Wealth concentration

by S&M

These two articles go together, and have a lot in them that people might want to discuss, from social issues to nit-picking the methods used.

Was there ever a time when so few people controlled so much wealth?
Oxfam’s latest report says that the richest 62 people own as much as the poorest 3.6 billion. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Do 8 men really control the same wealth as the poorest half of the global population?
According to the latest Oxfam report, the richest eight people in the world are as wealthy as the bottom 50% of the world’s population. But let’s scrutinise these numbers a bit more.

 

 

Advertisements

82 thoughts on “Wealth concentration

  1. The main problem with these studies is that they ignore the massive wealth citizens of developed nations hold in government-run benefits and entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare. I’m also not sure that they do anything to consider the value of private or government pensions.

    Then there’s the issue of misplaced expectations and false implications. A newly trained orthopedic surgeon, not from wealthy parents, might have $250,000 in medical school debt and will be counted among the poorest of the world’s poor. There’s no allowance here age, skills, training, or opportunities. What is the minimum level of wealth for a 20-year-old to own and control that is morally acceptable to the authors?

    The flaws in the methodology are significant enough to make reasonable people question their point. Are they saying that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have too much money? Maybe so, but the authors haven’t done anything to show that.

  2. So can I start the nitpicking parade with the sub-heads? “Time to take back control?” — Really? Whatever led you to believe that you had it in the first place? I’m also not a fan of holding up the old clan-based societies as viable — those worked well for small, homogenous societies where wealth was limited and the people needed to work together for survival (either through shared resources or for defense against outside groups). I think history suggests that as the “world” got larger and more diverse, the groups got bigger, and the structure had to become more hierarchical so that everyone still had a specific place within a mangeable-size subgroup. The world is bigger than it has ever been, with more disparate resources and more ability to externalize the consequences of individual decisions onto other groups. So the Scottish clan system doesn’t really seem applicable (in fact, history also shows that the clans may have shared resources effectively within the clan, but that they also fought like the dickens against each other — not exactly a good prescription for modern-day societies).

    I think the history of human development is all about the tension between self-interest and communalism. The human race succeeded only by banding together for both defense (against threats that were higher on the food chain, against natural disasters, later against other tribes/countries, etc.) and offense (hunting, crops, invention, trade, etc.). The success of the race as a whole periodically requires individual members to put the interests of the collective above their own. At the same time, when the collective demands too much, and those demands put the ability of individuals/families to survive/succeed at risk, we also have a long history of rebellion and splinter groups deciding to follow their own more individualistic paths. I.e., the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one; but sometimes the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.

    I worry about inequality because historically, massive inequality leads to revolution. Governments rise and fall based on how well they continue to serve the needs of the governed. Ours is based on a philosophy that says everyone has the opportunity to succeed. If a sufficient number of people don’t believe that promise exists for them any more, then what is their incentive to continue to play the game? I do think that Marx had one part fundamentally right: that unchecked capitalism (which is really unchecked individualism) leads to instability and larger and larger economic crashes.

    But the 6.4 trillion dollar question is how much is too much. We have never been 100% capitalist or 100% socialist; we are always somewhere in-between, with a fundamental admiration for capitalism and individual gumption, yet with some degree of regulation that tries to prohibit people from selling snake oil or taking advantage of others. So, yes, increasing inequality worries me; I just don’t know whether what we currently see is one data point on a naturally self-corrective sine wave, or whether it is a signal of impending doom, or whether our current level and trends are even at an “ok, now we need to worry about this” point given the dramatic changes in how we generate wealth as a society over the past few decades.

  3. One of the chief innovations of the last century, and indeed one of the key culprits involved in rising inequality identified by Oxfam, is the growth of an industry of tradable intangible assets in the form of financial instruments. Indeed, deregulation of the financial industry has been one of the most significant processes feeding into rising inequality in recent years.

    And of course the relevant link leads to “site under maintenance”. I’d like to know the mechanism at work here. Why does the rise of all these new weird financial instruments lead to inequality?

  4. “Why does the rise of all these new weird financial instruments lead to inequality?”

