Monday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. Obama’s town hall meetings from the right.
  2. Cell phones, women, and the third world.
  3. Words from the Elder Seraphim.
  4. A book noted.
  5. Photo-tech: dancing water.
  6. A different diet strategy.
  7. Strength training advice for endurance athletes.
  8. As Constitutional protections and amendments are discussed, I think penning this one into an Amendment might be a good idea (HT: Borepatch). For those naive enough to figure the Tea Party is “about racism” might pause to consider that probably such a notion would get almost unanimous support from the T-P supporters and would be one that protects minorities at that place where the rubber meets road (or truncheon meets flesh). 
  9. Real or photoshop? Does it matter?
  10. King David and guys in a deep hole.
  11. Good advice for the right.
  12. Support for my thesis concerning the left and the 10th Commandment. Specifically, “Most middle class Americans of my acquaintance would be much happier if they lived on a much less steeply-sloped income curve,” … and much of the middle class of my acquaintance would not … but I think that is because his acquaintance is almost certainly more left leaning than mine.

3 Responses to Monday Highlights

  1. Support for my thesis concerning the left and the 10th Commandment.

    Asserting that added consumption has diminishing marginal utility is coveting your neighbors goods? Is this a ‘thesis’ or just a really convoluted and misleading reading of what the Commandment actually says?

  2. Boonton,

    Asserting that added consumption has diminishing marginal utility is coveting your neighbors goods?

    Well, I don’t see the statement you made (quoted) as being anything like “Most middle class Americans of my acquaintance would be much happier if they lived on a much less steeply-sloped income curve.” It seems to me that if you just look at what things you have and can obtain with your income absent comparisons and coveting those who are a bit up “that steeply-sloped income curve” is the crux of the problem. Not diminishing marginal utility which has nothing at all as far as I can see with that statement.

  3. First coveting is desiring to take from someone what they have so you can enjoy it. This makes ‘comparisions’ kind of tricky to equate with that. If your neighbor drives a cool car and you want to drive a cool car like that your first thought is probably not to steal his car but to go buy one like his.

    You can’t really argue against this too much as humans are social animals and peer pressure does a lot to ‘keep us in line’. If role modeling behavior is to be stopped under the idea that its about ‘coveting’ you’re going to open up a can of worms. (Actually you won’t as you can’t change human nature in this regard).

    Second, you seem to read the statement as advocating a limiting of consumption choices. I don’t. An analogy might be showing up at a black tie, high class, party dressed in casual clothes. The moment you walk in the door you’ll feel out of place. The existence of black tie functions isn’t your problem. Nor is it really that they have formal clothes and you envy that. The problem is that the gap between you and them is huge and that makes you feel left out. This is the income curve issue. A steep income curve means that gap between you and someone doing better than you isn’t just higher, its huge. A modest gap is psychologically manageable. You can tell yourself that you can close it with more focused effort, or maybe you can compensate in other ways. Using the black tie analogy, imagine you show up in black tie but your hair is messy. No big deal, duck in the bathroom and comb it a bit. A huge gap, though, is demoralizing. It isn’t closeable and isn’t easy to ignore. It encites envy, covetness, and an unhealthy focus on the consumption good rather than overall well beign.

    You may have caught the recent case where a professor made a fool of himself telling the world that his $250K+ income wasn’t rich. Brad de Long did an excellent take down not only of the substance of the post but why a person in, say, the $300K range today doesn’t feel rich despite the fact that he objectively is (and if you bring the developing world into the comparision it becomes totally undeniable) while in the not too distant past he more likely would have felt that he was modestly successful rather than struggling to keep up.

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