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May 03, 2021

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China has very little in the way of social services and safety nets. Things could get pretty disparate pretty fast.

desperate

Always check the spell checker...

Yeah, things are already disparate in China. ;-)

Not at all so - it's a one party state.

Now this is a form of protest that I approve.
https://twitter.com/hazelreporting/status/1392886366720118785

China's economic growth started almost by accident. In the rural areas, farmers secretly agreed to split up farmland among themselves and start private markets for any production beyond government quotas. The government didn't stamp it out and later allowed economic zones where foreign investors could set up manufacturing plants and other businesses.

Sheesh, did that have Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen or Sammo Hung in it? It sounds familiar, but I just can't place the movie...

Not a law, but it's very difficult to overcome the Pareto principle and make it stick.

This is completely false. For example:

http://piketty.pse.ens.fr/files/ideology/pdf/F10.2.pdf

For a very brief change of pace, this is Michael Sheen with a wonderful rendition of Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night in honour of Dylan Thomas Day, on the anniversary of the first production of Under Milkwood. It's an example of how, when a poem is read in the same accent in which the poet would have thought it, there is a small but noticeable gain :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-sM-t1KI_Y

there's an album called "A Child's Christmas In Males" of Dylan Thomas reading a bunch of his own poems. recorded in 1952.

you can find some of it, and other recordings of Thomas, on YouTube.

(my middle name is 'Dylan', from Dylan Thomas)

an M is an upside down W.

it's part of my secret code.

PB: I agree with McKTx that we should abolish inherited wealth now.

McKTx: I think you know that's not what I said. Free riders do not have the right to call on their fellow citizens for support. If their families are dumb enough to support them, that's their own business

To me, it makes no difference whether your idle lifestyle is supported by government or by numbers in an inherited bank account. The rest of us are still producing stuff for you while you contribute nothing.

Free riders do not have the right to call on their fellow citizens for support

they do if we say they do.

you can't just pull moral decrees from the air and demand everybody obey them.

Not a law, but it's very difficult to overcome the Pareto principle and make it stick.

Yeah, this is complete nonsense.

I mean, I suppose it might be technically true in something like the same sense that "it's difficult to make a heavier than air vehicle in the air and keep it up there" but that doesn't mean airplanes are impossible, just that there's some engineering to work out.

But I'm somewhat skeptical that it's even that difficult. I'm just not sure any modern society, at least, has even tried. Taxes are usually framed as a way to raise revenue, so they aren't structured for this purpose. Sometimes -- like a couple of decades post-WWII in the US -- tax rates and other factors conspired to level out income or wealth somewhat. For a time. But that's really an accidental side effect, so it doesn't last.

I don't think there's any reason to think that overcoming the tendency of wealth to concentrate, or at least making a big dent, would be any more difficult than designing a tax structure to explicitly target that goal. A 100% inheritance tax. A real wealth tax. Maybe some kind of financial transaction tax. And a proper budget for enforcement.

The biggest difficulty would likely be getting that to pass in the first place: there are a lot of already wealthy and powerful people who very much don't want such a thing to happen.

To me, it makes no difference whether your idle lifestyle is supported by government or by numbers in an inherited bank account. The rest of us are still producing stuff for you while you contribute nothing.

Exactly.

To me, it makes no difference whether your idle lifestyle is supported by government or by numbers in an inherited bank account. The rest of us are still producing stuff for you while you contribute nothing.

what jack said.

In the good old days we made children get a real job and told old people to get it over with and just die. 'effing idlers, the lot of them.

China has very little in the way of social services and safety nets.

Not really true. They've got universal health care and paid maternity leave, so they've got a couple moves on the US, which doesn't have the excuse of being a developing country.

The existing US ones were certainly inadequate to the task last year, for example. We passed emergency measures to bridge the gap (well, some of it).

China responded similarly, shoring up their safety net in the process.

I suspect they'd do something similar to respond to any future catastrophe, or at least whatever they're able to. The party leaders very much know where their bread is buttered, and mass unemployment or similar event would be a disaster for them.

To some extent, it's also just a different system. One with a lot more hands-on management. I think their ideal approach would be to fend off economic crisis before it occurred, rather than relying on a safety net to pick up the pieces. And for better or worse, authoritarian systems can respond very flexibly once they become aware of an incoming problem.

The Working Poor -- a very powerful account, and sad to say, probably more relevant today than it was when it came out in 2005.

To some extent, it's also just a different system.

Indeed. They are attempting to deal with some really big (let me repeat-really BIG) issues.

To me, it makes no difference whether your idle lifestyle is supported by government or by numbers in an inherited bank account. The rest of us are still producing stuff for you while you contribute nothing.

Seconded. (Fourthed?)

The idle rich reminded me of Alfred Doolittle's moral philosophy, so I opened Pygmalion for the first time in a long time. Sometimes I forget how laugh-out-loud funny Shaw can be.

HIGGINS [revolted] Do you mean to say, you callous rascal, that you would sell your daughter for 50 pounds?

DOOLITTLE. Not in a general way I wouldn’t; but to oblige a gentleman like you I’d do a good deal, I do assure you.

PICKERING. Have you no morals, man?

DOOLITTLE [unabashed] Can’t afford them, Governor. Neither could you if you was as poor as me. Not that I mean any harm, you know. But if Liza is going to have a bit out of this, why not me too?

HIGGINS [troubled] I don’t know what to do, Pickering. There can be no question that as a matter of morals it’s a positive crime to give this chap a farthing. And yet I feel a sort of rough justice in his claim.

DOOLITTLE. That’s it, Governor. That’s all I say. A father’s heart, as it were.

PICKERING. Well, I know the feeling; but really it seems hardly right—

DOOLITTLE. Don’t say that, Governor. Don’t look at it that way. What am I, Governors both? I ask you, what am I? I’m one of the undeserving poor: that’s what I am. Think of what that means to a man. It means that he’s up agen middle class morality all the time. If there’s anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it’s always the same story: “You’re undeserving; so you can’t have it.” But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow’s that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I don’t need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don’t eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, cause I’m a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low. Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving. What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything. Therefore, I ask you, as two gentlemen, not to play that game on me. I’m playing straight with you. I ain’t pretending to be deserving. I’m undeserving; and I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it; and that’s the truth. Will you take advantage of a man’s nature to do him out of the price of his own daughter what he’s brought up and fed and clothed by the sweat of his brow until she’s growed big enough to be interesting to you two gentlemen? Is five pounds unreasonable? I put it to you; and I leave it to you.

HIGGINS [rising, and going over to Pickering] Pickering: if we were to take this man in hand for three months, he could choose between a seat in the Cabinet and a popular pulpit in Wales.

PICKERING. What do you say to that, Doolittle?

