So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

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How responsible is a person for their own wealth or poverty?

Sole personal responsibility: Inequalities exist, but so do opportunities. You are what you make of yourself.
25
15%
Primary personal responsibility: Opportunities exist, but existing poverty/social discrimination/etc create barriers some people may not be able to overcome.
86
53%
Middle Ground (please explain).
20
12%
Little personal responsibility: While it is possible to achieve personal success, the prime determining factors are environmental, not personal.
27
17%
No personal responsibility: It is virtually impossible to achieve any degree of success except through blind luck or already being part of the "rich-man-cabal".
2
1%
Other (please explain).
3
2%
 
Total votes: 163

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Justinlrb » Sat Feb 02, 2008 8:46 pm UTC

superglucose wrote:
Durandal wrote:How about people whose parents can't afford for them to go to university/college?


Re-read my post, I already said that it is beyond some people's means to leave their situation. And secondly, my parents can afford to send me to a university or college, but they don't. I pay for it myself. There *are* options out there, it's really just a matter of finding them.


What if you don't know how to find them?
What if you're too busy trying to survive to depressed or to trapped to figure it out?

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby NitWit005 » Sat Feb 02, 2008 9:53 pm UTC

Most of you are discussing some sort of hypothetical American. The "normal" American.

An American who isn't being beaten and abused by their drug using parents, who has no mental illness, who has no life long diseases, who isn't handicapped from birth or impaired in a serious accident and who wasn't drafted into the military after high school.

I know you'll respond "but most people aren't like that!" but that's not true. A large portion of the population has something that seriously disadvantages them that is not in their control. I'm not exactly going to do a heap of research here but lets look at a few statistics from some simple googlings:

9.2 percent of the population aged 18 or older have a "Serious Mental Illness" (http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k3State/ch6.htm)
906,000 children are victims of abuse & neglect every year (http://www.childhelp.org/resources/learning-center/statistics)
2.9 million people are injured in auto accidents every year (http://www.car-accidents.com/pages/stats.html)

Blah blah blah. I could keep going and create a huge post, but that's not the point. The whole "If you are smart and work hard you can do well" may be true, but for how large a percentage of the population does it truly apply?

Life is very harsh even in the US. A large portion of the population is ill or injured or abused at any given moment.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Nath » Sat Feb 02, 2008 9:55 pm UTC

Justinlrb wrote:What if you don't know how to find them?
What if you're too busy trying to survive to depressed or to trapped to figure it out?

Ignorance, business, depression and so on are all properties of an individual, and therefore, in a sense, their own responsibility.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Justinlrb » Sat Feb 02, 2008 10:12 pm UTC

Nath wrote:
Justinlrb wrote:What if you don't know how to find them?
What if you're too busy trying to survive to depressed or to trapped to figure it out?

Ignorance, business, depression and so on are all properties of an individual, and therefore, in a sense, their own responsibility.

Respectfully, I completely disagree, and I don't like this kind of let them eat cake attitude. These things can be properties of the individual; I can choose to be ignorant and therefore make it my responsibility.

But, I can also be born into ignorance. I not have enough to eat through no fault of my own. I can have nowhere to sleep just because that's the life I know. I can be taught that I'm getting what I deserve and I am not responsible for that teaching, and if it's all I know, how can you say that I am responsible for changing it? I can be abused, disrespected, ugly, disliked. Am I responsible for other's feelings toward me?
And the kicker: for people who suffer from depression, it is far from under their control, they are not responsible for it, it is not their fault.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby valiance. » Sat Feb 02, 2008 11:00 pm UTC

I chose little personal responsibility.

In my opinion our early environments are incredibly important to the kinds of people we become later in life, and we don't choose those. It's not JUST money. It's the other positive environmental factors that are often associated with money that have a great effect on intergenerational mobility (like educational prospects). For example, a Finnish study suggests that homogenizing educational opportunity increases intergenerational mobility: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm? ... _id=920645

From http://www.krueger.princeton.edu/11_14_2002.htm (emphasis mine):

"Averaging earnings over five years produced a correlation of around 0.40 for fathers' and sons' earnings -- the same as the correlation between their heights. If people's incomes were represented by their heights, the similarity in income between generations would resemble the similarity observed in the heights of fathers and sons.

New studies by Bhashkar Mazumder of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago suggest that the similarity in income is even greater. Using Social Security records, he averaged fathers' earnings over 16 years (1970 through 1985) and sons' earnings over four years (1995 through 1998), and found that around 65 percent of the earnings advantage of fathers was transmitted to sons. The wider window provides a better reflection of lifetime earnings.

The relationship between fathers' and daughters' earnings was just as strong.

So that grandson (or granddaughter) mentioned previously could expect to earn 42 percent more than average. After five generations, the earnings advantage would still be 12 percent."

Saying the the intergenerational correlation is around 0.5 is sort of meaningless to me. But if you say that the correlation between my adult income and my dad's is the same as (and likely higher than) the correlation between our heights, I get the picture. That's a pretty strong correlation.

