Don Zeko (Post 155344)
It sounded to me like Born-Again Dem was discussing voluntary constraints on his own behavior, which doesn't raise any particular red flags to me.

I agree. This point ties in nicely with the impasse that Glenn and Sendhil confronted a couple of times. How likely is it that behavioral economics will be immune from the highjacking that most social science succumbs to? Glenn offered illustrative and well formulated (he really is an accomplished speaker)
examples for consideration. Yet, at least in this dv, it wasn't that they were talking past each other, but that Sendhil is focused on development of the theory as much as consequences.

sapeye 03-22-2010 04:50 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
One of the things I really like about Loury is that he seems to actually reflect on what he is hearing in the conversation and allow it to influence his thinking...right there in front of the camera. So often I get the feeling that each participant comes in with his or her worldview more or less fixed and so the discussions can seem a bit sterile.

cragger 03-22-2010 05:52 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by graz (Post 155348)
... How likely is it that behavioral economics will be immune from the highjacking that most social science succumbs to? Glenn offered illustrative and well formulated (he really is an accomplished speaker)
examples for consideration. ...

Consider it hijacking, exploitation, or just a type of rational persuit of self interest, but there is considerable use of at least some of the facts and tendencies that behavioral economics points out, and has been for some time. The industries of advertising and marketing are based on psychological manipulation and act to appeal to emotions, not to reason. Much of politics works the same way.

Ken Davis 03-22-2010 06:06 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Definitely not boring economics talk. Very enjoyable conversation.

graz 03-22-2010 06:16 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by cragger (Post 155354)
Consider it hijacking, exploitation, or just a type of rational persuit of self interest, but there is considerable use of at least some of the facts and tendencies that behavioral economics points out, and has been for some time. The industries of advertising and marketing are based on psychological manipulation and act to appeal to emotions, not to reason. Much of politics works the same way.

Definitely. An example of the impasse I was referring to was the example of the check cashing ops. Glenn posed the question of whether regulation ought to curb the predatory aspects. Sendhil, bemoaned the abuses, but chose to focus on the real need being met by the service. He seemed close to saying that the poverty that drives this behavior (using the service), could be mitigated if better strategy were employed. I think better regulation is a good first step to offset the abuses that spring from the demand. I heard him recommend caution before further examination. Why wait?

nikkibong 03-22-2010 06:47 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by graz (Post 155357)
Definitely. An example of the impasse I was referring to was the example of the check cashing ops. Glenn posed the question of whether regulation ought to curb the predatory aspects. Sendhil, bemoaned the abuses, but chose to focus on the real need being met by the service. He seemed close to saying that the poverty that drives this behavior (using the service), could be mitigated if better strategy were employed. I think better regulation is a good first step to offset the abuses that spring from the demand. I heard him recommend caution before further examination. Why wait?

cracking down on the check cash usury will only hurts those that the regulations purport to protect. it's a temporary "fix" that ultimately makes it so people will have a harder time making rent, car payments etc.

nikkibong goes mcardle: in a previous life i worked as a telemarketer. my coworkers were almost always close the edge, and genuinely DEPENDED on the services of the places.

what really needs to be examined is why people who are gainfully employed should have to resort to going to those places. wages are too low! but if nothing changes on the wage scale, fewer payday loan options will only hurt the poor.

great diavlog.

graz 03-22-2010 06:57 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by nikkibong (Post 155361)
cracking down on the check cash usury will only hurts those that the regulations purport to protect. it's a temporary "fix" that ultimately makes it so people will have a harder time making rent, car payments etc.

nikkibong goes mcardle: in a previous life i worked as a telemarketer. my coworkers were almost always close the edge, and genuinely DEPENDED on the services of the places.

what really needs to be examined is why people who are gainfully employed should have to resort to going to those places. wages are too low! but if nothing changes on the wage scale, fewer payday loan options will only hurt the poor.

great diavlog.

I'm open to your point. I also recall reading your relevant post on True/Slant.
Perhaps there is room for regulation (lesser usury?... oxymoronic, no?) that doesn't outlaw the practice altogether. You likely know the specifics on this?

Ken Davis 03-22-2010 07:22 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
I had the pleasure of hearing a lecture and other commentary by Werner De Bondt, over the course of a week's conclave, last July, of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science. He is considered one of the founders of the discipline of behavioral finance. The topic for the all the week's lectures was personal autonomy, and De Bondt went into the extent to which, it seems, the subconscious slips subconsciously into the equation re: rationality, once thought to be so black and white.

Claymisher, here, here!

StillmanThomas 03-22-2010 07:37 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Another in a very long line of superb Glenn Loury conversations. To me, he seems to have a near-perfect blend of passion and compassion. He is masterful at honing in on the subtleties of his partner's arguments and raising objections with both respect and restraint.