DOOLITTLE. Not me, Governor, thank you kindly. I’ve heard all the preachers and all the prime ministers—for I’m a thinking man and game for politics or religion or social reform same as all the other amusements—and I tell you it’s a dog’s life anyway you look at it. Undeserving poverty is my line. Taking one station in society with another, it’s—it’s—well, it’s the only one that has any ginger in it, to my taste.

HIGGINS. I suppose we must give him a fiver.

PICKERING. He’ll make a bad use of it, I’m afraid.

DOOLITTLE. Not me, Governor, so help me I won’t. Don’t you be afraid that I’ll save it and spare it and live idle on it. There won’t be a penny of it left by Monday: I’ll have to go to work same as if I’d never had it. It won’t pauperize me, you bet. Just one good spree for myself and the missus, giving pleasure to ourselves and employment to others, and satisfaction to you to think it’s not been throwed away. You couldn’t spend it better.

HIGGINS [taking out his pocket book and coming between Doolittle and the piano] This is irresistible. Let’s give him ten. [He offers two notes to the dustman].

DOOLITTLE. No, Governor. She wouldn’t have the heart to spend ten; and perhaps I shouldn’t neither. Ten pounds is a lot of money: it makes a man feel prudent like; and then goodbye to happiness. You give me what I ask you, Governor: not a penny more, and not a penny less.

PICKERING. Why don’t you marry that missus of yours? I rather draw the line at encouraging that sort of immorality.

DOOLITTLE. Tell her so, Governor: tell her so. I’m willing. It’s me that suffers by it. I’ve no hold on her. I got to be agreeable to her. I got to give her presents. I got to buy her clothes something sinful. I’m a slave to that woman, Governor, just because I’m not her lawful husband. And she knows it too. Catch her marrying me! Take my advice, Governor: marry Eliza while she’s young and don’t know no better. If you don’t you’ll be sorry for it after. If you do, she’ll be sorry for it after; but better you than her, because you’re a man, and she’s only a woman and don’t know how to be happy anyhow.

HIGGINS. Pickering: if we listen to this man another minute, we shall have no convictions left. [To Doolittle] Five pounds I think you said.

DOOLITTLE. Thank you kindly, Governor.

HIGGINS. You’re sure you won’t take ten?

DOOLITTLE. Not now. Another time, Governor.

HIGGINS [handing him a five-pound note] Here you are.

DOOLITTLE. Thank you, Governor. Good morning.


Marvellous!

It's been fun but I've got to return to my own fulfilling way of making things fulfilling.

Here, probably inadvertently, we come to a big part of the challenge when discussing something like UBI. We all have a tendency to extrapolate from the people we encounter.

Maybe most of the people you know, or know of (perhaps from YouTube videos, for example FabRats or Mike Patey), devote big chunks of their free time (and even more in retirement) to building stuff. Or working in their garden. Whatever. As a result, you will tend to think some variation on "people want to work; to do something useful."

Then again, perhaps your social circle spends their free time reading, or playing cards, or something else unproductive. Then you can see UBI as funding undeserving sluggards.

It might be informative to get some solid statistics on how big each group actually is. With details so we can also see how many would prefer to be in the other -- perhaps if they had access to the tools to do something in particular. Until we have that, all we can do is toss off random examples of one or the other, which doesn't do much to enlighten anybody.

Not a law, but it's very difficult to overcome the Pareto principle and make it stick.

This is completely false. For example:

Income inequality 1900-2015: the diversity of Europe

From the chart, in Sweden in the 1980s income inequality had dropped to the point that income of the top decile was below 25%. But I don't think anyone wants to go through what Sweden did to get there.

In 1950 Sweden was the fourth-richest country in the world. By 1995 their wealth was less than the G7 average. During the 70s and 80s, the country was almost destroyed.

Shades of Martin Luther!
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/gay-blessings-germany-vatican/2021/05/10/e452cea2-af6a-11eb-82c1-896aca955bb9_story.html
And note that Pope Francis has already said that, 500 years ago, Luther was correct.

(Since this is as open a thread as we've got.)

During the 70s and 80s, the country [Sweden] was almost destroyed.

Shall we blame ABBA? Which, after all, was busy at the time becoming massively rich as one of the country's top 3 sources of export earning.

By 1995 their wealth was less than the G7 average.

and?

it's #7 on the Happiest Countries list.

i'd rather be happy than wealthy.

During the 70s and 80s, the country was almost destroyed.

That's rather overstating things, don't you think?

Sweden probably made some missteps in handling the oil crisis of the mid 70s, but as usual, things are complicated.

Anyway, what you're implying with that anecdote is that economic crisis is the *only* way to achieve economic equality. That's clearly not in evidence.

From the chart, in Sweden in the 1980s income inequality had dropped to the point that income of the top decile was below 25%

From the chart, Sweden along with France, Germany and Europe and the aggregate, were well below the supposedly insurmountable Pareto limit of income inequality from the end of WW2 until 2015.


But I don't think anyone wants to go through what Sweden did to get there.

Steady growth even relative to the rest of the word?

https://eh.net/encyclopedia/sweden-economic-growth-and-structural-change-1800-2000/pi

i'd rather be happy than wealthy.

Sweden is both. Currently their GDP per capita is only below US and (slightly) Germany among G7 nations.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita

Then again, perhaps your social circle spends their free time reading, or playing cards, or something else unproductive. Then you can see UBI as funding undeserving sluggards.

Well, since my wife is an author, we'd call those people "job producers."

Ufficio, from your link:

"Crisis and Restructuring from the 1970s
...
During the 1980s some of the constituent components of the Swedish model were weakened or eliminated. Centralized negotiations and solidaristic wage policy disappeared. Regulations in the capital market were dismantled under the pressure of increasing international capital flows simultaneously with a forceful revival of the stock market. The expansion of public sector services came to an end and the taxation system was reformed with a reduction of marginal tax rates. Thus, Swedish economic policy and welfare system became more adapted to the main European level that facilitated the Swedish application of membership and final entrance into the European Union in 1995."

Sweden – Economic Growth and Structural Change, 1800-2000

Sweden has recuperated a lot since 1995. Currently, it's more economically free than the US.

Sweden has recuperated a lot since 1995. Currently, it's more economically free than the US.

And yet its income distribution is still below the supposed Pareto rule.

Again, how is this serving your point? Even anecdotally?

Then again, perhaps your social circle spends their free time reading, or playing cards, or something else unproductive. Then you can see UBI as funding undeserving sluggards.

Well, since my wife is an author, we'd call those people "job producers."

Two thoughts about how much the bean-counters miss or ignore when figuring out what we all contribute to the world.

1.

First, a metaphor:

The place where I live is set on the 10-acre remnant of a 300-acre dairy farm. When I first moved here, excited at the prospect of having some land, I consulted a forester at the Soil Conservation Service office in Augusta. We talked about gardening, planting trees, having someone plant a few acres for hay (some of the land is swampy and unsuitable), and I don't remember what else.

