Posts tagged with wealth

The purpose of a family is the enhancement of the individual pursuits of happiness … in the overall … preservation of the family as a whole.

—from Family Wealth
Is this a logical sentence, or not?

The purpose of a family is the enhancement of the individual pursuits of happiness … in the overall … preservation of the family as a whole.

—from Family Wealth

Is this a logical sentence, or not?


U.S. homelessness dropped nearly 17% over the past eight yearsvia The State of Homelessness in the USA


There are very few facts I think “everyone should know”. The huge income differences across countries are an exception.


Everyone should know that income per person in Burundi is about 1% of in the U.S. (yes, even though there’s a recession on).


And everybody should know a rough quantitative history of the world.

13 minutes by Tyler Cowen & Alex Tabarrok

The Speenhamland allowance scale enacted in 1795 effectively set a floor on the income of labourers according to the price of bread.

When the gallon loaf cost 1s, the laborer was to have a weekly income of 3s for himself. … Weekly wages of 3s are equal to …3.72 pounds of bread per day for a single labourer. This is an important figure to remember as the Speenhamland allowance.

As a pound of bread provides about 1100 calories, the allowance gave the labourer a total of 4100 calories per day. An agricultural labourer doing 8-10 hours of vigorous work can easily require 3000 calories/day. It is evident that the Speenhamland allowance provided just above the bare means of subsistence.

What jobs do the 1% have? by Bajika, Cole, and Heim

BCH and the US government did all the work here. My only contribution was to highlight

  1. professions I didn’t expect to see like pilot, farmer, government, teacher
  2. some “standard narratives”:
    • the one about “lawyers and doctors”
    • (I don’t know why these two get grouped together, since one works in abstractions and the other works in gore…but whatever, that is a narrative)
    • the one about “study hard and you’ll get ahead” (scientists, professors, computer, maths)
    • and “real estate developers”

Obviously the top 1.5M earners aren’t important to the exclusion of the other 311M Estadounidenses, the 145M employed Estadounidenses, or everyone else.

Equally obvious is that

fraction of lawyers in the one percent is not the same as fraction of one percent who are lawyers

(some lawyerly deeds are more lucrative than others … same for doctors.)

Still, if you’re 

  • choosing a career
  • thinking about social justice
  • trying to understand how the world works

then you might want to find out about rich people. It might be better to do so with, you know, actual facts, rather than for example listening to a bunch of programmers b*tch about how much money lawyers and doctors make.


Back to Bajika Cole & Heim. Why is it that this basic information wasn’t known? BCH, Pikkety Saez, and a few others who have bothered to parse data to answer simple questions seem to get fairly good citations. Are economics researchers so bent on complicated research that they won’t “arb” citations by doing something a non-PhD could do?

It is well known that the share of US income going to the top percentiles has increased dramatically over 1986–2006.  Piketty and Saez found that the top ¹⁄1000’s share of pre-tax income (ex cap gains) in the United States that was received by the top ¹⁄1000 rose from 2.2% to 8.0%.

But we don’t know what these people typically do for a living. Kaplan and Rauh (2010) looked through publicly-available information on top executives of publicly-traded firms, financial professionals, law partners, and professional athletes and celebrities. Despite making various extrapolations beyond what is directly available in publicly-available data sources, they were only able to identify the occupations of 17% of the top ¹⁄1000 of income earners.

We tabulated individual income tax return data from the U.S.Treasury Department on what share of top income earners work in each type of occupation. Through this method we are able to account for the occupations of almost all top earners – for example, for over 99% of primary taxpayers in the top ¹⁄1000.

(I liberally edited without [] or ….)

They also looked at spouses of the well-paid, computed income shares, computed growth rates, and broke down the incomes into

  • 1% ex ½% (rank 1,500,000–750,000)
  • ½% ex 0.1% (rank 750,000–150,000)
  • 0.1% (rank 150,000–1)

. All of this is at the end of the PDF, after the bibliography.

Anyway let’s give BCH a hand for providing us with useful information.

"Theory is easy. Data are hard."

(Source: web.williams.edu)

I had a Managing Director tell me years ago … that the best strategy to succeed in investment banking was to keep your seat. Success would come, and success would go, but you could never enjoy the fruits of good luck or a heated market if you weren’t in a position where you could get paid. Young and naïve as I was, I remember finding this advice rather cynical and dispiriting. Surely you kept your seat and made lots of money for your firm because you were really good, because clients respected and trusted you, because you gave them great advice. Because you were better than anybody else. This was stupid on my part. He was right.

Nobody is indispensable in my industry. Nobody. Ever. For every hotshot trader or investment banker glorying in her run of luck and outsized compensation, there are twenty waiting in the wings who could do just as good a job. And a hundred who would be willing to work for half pay to prove they could do so too.

