The Profound Sumner
By Bryan Caplan
Great hard-to-summarize post by Scott Sumner. Highlights:
I’d like to make some observations about inequality. First as a
person, then as an economist. These are based on 56 years of observing
all kinds of people, in all sorts of different situations.
[After listing 19 different kinds of inequality…]
Now let’s look at the same list as drawn up by economists (including me, with my economist hat on.)
1. Inequality of money.
2. Inequality of access to health care
The part I wanted to tweet, but couldn’t intelligibly pare down:
I do think I care as much about human suffering as the average
progressive. Almost every day I wonder where the outrage is over
400,000 drug users in jail. By comparison, over the past 5 years
I’ve read dozens of stories about the 400 terror suspects at
Guantanamo. Yes, the issues are different in many respects, but I
still see a lack of proportion.
Think you have it bad?
Now let’s start down through Dante’s seven circles of Hell:
1. The US is much richer than Mexico. So much so that millions of
Mexicans will risk the horrors of human trafficking into the US to get
crummy jobs picking tomatoes all day in the hot sun.
2. China in 2011 is still considerably poorer than Mexico. The Chinese take much greater risks to get here.
3. China today is so much richer than China in 1997 that it’s like
a different planet. The changes (even in rural areas) are massive.
4. The China of 1997 seemed like paradise compared to the China of
the 1970s. Throughout Hessler’s book, people keep talking about how
horrible things were during that decade and how prosperous they are now
(1997 in Sichuan!)
5. The China of the 1970s was nowhere near as bad as during 1959-61, when 30 million starved to death.