Some relevant linkage:
http://www.chicagofed.org/publications/ ... 005_12.pdf
http://www.futureofchildren.org/informa ... _id=389282
http://www.krueger.princeton.edu/11_14_2002.htm

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Nath » Sun Feb 03, 2008 12:35 am UTC

Justinlrb wrote:
Nath wrote:
Justinlrb wrote:What if you don't know how to find them?
What if you're too busy trying to survive to depressed or to trapped to figure it out?

Ignorance, business, depression and so on are all properties of an individual, and therefore, in a sense, their own responsibility.

Respectfully, I completely disagree, and I don't like this kind of let them eat cake attitude. These things can be properties of the individual; I can choose to be ignorant and therefore make it my responsibility.

But, I can also be born into ignorance. I not have enough to eat through no fault of my own. I can have nowhere to sleep just because that's the life I know. I can be taught that I'm getting what I deserve and I am not responsible for that teaching, and if it's all I know, how can you say that I am responsible for changing it? I can be abused, disrespected, ugly, disliked. Am I responsible for other's feelings toward me?
And the kicker: for people who suffer from depression, it is far from under their control, they are not responsible for it, it is not their fault.

I was expecting a response like this. 'It's a property of the individual' is not the same as 'let them eat cake'.

Sure, a person who is depressed is not depressed by choice. But is a stupid person stupid by choice? Is an immoral person immoral by choice? No; it's a combination of genes, starting environment, and what happens to you. Sure, you get to make decisions, but your decisions are determined by your previous experiences, which in turn are determined by your genes and starting point. This isn't a 'no free will' argument; this is an argument that people's weaknesses -- all their weaknesses -- are ultimately determined by factors beyond their control. I don't think depression should be held against someone. But then again, I don't think psychopathy should be held against someone.

Depression and psychopathy and stupidity and ignorance are faults. Of people. Therefore, they are people's faults. If I am depressed, or psychopathic, or stupid, or ignorant, that is my fault. That doesn't mean I chose it, or can fix it, but it is ultimately my responsibility more than anyone else's.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Justinlrb » Sun Feb 03, 2008 7:18 am UTC

Nath wrote: That doesn't mean I chose it, or can fix it, but it is ultimately my responsibility more than anyone else's.


I don't grasp what you are trying to say. What to you mean by responsibility then?
And, how does this tie into being rich or being poor?

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Nath » Sun Feb 03, 2008 8:01 am UTC

Justinlrb wrote:
Nath wrote: That doesn't mean I chose it, or can fix it, but it is ultimately my responsibility more than anyone else's.


I don't grasp what you are trying to say. What to you mean by responsibility then?

I mean that if something is wrong with me, nobody other than me is obliged to fix it (if possible) or work around it (if not). It would be nice if they helped, but ultimately it's not their obligation.

Justinlrb wrote:And, how does this tie into being rich or being poor?

It's a response to this:
Justinlrb wrote:What if you're too busy trying to survive to depressed or to trapped to figure it out?

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Ari » Sun Feb 03, 2008 4:02 pm UTC

Do you know it's possible to reasonably accurately predict whether someone will be a criminal from a criminal from a young age without ever seeing them? Simple statistics are that powerful. While it doesn't refute the idea that it's possible to dig yourself up from your background if it's holding you back in other parts of society, it does indicate that doing so is very hard.

While I certainly acknowledge that it's possible for a lot of people to work themselves out of bad situations, and that personal qualities and hard work matter, it's not a conscious choice to do that or not do that. Many people start telling themselves an unconscious story at a very young age that constricts what they're going to do. The privileged, and I have a feeling that plenty of us here will qualify for that label, usually get bombarded with stories of success to try and influence that self-script. We're instilled with a certain amount of arrogance. We tell ourselves that we deserve our status and it is due to merit and hard work- we speak more understandably, we memorise important jargon, we behave diplomatically, we are sensitive to opportunities and to feelings and to ideas. Likewise, people who are disadvantaged often tell themselves a story of being a helpless victim.

For some of us, our self-story doesn't involve questioning whether we were advantaged in these traits- whether it's because we grew up with a certain dialect of the local language that is considered speaking clearly, whether we had ready access to useful books, whether books were even socially acceptable in our neighbourhood, whether behaving diplomatically was useful or a denial of the street smarts you might need to survive elsewhere, and whether we picked up so much education, opportunity, and so on from the work of our parents rather than on our own merits. And likewise, for those whose story is of being a victim that has no means of escaping their situation... some will live out life as who they are "supposed" to be without ever questioning whether there were opportunities for them.

I don't feel any of this is an inherent problem, but it is one that's ingrained into the way we conceive of our society. Accepting individual parenting, inheritance, and inequal wealth (whether merited at any specific point or not) will eventually lead to inherited privilege of some sort, as individual parenting biases people emotionally to family that they otherwise might not merit associating with, and inheritance allows that bias to combine with inequality of wealth.

