Reality always comes as a shock to socialists, doesn\’t it?

According to the IFS 65% of the UK\’s households have an income that is below the national average. Read that sentence again folks.

OK, I\’ve read it again and what am I supposed to think of it?

In my view the first great challenge of any socialist is to expose and extinguish false consciousness.

Oh, OK, then, we\’ll you\’re doing a pretty good job then I must say.

For what you\’re saying here is that household incomes are not normally distributed. There is a skew to distribution, meaning that more than half of the households are under the mean household income.

What amuses though is the insanity of people who think this is in any way unusual.

The majority of households in every country have below mean household incomes. Because income simply isn\’t normally distributed, there\’s always a skew to it.

Why you might ask? No doubt this is the influence of the neoliberal bastards?

Well, actually, no, it\’s a simple piece of mathematics.

You see, we don\’t actually count when households have negative incomes (something which is entirely possible of course, as those racking up debt can attest to). Thus there is a zero lower bound on possible household incomes.

However, there is no upper bound on possible household incomes. Thus the distribution will always be skewed (in reality: we can construct egalitarian \”paradises\” where this isn\’t true): it will always be true that the majority of households have lower than mean household income.

Sigh, Dr. Clarke meets basic math and doesn\’t like what he finds. This reality thing is so confusing for socialists, isn\’t it?

15 thoughts on “Reality always comes as a shock to socialists, doesn\’t it?”

  1. There is a certain amount of mathematical knowledge you need to have to be considered “educated” in my eyes. It’s a modest amount, but it’s a sine qua non.

  2. For someone quite so pompous and patronising in his tone, you’re quite the fool.

    “Because income simply isn’t normally distributed, there’s always a skew to it.” Embarrassingly awful logic – there are plenty of non-normal distributions that are symmetric.

    “You see, we don’t actually count when households have negative incomes… Thus there is a zero lower bound on possible household incomes.” Are you suggesting that if we did count households with negative incomes, the resulting distribution would be symmetric? Of course not, and it would be ridiculous to suggest that this is the reason for the skew.

    There are, of course, effective constraints at the lower end, and we may consider this a lower bound – and relatedly, it is also true that the mean will always exceed the median. But the proportion of households that fall below the average income is still an indicator of the extent of skew, and current levels may legitimately be conceived as excessive. This is anchored at the bottom by the lower bound, but given this, in recent decades the dramatic nature of skew has been driven by the exploding top-end of the distribution. And yes, this is the legacy of neo-liberalism, Thatcher and Reagan.

  3. Frances Coppola

    What interests me is not the maths, although the arguments are amusing, but the reality for people. Indeed there is a skewed distribution. So what. The percentage figure of 65% below mean income is correct, and those are the people who are struggling to absorb rising interest rates on unsecured debt, benefit cuts, tax rises (NI and VAT) and rises in food and fuel prices. And if you look at median income, which I think is a little over £21K, and remember that 50% of people earn less than that, the picture looks worse. Eoin’s point was that “middle income” earners, who are being hit with cuts in tax credits and taxation of child benefit among other things, are not the significant proportion of people in the UK that they would like to think they are. The majority of people in the UK don’t earn enough to be affected by these measures, but they are seriously affected by other things. Criticising the maths doesn’t address the issues.

  4. Frances Coppola,

    Yes please let’s talk about absolute poverty instead of relative poverty. Then we can also talk about which politics that have empirically shown to do the most to increase living standards and wealth of the absolutely poor.

  5. “Embarrassingly awful logic – there are plenty of non-normal distributions that are symmetric.”

    And that’s an example of a non sequitur from you. Before you accuse someone else of poor logic, how about having your own in good order?

    “by the exploding top-end of the distribution. And yes, this is the legacy of neo-liberalism, Thatcher and Reagan.”

    To which the response is “so what?” So what if there are people getting rich: how does other people getting rich make you poor? All you have demonstrated is the visceral sense of jealousy that motivates socialists. It’s not a very good basis on which to found your ideology, is it?

  6. >This is anchored at the bottom by the lower bound, but given this, in recent decades the dramatic nature of skew has been driven by the exploding top-end of the distribution. And yes, this is the legacy of neo-liberalism, Thatcher and Reagan.

    There were giants in the Earth in those days, weren’t there, Alez? Are you a lez, btw? If so, you certainly drag down the average IQ of the carpet-munchers.

  7. S’pose it’d be too much to ask you’d actually read Tim’s post before getting your knickers in a twist? Then again, weakness in language comprehension often goes with dis-numeracy.
    OK, once again for those at the back:
    He’s expressing surprise that anyone would be surprised in a range that runs from zero to infinity the majority of data points will lie below the average. Or is it the 65% that you’re finding so surprising? What did you expect it to be when way over on the right of the graph you’ve got all those footballers, bankers & talent show hosts not to mention the health service managers, BBC bureaucrats, council execs & the rest of the nomenclatura?
    Now if I wanted to make any sense out of the distribution I’d be putting a bound in on the right hand side & cutting out the distortion the outliers make but then I ain’t got a doctorate or a misplaced sense of grievance.

  8. “And yes, this is the legacy of neo-liberalism, Thatcher and Reagan.”

    OK, let’s take one of those outlier families in particular; Lord Kinnochio & his ratfaced baggage of a wife. About twenty average families they’re worth between them. Or the Liar extraordinary & the slotgobbed legal leach. Multiple of 40? 50? Who knows. They’re Thatcher’s legacy?
    Don’t know if you’ve noticed but something confusing known as the Labour Party were running the show for 13 years.

  9. ‘After tax’ is something not mentioned too much here. Marginal rates are more punishing the further down the scale we go, and the lesser able to avoid them. And who advocates high taxation rates, exactly?

  10. Dear Kay Tie:
    Tim said: Income isn’t normally distributed, thus it is skewed. I said: Tim, your logic is appalling: non-normal distribution does not imply skewness. You said: non sequitur! But you didn’t explain why; please, enlighten me. You may be a mathematical genius, but until I update, my prior is: not so much.

    As for the rest of your comment, what makes you think I am a socialist? I am not. To the extent that I consider the wealth of the economic elite obnoxious, that is due to its contemporary juxtaposition with grotesque poverty in the developing world. I personally have everything I need, and I thank capitalism for it.

    Chris: I have a first class degree from the LSE, and I am doing a PhD in Economics. I am not a lesbian, but you are welcome to display your ugly prejudice; it show the ‘quality’ of this blogs adherents.

    Bloke in Spain: I did read Tim’s article, and I responded very directly to it’s apparent logical inconsistencies. My knickers are untwisted, although yours appears to be garrotting your man-sacks. “ratfaced baggage of a wife”? “slotgobbed legal leach”? Does abusing others make you feel like a big man? Pathetic.

  11. Alez, Tim did not actually say the distribution is skewed because it is non-normal. He said it was not normal, and it was skewed; these are both true statements. He may have even been implying that because it is skewed it is not normal, a sound deduction, if irrelevant.

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