Finally the forester said, "Or you could just let the land sit there and hold the world together."

2.

I seem to be in a literary mood today, so here's another salute to the value of intangibles (doubly so, in my offering it and in its subject matter): the last paragraphs of Middlemarch:

Sir James never ceased to regard Dorothea’s second marriage as a mistake; and indeed this remained the tradition concerning it in Middlemarch, where she was spoken of to a younger generation as a fine girl who married a sickly clergyman, old enough to be her father, and in little more than a year after his death gave up her estate to marry his cousin—young enough to have been his son, with no property, and not well-born. Those who had not seen anything of Dorothea usually observed that she could not have been “a nice woman,” else she would not have married either the one or the other.

Certainly those determining acts of her life were not ideally beautiful. They were the mixed result of young and noble impulse struggling amidst the conditions of an imperfect social state, in which great feelings will often take the aspect of error, and great faith the aspect of illusion. For there is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it. A new Theresa will hardly have the opportunity of reforming a conventual life, any more than a new Antigone will spend her heroic piety in daring all for the sake of a brother’s burial: the medium in which their ardent deeds took shape is forever gone. But we insignificant people with our daily words and acts are preparing the lives of many Dorotheas, some of which may present a far sadder sacrifice than that of the Dorothea whose story we know.

Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.


Then again, perhaps your social circle spends their free time reading, or playing cards, or something else unproductive. Then you can see UBI as funding undeserving sluggards.

I should, perhaps, have noted that I am personally one of those who spends big chunks of his free time reading. But then, I can afford to live off the income from my savings, so I presumptively avoid the "undeserving" subset of my fellow sluggards.

Not really true. They've got universal health care and paid maternity leave, so they've got a couple moves on the US, which doesn't have the excuse of being a developing country.

What countries say they have and what's available on the ground can be very different. Unless someone can afford a private hospital or pop over to Hong Kong, medical care can be very chancy even in the first-tier cities.

At public hospitals, people have to stand in long lines to get a ticket and pay upfront for treatment. Lines long enough that some pay scapers to stand in line for them. Then they may have to pay a bribe to get treated in a timely manner. In rural areas, any medical care available may only be from TCM practitioners.

Doctors and nurses are often poorly trained, poorly paid, poorly treated, and face overwhelming caseloads. They often face verbal and physical assaults from patients and their relatives. Some patients and relatives think they have been defrauded if they pay a doctor and are not cured.

Some of the recent reduction in poverty in China is due to moving the goalposts. This year the CCP declared that poverty had been completely eliminated.

Not a law, but it's very difficult to overcome the Pareto principle and make it stick.

I'd also urge you to think through the implications of this invocation a little bit.

Pareto distributions apply to all sorts of things. Like the sizes of sand grains. And yet it would be the height of folly to argue that such a distribution is "just". To suggest that some sand grains worked harder than others, say, or that some sand grains "deserved" their size. Clearly that Pareto distribution is the result of a purely stochastic process, in which chance variations in the starting conditions result in a predictably disparate range of outcomes.

What does that say about income distribution? Do you really believe invoking the Pareto principle is a good argument against attempts to make that distribution more just?

What does that say about income distribution? Do you really believe invoking the Pareto principle is a good argument against attempts to make that distribution more just?

I've never taken an economics class, so maybe someone could explain this to me. Is it at all like saying that when rain doesn't always fall at the time or place where we're growing our crops, we should nevertheless not try irrigating the land, because oh well, the Great God Pareto has spoken?

If that's the idea, we might as well pack it in and go back to hunting and gathering.

Do you really believe invoking the Pareto principle is a good argument against attempts to make that distribution more just?

I probably shouldn't have invoked Pareto. But the kind of income distribution most here seem to want would be extremely difficult to obtain.

the kind of income distribution most here seem to want would be extremely difficult to obtain.

All the Pareto principle says is that, absent external intervention, this is the distribution random statistics will give you. It says absolutely nothing about how difficult it would be to create a different distribution.

CharlesWT - care to share what your sources are for that information about China? Also, how many, and what sort of people from China do you come in regular contact with? I'm not challenging your information, just trying to get a sense of the sorts of perspectives that they represent.

I don't have any direct contact with people living in or are from China. But for a number of years, I've watched the video blogs and podcasts of people who have lived in China for ten to fifteen years. What they have to say is antidotal but, having traveled all over China, their experience of China is greater than most Chinese. Their advantage/disadvantage is that they are not Chinese. But they speak the language and are married to Chinese.

Here are two articles about the state of medical care in China.

"The short answer is “no.” China says it’s a socialist country, but a large part of its population struggles to afford medical services. Providing quality health care to a rapidly aging society is now a key challenge faced by the ruling Communist Party."
Does China have universal health care? A long (and better) answer

"“It’s about 5 a.m. and about 100 people have gathered in line in downtown Shangai,” the narrator says softly. “This isn’t the line to the movies or a holiday sale. It’s the entrance to the Shanghai Cancer Center at Fudong University. Those who are willing to lose a night’s sleep trying to try to get in line have one question in their mind: will I get to see a doctor today?”

It’s an appalling scene. We see sick people waiting in massive lines to receive medical attention. Scalpers are selling places in line to those most desperate. Some people are unceremoniously pulled out of line by security right before entering the hospital (presumably for cutting)."
The New York Times Reveals the Horrors of Capitalism—By Showing China’s State-Run Hospitals: If the Times had visited one of China’s many private hospitals, they would have found something quite different from the chaos depicted in China’s public health care facilities.

Pareto

Unless I'm mistaken, the 'Pareto principle' is an observation about things that tend to happen, absent outside interference. Pareto made the observation about the distribution of land ownership in Italy, and subsequently he and others found that it shows up in lots of contexts.

As human beings, we have the intelligence to recognize patterns like this, and the agency to moderate them or mitigate their effects if we choose to do so. The reasons we might choose to do so include things like the need for everyone to eat, even if they don't have much money.

The Pareto principle is not a moral law. It's not a normative statement. It's just an observation.

If you look out the window and it looks like rain, you can choose to take an umbrella. You're not obliged to just get wet.

free riders

I have a friend that I've known a long time now, probably fifty plus years at this point. He's unusually intelligent, highly resourceful, and over time has acquired a variety of really useful skills, mostly in the areas of building trades. Carpentry, electrical, plumbing, woodworking, auto and other mechanics. He holds a couple of patents for mechanical gizmos he's invented.

He has difficulty holding a job, because he's abrasive to the point of obnoxiousness. He makes do with some minimal income from more or less home handyman projects for people who are willing to put with his personality. He does do really good work, he helped me shingle part of my house when he was visiting once, and the work he did was perfect, simply perfect.

