Left Outside

You’re only as wealthy as you feel, but as poor as I say you are

One of the fun things with Libertarians is that they are very fond of dispersed tacit knowledge. I happen to think this is an excellent idea. What we know is limited, but what we all know should be used to the furthest extent. It is why markets are useful, they amass knowledge.

This fine idea, that knowledge is finite and that wisdom is dispersed among many people, often runs up against the ideals of Libertarianism. For example, a great many people feel themselves poor, but compared to most who have ever lived nobody is poor. David Henderson expands:

106 billion humans have been born since Homo sapiens appeared about 50,000 years ago. That means that the richest one percent in history includes 1.06 billion people. There are currently 6.2 billion humans alive, leaving approximately 100 billion who have died. Who among the dead was rich by today’s standards? Not many. Royalty, popes, presidents, dictators, large landholders, and the occasional wealthy industrialist, such as Andrew Carnegie and Leland Stanford, were certainly rich. All told, it is difficult to imagine more than 20 million of these people since ancient Egyptian times. This leaves 1.04 billion wealthy alive today, or 17% of the world’s population.

When discussing something as palpable as poverty this relativism vanishes. Tacit knowledge is useless, wisdom is concentrated. You, me, all of us, are very lucky. We are all very rich people because someone we were once related to once suffered terribly.

Nevermind if one another’s specialist knowledge of suffering says otherwise. Nevermind if some of us feel like we are in poverty compared to all we can observe, a nice academic assures we aren’t in suc ha bad state.

I find this terribly funny. Because it just goes to show that people align their ideology with their prejudices, not vice versa.

(UPDATE 13.46pm 17th October. Just to clear up my meaning a little, I was rambling.)

Filed under: Economics, History, Politics, Society, , , , , ,

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Paul Sagar

Left Outside is always worth a read for passionate, and frequently irreverent, analysis and comment.

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Oi! Enough of the cheek!

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This might be the least well informed piece I’ve read on LC, which is quite an accolade.

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