The question is- if we accept that we want to eliminate a certain level of poverty and/or socio-economic disadvantage from society, we either have to accept comprehensive and big-state welfare, or we have to attack one of those three principles that lead to society have non-merited inequality.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Vaniver » Sun Feb 03, 2008 5:37 pm UTC

Ari wrote:Do you know it's possible to reasonably accurately predict whether someone will be a criminal from a criminal from a young age without ever seeing them? Simple statistics are that powerful. While it doesn't refute the idea that it's possible to dig yourself up from your background if it's holding you back in other parts of society, it does indicate that doing so is very hard.
Not really.

First, the "reasonably accurately" there means "better than 50%" guess, but nowhere near "better than 90%" guess.

Second, statistics include the effects of choices. For example, look at the statistics of who plays the lottery. People with strong math educations are underrepresented; people with weak math educations are overrepresented. But does not having a math education cause someone to play the lottery? Not really. It may influence their choice, but it's still their choice (that is to say, not everyone with a weak math education plays the lottery).

Also, there's a significant difference between the statistics of small numbers and of large numbers. For example:

Assume that internal factors that lead to success (genetic drives for hard work, intelligence, etc.) are evenly distributed among the population (this is a bad assumption, but it's somewhat close to reality and a common unstated assumption). Also assume that external factors that lead to success (parents/culture that value education, parents/family are wealthy, etc.) are not evenly distributed among the population.

What will the success statistics look like? If you look at a subset of the population which has similar external factors, the distribution of that subset will be determined by the external factors of that subset. If you look at any individual, the effect of their internal factors will probably dwarf the effect of their external factors. This assumes that intragroup variability is larger than intergroup variability- for most definitions of success and sufficiently large subsets, this is a good assumption.

Ari wrote:if we accept that we want to eliminate a certain level of poverty and/or socio-economic disadvantage from society
Do you mean relative poverty or absolute poverty?
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby TheStranger » Sun Feb 03, 2008 9:36 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:Do you mean relative poverty or absolute poverty?


I think we have to work from the assumption of absolute poverty. Short of a pure communist / anarchy system there will always be 'relative poverty'.

What we can do is work towards a world where the 'bottom rung' has access to adequate food / shelter and education.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Mon Feb 04, 2008 2:02 am UTC

I'd say that, in the middle of the bell curve, you can move about. I was born middle class, with my father probably upper-middle and my mother probably lower-middle (they're divorced, so, yeah. I live with my mother usually, my father on two weekends per month.) I go to a fairly standard rural school in Oklahoma (hardly the best state for...uh...anything.) Thanks to a natural gift of intelligence (does this count as personal responsibility? dunno.) and a dedication for hard work, I can say securely as a high school sophomore that if I really don't want to pay for college, I don't have to. Realistically, I'll go out of state and maybe take on a few debts. The point is, I was born into a fairly income-neutral situation--I'm not rich enough to get anything handed to me, nor poor enough to be hampered by it (or, for that matter, to qualify for need-based scholarships). So I made my own way.

But, if you're too worried about subsistence and local gangs to be able to take the kind of initiative...well, it's not impossible. But it's hard, and that's why when we hear about it, we're surprised. America isn't perfect as a land of opportunity, but it is fairly good in this regard.

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Vaniver » Mon Feb 04, 2008 2:17 am UTC

TheStranger wrote:I think we have to work from the assumption of absolute poverty. Short of a pure communist / anarchy system there will always be 'relative poverty'.

What we can do is work towards a world where the 'bottom rung' has access to adequate food / shelter and education.
Are there absolute standards for "adequate" food, shelter, or education?

Sir_Elderberry wrote:If you're rich, you don't have to make something for yourself--it's been made for you by your family.
If your parents decide to spoil you ("what's that? I'm not getting any money until you're dead?") and you have the self-restraint to make your inheritance last a lifetime. I'm don't think skating by and landing a mediocre desk job counts as making something for yourself.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Mon Feb 04, 2008 2:20 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
Sir_Elderberry wrote:If you're rich, you don't have to make something for yourself--it's been made for you by your family.
If your parents decide to spoil you ("what's that? I'm not getting any money until you're dead?") and you have the self-restraint to make your inheritance last a lifetime. I'm don't think skating by and landing a mediocre desk job counts as making something for yourself.


True, true. What I should have said is that people born into money have more opportunity to fail or make mistakes, because there's already a safety net there.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby TheStranger » Mon Feb 04, 2008 2:26 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:Are there absolute standards for "adequate" food, shelter, or education?


Enough food to meet basic nutrition requirements, enough shelter not to freeze to death, enough education to function in society (ability to read English and perform basic arithmetic)
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Vaniver » Mon Feb 04, 2008 2:30 am UTC

TheStranger wrote:Enough food to meet basic nutrition requirements, enough shelter not to freeze to death, enough education to function in society (ability to read English and perform basic arithmetic)
Those are your definitions of adequate. Will everyone agree with them? (For example, you don't mention medical attention, which a sizable number of people believe is somehow a right.)
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Indon » Mon Feb 04, 2008 3:23 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
TheStranger wrote:Enough food to meet basic nutrition requirements, enough shelter not to freeze to death, enough education to function in society (ability to read English and perform basic arithmetic)
Those are your definitions of adequate. Will everyone agree with them? (For example, you don't mention medical attention, which a sizable number of people believe is somehow a right.)


