But then think about this in that historical sense, a GDP per capita of $600 a year. Or the current global one, something like $8,000 (depends upon who is doing the counting a bit for that one). That we’re worrying about $34,000 a year, that this is poverty, is exactly the example we need of how well that American capitalism has worked over those centuries.

That the poor of our nation live better than 90 percent of anyone only 100 years ago, better than anyone at all from more than 200 years ago, shows just how fabulous an economic system it is.

Sure, it’s not perfect, it could do with some revisions here and there, but this system — the rule of law, markets, and capitalism — delivers in the one thing that truly matters: raising the living standards of the people, most especially poor people. Even more, no other economic system has managed this at all.

18 thoughts on “Elsewhere”

  1. Isn’t it more likely the samples are biased.

    Men are the first to die in conflicit. Only the sick lame and lazy would survive to be slaves.

  2. Keep banging this point home. Tim. You reach a few more people each time. I love being able to point out misconceptions about modern relative poverty using your points.

  3. Mr Worstall, your logic is Murphyesque.

    You know fuck all about real life.You’re not even English for crying out loud. A true traitor.

  4. @bludgeon – you’re an idiot. Of course Tims english, though he now lives in Portugal.
    Try to get basic facts right before calling others out – though the left doesn’t do facts as they are “racist”

  5. Timmy,

    It’s cute that you think a family making $34k in Appalachia has any kind of capital investments. Welfare wealth limits for most assets are $2000 in Pennsylvania(this varies by state). Houses are treated differently, but good luck convincing the state you managed to acquire the $2500 to $40k needed to purchase a central Appalachian house plus closing costs, fees, and taxes without getting kicked off of welfare. Poor people simply can’t build capital wealth with our current welfare system.

    Additionally we need to consider that $34k is the median household, not per capita, income in central Appalachia. I’m having a devil of a time trying to find out how many people live in the median household in central Appalachia but this number is greater than 1. If we assume that household size is 2.43, the WV statewide average, we’re looking at a per capita income of $14k. I was not impressed with your apples to oranges comparison in the third from last paragraph.

    Report referenced in the Quartz article(I believe but Quartz couldn’t be bothered to link their source:


    WV household size:


  6. Little fact if wanting to do a bit of Portugal bashing:
    Portuguese nationals can’t vote in UK general elections
    But nationals of Mozambique ( former Portuguese colony ) can

    That’s UK electoral law for you, looking after the little guys.

    Works for the Belgium/Rwanda pairing as well.

  7. “john malpas

    As a matter of interest what is the usual income of someone 70 + ?”

    I don’t know the answer but it does lead on to another point.

    Labour/the Left in general love to whip up hatred and bile toward the 1% – after all it’s easier to gang up on and blame a tiny minority which are an isolated and alien group you’ll never encounter. But a study in the US showed that around 1 in 9 people at some point in their life were in the top 1% of earners. Not so surprising. You start out earning not so much and you end up retired on less than peak earnings.

    All of a sudden, hating the 11.1% doesn’t seem quite so viable.

  8. I make that point in the piece. That’s household income, not per capita. But those are the numbers people are using….

  9. On my occasional visits to a former Polytechnic, I picked up their student rag, making sure that I had no coffee in my mouth as I read it. One young idiot was describing his attempts to feed himself on £1 per day. He was down to 1 meal, and lamenting the lack of Parmesan on his pasta! It set me thinking, and I worked out that £1 probably isn’t do-able, but in SE England, one can manage 3 meals a day just on £1.50, and easily on £2, provided that one sticks to certain rules. One of them is not to do it on your own, because that way rules out the benefits of bulk purchasing (including 2 for 1 or 3 for 2 offers) and makes the waste issue more likely.
    A family can get by on a lot less per capita than a singleton, even without considering housing costs. Moreover, an unemployed family have (a) time on their hands, and (b) no need to pay for a daily commute, enabling them to seek out good deals and benefitting from a higher effective income.

  10. @Excavator Man, January 10, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    Agree with message.

    However, three meals a day for £1 or less is not difficult in UK. May become boring and little meat/cheese, but easily achieved.

    Potatoes 2.5kg £1
    Pasta 1kg 40p
    Rice 1kg 45p
    Carrots 1kg 45p
    Value veg soup tin 24p
    Wholemeal Bread 800g 40p

  11. Timmy,

    You stated family, not household. I should have worded my second paragraph differently but I was annoyed after wasting about half an hour trying to find out what household size was used. It took less than a minute to find state household sizes.

  12. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I was under the impression that those Appalachian families supplemented their protein intake with nourishing squirrels and possums, and down in Mississippi they all ate polk sallet, which was free for the taking, at least according to Tony Joe White. So what’s the problem?

  13. Marijuana growing is a profitable industry that doesn’t show up in the official figures. The legalization effort has dramatically reduced profits however.

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