He was on the verge of being homeless - as in, within a week or two of having no place to live - but he got some Covid relief money and used it to buy a used RV. He lives in that now, and pays a minimal rent for a space on a friend's property that provides him with hookups for water and power. It's cheaper than renting an apartment, with or without roommates.

He spends most of his days lately upgrading the plumbing and electrical systems on the RV to fix old broken stuff and generally bring it up to a level that supports year-round occupancy.

Absent the Covid relief stuff he'd probably be on the street, or, more likely, he probably would have offed himself.

He probably qualifies as a free rider, in the sense that he absorbs more goods and services from the public sector than he contributes, or even generates for himself.

I guess we could all just let him die or live in the park, but on the whole I'm fine with having public funds go toward keeping him alive.

Some people thrive, some don't, for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes it's their fault, a lot of the time it's not. Or, like my friend, sometimes it's their fault, but it's kind of baked in to who they are, and if we rely on them somehow turning themselves into some other kind of person, they're gonna die before that happens.

I don't really know how many people there are out there who, like my friend, find it somewhere between challenging and impossible to find a way to fit their square selves into the world's round holes.

Why are some people such PITA's? Why can't they just accommodate reality? I have no idea.

But I'm fine with not just letting them sink beneath the freaking waves.

I'm cool with the rounding error theory of the public safety net. Some folks might be undeserving, some folks might have personal challenges, some folks might just be chronic fuck-ups.

Everybody's gotta eat.

But the kind of income distribution most here seem to want would be extremely difficult to obtain.

John "Papa Johns Pizza" Schnatter ran the numbers and figured out how much he'd have to raise the price of his pizzas in order to provide health insurance for all of his full time employees in order to comply with the ACA.

IIRC it was somewhere between 11 to 14 cents a pizza.

His response was basically fnck that, I'll cut everybody's hours so that they're not full time.

14 cents a pizza.

I'm skeptical that the "kind of income distribution most here seem to want" is that far out of reach. The problem lies elsewhere.

In my opinion.

If the Times had visited one of China’s many private hospitals, they would have found something quite different from the chaos depicted in China’s public health care facilities.

Ha ha. All those silly Chinese people queuing for public health care, when they could just go to a private clinics where the American expats go. The ones that lure all the best doctors out of the public system. And no lines!

I see that article closes with some nice FUD about the imminent "implosion" of UK NHS too. Classy.

But the kind of income distribution most here seem to want would be extremely difficult to obtain.

Perhaps it would be if "what I want" were taken to mean what I think would be ideal, though I'm not even sure what that would be. Something better than what we have now is preferable to ... um, what we have now. So the kind of income distribution we had roughly 50 years ago, when the top 1% received a bit more than half the share of national income that they now do, would be a lot better than the current income distribution. And it has the virtue of having happened already, so perhaps not so hard to obtain, given that we already obtained it. That even after obscene concentrations of income - similar to what we have today - that occurred a little over a century ago.

The ones that lure all the best doctors out of the public system. And no lines!

From the other article:

"Well-educated doctors all want to work in public hospitals, where they can move up the career ladder by earning promotions in the state-run system. Because of that, China does not have enough general practitioners or family doctors, and the private sector is poorly developed."

Or, like my friend, sometimes it's their fault, but it's kind of baked in to who they are, and if we rely on them somehow turning themselves into some other kind of person, they're gonna die before that happens.

I don't say this to be snarky, but I want to put quotation marks around the word "fault" in that comment. Is having MS, or Parkinson's, or dementia, the "fault" of the person who has those illnesses? We would never say that.

In some ways, we seem collectively to understand that short people can't make themselves into tall people and v.v., and that many diseases just happen to people, through no discernible actions or choices on their part.

But we're a long way from grasping that other, especially mental, characteristics are just as immutable or random.

I know someone who is struggling with chronic pain, and one attitude a lot of people meet that with is: it's all in your head, and it's your own fault if you can't make it stop. (Either that or they tell the person how to fix it. This is after seventeen years, dozens and dozens of medical practitioners and tests, several special diets, massage, chiro, acupuncture, PT, blah blah. But a lot of people know what's up after five seconds.)

Our system treats people with physical disabilities that prevent them from working badly enough. People like russell's friend haven't got a prayer, except I guess the kindness of friends.

Yes. And from the second, very bad, article:

In China, the government sets fixed salaries for PCPs, which are much lower than what one could earn in the private sector. Naturally, this attracts fewer professionals into primary care.

Someone has their story wrong.

Look, I don't think anyone here is shocked to find out that a country of 1.4 billion people -- one in the grip of an authoritarian regime, and still busy unevenly clawing its way from the 16th century into the 21st -- isn't quite managing to live up to its ideals on the health care delivery front.

Especially when there appear to be some unfortunate interactions with a new nouveau riche class and a parallel private system.

But I don't think any of that is insoluble. I daresay some of those problems even sound like they have easy fixes. Why not working on providing a better career advancement path for PCPs working in rural clinics, for example?

In some ways, we seem collectively to understand that short people can't make themselves into tall people and v.v., and that many diseases just happen to people, through no discernible actions or choices on their part.

But we're a long way from grasping that other, especially mental, characteristics are just as immutable or random.

Or grappling with how that translates into societal success.

The reason that a power law (the Pareto principle) applies to things like income distribution is that tiny initial advantages compound on themselves over and over to produce wildly disproportionate outcomes.

For example, it might actually be the case that Jeff Bezos was simply born with an extra percentage point or two of some "meritorious" attribute, like 'cunning' or 'diligence', on his metaphorical D&D player card. Relative to some other kid in his neighborhood from similar circumstances.

It doesn't follow from there that a resulting three order of magnitude difference in income is "deserved". It certainly doesn't follow that Jeff's in-born advantage should get him better health care, say, or have food when his neighbor doesn't.

I'm not remotely asserting that our medical care is like China's, but I get tired of the cottage industry of articles about how everyone else's care is terrible so we shouldn't think for a second about trying to improve ours. (Long lines at the NHS used to be all the rage! Now it's Canada I keep hearing about.)

When I needed a dermatologist some years ago, I could choose one that was more than an hour away, or I could wait six months for an appointment. Great news for people who can't drive themselves to faraway appointments, and I don't think this is remotely unusual, especially in rural America. Not to mention that I'm not even in that rural an area.

Never mind that you have to have a PhD and a private administrative assistant, or lots and lots of time on your hands to spend on the phone trying to sort out glitches, to understand and navigate Medicare or the ACA (or so is my impression; I only know about the Medicare part).

Our system is designed to keep people dependent and afraid. The byzantine complications are a feature, not a bug. A significant percentage of hospitals in the US are owned by Catholic entities that won't pay for birth control as part of their employees' health insurance, and that restrict or forbid certain kinds of medical care.