I also thought that Sendhil did a wonderful job of explaining his field and defending his insights and positions. I hope we get to see him back here on BHTV. This was a truly delightful way to invest a scarce hour of my life.

Ocean 03-22-2010 08:01 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
I'm just starting to listen to this one.

I was puzzled by the discussion about the snooze button. The snooze button isn't there to get you to get up. It's there to let you stay longer in bed. It has meaning and purpose. It's the first little happiness of the day. It allows you to wake up, feel comfortable and warm in bed, open your eyes slowly, and yet know that you don't have to get up immediately. You can turn, find a comfortable position, stretch a bit, doze off, knowing that there's no risk of falling asleep for hours and hours.

Snooze buttons are one of the greatest inventions of humankind. Truly.

JonIrenicus 03-22-2010 08:03 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Just started listening, but I am completely in favor of snooze buttons. I am weak. I need to be eased into early morning wake ups.

Ocean 03-22-2010 08:27 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JonIrenicus (Post 155373)
Just started listening, but I am completely in favor of snooze buttons. I am weak. I need to be eased into early morning wake ups.

Did you read my post?

Ocean 03-22-2010 09:12 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
I finished listening to this diavlog. I really enjoyed the last half: understanding the psychology of poverty from a different angle.

It was a great interaction between two talented communicators. Yes, have them come back!

JonIrenicus 03-22-2010 09:24 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 155378)
Did you read my post?

No, was just a general response with no reading.

JonIrenicus 03-22-2010 09:25 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
As a warning to anti snooze button people. When I have hit the alarm off button by accident, it often led to waking up 2 hours later. No snooze button is dangerous.

Ocean 03-22-2010 09:26 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JonIrenicus (Post 155385)
No, was just a general response with no reading.

Do you want to start the Snooze Button Club?

;)

sugarkang 03-22-2010 09:29 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
This was pretty awesome. What I wouldn't give to watch Krugman vs. Sowell.

grits-n-gravy 03-22-2010 09:31 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Bokonon (Post 155369)
Another in a very long line of superb Glenn Loury conversations. To me, he seems to have a near-perfect blend of passion and compassion. He is masterful at honing in on the subtleties of his partner's arguments and raising objections with both respect and restraint.

I also thought that Sendhil did a wonderful job of explaining his field and defending his insights and positions. I hope we get to see him back here on BHTV. This was a truly delightful way to invest a scarce hour of my life.

Very well put.

JonIrenicus 03-22-2010 09:55 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
This really was great in every way. Good find with this guy Glenn.

I liked this discussion because Sendhil brought in some empirical results of human behavior and it mixed with Glenns default interpretations and worries and concerns.


One of the ideas that I really buy into is the idea that a great deal of how people turn out relates to behaviors of individuals. Not solely or even primarily the "societal and social" structure or legacy of oppressions or whatever else. Not that it does not exist, just that that is not the entire picture, and by ignoring more of the behavioral aspects of bad results we end up failing to help people. Why does person A spend money on a jacket when they need to save it, why do people spend more easily with credit cards as opposed to cash.


I never bought into the line that in modern times the major barrier to getting out of financial ruts over time or a broad range of negative outcomes was due to societal structure or simply not having as much money. At least not directly.

So I am very interested in information that illuminates why people make better or worse decisions that have a real impact on how well they do financially or in their work or in family life or whatever.

Glenn seems to be worried that if it turns out that we discover that a large part of why a certain group has greater issues with credit has to do with behavior as opposed to external societal structures that that might allow people to look at the poor and say dismissive things like - GET IT TOGETHER !!! It's All your fault, start acting better!


I get the worry, however simply I put it, but that is not the point. I want to know EVERY cause of better or worse results. Whatever the source. If it turns out that a certain behavior leads to a negative financial decision on a consistent basis, I want to KNOW about it. I want it studied. Not so we can throw it back at people and absolve us of any responsibility to care or act, but so we can better craft solutions that deal with ALL the aspects that create worse outcomes, not just targeting an incomplete picture of the causes.


One of my biggest annoyances with some people is a reluctance to focus on more attitudinal and behavioral aspects of outcomes and results. The conclusion that because results are not equal, it must be the case the the be all and end all area to target must be opportunity. Well, if part of the mix of outcomes deals with behavioral quirks that we all have, but are more damaging to people on the lower end of the income scale, then why not focus on understanding that, then finding solutions that target and attempt to spur better behaviors.

That is the point. Not all of us want to just say eff it to people, for my part, I just want people to expand their range of issues that cause people to do worse and prevent them from getting ahead.

