Somebody asked for some comments about this video: https://youtu.be/OoIcsj9ysvs . It is an attempt to criticise the optimism of people like David Deutsch - but the more explicit target seems to be Steven Pinker. It is not an easy watch for people who are familiar with optimism. Not because there is any substance to what the speaker says but because it is (a) frustrating and (b) one knows that this sort of thing will be latched onto by many. It purports to be a reasonable analysis. It is anything but. Here are some quick responses because something longer I am afraid isn't worth the time. In line with David Deutsch's own approach to these things, time is far more fruitfully spent working on solutions - and therefore having an actual optimistic approach, than dealing with all the false ideas out there. This was just a litany of false ideas. But the motivation behind them I must address. The speaker is a socialist so he despises capitalism (because he doesn't understand it). That is the tone and that is the motivation. So he must attack people who see the great good that freedom in law and in markets (i.e: capitalism) do for people while actually tending towards socialism tends towards severe shortages and lack of growth in both societal and individual health. But let's move onto specifics:
The speaker (Roland Paulsen) has concerns about what he calls “reality” but by this he means inequality The concern is completely misplaced. But that’s an anticapitalist, antifreedom socialist for you.
I concede: from the perspective of a continental European, one may well think things are getting worse. In much of *Europe* they are. Also unsurprising for a sociologist to think things are getting bad. In that profession...perhaps.
He says means are not reality. He's wrong. Means are reality. He is actually worried about the standard deviation – that is indeed getting bigger. But, and I’ve made this point many times before, inequality could get way worse while everything infact gets way better. Eg: in the distant future the poorest people could be multi billionaires could all own their own islands and get Amazon to deliver stuff by drone, while the richest people ($10^20aires) own entire planets and 3D print literally anything they want…from fusion reactors to food. The inequality will be way way greater than today (when the poorest people have close to zero and the richest are mere billionaires).
He says we shouldn't be concerned about the averages anyways - say the average increase in income in a nation because:
Income might remain the same (as he says) for 4 decades - but this is silly. A person 4 decades ago isn't earning the same today. But his point is in some places the average doesn't change. But who cares? The people on average income or at the lower level are NOT the same people. And besides: their *quality of life* is far far better. Those people on the same income 40 years ago did not have:
-Access to good medical care
-The internet and all the world’s information (for goodness sake!)
-CHEAPER food and energy and so on as a percentage of their wage
-Greater mobility. The people at the average or median or even bottom *do not remain there* in capitalism.
-Far more leisure time.
Only under non-capitalist systems are people *condemned to poverty*. Under capitalism people are free to change jobs and create and earn more by working more. Under socialism the more you work has no effect on how much you earn. So his concern about “distributions” is just the usual socialist academic misconception and hatred of wealth. Any amount of “inequality” in income is seen as evil. But as I’ve just explained: everyone might be massively more wealthy than people today but people like that guy will say inequality is evil. Period. But it’s not. Only absolute poverty is – and it’s declininig.
People really are not starving like they once were. No one in the USA will ever starve.
His stuff on medicine was ridiculous – people are getting healthier and happier. But all such studies that attempt to measure things that cannot possibly be measured (say the nebulous “well being”.). That section is pseudoscientific nonsense. Those happiness indicies are, again, a socialist trope that ask leading questions. It’s not science and gives social science the bad name it has. It’s bad sociology where the answer is known before the questions are asked. They are motivated in their research: they *want* rich nations to be more depressed and poorer nations to be happy. So what questions do they ask? #notscience
Extremely dishonest stuff about Mao towards the end. Tries to say that there were some good things about Mao. Now we’re into actual evil. Nothing more worth responding to.
So does he have a point? Not even half a point, sorry.
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