I don't give a damn what's wrong with health care systems in other countries; our own provides enough room for improvement to keep us busy for a long time.

jack lecou @3:19: yes!

The problem lies elsewhere.

A really masterly understatement of a punchline, after the set-up. And with the additional benefit of being true true true.

It doesn't follow from there that a resulting three order of magnitude difference in income is "deserved".

Yes a million times.

I tried to say this yesterday, much more clumsily. And since Bezos's "income" is kept deceptively low, I would like to point out that he has a net worth of, let's see, five orders of magnitude times that of someone with a million dollars in assets, which, according to this quickly googled piece, amounts to about 8% of American adults. Never mind the millions who have no assets whatsoever. And also never mind that if a good chunk of your million in assets is your house, and you run into a medical disaster, you may still find yourself with nothing much before too much time goes by.

This is a wonderful graphic, which might even have been posted here a while back. Or else at BJ, I don't remember.

Also, from the CNBC link above:

And having a particular mindset almost universally contributed to their success, Hogan said. He found that around 97% of millionaires surveyed believed they were in control of their own destiny.

That is much higher than the 55% of the general population Hogan found to hold the same opinion.

Nothing like a little confirmation bias, is there?

And having a particular mindset almost universally contributed to their success, Hogan said.

I mean, how do we suppose Hogan managed to establish the direction of causation here?

;-)

Nothing like a little confirmation bias, is there?

Wow.

The book Billionaire Wilderness by Justin Farrell that I mentioned earlier is full of stories he gathered from his field work with the ultra rich in Teton County, and it really does bring out the extent to which this sort of confirmation bias colors their attitudes towards wealth and social responsibility, and their connection with the less well off in their community. The book peters out a bit in the latter third, and could be more incisive in its commentary, but the ethnography is really informative.

Sweden has recuperated a lot since 1995. Currently, it's more economically free than the US.

Good to know that we can strive towards Swedish levels of income equality, taxation and social services without destroying our freedoms or our country.

It's difficult to consult all the, except for bad luck, would-be millionaires to see what percentage of them believed they were in control of their own destiny...

He found that around 97% of millionaires surveyed believed they were in control of their own destiny.

but how can this be, with the soul-crushing tax burden we place on them?

It's difficult to consult all the, except for bad luck, would-be millionaires to see what percentage of them believed they were in control of their own destiny...

Which is maybe precisely why nobody should pay any attention to a financial advice grifter who makes stupid claims like "having a particular mindset almost universally contributed to their success"...?

That said, I think it would be huge fun to do a huge longitudinal study of people following this guy's 'how to be a millionaire' advice. What do you want to bet the end results will look exactly like a sequence of appropriately weighted random dice rolls.

I've had several opportunities to be a millionaire. Not being one is more due to bad decision-making than bad luck.

Inflation devalues everything. It's funny how "millionaire" still seems to inspire the same awe as in oh, say, 1955, even though...

What a dollar use to get us
Now won't get a head of lettuce
...

or in non-musical terms, the dollar buys maybe 10% of what it bought when I was a kid.

I guess "ten-millionaire" just isn't catchy enough. Or maybe the finance gurus and influencers are actually innumerate....

Or both.

Not being one is more due to bad decision-making than bad luck.

Or you had the bad luck to be born a bad decision-maker. ;-)

If only my brother and I hadn't let our mother throw out our baseball card collection.........

Yes, today's dollar is worth less than a nickel 100 years ago.

Yes, today's dollar is worth less than a nickel 100 years ago.

Basically, the value of the dollar dropped by around 90% (i.e. it became worth a tenth of what it used to be) during the various gas shocks in the 1970s. Since then, the usual gradual inflation has cut it by about half -- with the (enormous) caveat that you can now buy a lot of extremely useful stuff that, in 1970, you couldn't have bought for any price.

All of which makes 1-to-1 comparisons of "what the dollar is worth" problematic. Essentially, you can prove pretty much any thesis you decide to push. All you have to do is take some care with which prices you are comparing.

Okay, wj, I'll narrow it down and argue that for many, many people -- especially older ones like us -- a million dollars in net worth in 1955 represented far more financial security than a million dollars does now, even assuming similar life expectancy.

For another benchmark, when I left home for college in 1968, my parents' generation still thought anyone who made $10,000 a year was unimaginably well off.

Unprovable, I realize.

But hey, it's a blog.

I've had several opportunities to be a millionaire. Not being one is more due to bad decision-making than bad luck.

Having those opportunities in the first place probably took a certain amount of good fortune, whether you realize it or not.

I'd also be careful about what you label "bad decision-making".

I mean, if you missed out on an obviously fantastic investment opportunity because you'd just finished snorting the last of your savings account off the back of your new $300,000 Vertu Signature Cobra, then ok, sure.

But if it was because you'd just drained your savings account on a new roof for the house and a vacation for the kids, maybe not so much.

Ditto if it was because you'd gotten the wrong kind of degree a couple decades previously. Or pissed the wrong guy off somewhere along the way. Or turned something down because it sounded like a scam at the time. (Or neglected to invest in a couple of thousand bitcoin back when they were a nickel or two a piece.)

We have a tendency to apply a just-world fallacy to things and blame ourselves, but a lot of it is still actually just random chance and unforeseeable circumstance.

(Or neglected to invest in a couple of thousand bitcoin back when they were a nickel or two a piece.)

I've been in and out of bitcoin a number of times. I've always managed to be out every time it decided to go up a couple of magnitudes. :(

I've always managed to be out every time it decided to go up a couple of magnitudes.

Well, I suppose somebody had to be on the other side of those trades other people were getting rich on.

don't have any direct contact with people living in or are from China. But for a number of years, I've watched the video blogs and podcasts of people who have lived in China for ten to fifteen years. What they have to say is antidotal but, having traveled all over China, their experience of China is greater than most Chinese. Their advantage/disadvantage is that they are not Chinese. But they speak the language and are married to Chinese.

This thread has come back on itself in an interesting way, specifically seeing CharlesWT's discussion of where his China information comes from and coming back to confirmation bias.

When you talk about Chinese medical care system, there is a large measure of ethnocentricity here, with the idea that a medical care system is only measured in terms of Western medicine. As I mentioned in an earlier post about Korea, traditional medicine occupies a large part of the space for medical care, but you aren't going to get much information from vloggers about it. I'm not super convinced about its efficacy, but since a lot of medical care is not necessarily medical interventions, but more keeping good health, the system functions well enough. Of course, if you come down with pancreatic cancer or something like that, you are probably out of luck, but it's not like you are going to be cured and out in a week if you get it in the states.