    IDK, but hypotheses:

    1. Because they are new, governments have not been able to regulate and tax them, and experts haven’t even noticed/been able to quantify their impact until the horse is out of the barn, around the corner, and across the state line.

    2. Invisible assets are much easier to hide from the masses than giant castles when the peasants have no bread.

  5. Are they saying that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have too much money? Maybe so, but the authors haven’t done anything to show that.

    To put this in terms of Trump’s issues with globalization let’s look at how these things worked in the past. Bell received his patent on the phone in 1876 and in 1878 the first phone was installed in the UK built under licence (to respect Bell’s patent) by British people in a British factory in Britain. The same was true in Germany, France, etc. The same process occurred for many if not most technologies.

    Today, if you’re Zuckerbeg or Gates or Brin there are far fewer legal and technical hurdles to prevent you from building a global empire. Google, for example, doesn’t have to license its IP to local companies all over the world, it can reap all those benefits for itself.

    You may recall that Britain forbade the export of its industrial technology in the 19th century and as the US industrialized it sent spies to the UK to steal their technology. Today, those British companies would have gladly shipped those jobs to the US and reaped the rewards. So those sort of protectionist restrictions substantially reduced the ability of British mill owners from building global empires*.

    * Not to mention the transportation and communications challenges that would hinder the building of a global business empire.

  6. The existence of “tradable intangible assets in the form of financial instruments” is different from “deregulation of the financial industry”. You can have both the assets and the regulation. On their own intangible assets do not create inequality, no more so than tangible assets do. Regulation is how wealth is democratized/socialized.

  7. What about countries like China, India and others where life and opportunities have improved for millions of people. Yes, there is still income inequality there but poverty has been on the decline.

  8. Whatever led you to believe that you had it in the first place?

    From the 30s to the 80s you had the threat of global communism and socialism to keep capitalism in check. Capitalists around the world might have wanted to drive a harder bargain with workers to keep more of the spoils for themselves but the threat of revolution and expropriation was always present. Indeed, I was just reading about the 1981 election of François Mitterrand in France who campaigned on a promise to nationalize the commanding heights of the French economy. One of his first acts was to nationalize the Rothchild’s investment bank. The value arrived at by the French government was less than the value of their Paris headquarters buidling. It’s as if they nationalized Goldman Sachs and paid shareholders not the 90 billion market cap but maybe 900 million.

    Not to mention the degree to which SS, Medicare,the New Deal, the Great Society, etc. were designed specifically to dent the allure of global socialism and capitalism.

  9. Standards of living for the poorest have been rising at the same time wealth concentration has been increasing. I am wondering if this is a coincidence.

  10. I am wondering if this is a coincidence.

    It would seem so. The thing that allows Apple to have $200 billion in cash is the same thing that has allowed hundred of millions of Chinese peasants to rise into the global middle class.

  11. “Standards of living for the poorest have been rising at the same time wealth concentration has been increasing. I am wondering if this is a coincidence.”

    Of course not. If wealth concentration had been increasing and standards of living for everyone else were not improving to some degree, you’d have global revolution. Bread and circuses to pacify the masses and all that.

  12. Communism and socialism also had a hierarchy with those at the top having some sort of connection to the rulers. It’s just not visible the way billionaire capitalists are. The peasants are kept happy by providing them some means of earning a minimum level of income. If you want to earn more it is discouraged. You have to bribe the state apparatus as well as deal with very unfriendly labor laws. I grew up in what was essentially a socialist state. It has taken years to unwind the damage.

  13. Good topic!

    Both articles recognize that statistics (here and in general) are merely proxies for the state of the world they attempt to measure. The question, then, is the extent to which a give stat is a good proxy, its deficiencies. etc.

    As someone who has written a ton about poverty (and a bit on inequality), it’s interesting that the discussion has moved mostly from poverty to inequality in the U.S. One suspects that this is driven by a passion for convenient talking points (trying to score cheap political points) and the reality that dealing with poverty has proven largely intractable– at least for govt policy (well, in the US; in the world, it continues to drop nicely).