It's not enough to want to do good, you need to actually do good for it to count. And if as I believe behavioral quirks are a large part of outcomes, then we need to focus on how to help people make better choices. That is precisely what this guys work is trying to inform, however early in the game we may be, and we need more of it.


EDIT @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Check out this section

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/268...3:15&out=45:08

Notice the shock and surprise on Glenns face and the inflections of his voice when he heard the statistic about 8-10% of a poor persons income going to transaction fees.

There it is not just a case of having no extra money, presumably 8-10% of it might be able to go to paying off debts or savings if those added transaction costs were eliminated. That is HUGE. And it has nothing to do with opportunity, it has to do with the logistics of how the pie is cut up at the lower bounds as Sendhil said.

If someone wanted to start some non profit lending institution as a pilot to perform similar services of a pay day lender but at a much lower interest rate, that would be interesting, it would preserve the access to emergency funds, and lessen the magnitude of the transaction costs.

Ken Davis 03-22-2010 10:10 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JonIrenicus (Post 155386)
As a warning to anti snooze button people. When I have hit the alarm off button by accident, it often led to waking up 2 hours later. No snooze button is dangerous.

I was putting a fellow who had lost his lease up in the living room of my one-bedroom flat. He would set his alarm for seven, and I didn't have to get up until eight-thirty. Well, his alarm would go off, he'd hit snooze, repeat and repeat -- all within earshot.... Finally I storm in hollering, swat his feet there at the end of the sofa to stir him, he leaps up, there's a shoving match.... He's gone that day. So the way a snooze button is used can be dangerous.

uncle ebeneezer 03-22-2010 10:26 PM

Re: Looking for fun and excitement?
 
Setting the bar low, bhtv-style.

bjkeefe 03-23-2010 06:09 AM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Very thought-provoking diavlog. Not much to add except a second to everyone who asked for more of this.

On snooze buttons: they don't work for me. I had too many instances of hitting the snooze button, going back to sleep, hitting it again, going back to sleep, etc., until the cycle ended, whereupon I'd really oversleep.

The best way for me is a two-alarm system -- a radio that goes off at time T and a buzzer set to go off at time T+5min. I put these across the room, and so far, I have never had to hear the buzzer.

To be fair, this may instead say something about my growing distaste for NPR.

grits-n-gravy 03-23-2010 11:54 AM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JonIrenicus (Post 155395)
One of the ideas that I really buy into is the idea that a great deal of how people turn out relates to behaviors of individuals. Not solely or even primarily the "societal and social" structure or legacy of oppressions or whatever else. Not that it does not exist, just that that is not the entire picture, and by ignoring more of the behavioral aspects of bad results we end up failing to help people. Why does person A spend money on a jacket when they need to save it, why do people spend more easily with credit cards as opposed to cash.

Both Glenn and Sendhil see individual behavioral choices as constrained and shaped by social structures and conditions. That's the entire picture. And if I'm not mistaken, Sendhil seems to suggest even the way we think about scarcity and choices is influenced to a great extent by how and where we're situated in the social system. Of course, there are individuals who defy the constraints of their environments and overcome obstacles to experience success or upward mobility. But that's the exception rather than the rule.

The irony of your conversative sounding talking points is that it reminds me of the welfare reform debate in the 1990s. Conversatives were quick to blame the welfare system for producing a cycle of poverty yet they often claimed structures matter less than individual initiative.

uncle ebeneezer 03-23-2010 11:59 AM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
I don't use the snooze button because like Brendan's post, I tend to end up more rushed for time when I use it. But one thing I always loved about the snooze (back when I was still a user) was that I always had wierd dreams (and remembered them afterward) in those little 5 minute sleep cycles.

SaraK 03-23-2010 12:56 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Great talk, which I watched when -- speaking of lack of self-control -- I should have been doing research instead...

bjkeefe 03-23-2010 01:33 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer (Post 155484)
I don't use the snooze button because like Brendan's post, I tend to end up more rushed for time when I use it. But one thing I always loved about the snooze (back when I was still a user) was that I always had wierd dreams (and remembered them afterward) in those little 5 minute sleep cycles.

Yeah, agreed. A legal high.

That's probably why I had so many instances of snooze button abuse.

JonIrenicus 03-23-2010 04:24 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by grits-n-gravy (Post 155482)
Both Glenn and Sendhil see individual behavioral choices as constrained and shaped by social structures and conditions. That's the entire picture. And if I'm not mistaken, Sendhil seems to suggest even the way we think about scarcity and choices is influenced to a great extent by how and where we're situated in the social system. Of course, there are individuals who defy the constraints of their environments and overcome obstacles to experience success or upward mobility. But that's the exception rather than the rule.