Travelling around China, presumably because someone has the financial wherewithal and the wanderlust, they probably are going to take away rather minimal information on how the local populace deals with medical issues. (I leave it as an exercise to the reader to imagine how Charles got his information about "farmers secretly agree[ing] to split up farmland among themselves and start private markets for any production beyond government quotas." I'm sure they were simply chatty beyond all measure with the laowai who happens to be drinking some juhuacha on the corner...)

In fact, the fact that most of the information we get is from young people who are doing their world tour means that we have a pretty big blindspot in terms of how medical systems function day to day in different countries. It also one of the reasons why Americans can get truely rogered by the system, because it always seems like the people who end up having problems are ones who are considered less worthy because it is probably their fault that they are sick.

Of course, having a broad canvas like China, where one can probably find evidence for anything, is probably an advantage.

Okay, wj, I'll narrow it down and argue that for many, many people -- especially older ones like us -- a million dollars in net worth in 1955 represented far more financial security than a million dollars does now, even assuming similar life expectancy.

I think this is accurate.

"Being a millionaire" still sounds impressive somehow, but I'm sure a lot of the people Hogan interviewed were indeed fairly ordinary people, with the good-but-not-extraordinary fortune to hold decent, steady jobs with opportunities to buy homes and put a little to the side.

In other words, the kind of lives many people who entered working life in the 50s or 60s probably could have expected to have as a matter of course, even if the nominal dollar amounts were different, but is rarer and rarer for latter generations.

The article headline was "Here's how a they got wealthy", but the truth is, a million or two isn't really "wealthy". It's roughly the amount that corresponds to a moderately comfortable life we should *all* be able to expect. It's only in the context of our extreme inequality -- abject fragility contrasted with obscene privilege -- that it seems special.

Great thought train, lj. The image of the farmers revealing their top secret machinations to some random western stranger made me laugh out loud.

My son spent five years in China. He was fluent enough in Mandarin for everyday life, he lived in three different cities but mostly Yulin, in north Shaanxi. And he would be the first to tell you that he didn't even scratch the surface in terms of being knowledgeable about the country.

For what it's worth, I've been doing a series of picture posts at BJ from my China trip in 2010. Links:

https://www.balloon-juice.com/2021/04/08/on-the-road-janiem-china-part-18/

https://www.balloon-juice.com/2021/04/27/on-the-road-janiem-china-part-28/

https://www.balloon-juice.com/2021/05/06/on-the-road-janiem-china-part-38/

https://www.balloon-juice.com/2021/05/13/on-the-road-janiem-china-part-48/

The article headline was "Here's how a they got wealthy", but the truth is, a million or two isn't really "wealthy". It's roughly the amount that corresponds to a moderately comfortable life we should *all* be able to expect. It's only in the context of our extreme inequality -- abject fragility contrasted with obscene privilege -- that it seems special.

Yes, this.

Speaking of choices and bias, there's a point to be made about what wealth is, anyway.

Somewhere out there, there are two very similar people.

One of them did all the things I imagine Hogan says people should do. She buckled down and scored a spot at a top college. Got a degree and a job in some soulless, but lucrative field. Used a little inheritance in her late 30s to get onto the housing ladder, or set it aside in sensible mutual funds, etc., etc.

The other one went to lots of fun parties in high school. Went to a State College for a degree in poetry, but then dropped out their senior year to ride the rails for a couple of years, or joined the Peace Corps or something. Eventually went back to finish the degree and thence to social work. Or teaching. Or some other ridiculously-underpaid-but-socially-indispensable profession. Blew that same inheritance on a multi-year leave of absence traveling the world someplace and writing an interesting but unpopular book. Etc. Etc.

At the end of the story, we certainly know for
a fact who has more "net worth". I think we'd need a lot more information to know who's had a richer life or has contributed more to the world.

As I mentioned in an earlier post about Korea, traditional medicine occupies a large part of the space for medical care, but you aren't going to get much information from vloggers about it.

A lot of traditional Chinese medicine was lost during the great leap backward and the cultural devolution. And a lot of the current TCM was plucked out of thin air by scammers. Some practitioners wanting training in real TCM go to Japan to get it.

Travelling around China, presumably because someone has the financial wherewithal and the wanderlust, they probably are going to take away rather minimal information on how the local populace deals with medical issues.

The guys I follow the most lived and worked in a number of different places in China and Mongolia. They didn't have a lot of money. The money for their trip through northern China was crowdsourced. Since they were making a travel log, they had to cover expenses for themselves, several crewmembers, cameras, drones, and other equipment. They didn't travel from tourist trap to tourist trap. But on motorcycles to out-of-the-way places where the locals had never seen a foreigner before. They've traveled through almost all of China's provinces.

For a while, one of the guys had a job training Chinese doctors in the use of English language medical terms. And he married a Chinese doctor. He likely has a more nuanced understanding of Chinese medical care than the average ex-pat.

I leave it as an exercise to the reader to imagine how Charles got his information about "farmers secretly agree[ing] to split up farmland among themselves and start private markets for any production beyond government quotas."

"On a dark November night in 1978, 18 Chinese peasants from Xiaogang village in Anhui province secretly divided communal land to be farmed by individual families, who would keep what was left over after meeting state quotas. Such a division was illegal and highly dangerous, but the peasants felt the risks were worth it. The timing is significant for our story. The peasants took action one month before the “reform” congress of the party was announced. Thus, without fanfare, began economic reform, as spontaneous land division spread to other villages. One farmer said, “When one family’s chicken catches the pest, the whole village catches it. When one village has it, the whole county will be infected.”"
How China Won and Russia Lost

I am, give or take, right around being a “millionaire”, if you combine retirement savings (even allowing for the deferred taxes), home equity (thanks Atlanta housing market!), and liquid savings. I think the term needs to be retired or redefined in some fashion. I am not wealthy, but I have “enough”, for my lifestyle. If I had more I could spend it on travel and more extravagant socializing, but it’s never been a priority for me to rack up dough for those things. No kids, so that’s a significant factor.

Being a foreigner wandering around China means that you are probably richer than 90% of the people there. And being able to wander means that your health is probably not really an issue.

For a while, one of the guys had a job training Chinese doctors in the use of English language medical terms. And he married a Chinese doctor. He likely has a more nuanced understanding of Chinese medical care than the average ex-pat.

So why don't you pass on his vlog links?

On a dark November night in 1978,
from a Hoover Institute article by a non Chinese speaking first author. Look, I don't want to dump on Kate Zhou
https://www.hoover.org/profiles/kate-zhou
who has the books How the Farmers Changed China and China’s Long March to Freedom, Grassroots Modernization, which I've not read, but one review of the book

https://www.jstor.org/stable/23729146#?seq=1

Has this

Still, what might better be seen as a natural desire to better one's own household at the expense of others is potrayed as a rather exaggerated kind of raw intelligence

It would probably be better if you actually read the whole article rather than coping the first graf. Especially since it is only one page long.