    Connecting the two paragraphs, the simple/popular stat for poverty is the poverty rate, which suffers from a number of huge deficiencies. In addition to the difficulty of actually making progress in this arena– and the inherent dilemmas in trying to help without hurting– the most prominent stat is measured in a way that undermines our ability to see progress. The govt overstates inflation, meaning that the poverty lines accelerate too much. Most notably, the current stat excludes non-cash benefits, so it’s a (far) better measure of dependency on government than “living in poverty”.

  14. that dealing with poverty has proven largely intractable– at least for govt policy

    SS has dramatically reduced poverty among the elderly so I’m not going to give you that point.

  15. Before its “mature” phase, SS was bound to be more effective in terms of reducing poverty, etc. These days, we’d need to talk about its 0% average ROI; it’s negative ROI for African-Americans and groups with lower-than-average life expectancies; its amazingly painful (crushing the working poor) and regressive tax; the demographic challenges of a pay-as-you-go system; and its chief (political?) use– to score cheap political points. Other than that, it’s a lovely play!

  16. These days, we’d need to talk about its 0% average ROI

    Which is higher than the average ROI at retirement than people get in their 401ks. So let’s discuss it.

  17. Those same crushed working poor manage to live to 70 (sometimes) because they have SS.

  18. I have been diving into poverty issues for projects I am working on and it is really difficult to find ways to move the needle without having a larger safety net that involves higher taxes and collective benefits, which is just a hard sell in the United States.

    Income levels in some pockets are so incredibly low, the schools are terribly poor, there are significant mobility issues and no nearby jobs or groceries. It is hard to fathom how hand to mouth an existence it is.

  19. Seems like a big ol’ tangent. (I was happy to clarify the point I missed / Rhett caught.) But do we want to hijack the discussion of far-more-difficult discussion of poverty/inequality (among the non-elderly) to pursue a discussion of SS (and not Medicare)? S&M, what say you?

  20. I don’t think inequality or government policies affecting wealth distribution have been particularly important for raising the living standards of the global poor. I think the primary variable has been effective birth control that has decreased the birth rate dramatically, from 35 births per 1000 population in the 1950/60’s to 18 per 1000 today to a projected 13.4 per thousand in 2045-2050. (Crude Birth Rate data from Wikipedia)

    The ability for women to largely control how many children they have is far more important than taxes or government redistribution policies at raising living standards for the poor.

    I also think one of the questions about extreme wealth is its liquidity. What would the value of Zuckerburg’s or Gates’s stock be if they sold all of it at once? Estimates of extreme wealth seem nebulous.

  21. The executive order only affected abortions. I thought developing countries also used other forms of birth control.

    I find it makes more sense to focus on raising living standards than on wealth inequality because that’s what I consider a more important humanitarian and political issue.

  22. What would the value of Zuckerburg’s or Gates’s stock be if they sold all of it at once?

    Bill only owns 4% of MSFT so he could sell it all without too much on a impact. The rest of his vast wealth is well diversified so unloading that wouldn’t be too much of a problem either.

  23. “he ability for women to largely control how many children they have”

    I think this involves a lot more than just birth control, although that’s obviously a major factor. Legalization of abortion has also been a factor, but the increasing job opportunities for women and lower infant mortality rates have also been factors.

    Declining birth rates are also good news WRT global warming and a lot of other environmental problems.

  24. Women’s education hasn’t been mentioned. Big factor in population decrease. Spread of information via TV. Smartphones are another way of getting information.

  25. “I find it makes more sense to focus on raising living standards than on wealth inequality because that’s what I consider a more important humanitarian and political issue.”

    I agree.

    The other issue with wealth inequality is how much mobility there is. E.g., if I’m in the top 10%, but my just-launched kids are in the bottom 20%, is that a problem?

    I would expect my kids to make their way to the top 10% over the course of their working careers.

    Also, since we’re looking at wealth, I’ll note that there can be great divergence in wealth accumulation between people with similar earning and employment history, based on choices made along the way.