The irony of your conversative sounding talking points is that it reminds me of the welfare reform debate in the 1990s. Conversatives were quick to blame the welfare system for producing a cycle of poverty yet they often claimed structures matter less than individual initiative.


Well they were not correct, structures do matter, the problem with many of the blunt tools liberals used in the past was was that the policies were so divorced from realities of human behavior and incentives it often caused worse results.

If you are going to get all interventionist, at least try and do so based on methods tied to human psychology and cognition, not based off false assumptions about reality and what will get people to a better place. Subsistence is not progress, why so many "progressives" were content with that is beyond me.

Ocean 03-23-2010 05:46 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 155518)
Yeah, agreed. A legal high.

That's probably why I had so many instances of snooze button abuse.

Huh? Weird dreams are an incentive? Go figure!


But on a more serious note, people have different types of transitions from sleep to wake. Those who transition quickly are probably better candidates for the no-snooze way of waking up. For those of us who transition slowly, snooze buttons are heavenly.

I don't know whether there are studies about this, I'm purely speculating.

Dee Sharp 03-23-2010 06:04 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
A person can get into a situation where body heat is a critically scarce resource. Once you are cold enough, you may behave in a way that makes the problem worse. Understanding this pattern may change an outsider's opinion from "What an idiot" to "That person is dangerously hypothermic." After the immediate crisis passes, whether by rescue or death, now what? The nearest 14er, Long's Peak, has a little rock shelter to which people can retreat if they are caught in nasty conditions. But putting shelters throughout the backcountry would diminish the wildness of so many places, and at great expense. Instead, most people who go there learn what to wear and how to behave so they don't get into that dangerous situation. So much of the modern response to poverty has tried to keep people warm without telling them to stay out of the snowbank. Over time, longstanding cultural pressures have been eased, resulting in large increases in the nivean population.

AemJeff 03-23-2010 06:17 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Dee Sharp (Post 155559)
A person can get into a situation where body heat is a critically scarce resource. Once you are cold enough, you may behave in a way that makes the problem worse. Understanding this pattern may change an outsider's opinion from "What an idiot" to "That person is dangerously hypothermic." After the immediate crisis passes, whether by rescue or death, now what? The nearest 14er, Long's Peak, has a little rock shelter to which people can retreat if they are caught in nasty conditions. But putting shelters throughout the backcountry would diminish the wildness of so many places, and at great expense. Instead, most people who go there learn what to wear and how to behave so they don't get into that dangerous situation. So much of the modern response to poverty has tried to keep people warm without telling them to stay out of the snowbank. Over time, longstanding cultural pressures have been eased, resulting in large increases in the nivean population.

The "shelters in the wild" metaphor doesn't seem satisfactory to me. "Diminishing wildness" in the outdoors just doesn't map onto modern civilization coherently. Keeping people warm and dry, and fed, regardless of their circumstances, is part of the social contract. It's not possible to conclude that the median condition of a human life in the modern world, despite the overwhelming size of the current population, is anything but vastly improved compared to any other time. It's hard to imagine a convincing proof that ignoring the social contract would yield benefits for anyone except for those who are already doing just fine.

Dee Sharp 03-23-2010 07:27 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
How much did you pay for that metaphor? At that price, are your quality expectations reasonable?

It was not such much metaphor as an illustration of alternative approaches to harm reduction. Glenn raised the poor single mom issue. Communities where that is the normal family structure are worse off by many measures than before the Great Society. As Glenn said, it's the difference between 24 and 48 hours a day, or what I'd call standing in the snowbank. Are intentions to help people all that matters? Or are results important too?

JonIrenicus 03-23-2010 07:28 PM

More Sendhil
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBJQENjZJaA

AemJeff 03-23-2010 07:37 PM

Re: Communitas: Rethinking Scarcity (Glenn Loury & Sendhil Mullainathan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Dee Sharp (Post 155572)
How much did you pay for that metaphor? At that price, are your quality expectations reasonable?

It was not such much metaphor as an illustration of alternative approaches to harm reduction. Glenn raised the poor single mom issue. Communities where that is the normal family structure are worse off by many measures than before the Great Society. As Glenn said, it's the difference between 24 and 48 hours a day, or what I'd call standing in the snowbank. Are intentions to help people all that matters? Or are results important too?

But my argument is that the results favor honoring those intentions. How many many people as a percentage of the U.S. population are below the poverty line right now? Of them, how many don't have access to basic needs? How many of their children won't get a decent education? Do any of those numbers show declines over the past fifty years? Hundred years? What I was saying is that I think it's facile to claim that letting people starve is a better plan than not. Even if some metrics have declined, it's hard to argue that the beneficiary population would have benefited by what I'm sure you'd characterize as benign neglect. (No irony intended. I'm not questioning the motives behind asking perfectly good questions.)


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