Throughout the reform process, the Chinese Communist Party simply reacted to (and wisely did not oppose) bottom-up reform initiatives that emanated largely from the rural population. Deng Xiaoping’s famous description of Chinese reform as “fording the river by feeling for the stones” is not incorrect, but it was the Chinese people who placed the stones under his feet.

and

Real reforms, whether dictated from the top or bubbling up from below, require a reform constituency. In the Chinese case, a large percentage of the population was recovering from the catastrophes of the Mao years. Rural dwellers, in particular, had witnessed the chaos of the Great Leap and had seen their parents and children die from starvation during the 1958–61 famine. They learned they had to take care of themselves. The urban elite had been ripped from the cities to a life of work and reeducation in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, and a whole generation had been deprived of schooling. In the Russian case, the last famine lay three decades in the past. After the war, few people were executed for political crimes (political dissent became instead a mental disorder); the Gulag had been gradually dismantled after Nikita Khrushchev’s secret speech of 1956. All lived under the motto, “We pretend to work and you pretend to pay.”
Surveys show that Russians were basically content with the system, comfortable in the bosom of their state enterprise or state farm.
China had a reform constituency; Russia did not.

Taking the China example as some sort of example of the wonders of libertarian thinking brings to mind what Pauli said
"This isn't right. It's not even wrong."

Forgot to add these links about the "lost" traditional Chinese medicine

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168851008002078

and

https://bmccomplementmedtherapies.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12906-020-02910-x

and
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6113761/


So why don't you pass on his vlog links?

ADVChina

ADV Podcasts

laowhy86

serpentza

Ah, serpentza is the one married to the doctor.

Thanks!

Sometimes being a foreigner lets you see or record things in a way that's valuable even to the locals. Like Alexis de Tocqueville in America, or Lafcadio Hearn in Japan.

But. If I were, say, a Chinese traveler visiting the US for a while right now, I'm not sure I'd want to bet that I'd be able to put together a truly accurate picture of much of anything. Certainly not from chance conversations as I hiked around. Probably not even from working and living for a few years, or making close friends.

Heck, plenty of Americans disagree vehemently about much of what's going on. In their own country. The one they've lived in their whole lives. Like, how their health care system works. Or who's President.

It's certainly possible to make carefully qualified observations, or hear interesting opinions from new buddies over beers. And it's an experience I heartily recommend. But drawing broad conclusions is an entirely different matter. A lot of humility is called for there, in inverse proportion to our familiarity and experience.

Charles, thanks for the links, hope this isn't too harsh, but here goes.

I started out with serpentza. I don't think he's totally wrong, but he's definitely coming from this with an angle. You go to the youtube page and you are greeted with 'The Original Chinese vlogger' and videos titled (and these are the ones that I saw, I don't know if they are sensitive to any algorithms)
-China's Ridiculous Online SCAMS Targeting YOU!
-The 5 Most Illegal Things I Did in China
-China's Internal Passport System - Country Folk Can't Enter the Cities
-Why are Chinese Schoolgirls doing this?
-I was a Bodyguard for a Chinese Serial Rapist

I wasn't going to dismiss him just because he wants the clicks though, so I went to
China v. Japan
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVMbp5-bJAM

because I figured I'd be better able to evaluate things.

It's fine as far as it goes, his Chinese seems quite relaxed and he speaks some Japanese. But I kind of balked when he argued that because he had lived in China for 10 years, that gave him credibility. I don't think that's totally to be dismissed. I may have thought the same thing when I had lived in Japan for 10 years. I would have been wrong though. Think about everything that has happened where you are in 10 years. Does that really constitute a big enough window to draw conclusions?

Also, looking thru other videos, I saw this one
Why I left China for good!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWgqdfAomVI

In addition, this video notes that the other podcasts are all linked to each other and a quick trawl indicates that they are trying to set up a youtube video empire. Nothing wrong with that, I wish I had gotten in on that earlier. But when someone is trying to set up a source of income from what they are posting on youtube, you have to wonder how that is influencing them and their content.

While I don't have others to recommend, I don't really think you are going to be getting a multiplicity of views by watching these channels.

Like I said, I don't want to crap on the channels, he's got some interesting stuff and I'm sure he's got great anecdotes. But his ultimate purpose is not to inform you, it is to get you to click on his videos. I don't think he will do it by telling complete fabrications, but how much will he shade things?

If you are watching him because you have a deep and abiding interest in China, I'd definitely suggest branching out. If you are watching them so as to get nuggets for libertarian arguments, you are going to have to find something that goes deeper.

lj, some of the points you raise I've considered myself. His clickbait titles can be annoying. I think he sometimes exaggerates too much for effect.

He and his partner have their biases and slant on things. But of a number of "old China hand" video bloggers, they seem to be most broadly knowledgeable and honest about what they know and don't know. I try to keep in mind that they are presenting small snapshots of a much larger reality.

While they were in China, their video blogs were largely positive. Since they left they've spent a lot of time being critics of the CCP. Part of is due to COVID. They had planned to be doing travel logs in Japan, South Korea, India, and other countries.


The discussion of health care in China is interesting, but I’ve forgotten why it came up.

@russell -- I can't trace it exactly, but it was in the context of the discussion of taxes and what a national economy might accomplish under one system or another.

I can't trace it exactly -- I mean in my memory; either of us could read back through to figure it out, but I sure don't want to. ;-)

LOL

It was, in fact, a pretty good discussion, but once was enough....real life does call sometimes. I'm especially glad that jack lecou has been more than an occasional presence lately -- I hope that isn't temporary!!

An interesting piece by Tony Blair on the future of the Labour Party and, in general, progressive policies and how they get implemented:

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2021/05/tony-blair-without-total-change-labour-will-die

Part of the intro:

We are living through the most far-reaching upheaval since the 19th-century Industrial Revolution: a technology revolution of the internet, AI, quantum computing, extraordinary advances in genomics, bioscience, clean energy, nutrition, gaming, financial payments, satellite imagery – everything, every sphere of work, leisure and life is subject to its transformative power. The question is how it is used: to control humanity or liberate it, to provide opportunities for those presently without opportunity, or to put even more power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of those already well off.

This is the central political challenge of our time, and those who understand this revolution, show how it can be mastered for the benefit of the people, and harness it for the public good, will deservedly win power. It is a challenge tailor-made for the progressive cause. It requires active government; a commitment to social justice and equality; an overhaul of public services, particularly health and education; measures to bring the marginalised into society’s mainstream; and a new 21st-century infrastructure.