  26. Mexico City policy impacts almost every developing nation and it will not just impact places that perform abortions

    Historically, the policy, when in effect, has applied to foreign NGOs as a condition for receiving U.S. family planning support either directly (as the main – or prime – recipient of U.S. funding) or indirectly (as a recipient of U.S. funding through an agreement with the prime recipient; referred to as a sub-recipient). Foreign NGOs include:

    international NGOs that are based outside the U.S.,
    regional NGOs that are based outside the U.S., and
    local NGOs in assisted countries.
    U.S. NGOs, while not directly subject to the Mexico City Policy, must also agree to ensure that they do not provide family planning assistance to any foreign NGO sub-recipients unless those sub-recipients have first certified adherence to the policy.

    Under the latest reinstatement, the policy again applies to foreign NGOs; however, it will be a condition for receiving not only U.S. family planning support but also any other U.S. global health assistance, including funding for global HIV programs (under PEPFAR) and global maternal and child health (MCH) programs.

  27. “Women’s education hasn’t been mentioned. Big factor in population decrease.”

    I thing population decrease is a very localized phenomenon, but there has been a slowing of population growth over large areas, e.g., entire countries.

  28. CoC, that executive order cuts off all funding to an organization that counsels clients on abortion or performs abortions, not specifically abortion funding. To quote CNN,

    “Even during the Obama years, US law banned direct funding for abortion services. But NGOs that performed the procedure were allowed to receive US funding for other programs, including those related to contraception access and post-abortion care.
    Now, NGOs that offer or promote abortions as part of their family planning services will be prevented from receiving any assistance from the US Agency for International Development, one of the largest contributors to international development assistance.”

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/23/politics/trump-mexico-city-policy/

  29. “Declining birth rates are also good news WRT global warming and a lot of other environmental problems.”

    Assuming you’re talking about minimizing carbon dioxide emissions, I don’t know that reducing the birthrate really matters if the consequence of that is higher living standards for the world’s poor. Once they start getting motorbikes, or even cars, and automatic clothes dryers, and air conditioning, they’re responsible for a lot more total carbon.

    If you’re concerned about carbon, you’re probably better off keeping them in poverty with 10 kids.

  30. Certainly women’s education and later marriage have affected the birth rate- I shouldn’t have implied that contraception was the only/primary reason for the decrease in birth rates. Birth rates have decreased both in parts of the world where abortion is legal (Europe), where it is illegal (South/Central America, Philippines) and in places where it is technically illegal but tolerated (South Korea, probably others). Probably acceptance of the idea that women can largely control their fertility is the important concept.

  31. “Probably acceptance of the idea that women can largely control their fertility is the important concept.”

    As well as the concept that women’s roles aren’t limited to birthing and raising kids.

  32. “I don’t know that reducing the birthrate really matters if the consequence of that is higher living standards for the world’s poor.”

    The two tend to correlate, but is there causation, and if so, which causes which?

  33. Milo, I don’t have time to find a reference, but Melinda Gates observed that when women can have two children and be reasonably confident both will survive to adulthood, they often prefer to have only those two children. This ties into the infant mortality observation Finn made. While I agree that women’s roles aren’t/shouldn’t be limited to birthing and raising kids, confidence that children will survive is arguably more important than equal career opportunities for women, in terms of global birthrate.

    We almost need a separate analysis of developing and developed countries, because in Europe and Japan, the appeal of career over marriage/family for women has caused some women to prefer career to children. It will be interesting to see how this preferences plays out over time across cultures.

  34. A surprising number of my relatives in the home country are choosing to have only one child. Also surprising is the number of friends and relatives continuing to remain single. Twenty years ago this sort of behavior would be unheard of. Attitudes have definitely changed.

  35. ” the appeal of career over marriage/family for women has caused some women to prefer career to children”

    Are you speaking about only those women who choose not to have children and saying this percentage has increased over time? Where are the numbers on that? Haven’t there always been women with this view? Are you simply saying that that view is more socially acceptable now?

    Because surely its not an either or situation.

    Having a hard time understanding precisely what you’re saying.