Heck, I think that's more than adequate - you don't need education to survive, you could just sell your body or do menial labor or something. Moral obligation stops there, as far as I'm concerned.

I think that things in addition to that should be implemented because they're healthy for our society as a whole - that increasing the bottom line from the point of survivability is a matter not of must, but of should - that these things ultimately feed back and improve things for everyone.

I don't think there's any argument here about the impact of universal education on the economy, for instance, making it an obvious candidate for universal social support. Health care is less obvious, but it seems to me that healthiness (from not only health care, but public health, and cultural attitude on health) is strongly linked to work productivity, and definitely linked to morale, which is in turn definitely linked to work productivity (so the connection is at least indirect).
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Ari » Mon Feb 04, 2008 6:04 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:Not really.

First, the "reasonably accurately" there means "better than 50%" guess, but nowhere near "better than 90%" guess.

Second, statistics include the effects of choices. For example, look at the statistics of who plays the lottery. People with strong math educations are underrepresented; people with weak math educations are overrepresented. But does not having a math education cause someone to play the lottery? Not really. It may influence their choice, but it's still their choice (that is to say, not everyone with a weak math education plays the lottery).

Also, there's a significant difference between the statistics of small numbers and of large numbers. For example:

Assume that internal factors that lead to success (genetic drives for hard work, intelligence, etc.) are evenly distributed among the population (this is a bad assumption, but it's somewhat close to reality and a common unstated assumption). Also assume that external factors that lead to success (parents/culture that value education, parents/family are wealthy, etc.) are not evenly distributed among the population.

What will the success statistics look like? If you look at a subset of the population which has similar external factors, the distribution of that subset will be determined by the external factors of that subset. If you look at any individual, the effect of their internal factors will probably dwarf the effect of their external factors. This assumes that intragroup variability is larger than intergroup variability- for most definitions of success and sufficiently large subsets, this is a good assumption.


*nod* I believe the figure was said to be 70-80% accuracy. I haven't got the article with me, and I'd need to do some digging to find it again, so alas, no quotes or citations. I'll drop this seeing I can't back it up. :)

Vaniver wrote:
Ari wrote:if we accept that we want to eliminate a certain level of poverty and/or socio-economic disadvantage from society
Do you mean relative poverty or absolute poverty?


Well, eliminating relative poverty would mean eliminating inequal distribution of wealth, so it should be reasonably clear that I was talking about absolute povery, but thankyou for checking.

That said, with the current format of society, you really need to work off relative standards of poverty to determine whether you need to fund some schools more aggressively than others. If students without the extra help at home don't get better-funded schools, you're not really committed to equal opportunity.

Vaniver wrote:If your parents decide to spoil you ("what's that? I'm not getting any money until you're dead?") and you have the self-restraint to make your inheritance last a lifetime. I'm don't think skating by and landing a mediocre desk job counts as making something for yourself.


Disagree. You can be advantaged just by being able to easily afford respectable working clothes. You can be advantaged by your accent. You can be advantaged stupidly by things obviously out of your control, like the colour of your skin or your gender or your sexuality.

TheStranger wrote:Enough food to meet basic nutrition requirements, enough shelter not to freeze to death, enough education to function in society (ability to read English and perform basic arithmetic)


Having access to only enough education to function in society, barely, is not equal opportunity when others have access to enough education to, say, complete an advanced degree in quantum physics. There is a reason education is supposed to be free.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby 3.14159265... » Mon Feb 04, 2008 6:54 am UTC

1. Where you live.
2. Whether your parents had SHITLOADS of money.
3. Whether you won the lottery, or got a similar sort of lucky shot.
4. Whether you are mentally or physically disabled.

Outside of this, I think it is more upto the person than the enviroment.

Sure people of similar classes tend to stay in their own class, however this difference can be overcome in North America.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Vaniver » Mon Feb 04, 2008 8:52 pm UTC

Indon wrote:I don't think there's any argument here about the impact of universal education on the economy, for instance, making it an obvious candidate for universal social support.
Again, "universal education" is ill-defined. How many years of schooling? How many students per teacher? How many books? How much supplemental material/equipment? You can vary the cost of an education quite a bit (often with a similar variation in quality). It's clear that we shouldn't give educations in particle physics to those with IQs less than 70. There's also a significant difference between vocational education and civic education; it benefits society to have citizens who understand the basics of society, and so clearly society should at least subsidize that. But how does society benefit from the education of a doctor or a lawyer compared to the person educated? How much should that be subsidized (if at all)?

Ari wrote:Well, eliminating relative poverty would mean eliminating inequal distribution of wealth, so it should be reasonably clear that I was talking about absolute povery, but thankyou for checking.
Ok. What standard are we trying to raise everyone above? For many standards, I would say the U.S. guarantees that to anyone.

