Sunday, August 10, 2003

My (not yet conceived) Kids are not Going to Columbia
Columbia University has had enough embarrassment recently, but I think I have found some more. On Wednesday I posted about a terrible op-ed piece in the WaPo by Moshe Adler. I wondered who this tool is and I found another article by him, "Can Economic Growth Save Social Security?" in a psuedo-journal called Challenge. Adler mocks the widespread view that growth is a good thing:

The only problem with this widely held view is that it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what economic growth is.

I figured this would be highly, um, educational reading.
Adler quotes Alan Greenspan as saying that economic growth provides a "greater quantity of goods and services." But this is not so! Adler points out that when producers make digital cameras instead of film cameras, they are not making a "greater quantity," they are just making different cameras. Of course, this is nothing but sophomoric semantics.

According to Adler, it is much worse than this. These new cameras, plus peripherals, mean that "capital and labor will have to be diverted. [...] Thus growth does not free labor and capital; it consumes them." So, every new invention means that we are worse off. Ah, remember the 1930's when the lack of technology meant that labor and capital were free to provide such an overflowing bounty, back before all that economic growth ruined things. And then the 19th century! If only I could have lived then, before penicillin and automobiles were sapping all our labor and capital.

Adler further points out the pernicious nature of economic growth:

Although it may provide people with new possessions, it also makes some of the existing possessions obsolete.

Thanks to Professor Adler, I now see that my computer is actually depriving me of my typewriter. Damn Bill Gates for impoverishing me! Another gem:

Automotive technology is not vastly different today from the way it was 100 years ago.

Hmmm. Let's compare Glenn Reynolds' car to Karl Benz's 1885 model. Can you spot the difference? But back to Social Security:

If retirement checks are not linked to growth, retirees will have less. [...] Retirees inevitably experience growth as a reduction in their benefits.

How does Adler come to this conclusion? See, the average retiree has an income of 47% of median after-social-security-tax income. However, if we have 10% growth [Couldn't you pick a realistic number? --ed.] for 8 years, that same check will only be 23.5% of median after-social-security-tax income.

So now we see what his argument is. Even though he writes that retirees will "have less" and be "poorer" and about "reducing retirees' benefits" and "a reduction in their benefits" what he is really taking about is income distribution, the issue non pareil for socialists. I will use an example to make his position utterly clear and then you can decide for yourself if he is an idiot (the correct answer) or a visionary (please don't read my blog again).

Imagine a mini-economy with two people: a retiree and his daughter. He has $15,000 in income from pensions and whatnot. She makes $50,000 and gives $15,000 to her father to help pay for all the medical and nursing care. So this economy has a GDP of $65k and the retiree enjoys $30k or 46% of GDP. Next, she really impresses the boss and earns a huge promotion. Now she makes $100k (economic growth) and she starts giving $30k a year to her father. Are you thinking "What a good daughter!" or are you thinking "That bloodsucking bourgeois bitch!"? You see, her father is now suffering with $45k per year which is only 39% of this economy. He's making 7% less!

You are thinking: this Columbia professor can't be that stupid. But he is. I linked it, so you can read for yourself. What I am thinking is, how are the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, LA Times, NPR, Salon, Atlantic Monthly, NY Post, and Toronto Star give this guy ink?

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