  36. “in Europe and Japan, the appeal of career over marriage/family for women has caused some women to prefer career to children.”

    My understanding is that Japan is still pretty far behind the US in terms of women having careers.

    What I’ve heard is that low birth rates there have a lot to do with a lot more people staying single. My guess is that arranged marriages aren’t as common as in the past.

  37. “We almost need a separate analysis of developing and developed countries, because in Europe and Japan, the appeal of career over marriage/family for women has caused some women to prefer career to children. It will be interesting to see how this preferences plays out over time across cultures.”

    Assuming all else being equal (i.e., that women can actually control this), doesn’t it depend both on (i) infant mortality, and (ii) whether those children are overall a net benefit vs. a resource suck? E.g., farm families requiring many hands, where the only “cost” is the delta in food and clothing, kids start contributing very early, and the level of expected parental oversight is minimal after about the toddler years; vs. modern developed societies, where the parents must invest years in their kids’ health and education to get the kid qualified for a decent job and launched on his own.

    The availability of other career paths to women goes into the opportunity cost associated with a woman staying home — where the opportunity is stay home and take care of your own family vs. obtain a minimal wage for taking care of someone else’s family, there is much less disincentive to having more kids than when the woman has a fair opportunity to get and keep a good-paying job.

    IOW, you have a bunch of interrelated factors here, and I don’t think you can really tease them apart to find “the” causal link — it’s her ability to control how many kids she has, the value of those kids vs. her time elsewhere, how much of her time/effort will be required per kid, the social/religious acceptance of WOH, the level to which the government or other players has tried to put a thumb on one side of the scale or other, etc. Frankly, when you are looking at societies where women are choosing to have no children or one kid, that tells you that two things are happening: (1) women there think the overall burden is greater than the benefit; and (2) they have the means/power to make that economic choice. OTOH, in societies with high birthrates, it could be because (1) women think the overall benefit is greater than the burden, (2) women think the burden is greater than the benefit but do not have the means/power to exercise their preference, or (3) both (1) and (2). In the latter case, I don’t know that you can tease out which is which.

  38. “Another factor is lesser expectation that kids will care for in your senior years.”

    Or your kids’ spouses.

  39. Milo,

    That’s a loving tribute to Mr. MMM Sr.

    He must have been in his mid 60s? Do you ever find yourself reading or hearing about someone’s passing and it influencing your retirement planning and current spending? I read about Mary Tyler Moore’s passing today and thought, “Oh Laura Petrie, I used to watch you in reruns when I got home from school.” And, “Hum, retire at 67 and you’d have 13 years.”

  40. Rhett – My dad’s about the same age that his dad was when he developed cancer (and passed away about two years later). I think about that from time to time.

    Perhaps with the Totebag obsession with retirement investing, we get so focused on the idea that you have to be able to generate sufficient earnings for the “worst” case scenario of 40 years or whatever, we start to assume that as a given.

  41. “My dad’s about the same age that his dad was when he developed cancer (and passed away about two years later). I think about that from time to time.”

    My parents have outlived 3 of their 4 parents – some by a substantial amount. My grandmother lived to 95, so hopefully my mom will inherit those genes. It makes me think too when I realize how young my grandparents were when they died even if they seemed very old to me at the time.

  42. Milo, I definitely think about the standard deviation in life expectancy, and the additional grief that can occur when children die before parents. After Mr WCE’s Dad died, his mom called my MIL asking to speak with her son, because she had memory issues and occasionally forgot he had died. To avoid repeatedly putting her through that grief, my MIL started telling her MIL that Mr WCE’s Dad was dealing with a crisis at work and would call her back in a couple days.

  43. With regard to the Mexico City policy (implemented by every Republican president since Reagan) — perhaps if every one of the attendees of the many marches last Saturday made a generous donation to overseas family planning programs, the sum could easily replace the USAID funding.

  44. perhaps if every one of the attendees of the many marches last Saturday made a generous donation to overseas family planning programs, the sum could easily replace the USAID funding.

    No thanks, I prefer to spend your money on it.