Ari wrote:If students without the extra help at home don't get better-funded schools, you're not really committed to equal opportunity.
Should the government be more concerned with providing equal total opportunity, or guaranteeing a minimum opportunity in multiple different regions? Who would measure total opportunity, and how would they do it?

Ari wrote:Disagree. You can be advantaged just by being able to easily afford respectable working clothes. You can be advantaged by your accent. You can be advantaged stupidly by things obviously out of your control, like the colour of your skin or your gender or your sexuality.
I'm not claiming external factors don't exist (they clearly do). My point is that they can be overcome by internal factors, positively or negatively. The child of a millionaire shackled with a developmental disability will probably not be as much of a success (by most conventional measures of success) as a genius shackled with a poor upbringing.

Ari wrote:There is a reason education is supposed to be free.
Who is supposing this?

There are clearly reasons why people would want their educations to be free, and there are reasons why a optimal economy would subsidize education to some extent. But making all education free for everyone is an impossibility.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Gunfingers » Mon Feb 04, 2008 9:40 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:Gunfingers, I find it disturbing that your graph claims that more people rose than fell.


The study follows a specific ~14,000 people and compares their income to that of the entire country. So people in the bottom quintile would be below the cut-off to be in the bottom quintile for the entire country, not just out of participants in the study.

...i think. I'm also not sure that my statement made any sense, even if it was accurate..

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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Indon » Mon Feb 04, 2008 9:42 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:Again, "universal education" is ill-defined. How many years of schooling? How many students per teacher? How many books? How much supplemental material/equipment? You can vary the cost of an education quite a bit (often with a similar variation in quality).

As good as we can get it, and I wasn't even thinking about civic education. Less expensive, higher-quality education leads to more capable and numerous specialists, who then provide less expensive and higher-quality goods and services.

Vaniver wrote:It's clear that we shouldn't give educations in particle physics to those with IQs less than 70.

You're right. Instead, we should focus on advancing the science of education (and neurometrics) that we can educate anyone in anything (and, as a culture, get beyond the hideously simplistic and inaccurate understanding of intelligence on a linear scale). I think advancing the science of education is a part of advancing education for the public.

Vaniver wrote:There's also a significant difference between vocational education and civic education; it benefits society to have citizens who understand the basics of society, and so clearly society should at least subsidize that. But how does society benefit from the education of a doctor or a lawyer compared to the person educated? How much should that be subsidized (if at all)?


In a society which is becoming increasingly technologically advanced, a strong general technical education is increasingly a part of 'civic' education. As such, I'm not so sure there's very much difference.

As an example, for someone to make an informed political decision about net neutrality, they need to know something about TCP/IP, and be able to understand it in general terms. Otherwise, you'll get people thinking the internet is like a truck or something (humor intentional).
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Vaniver » Mon Feb 04, 2008 9:55 pm UTC

Gunfingers wrote:The study follows a specific ~14,000 people and compares their income to that of the entire country. So people in the bottom quintile would be below the cut-off to be in the bottom quintile for the entire country, not just out of participants in the study.

...i think. I'm also not sure that my statement made any sense, even if it was accurate..
That's a possibility, but that's a horrible way to run a study. As well, if this particular subset rose more than it fell compared to the entire country, we have proof that it's not a representative subset of the entire population (assuming, again, that they compared 1988 data to 1988 benchmarks instead of 1979 benchmarks).

Indon wrote:As good as we can get it
Social engineering is optimizing a many-dimensional function. If we make education as good as possible, something else suffers.

Indon wrote:You're right. Instead, we should focus on advancing the science of education (and neurometrics) that we can educate anyone in anything (and, as a culture, get beyond the hideously simplistic and inaccurate understanding of intelligence on a linear scale). I think advancing the science of education is a part of advancing education for the public.
Why would we invest so many resources in developing (probably impossible) educational methods for a comparatively low payoff?

And, there is experimental evidence to support the concept of g. Even if there weren't, a non-linear (i.e. specialized) model of intelligence would suggest that there should be more discrimination in education, not less (Your tests show that you probably won't understand physics; we'll stick you in the English track instead).

Indon wrote:In a society which is becoming increasingly technologically advanced, a strong general technical education is increasingly a part of 'civic' education. As such, I'm not so sure there's very much difference.
Possibly. But an education of how to manipulate consumer technology and vocational education are still rather distinct.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Indon » Mon Feb 04, 2008 10:12 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:Social engineering is optimizing a many-dimensional function. If we make education as good as possible, something else suffers.

My point is that education is a far more important part of the equasion than most others. It is not only correlative, but causative, of economic and technological potency. Without it, we are not a civilization of note, and the more of it we have, the better.

Vaniver wrote:Why would we invest so many resources in developing (probably impossible) educational methods for a comparatively low payoff?

Because it's not a low payoff - an economy with superior education is going to develop a superior economy.

Vaniver wrote:And, there is experimental evidence to support the concept of g.

