Your Top 5 Economists?
165 posts by 31 authors
Page 6
David Lloyd-Jones Jim Blair wrote:
Peter Lawrence Certainly, though you added in that bit about "industrial" - that has nothing to do with it. That small scale is what I was talking about, so as not to overstate the case. But actually, it has happened on a much larger scale: English settlers in
Michael Price Peter Lawrence <> wrote in message news:<>...
Michael Price Peter Lawrence <> wrote in message news:<>... > Jim Blair wrote: > . > . > . > > > wrote: > > >> > > >> The education they don't want nevertheless supports the democratic > > >> institution
Peter Lawrence No. It's wrong to reinforce either. It is right to allow things to find their own level - which does incidentally favour the status quo much of the time, but is not the object of the exercise. The wickedness lies in treating people as objects
Peter Lawrence No, I was NOT. Your thinking that is just precisely 'you added in that bit about "industrial"', only with you doing it rather than JB. Go and look at what I wrote - it hasn't been snipped. Nothing there comparing industrial and pre-industrial; I
Jim Blair ....
Jim Blair PL:
Peter Lawrence Well, actually, they do. Or rather, would - if they weren't ruled out of consideration. There are none so blind... . .
Matt Berkley
Three questions on utility and life length
Other recipients:
Question 1

Why do some economists appear to become defensive when you tell them
that poverty statistics might be influenced in the wrong direction by
trends in survival rates of hungry people?  

Social scientists might want to consider carefully the difference
between "the average gain" and "the rise in the average".  

Question 2

Most economists think that if the proportion of poor people goes down
(with additional indicators such as the poverty gap) the poor have
done better.  


On Fri, 11 Apr 2003 15:58:42 +0000 (UTC), Jim Blair
<> wrote:

[Peter Lawrence wrote, in relation to global poverty]:

>>The losers are all perishing off stage, where you don't see them.

[Jim Blair wrote]
>If they don't reproduce, should we be sorry about that?  Darwin and all.

On Fri, 11 Apr 2003 18:37:37 +0000 (UTC), Jim Blair
<> wrote:

>............we live in a world of "survival of

>the fittest".  Should we be worrying about the Neanderthals and all the
>other species (and human cultures) that did not survive?  They were not as
>well suited to the environment and that is why they are no longer here.  
>Too bad for them, but good for us.  Adapt or check out; that is what life
>is about.

The loss of years of life is not recorded by macroeconomists.    

That is a hole in the idea that economics is the science of the
aggregation of welfare gains and losses, or the maximisation of

The failure to measure the years lost, or even the income lost by
those who died, and the fact that the statistics can move in the wrong
direction, show a hole in arguments about poverty using economic
statistics.   We just don't know the size of the hole in each case.  

Economists, frankly, need to realise that life length is a necessary
variable in any coherent concept of individual utility, or welfare.
Otherwise, they can say the poor did better on average during a
period, when in fact they did worse.   Or vice versa.  

The life-length flaw in economic method allows, in theory at least, a
Social Darwinist to make fallacious claims about aggregate economic
trends for poor people, or people in general.    It also allows them
to make fallacious claims as to aggregate gains or losses in utility,
or welfare, or as to what was "good" for poor people.    

The change in per capita income is not a function purely of income
rises and falls.    It is also a function of demographic change.  

We can only hope that economists have not made too great a mistake
already.   See World Bank/IMF "Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers", in
which the prime statistical aim is to reduce the proportion of poor
people; and all references to "halving poverty by 2015".    Note
dramatic falls in life expectancy in some African countries and
demographic effects of the AIDS virus.   I do not know whether, or how
much, the statistics have been affected.    Nor, apparently, does
anyone else.  

The value of a year of life is a subjective matter, not an objective
one.   But it is not zero.   And it is not positive for people above
the mean and negative for those below the mean.   Most people have
incomes below the mean.    It is not positive for people above the
poverty line and negative for people below it.    

The relative importance of your measure of life length in your
calculation of utility is a matter of opinion.    The fact that social
scientists' outcome measures need to include it follows from common
sense, and the philosophy of Jeremy Bentham.   The duration of
happiness is obviously a factor in how good the consequences were for

Jim Blair's lack of concern about other people dying is a personal

It is an entirely separate matter from the scientific question of how
to make inferences from cross-sectional statistics to claims about
average longitudinal gains or losses.    

If economists assume they are calculating the average gain (say, to
people in a poorest quintile), when the reality is that they have
inferred it without thinking about survival rates, then that is not
perhaps a very good state for a science to be in.    

Question 3

If utility does not include life length, then what is it?

Matt Berkley
Oxford, UK

Darren McHugh Matt Berkley wrote:
Grinch Hey, Matt: First tell us how much aggregate welfare in these *poor* countries has been *increased* by their increases in lfie expectancy -- I mean, over and above the increase in average income they have all experienced, since you keep saying life
Matt Berkley On Sat, 19 Jul 2003 23:46:15 -0400, Grinch <> wrote:
Grinch Why do you keep saying they do? Very obviously they *don't* ignore longevity changes when assessing policy results. Stop the nonsense. <snip>
David Lloyd-Jones Mattt, You continue to complain that health statisitcs reveal things that, you claim, are not reflected in the economic statistics. First, the reason we have health and mortality statistics is exactly that: they tell us things about health and
Darren McHugh David Lloyd-Jones wrote:
bobkolker Darren McHugh wrote:
Jim Blair Hi, No matter how much we spend on healthcare or modify our behavior, the "death rate" remains unchanged at 100%. But dying at 40 years of age is not the same as dying at 80.
8/11/03 On Mon, 11 Aug 2003 14:05:23 +0000 (UTC), Jim Blair <> wrote:
Jim Blair Hi, I agree that much of Africa and of the former USSR are moving against the trend. But the term "race to the bottom" is being applied to the USA, Canada, Mexico (the countries in NAFTA) and others who are joining in various trade agreements.
Jim Blair wrote:
8/20/03 On Wed, 20 Aug 2003 17:21:16 +0000 (UTC), Jim Blair <> wrote: >Roy, on a related topic and out previous discussions: did you see the
Grinch Nah, "the smartest person ever" is supposed to have been William James Sidis. At age 8 he passed the MIT entrance exam and at 11 he was lecturing at Harvard on four-dimensional bodies. Marilyn sure has nothing on him. Alas, he was also the walking
8/21/03 "Grinch" <> wrote in message
C. P. Weidling "jpathogan" <> writes:
Page 6