French economist Thomas Piketty is raising a ruckus

Yeah kind of like Rite of Spring but much more starvation!

True, but it only helps at the margins. Mass transit means poor people can work easier, but it doesn’t get them better jobs than they’d get otherwise. Hiring police and building schools also help poor people, or would if they were used more for the benefit of the poor, which brings us back to how human nature affects how governments are run.

A significant portion is salaries, and I’d dispute that people aren’t in it for the money. Sure, no one gets rich, but it’s a better living than most of these people could get outside of government service, except for those near the top. And it’s a secure living. Plus, you get to lord it over people if you’re of that mind, and some are of that mind.

Who knew that we were doing so well before the Reagan Revolution?

Too bad the public in 1980 was about fed up with this good government of yours.

Does it really?

Consider sports stadiums. Here in the USA, governments generously subsidize the construction of stadiums for professional sports teams–in Washington DC the baseball stadium cost $800 million and the taxpayers were forced to pay for most of it. Now who do you think earns more profits from that stadium, rich people or poor people?

How do you know that?

How does collecting a dollar in taxes and then spending it “stimulate the economy” any more than just leaving the taxpayer with his or her dollar?

They do reduce inequality: at the margins, as I said. A poor Swedish person is better off than a poor American, but not by so much as to be a huge difference. Let’s do the math:

In Sweden, the bottom 10% receives 3.6% of the national income.That’s $14.1 billion total, divided among 972,000 people(the bottom 10%). Which comes out to $14,506.

The top 10% receives 22.2%, which is $87.4 billion. Divided among 972,000 people(the top 10%), it comes out to $89,917.

Wow, doesn’t take much to get into the top 10% in Sweden, does it? That’s a pretty steep cost to the best off in society. Most of the top 10% in Sweden couldn’t buy a house in South Florida.

Anyway, let’s do the math on the US now:

To bottom 10% receives 2% of the national income, which is $334 billion. Divided among 31.8 million people, that comes out to $10,500.

The top 10% receives 30%, which is $5 trillion. Divided among 31.8 million people, that comes to $157,232.

So in order to improve the income of the poor by 60% or so, the incomes of the rich had to be reduced by nearly half. That’s a pretty steep cost for a small result.

But it gets worse when you look at the middle class:

The difference in median household income between the US and Sweden is over $5000. That just happens to be slightly more than the difference between US and Swedish poor people. So what the middle class in Sweden is giving up already accounts for most of what the poor are getting extra. What happened to the rich folks’ money?

The end result of the Swedish experiment has been that the poor are slightly better off, and everyone else is significantly worse off. 5% more Swedes than Americans are dependent on government. Opportunity in Sweden is LESS than in the US, so if you are poor in Sweden, you’re probably not going to get very far.

We don’t. With people, it’s all about incentives. The incentives of the people in government do not align with making government work well. In fact, the government has gone out of its way to make sure that no one can ever be held accountable for anything. Except whistleblowers of course.

Wait, are you serious? A hugely substantial increase in the effective range a person can search for a job in doesn’t help them get better jobs? That seems incredibly counterintuitive at best.

Not really. If I’m qualified to do only retail and fast food, then being able to reach more McDonald’s and Wal-mart locations makes getting a job easier, but doesn’t increase my income.

I’m sure some people do get better jobs from mass transit than they would otherwise, but again, only at the margins.

But it would be a good subject for a study.

You’re comparing across countries without controlling for GDP per capita in each one? Alarm bells are ringing here, so I’ll ignore that.

What on earth do you mean by opportunity? If anything, Nordic countries do much better than the USA in terms of social mobility - the chances that a person born poor will not be poor throughout his/her life. So yeah, I challenge your statement.

Social mobility over a compressed income scale. Going from $14,000 to $87,000 is not the hugest of leaps.

And I said there is less opportunity because 55% of the population is dependent on the government. That speaks to a lack of opportunity when the majority can’t get by without government assistance.

Why would I control for GDP per capita? A country with lower GDP is poorer, it’s entirely fair.

This is just way, way wrong. If someone has a wider net to cast, because they can travel farther and cheaper, than they are far more likely to get a better job. If some poor dude with no car can only apply for a job he can walk to, then he has far fewer choices that if he can apply for any job along the train/bus route.

I’ve got the book on back order from Amazon. It’s obviously selling well.

It sounds like it has data to back up what I’ve suspected for years. In an unregulated market, capital pools at the top, leading to economic stagnation. Redistribution pumps capital back down to the poor and middle class, keeping the economy running smoothly. The only reason this reasonable proposition seems at all remarkable is that we’ve had over 30 years of the rich and powerful loudly telling us that allowing them to grab as much as possible for themselves somehow magically makes things better for everyone else.

:rolleyes: Og, it’s like Keynes never existed!

I admit I could be wrong, but unless you’ve got a cite, then you can’t be sure anymore than I can.

Casting a wider net doesn’t get a person with no skills a great job. It just gets them more choices of low skill jobs. The country is full of people with cars working two minimum wage jobs. You’d think their transportation would get them better opportunities, but it doesn’t most of the time.

Yes, but we are comparing inequality within countries. It doesn’t really matter that the average American makes more than the average Swede, because the average American buys her bread in the USA, and the average Swede buys hers in Sweden. I’d rather make $90,000 in Sweden than $150,000 in the USA, to put it simply

According to Keynes, the government spending money only stimulates the economy if demand is low. Government replaces the demand that is lacking in the private sector.

Cite? And please bear in mind that receiving government assistance != being depending on the government.

Well, it’s certainly lacking now!

Actually, if you account for taxes, you’re probably making more than double in the US.

We already have a way to compare countries to other countries: Purchasing Power Parity. That was used for these figures. Sweden is poorer than the US.

The cite is the cite I provided, under “People”. Dependency ratio is defined thus:

In economics, geography and demography the dependency ratio is an age-population ratio of those typically not in the labor force (the dependent part) and those typically in the labor force (the productive part). It is used to measure the pressure on productive population.

IT doesn’t even measure benefits received, it simply measures the fact that most people in Sweden aren’t working.

Actually, I misunderstood your argument. But Sweden reinforces my argument. Comparing inequality within Sweden, we find that the poor are still pretty freakin’ poor(just less so than in the US), while the rich barely even exist. So as I said, inequality is usually fought by governments by bringing the rich down, not by bringing the poor up.

Dude, this is basic Econ 101. If there are two guys with equal qualifications, and one can only apply for 10 jobs, but the other can apply for 100 jobs (including the same 10 jobs from before), who is more likely to get a higher-paying job? It may not be a huge difference, but if there’s a factory on the bus route, as compared to no factory within walking distance, then it might be pretty substantial.