There is experimental evidence to support that, when using any single given testing metric, you get results in keeping with there being myriad minor influences towards the score in that metric. It's unsurprising, and the results are perfectly in keeping with a multiple-intelligence theory as well.

Now, I'm not saying I'm an adherent to a multiple-intelligence theory. I think that theory is also overly simplistic, and less easily understood to boot. But the fact is that human beings know next to nothing about how we think, which makes any discussion about the functions of the human brain - to include any possible definition of intelligence, which consists of so much of the function of the brain - a complete joke.

And by extention, it would be reasonable to assume our science based on such results, such as education, is similarly feeble. (Mind that my hobby of AI research is intruding a little to my position here, so don't take what I say _completely_ seriously or we'll get sidetracked for forever)

Vaniver wrote:Possibly. But an education of how to manipulate consumer technology and vocational education are still rather distinct.


As I noted earlier, vocational education is imperative for economic prosperity. The quality and availibility of education in any given field is directly proportional to the quality, availibility, and rate of development of a good or service, and (weakly, since education costs money) inversely proportional to its' price.

To be honest, as a hard theoretical (not neccessarily measurable) standard for vocational education, I'd say it's a good time to stop when an increase in the quality and availibility for education in any given field, no longer either reduces the price, or significantly increases foreign trade (as it's possible for a good or service to, instead of reduce in price, to increase in market scale, obtaining larger shares of foreign markets while keeping price stable).
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby ekzrated » Tue Feb 05, 2008 12:33 am UTC

Just to mix it up a bit, how much of a factor does anyone think being physically attractive plays a role in this? We know that the more physically attractive people tend to hold better positions. Has anyone walked around Walmart on an average weekend? Some of those people will never be rich because of their upbringing, appearance, education, intelligence level, etc.

Sure it's their personal fault that they're fat, uneducated, uninformed, and on and on. I don't know how well accomplished everyone on this forum, but some of these things are kind of hard to overcome one at a time, but all together?

It seems that some of the people on this board seem to think that everyone starts at the same point, or that by sheer determination all obstacles can be overcome. Sometimes this is not the case. As with all other types of discussions, there are many other factors, not just self determination to overcome.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Vaniver » Tue Feb 05, 2008 12:47 am UTC

Indon wrote:My point is that education is a far more important part of the equasion than most others. It is not only correlative, but causative, of economic and technological potency. Without it, we are not a civilization of note, and the more of it we have, the better.
Again, I don't think you're looking at this the right way. What is the right balance between funding scientific research and funding the creation of more PhDs to do that research? And that's just looking at science and ignoring the rest of the economy. Education is far from the end-all be-all of funding priorities.

Indon wrote:Because it's not a low payoff - an economy with superior education is going to develop a superior economy.
An education system that can allow anyone to do anything will cost at least trillions of dollars (if it's at all possible, which I fervently doubt). For the same cost (except focused on educating the already intelligent and actually funding improvements), the payoff would be enormously larger.

Now, you probably just meant that, when it comes to education, more means better. I would say that there's some optimal level of education, and while it may be high, going above that level will be negative overall. Imagine a world where the only professions are teacher and student. This may seem like it's just semantics, but words have meanings and when you imply that a utility function will be always increasing, I'm going to point out that's probably not true.

Indon wrote:As I noted earlier, vocational education is imperative for economic prosperity.
But it's also something that people will pay for (and take out loans for) for their own profit. Why do we need to subsidize something that people are already doing? If we claim that capital investment (and that's what a vocational education is) needs to be subsidized,* then there are a lot of implications of that statement that need to be dealt with.

*There are valid arguments for directly subsidizing capital investment. I find them to require far more government omniscience and meddling than I think is practical or desirable. Indirect subsidies (for example, lower taxes on income that comes from capital investments) tend to be somewhat more acceptable, but are still questionable.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Indon » Tue Feb 05, 2008 4:11 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:Again, I don't think you're looking at this the right way. What is the right balance between funding scientific research and funding the creation of more PhDs to do that research? And that's just looking at science and ignoring the rest of the economy. Education is far from the end-all be-all of funding priorities.

Oh, I think I see where my error is. I wasn't really thinking about higher education. I largely agree with you, and feel that market forces, with a bit of well-established help in the help of myriad financial aid and scholarships, both public and private, can largely handle the highest levels of education.

Where I think we need a lot more attention are the levels of education which are public in the current system - more attention and funding needs to be put into the system. The present system takes underfunded, ignored independent school districts for low-property value areas, and subsequently further strips them of their funding for their failures. I can't help but think our state and federal governments are actively trying to rape the vital infrastructure to stock our colleges with our kids, rather than kids brain-drained from Saudi Arabia or wherever.

I feel we need to divert much more attention into the public education system - that's the system that provides us with not only the civil education you spoke of earlier, but is a necessity to even get someone to higher education - and the better our early schools are, the more people can go to later schools. That's mostly what I'm talking about with my the-more-the-better attitude.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Mr. Mack » Tue Feb 05, 2008 1:29 pm UTC

ekzrated wrote:Just to mix it up a bit, how much of a factor does anyone think being physically attractive plays a role in this? We know that the more physically attractive people tend to hold better positions. Has anyone walked around Walmart on an average weekend? Some of those people will never be rich because of their upbringing, appearance, education, intelligence level, etc.