Clearly, Blair will be anathema to many here. But I have had to live through the phenomenon of far lefties of my acquaintance howling in protest as, in the aftermath of the sainted Corbyn and Labour's subsequent defeats, the Tories dismantled many of Blair's and Brown's achievements. I think, as a politician who showed he had insight into the electorate and could win elections, at the very least he deserves a hearing. As Ian Leslie said on the blog where I read this:

I agree with Tony Blair’s argument in this piece but even if you don’t it must be possible to acknowledge that he is thinking and writing at a higher level of clarity and urgency than anyone else in Labour politics. I mean that less as praise for him and more as a comment on the state of the discourse. All those saying ‘go away, your time is over’ have to first make him obsolete by being better.

I'm especially glad that jack lecou has been more than an occasional presence lately -- I hope that isn't temporary!

Agreed.

From my perspective, I pitched in because it was mentioned that China had universal health care and there was then a dismissal of Chinese health care. Which is pretty rich coming from anyone who has seen the system in the states. Yeah, hi tech, but delivery to everyone? don't make me laugh.

But anyway, serpentza, like I said, interesting guy, has interesting experiences. But I'm not sure if I would say 10 years in country makes one an 'old China hand', though, as I said, I would have described myself as an old Japan hand after 10 years. But the 30+ years me would probably take that youngster and give him a swirly...

But his farewell to China wasn't just COVID, it seemed a lot deeper than that, I'm sympathetic, but in that video he explains why he left South Africa. This is at 0:50
growing up in South Africa and especially the time I grew up in South Africa and all this drastic change things let's just put it this way weren't good for someone who looks like me so being a young white South African professional meant that the opportunities really just weren't there

It is like Louis CK joke about how, if he had a time machine, it is great being white cause you can go back to any time. However, you don't ever want to go forward.

This is not to suggest that he's some sort of racist, but it seems that he's not really adjusted himself to what the future looks like. He sounded really miffed that he was being watched and couldn't follow the truth wherever it took him. If you think about that, that is a luxury very few ever get. And precisely why would a foreigner get that? It only got real when it was the cops checking up on _him_. So I tend to feel he may not have been able to see as clearly as one might suppose.

He sounded really miffed that he was being watched and couldn't follow the truth wherever it took him.

Thus clearly demonstrating that he was no "old China hand", at least as it applies to the China of today.

But his farewell to China wasn't just COVID,

He was in China for about 15 years. His partner was there for over 10 years. They had planned to live there indefinitely. But the handwriting on the wall was beginning to look like Mao 2.0. They left before COVID. But, because of it, they're stuck in the US talking about China when they had planned to spend the past year traveling Japan, South Korea, and India.

I did put "old China hand" in quotes. Of course, 10-15 years is not enough time to become fully immersed in a culture. But the two of them have done a much deeper dive than most ex-pats in China. They are more broadly knowledgeable of China than most Chinese. They just don't have the depth of someone growing up in China.

If it is true that he was "really miffed he was being watched and couldn't follow the truth wherever it took him", he was, in really important ways, scarcely knowledgeable about China at all.

It was, in fact, a pretty good discussion

Agreed.

I actually couldn't remember exactly how we got there. It seemed to start from the discussion of China as a counter-example to McK's assertion about the impossibility of a nation making economic progress absent free markets, but then it seemed to take on a life of it's own. Please don't take my comment as a criticism of, or objection to, the discussion.

I was also trying to understand if Charles' comments on the topic were meant to be a counter-argument to the idea that China has made significant economic progress in the post-Mao years. If so, I'd disagree.

Mostly it seemed like a weak basis for arguing for the superiority of our own social and economic institutions. I'd rather live here than in China (I suspect so, anyway, never having lived in China), but mostly for reasons other than the quality of the respective health care systems.

Were I the leader of, or even a resident of, a developing country looking for a model for how to raise my country out of 3rd world status, I'm not sure I'd choose the US over China at this point. As a model, that is. It'd probably be a matter of picking and choosing features of both.

And it is good to see you around the neighborhood again jack!!

I was also trying to understand if Charles' comments on the topic were meant to be a counter-argument to the idea that China has made significant economic progress in the post-Mao years.

In recent decades billions of people have escaped abject poverty. Most of them mainland Chinese. More recently part of the reduction in poverty has been from the CCP moving the goalposts. A five-year plan to completely eliminate poverty in China ended in 2021. And five-year plans never fail. Not any that the CCP will admit to. So there's no point in having social programs to alleviate something that doesn't exist.

An article on a number of China video bloggers and their differing points of view on China. The quote is about the two I pay the most attention to.

"And YouTube has its share of unapologetic critics of China's authorities - most notable are Winston Sterzel, a 40-year-old South African who goes by the name SerpentZA, and Matthew Tye, or Laowhy86, a 33-year-old American.

After moving to China as English teachers in the 2000s, the duo began publishing videos on benign topics such as motorcycle maintenance tips and dating and co-produced two documentaries as they traveled across northern and southern China.

But around the time that both left China in 2019, their channels took a sharp turn into outspoken criticism of the country's government, helping drive them to the nearly 1.5 million subscribers the two collectively have today.

They use the same hyperbolic headlines that have become common across the platform's hyper-competitive landscape: one of Sterzel's recent videos is titled "How China is slowly KILLING us all", which garnered nearly half a million views.

In a September 2019 video, Tye explained how his outlook had changed, describing a country facing government oppression, rising crime, and alleging that the land used for his and Sterzel's motorcycle business was seized by the authorities.

"We are constantly labeled and attacked as 'anti-China', when in fact, a very large portion of our supporters and subscribers are not only Chinese people living abroad, but also mainland Chinese who thank us for criticizing the policies of the Communist Party of China," Tye said in an emailed response to questions."
US-China friction turns into YouTube fame (and laughs) for online influencers

This is free streaming videos with ads of the two traveling across northern China for over a month.

"Popular Youtube vloggers, SerpentZA and Laowhy86, head to the northernmost point of China on their most grueling and punishing adventure to date."
Conquering Northern China

Were I the leader of, or even a resident of, a developing country looking for a model for how to raise my country out of 3rd world status, I'm not sure I'd choose the US over China at this point. As a model, that is. It'd probably be a matter of picking and choosing features of both.

At least as a model for the transitional period, I think the preponderance of evidence is that a US model, at least an idealized one, would be an abject disaster. Has been, over and over and over when it's been imposed on the developing world.

The best models are probably places like Japan or Korea (or Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand to some degree...). None of those has ever been called socialist, but neither were they anything remotely like free markets.

Very broadly, industrialization was led by large corporations (zaibatsu/keiretsu/chaebols in Japan and Korea) in extremely cozy cooperation with the state (which took on industrial planning functions, and foreign exchange finance functions). This is a pattern Chalmers Johnson called the “Capitalist Developmental State”. AFAIK, it's the only genuinely successful development model anyone's yet observed.

And China's ongoing experiment with 'state capitalism' resembles this more than anything else.

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