Doesn't know his onions

We should hold those who pontificate in public to a certain standard. That standard, so high and unachievable, being that they should know something concerning the subject they decide to pontificate about. Owen Jones being a useful enough example as he complains here about wealth inequality. The point being that he doesn’t understand that the very things he complains about are normal. Further, we already do a lot to change what he’s complaining about, something that he doesn’t take into account – yes, he violates Worstall’s Fallacy.

The injustice of Britain’s wealth inequality is matched only by the lack of ambition in tackling it. According to the Commission on Economic Justice, which was set up by the IPPR thinktank, the wealthiest 10% of households own 45% of the nation’s collectively created wealth. For the bottom half, the figure is a paltry 9%. The richest 1,000 individuals can boast a combined fortune greater than the wealth of the poorest 40%, and in 2016 their wealth jumped by £82.5bn – which, as the Equality Trust points out, is the equivalent of £2,615 per second. Only an economy as dysfunctional and rotten as our own can produce insecurity and stagnation for the majority but boom-time for so few.

Actually, all economies do this. This is normal. Saez and Zucman are the empirical researchers in this field of wealth inequality and they say about wealth distributions:

The second key result of our analysis involves the dynamics
of the wealth share of the bottom 90%. Since the bottom half of the
distribution always owns close to zero wealth on net,

This is just normal. It’s also wrong. For:

Our definition of wealth includes all pension wealth—
whether held in individual retirement accounts, or through pension
funds and life insurance companies—with the exception of
Social Security and unfunded defined benefit pensions.4 Although
Social Security matters for saving decisions, the same is true for
all promises of future government transfers. Including Social
Security in wealth would thus call for including the present
value of future Medicare benefits, future government education
spending for one’s children, etc., net of future taxes. It is not clear
where to stop, and such computations are inherently fragile because
of the lack of observable market prices for these types of
assets. Unfunded defined benefit pensions are promises of future
payments that are not backed by actual wealth. The vast majority
(94% in 2013) of unfunded pension entitlements are for government
employees (federal and local), thus are conceptually similar
to promises of future government transfers, and just like those
are better excluded from wealth.

We already do rather a lot to reduce wealth inequality. The state pension for example, that’s a reduction in pensions inequality. Cheap housing reduces housing inequality. But in our estimations of wealth inequality we do not correct for these things that we already do to reduce wealth inequality. We’re not even including the taxation that wealth currently pays.

That is, the evidence base Owen Jones is using is nonsense and the reason he’s using it is ignorance. Meaning Owen Jones rather fails our certain standard, that public pontificators have a clue about the subject they pontificate upon.

Sure, there’s a defence available which is that they’re not trying to explain or elucidate but only to propagandise. Fair enough then but that does also mean we’ve not got to pay the slightest attention, doesn’t it?

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  1. He’s a leftie so he lies. That’s what lefties always do, arguably the only thing they can do.

    Why anybody pays any attention to those people , or believes what they say, is beyond me (although I’m pretty sure most people don’t and it’s more a media echo chamber effect), but as I discover the curriculum taught to my children, I would say that what we call education, with its leftist bias, is partly responsible.

    As the old saying goes, to upset a conservative, lie to him, to upset a leftist, tell him the truth.

  2. Cheers to Tim as always for insisting that people use measurement, measure precisely, and measure the thing they are talking about.

    “45% of the nation’s collectively created wealth” – But wealth is not created collectively. A lot is created by inventing, by motivating others, by anticipating and solving problems – and if you’re not an entrepreneur, simply by refining your language, showing up for work on time, and being nice to the customer. Which we all do to different degrees, though for everyone, there is always a way to start doing it better. Why should wealth be equal in the first place?

  3. Among the many failures of the May government is not saying that in the event the Maduro government falls anyone from the UK who is found to have aided and abetted it (which includes Jones and Abbott) will be extradited to Venezuela to answer to the Venezuelan people for their crimes. This would have been a massive votewinner and would have provided a blueprint for how we will eventually need to deal with Corbinism in general

  4. Jones is of course a left wing dimwit who thinks he is clever. I wonder if he has ever stopped to think about wealth distribution and why it is unequal other than jumping to the conclusion that it is the evil Tories making life unfair? For example older people will automatically have more wealth than younger people simpy because they have been on the planet longer. New borns tend not to be wealthy.

    • So cultures in which families tend to have more of those newborns also have lower family wealth, and that isn’t the Tories’ fault either. I’m sure Dr. Sowell explains this fully in his new Discrimination and Disparities.

  5. Bah! Anyone trusting a pension from Social Security or any other unfunded pension scheme is very foolish. You are trusting some future legislature to honor a previous one’s agreement. Only one financial crisis away from a radically changed pension payout.

    “I am altering the deal. Pray that I don’t alter it any further” – Darth Vader

    • Jones excepted Social Security from his definition of wealth. Tim did not, but did only use it in a measure of “pensions inequality” (comparative vaporware). The Social Security fund has been raided for the Permanent Disability racket (now including addictions); it has no savings anymore and is only “solvent” because there is still money coming in on your account, though it is pooled with other receipts by a government that spends half again as much. It is unreliable even if future governments don’t raid it.

      PS – If you are relying on the Obama-care individual penalty to go away, as scheduled, in 2019 after you re-elect Republicans, then you believe the 116th Congress will not double-cross you the way the Repeal Obama-care 115th Congress has just done.

  6. There’s another form of distribution that rarely gets measured – charity, and I don’t mean fake charities. How about the millions of hours given to the likes of riding for the disabled, Samaritans, car schemes to get people to doctors and hospitals, to name a few?

    Most of those giving are retired and by Jones’s definition wealthy. I’d put good money on those services disappearing if the state confiscated our wealth and tried to deliver them.

    But then the left rarely do that sort of giving, they’re too busy cooking up ways to confiscate people’s wealth and they don’t trust those that give, they’re too independent of the State.