Sure it's their personal fault that they're fat, uneducated, uninformed, and on and on. I don't know how well accomplished everyone on this forum, but some of these things are kind of hard to overcome one at a time, but all together?

It seems that some of the people on this board seem to think that everyone starts at the same point, or that by sheer determination all obstacles can be overcome. Sometimes this is not the case. As with all other types of discussions, there are many other factors, not just self determination to overcome.


That's an interesting point. I know I'll be more successful since I lost weight on the "cheap bastard" diet. Other than that, I'd like to hear what other think about that specific point.

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Maybe I'm biased, so here's my thoughts on the subject.

My father was one of six children, he was born into poverty, and his father died when he was a kid.
As it stands, he's a prosecuting attorney, having worked during the day to pay for night law school.

A friend of his (who happens to be one of the nicest people I've ever met) is a self-made millionaire that owns several businesses.
A decade earlier, he was in prison on felony charges.

A mere acquaintance of his was also self made millionaire (no, I'm not throwing that word around, it's true for both of them) who owned a couple of motels.
He's also a high-school dropout and illiterate.

But that's a pretty narrow viewpoint, now isn't it?
I should probably mention that (according to a teacher) I went to a high school where 60% of the students lived below the poverty line. From speaking to my classmates I found two basic schools of thought:

#1
"Everything in my life is terrible and it's all someone else's fault and there's nothing I can do about it so I'm going to drop out of school and go live in a trailer."

"I hope I never become rich, rich people are evil you know. By the way, do you want to buy some pot?"

Not to mention the lovely young lady I met while I worked at the hospital.
"Pfft. You're dumb to work. I get everything I need for free." (she was talking about welfare)

Plus this gem I overheard at the grocery store.
"What do you mean I'm fired?! It's not my fault I didn't show up last week! Some (expletive deleted) judge put me me in prison because it's somehow 'my fault' that she made me hit her!" ("her" was probably his girlfriend, since domestic abuse wasn't uncommon)

Moving on to group #2

"My dad's had some trouble finding a good job since we moved here. And with as many siblings as I have it can get a little difficult at times. Thankfully our neighbors have been a lot of help and when things are really bad we can usually depend on government assistance until we get back on our feet. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go mail off this essay so I can earn a scholarship to pay for college."

"I've just hit a bit of a rough spot recently. I lost my job when the factory closed, but I just got my GED, so I can get a better job and get my life back in order."


All of those examples are real people that I have actually met in my life. I admit that it'd be foolish to claim that I have enough life experience to know the answer.
I'll also concede that the people in Group #1 probably had parents that taught them that everything wrong is someone else's fault or that the world owes them or that only evil people are rich. However, I also firmly believe that people can form their own thoughts and opinions that are separate from that of their parents.

Well, that's my two cents worth, you can take it or leave it. Or I suppose you could just take one cent and leave the other. Or perhaps you could take some wire cutters and deface the two of them, as if to metaphorically destroy my thoughts. Which, you know, seems kind of rude.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Ari » Tue Feb 05, 2008 3:59 pm UTC

Amusingly, dropouts that nonetheless are well-informed tend to do quite well in the business world, as they often learn and respond in ways that are much more appropriate to the business world than school, and they seem to have a higher degree of emotional understanding as opposed to raw IQ. Not everthing is influenced by education, but it is usually important.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Vaniver » Tue Feb 05, 2008 5:46 pm UTC

Indon wrote:I feel we need to divert much more attention into the public education system - that's the system that provides us with not only the civil education you spoke of earlier, but is a necessity to even get someone to higher education - and the better our early schools are, the more people can go to later schools. That's mostly what I'm talking about with my the-more-the-better attitude.
Education funding and education results are fairly distinct. I think education would be served better by competition than it would by more funding.

Ari wrote:Amusingly, dropouts that nonetheless are well-informed tend to do quite well in the business world, as they often learn and respond in ways that are much more appropriate to the business world than school, and they seem to have a higher degree of emotional understanding as opposed to raw IQ. Not everthing is influenced by education, but it is usually important.
The current education system seems more pointed towards skill training than entrepeneurial training, and someone with entrepeneurial talent is often better served by dropping out and seizing an opportunity (like, say, Bill Gates or Sergey Brin or Larry Page) than finishing their education.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Indon » Tue Feb 05, 2008 5:54 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:Education funding and education results are fairly distinct.