  45. “even if they seemed very old to me at the time.”

    Last summer, I stumbled into a 30-minute conversation with a WWII vet and fellow Chick-fil-A patron who happened to have been a copilot in the same plane in which my grandfather flew in the Pacific. He was obviously in his 90s, but I was slightly taken aback when he asked if my grandfather was still alive, because I realized he’s been gone almost 30 years. And these two were about the same age in life, and my grandfather seemed fairly old when he died (I don’t remember anyone saying “OMG, the Lord took him so young!”) and yet he could have had almost three more decades.

  46. “I read about Mary Tyler Moore’s passing today”

    And it does have the Chuckles the Clown scene.

  47. Someone who will remain nameless, because he/she chose not to use a handle, brought up the Mexico City policy reinstatement. Perhaps my response belonged in the political thread. Sorry.

  48. Tangent: Google news headline from one of those states somewhere between the Appalachians and the Sierras with mostly vowels: E-cigarette explodes inside Iowa man’s mouth
    An Idaho man was seriously injured when an e-cigarette exploded in his mouth – scorching his skin and knocking out seven of his teeth.

  49. WCE I wanted to thank you for recommending Hillbilly Elegy. I enjoyed it, and feel like I understand my in-law clan a little better.

  50. Milo,

    Speaking of the elderly are they not the cutest couple:

    But to think, H.W. retired as an old man after a long and distinguished career…a quarter century ago.

  51. I am taking a break if regular thread becomes the political thread. You guys may think you’re more civil vs. other places, but I can’t stand the tone and nastiness from some posters that I otherwise like and respect.

  52. OK, so on a happier note, DH just heard that he is back running the big project that he got semi-booted from a year ago. For those who don’t track the minutiae of our lives with bated breath (everyone), DH had been working on a big advanced tech thing that he was really excited about, then he got pushed to the side when there were some performance issues and he chose to dive in and fix them instead of following the appropriate “process” of circling the wagons and having 800 meetings. So he was allowed to still play a role, but got shunted to the side and given a new pointy-haired boss, who was appropriately all about the process.

    Needless to say, DH hates PHB and has been fairly-to-mostly unhappy for the past year, but has been using his role to learn how to convince people to do what he wants when he can’t order them to (e.g., preparing a very fact-based powerpoint where the facts all lead inexorably to the answer he wants) — definitely a good skill to have. So he has still been able to lead his bosses toward what he considers the right answer, just more diplomatically, and I think they have learned through that that DH does actually know what he’s talking about. Meanwhile, PHB royally PO’d a major client by being, well, a pointy-haired process-oriented doink. So now DH has been told he can run the technical part of the program if it goes forward (what he wanted). And PHB apparently got slammed in his review for his F-up.

    Of course, the downside is that there has not yet been a final decision about whether the project will go or not, so DH gets to do two jobs for the next couple of months. . . .

  53. LfB – That account has similarities to the situation that made my dad decide to retire two years earlier than planned.

  54. LfB – yeeesh. What a frustrating thing for your DH. That sort of thing would drive me mad. Glad it is working out his way now.

    Lauren – I feel the same way. Maybe we could keep articles likely to induce political discussion (a wealth-of-nations type piece like this one would seem to fit that bill) on the political threads and keep the main board free of that. I saw the topic, assumed it would devolve as it did, and stayed away. I also stay away from the political threads. But it would be nice to not have to stay away from the main board.

  55. Here, I’ll change the subject to cars. I’m really gearing up to replace my ’07 Camry Hybrid. The car runs perfectly, but it has a stupid ding in the front bumper — a dent with a crack in the paint that is allowing the elements to get to the material under the paint. I’m thinking I’ll try to sell it or trade it in or POSSIBLY donate it. If I donate it, it will be to a specific charity that will use it as a car — that is, they won’t junk it, they’ll use it to drive around in. Should I get the ding fixed before doing any of the above options? Will that pay off if I trade it in? Or will I not recoup the cost of the fix?

