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Account Deleted

The drawing of lines doesn't strike me as making the entire exercise meaningless. There's pretty good data on happiness and income: the point of diminishing returns imho seems as good a start for line drawing as any. This is a different metric of course.

very much agree with your prescriptions though. The internet means those fortunate enough to be born with a big brain can take care of themselves. An extreme distribution skew I think is destabilizing but agree as well that us americans tend to see ourselves as temporarily not rich millionaires which mitigates against this.

Thomas Rekdal

This is Judge Posner's most persuasive post in many weeks. While I would enthusiastically vote for all of the recommendations he offers in the tiny concluding paragraph, I am even more pessimistic than he about their effects.

What is desperately needed is a social economy founded upon a great diversity of crafts and practices which all contribute in some small way to the common good. Mastery of each craft should be open to different levels of talent, but would require a life-time of effort to master. The effort to master them would give meaning to one's life, an acceptable standard of living, and require the exercise of qualities of character that nearly all would acknowledge to be virtues.

Yet how do we move to such a society from one founded upon technologies which "creatively destroy" each other every two or three years? This is a problem that has been recognized at least since Marx, but no one can solve. Only crackpots and tyrants have even made the attempt.

jim kirby

You recommend a "large investment in early childhood education and nutrition, a shift in medical resources from the diseases of old people to the medical needs of children and pregnant women, a substantial expansion in Medicaid, and a modest expansion in public work projects involving services."

You've got to be kidding. Being lifelong single and childfree and lifelong paying through the nose for the miseducation of Amerika's youth, the last thing I will stand for is being assessed to support even more of the idiotic, world-contaminating breeding.

Please explain why you think those who do not favor breeding and who have other, equally valid interests, should be hit up to pay for the matrimania and breeding? Do breeders pay for my Porsches or my travel? Are you privy to some document, like the Bible or the Constitution, that requires non-breeders to support the breeders?

You must be a Roman Catholic!

Thomas Rekdal

So it has come to this. We will not drown our children in the Tiber, as the Romans did, we will merely discourage childbirth by depriving children of early childhood education and nutrition, so that they may grow up to be social misfits and criminals. This will allow greater scope for "equally valid interests," such as buying Porsches and travel.

I have never thought of myself as a Roman Catholic, but maybe they have a point.


Given your accurate diagnosis, I'm surprised that your prescription doesn't include reduced immigration, which drives down the cost of labor. There's increasing evidence that the poor have all the access to health care they need, with or without insurance (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/01/shocker-oregon-health-study-shows-no-significant-health-impacts-from-joining-medicaid.html) so no real point to expanding Medicaid. I don't know if you remember the fuss about "shovel ready" public works projects that were supposed to provide jobs in 2008-2010, but they didn't go so well.

What do we need? 1) A lot less immigration. 2) Less regulation for new businesses, less government intervention in general (of course, that would lead to more government layoffs, alas) 3) A more realistic education system that doesn't leave half the population lost from 6th grade on. We could do a lot better job education people with eighth grade reading and writing skills and stopped pretending they could all get to college. 4) Give poor young children incentives to cost less money--stipends that encourage kids to go to school, not have kids, and so on. 5) Charge immigrants (legal and illegal) for public schools--despite the complaints, both Asians and Hispanics consider our K-12 system a big draw. 6) Take a serious look at what industries we could keep here to provide more work for the lower 50%. Because what we do now isn't going to work.

Gone for Good

First, US manufacturing did not decline because of cheap imports from low-wage countries. Rich, high-wage countries like Germany and Japan have managed to maintain a large and internationally successful manufacturing sector. Manufacturing in the US *mainly* declined, because of a short-sighted focus on short-term shareholder value. In the end, US manufacturers like GM did not invest nearly enough in basic research, new products, their plants and their labor force to remain internationally competitive. (Companies like Intel, which didn't follow this trend are still doing fine).

Second, we are not entering an age of Asimovian Robotic society. Yes, robots have replaced a lot of low-skill labor, but there is still a lot of high skill labor in robotic production. Manufacturing robots have to be installed, operated, and maintained by humans. As a matter of fact, maintenance of manufacturing robots is a huge service industry, which the US no longer plays a role in. Most maintenance technicians are flown in from Europe and Asia where these machines are made, just like high-end construction workers (!!!) are hired to do skilled labor in the US that very few Americans can do.

Part of the malaise you describe is that there is no decent vocational and technical training in the US, which is why foreign companies operating in the US are sometimes forced to set up technical colleges to train staff they can't find on the American labor market. Sadly, the focus on liberal arts education in the US (which is in many cases only as good as what high school education used to be not so long ago) has completely eroded non-college job training.

That said, most jobs in the US can't be outsourced and the ugly truth is that Americans in general are very badly paid, which, given the lack of a decent security net, leads to the conditions you describe.

In a nutshell, half of the US population has not fallen victim to the forces of technological change and global capitalism, but to very bad policy and regulatory decisions here in the US. This could be fixable, but the current disinterest in technocratic and problem-oriented government makes fixes very unlikely.


The Poor and the downtrodden have always been with us. The Poor and the downtrodden will always be with us. The solution, "Why let them eat Cake!". Perennial Social and Politco-Economic upheavels resulting in Revolutions, Civil Wars and Coup de Etats are the Free Market forces resulting in the leveling of such inequalities. Perhaps Jefferson was right, "Every generation or two needs it's own Revolution"...

Could France or others have broken it's subjegation and bondage without the "Reign of Terror"?

Jonathan J Ha

The American Dream is indeed a powerful motivator. The idea that a well educated public that is at the same time aware of their stature and their desires in society is a great start. However, while the market demands "highly educated, high IQ persons", the analogy extends to so called "market exposure": those who are above the median starting line to begin with usually start with much greater exposure tho those in key positions and other highly educated, high IQ persons. If Judge Posner's viewpoint truly is a bit Rawlsian in nature (and I may just be misinterpreting his remarks), than even a great, solid childhood education coupled with medical benefits and a shift in the tax code is not enough. Being blind to exposure requires a fundamental change in the way society perceives itself. What that change is exactly is up for debate.


I don't think the key is to spend more on education. We do need to be a lot better at spending it wisely. It's absurd that what we invest in a child's education depends so much on what zip code the child lives in. Of course if we were spending less on pensions for people retiring in their mid 50's, we would have a lot more resources for education.

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