Where would there be data regarding that, if I may ask?
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby ekzrated » Tue Feb 05, 2008 6:47 pm UTC

Mr. Mack wrote:That's an interesting point. I know I'll be more successful since I lost weight on the "cheap bastard" diet. Other than that, I'd like to hear what other think about that specific point


I'm one of those freaks who thinks that everything is directly connected with everything else in one way or another. Most Americans do not look like the actors that portray them on tv or movies. I know for a fact that most people tend to shun others based merely on their physical attributes. Hell, I have a tough time talking to people who aren't well bathed, but I know that doesn't determine them as a person. I know those who are overweight tend to have less luck finding jobs. Yes, there are always exeptions, but it's not the exeptions that interest me. It's the averages, since most of us are just that. Average.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Feb 05, 2008 7:03 pm UTC

Isn't there an inverse relationship between education and number of children per family? Aren't children expensive?
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby fjafjan » Tue Feb 05, 2008 7:05 pm UTC

Personally I see no reason that free will should exist, just as I doubt the existance of God or angels, or all other things which are comforting but for which there is no scientific basis. And so it from there follows that what many will call "personal responsibility". Now if you define environment as things like genes and school then obviously no it's not just your genes or where you grow up, even if that has a large impact.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Indon » Tue Feb 05, 2008 8:36 pm UTC

fjafjan wrote:Personally I see no reason that free will should exist, just as I doubt the existance of God or angels, or all other things which are comforting but for which there is no scientific basis. And so it from there follows that what many will call "personal responsibility". Now if you define environment as things like genes and school then obviously no it's not just your genes or where you grow up, even if that has a large impact.


Well, let's say that there is no such thing as free will, and that all actions and choices are purely the result of deterministic, predictable processes. This does not null the concept of responsibility - only change it.

Say you're at work and you screw up, consistently and badly. With free will, you are blamed for the problem and fired. Without free will, it is assessed that you are unfit for the position, and fired.

Or you commit a heinous crime. With free will, you are blamed for having committed the crime and thrown in prison. Without free will, you are found to be incapable of existing in society and removed from it... into a prison (where ideally, they make you capable of existing in society).

Or you try to get into a college and fail because you had an abysmal education and upbringing and are now completely unready for the challenges of the adult world. With free will, it's your fault, tough shit. Without free will, it's someone else's fault... tough shit. In neither case are you able to get into the college because you still can't meet the standards, regardless of why.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Vaniver » Wed Feb 06, 2008 12:49 am UTC

Indon wrote:Where would there be data regarding that, if I may ask?
All the data I can think of off-hand is anecdotal or I cannot remember its source. I would imagine that there are articles in economics journals or education journals (although there would probably be a conflict of interest for some journals/researchers) or books that go into this in more depth.

Even without data, it's sensical in that spending strategy would affect success as well as amount to spend (and the data will primarily discover the influence each has on success). The question then becomes if spending strategies are actually significant in determining success and whether they vary widely enough between schools that the effects are noticeable. I surmise that the answer is yes and yes, but can't back that up at the moment.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby ekzrated » Thu Feb 07, 2008 12:26 am UTC

NitWit005 wrote:Most of you are discussing some sort of hypothetical American. The "normal" American...
The whole "If you are smart and work hard you can do well" may be true, but for how large a percentage of the population does it truly apply?
Life is very harsh even in the US. A large portion of the population is ill or injured or abused at any given moment.


I too am very interested in a response to this.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Mr. Mack » Thu Feb 07, 2008 12:43 am UTC

NitWit005 wrote:Most of you are discussing some sort of hypothetical American. The "normal" American...
The whole "If you are smart and work hard you can do well" may be true, but for how large a percentage of the population does it truly apply?
Life is very harsh even in the US. A large portion of the population is ill or injured or abused at any given moment.


Well, here's something about panhandlers in Oregon.

And here's a basic fact sheet about the poverty stricken in America.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby Indon » Thu Feb 07, 2008 6:21 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
Indon wrote:Where would there be data regarding that, if I may ask?
All the data I can think of off-hand is anecdotal or I cannot remember its source. I would imagine that there are articles in economics journals or education journals (although there would probably be a conflict of interest for some journals/researchers) or books that go into this in more depth.

Even without data, it's sensical in that spending strategy would affect success as well as amount to spend (and the data will primarily discover the influence each has on success). The question then becomes if spending strategies are actually significant in determining success and whether they vary widely enough between schools that the effects are noticeable. I surmise that the answer is yes and yes, but can't back that up at the moment.


Well, I suspect that there isn't any significant data that isn't strongly biased, because when I looked I discovered apparently we have only the vaguest idea on how to measure education program results in our educational system as of recently.

But while we may not have much in the way of causation to look at, it would appear there is a clear, positive correlation between income and K-12 school funding. It may be that wealthier states put more money into their schools, or it may be that states that put more money into their schools become wealthier, or perhaps a combination, or additional factors.

Meanwhile, it looks like statistician undergraduates are encouraged to be taught the dangers of initially misleading statistics, with exactly this issue as an example.
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Re: So the rich are rich and the poor are poor, right? But..Why?

Postby ekzrated » Thu Feb 07, 2008 6:45 pm UTC

Indon wrote:Well, I suspect that there isn't any significant data that isn't strongly biased, because when I looked I discovered apparently we have only the vaguest idea on how to measure education program results in our educational system as of recently.


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