  56. If you donate it, there’s no reason that you have to note the dent in terms of the tax deduction you claim.

    If you sell it to CarMax*, they’ll use one of their many contractors to fix it, and at their volume pricing rates.
    *CarMax may just unload it to some other used car seller, because I don’t know that they sell 10-year-old cars to the public.

    Either way, I’m not sure that you paying a retail rate for the repair is going to be worth your money.

  57. Sorry I missed my own post yesterday. I’m surprised no one picked up on the mention of Purchasing Power Parity at the end of one of the articles. That’s the main thing I thought was missing–making $2 a day means different things in different places, and big stuff that influences the GDP does not necessarily impact the lives of people living at that level.

    But I get the point about the likelihood that this topic would lead to political discussion, which I usually avoid on here.

    LfB, that post about your husband’s work situation is great. I recognize in it a couple things you’ve mentioned about him on here–tendency to yell at the kids to get them to do things (might be ameliorated by his new “soft skills”) and that he’s been grumpy (good reason, even with transferal)

    My “news” is that DS sat in the living room this morning and said “it can’t be true. A living room that doesn’t look like sh!t in our house” So yeah, I guess he approves of the changes there. My goal, of course, is to create a more harmonious environment as the background to both of us focusing better and getting stuff done.

  58. “(I don’t remember anyone saying “OMG, the Lord took him so young!”)”

    I was just having this conversation with DH. Brenda Barnes died, and everyone in the local media was saying “Oh she was so young.” She was 63. Yes, that is young, but when I was a kid, and couple of my Grandparents died around the same age, no one seemed to think they were “so young”. So we were debating, what is the age where a death is no longer “young”? I was thinking 65. DH thought 80. (80!)

    @LFB – That’s good news!

  59. Ivy – I definitely agree with the “old” definition. To me now it is 80. When I was learning about old movie stars and read that Clark Gable and Gary Cooper died at 60 (probably lung cancer), that didn’t seem too old. Just read an obituary of a lady who was related to someone I met once, and I remember thinking she was so young, but she was almost 70!

  60. “Maybe we could keep articles likely to induce political discussion (a wealth-of-nations type piece like this one would seem to fit that bill) on the political threads and keep the main board free of that.”

    I’m interested in hearing from others on this. I agree some topics are more likely to spur political discussions. OTOH, it seems there’s a gray area of topics, some of them meaty and interesting, that might fit into this category. Any topic touching on the environment, education, poverty, etc. might get political. I would prefer not to be making editorial decisions about which topics are suitable.

    In any case, I see the anonymous troll as more of a problem in this particular case. I made a mistake of breaking my rule of engaging him/her when I asked a question. I won’t be doing that again!

  61. Troll? If you’re talking about the person at 2:00, then we have really different definitions of “trolling”! I agree with the definition given by all the first responses to a quick search. https://www.google.com/search?q=trolling&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8 If you’re going to call everyone who isn’t a regular a troll, what does that make Eric S, who likes to pop up once in a while and show what an expert he is at whatever? There are legit reasons to post anon, and many of us have done so occasionally. In a forum where all handles are made-up anyway, taking on a name is not a guarantee of appropriate behavior. My take on that post is that it came the same way his do–Wordpress linking to this forum on other sites with related topics. The person read the thing and wrote a response. Again, what’s your definition of “troll”? Or is there another post that I missed?

  62. I generally agree with those definitions you linked but I was referring to the 1:43 comment. It was provocative in tone and injected a hot political aspect to the conversation imo.

    “likes to pop up once in a while and show what an expert he is at whatever”

    Hmm, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that’s what you think. :)

  63. I think we may be at the point where it’s time to stop having the weekly political thread. It’s starting to feel like it sucks all the air out of the room. Perhaps we should move back toward having political topics only occasionally, or cut back to a monthly political thread.

  64. HM, I think you’re on the right track. I’m putting it up for discussion on this Sunday’s political post.

    The thing I find a bit perplexing is that some readers seem to have a difficult time staying away from the political thread even though they find it so offensive. I know, I know, it’s human nature, like rubber necking a wreck you pass on the highway.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s