Ritchie gives us this chart:
It shows the distribution of household incomes in the UK. According to Ritchie it shows that there is clearly and obviously a bias in favour of the rich, one which we should do away with by taxing them more and redistributing that money to the poor. Do note that this is post tax and post benefit systems (although not post government supplied services which will roughly double the incomes of those in the poorest decile).
Here\’s another chart:
This shows the absolute standard of living of the poorest 10% in various countries. Yes, this is post tax and post benefits and makes attempts to include the value of government supplied services.
(By measuring at PPP and then translating those standards of living into a percentage of US median income we are able to get something which is truly comparable. The original underlying paper does indeed discuss such things as the more market based health care in the US against the free at the point of use most other places, differences in food prices and so on and still comes to this conclusion about absolute living standards.)
Well, as you can see, the absolute living standards for the poor in the UK, US, Sweden and Finland all seem to be around and about the same: between 35% and 39% of US median household income.
But as we can also see the redistribution in such places as Sweden and Finland leads to the top 10% of households enjoying only slightly above US median lifestyles while the UK and US systems seems to allow much greater than this.
So we would seem to have two systems of getting to the same end: that end being a certain lifestyle available to the poorest in the nation. We can have a very high level of curtailment of the living standards of those at the top and this lifestyle of 35-39% of the US median income. Or we can have much less curtailment of those lifestyles at the top and still have this living standard of 35-39% of US median income for those at the bottom.
Which you prefer, well, let\’s try and think through that. Which system provides the greatest amount of human joy and utility? The one where we take care of the poor and allow others to flourish or the one where we deliberately limit the flourishing and yet provide exactly the same standard of living to the poor?
Ritchie says limit the flourishing. I say provide the poor with the lifestyle while allowing the maximal flourishing possible consistent with doing so.
As Ritchie says:
That’s the difference between left and right.
That underpins what this blog is, in its UK context, about.
Well, quite, I think that is what his blog is about, it\’s also what this one is about.
Which version of the world, which socio-economic system, you prefer is entirely up to you of course. But I\’ll argue until the day I\’m dead that my preferred system is the only one which can possibly be called \”liberal\”.