I’ve said it a billion times: in investment banking or sales and trading, you’re only as good as your last deal or your last trade. And your last deal or your last trade had much more to do with you being in the right place at the right time—being in the right seat—than with your charm, skill, or intelligence. And none of us know when the right deal is going to hit.

[T]here is nothing about your charm or intelligence that will distinguish you from the line of a hundred identical eager valedictorians waiting outside our hiring office. If anything, they’re probably hungrier and more naïve (hence more malleable) than you. Intelligence is table stakes.

The Epicurean Dealmaker (@EpicureanDeal)


Mega admire him for saying this.

(Source: epicureandealmaker.blogspot.com)

The definition of a hillbilly is someone who can solve their own problems. A rich person’s car breaks down, they don’t know how to fix it. They rely on their money to get other people to solve their problems. A hillbilly has a problem, he figures out a way to solve it.

Mason Snyder,

  • IQ of 180
  • drives (and keeps in repair) a 33-year-old automobile
  • likes to set things on fire
  • shoots and eats rabbits, squirrels, and turtles
  • self-proclaimed hillbilly

the opportunity to get rich, to attain unto great wealth, is here in Philadelphia now, within the reach of almost every man and woman who hears me speak to-night, and I mean just what I say. I have not come to this platform even under these circumstances to recite something to you. I have come to tell you what in God’s sight I believe to be the truth, and if the years of life have been of any value to me in the attainment of common sense, I know I am right; that the men and women sitting here, who found it difficult perhaps to buy a ticket to this lecture or gathering to-night, have within their reach “acres of diamonds,” opportunities to get largely wealthy. There never was a place on earth more adapted than the city of Philadelphia to-day, and never in the history of the world did a poor man without capital have such an opportunity to get rich quickly and honestly as he has now in our city. … unless some of you get richer for what I am saying to-night my time is wasted.

I say that you ought to get rich, and it is your duty to get rich. … to make money honestly is to preach the gospel…. The men who get rich may be the most honest men you find in the community.

"Oh," but says some young man here to-night, "I have been told all my life that if a person has money he is very dishonest and dishonorable and mean and contemptible." My friend, that is the reason why you have none, because you have that idea of people. The foundation of your faith is altogether false. … ninety-eight out of one hundred of the rich men of America are honest. That is why they are rich. That is why they are trusted with money. That is why they carry on great enterprises and find plenty of people to work with them. …

… men that get millions of dollars dishonestly… are so rare a thing in fact that the newspapers talk about them all the time as a matter of news until you get the idea that all the other rich men got rich dishonestly.

My friend, you take and drive me—if you furnish the auto—out into the suburbs of Philadelphia, and introduce me to the people who own their homes around this great city, those beautiful homes with gardens and flowers, those magnificent homes so lovely in their art, and I will introduce you to the very best people in character … in our city, and you know I will. A man is not really a true man until he owns his own home, and they that own their homes are made more honorable and honest and pure, and true and economical and careful, by owning the home.

For a man to have money, even in large sums, is not an inconsistent thing. …

Money is power, and you ought to be reasonably ambitious to have it. You ought because you can do more good with it than you could without it. Money printed your Bible, money builds your churches, money sends your missionaries, and money pays your preachers…. I am always willing that my church should raise my salary, because the church that pays the largest salary always raises it the easiest. You never knew an exception to it in your life. The man who gets the largest salary can do the most good with the power that is furnished to him. Of course he can if his spirit be right to use it for what it is given to him.

I say, then, you ought to have money….

Some men say, “Don’t you sympathize with the poor people?” Of course I do, or else I would not have been lecturing these years. I won’t give in but what I sympathize with the poor, but the number of poor who are to be sympathized with is very small. To sympathize with a man whom God has punished for his sins, thus to help him when God would still continue a just punishment, is to do wrong, no doubt about it, and we do that more than we help those who are deserving. While we should sympathize with God’s poor—that is, those who cannot help themselves—let us remember there is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by his own shortcomings, or by the shortcomings of some one else. It is all wrong to be poor, anyhow. …

… fortunate the lover who has plenty of money. … money will do good as well as harm. In the hands of good men and women it could accomplish, and it has accomplished, good.

… I heard a man get up in a prayer-meeting … and thank the Lord he was “one of God’s poor.” Well, I wonder what his wife thinks about that? She earns all the money that comes into that house, and he smokes a part of that on the veranda. I don’t want to see any more of the Lord’s poor of that kind, and I don’t believe the Lord does. And yet there are some people who think in order to be pious you must be awfully poor and awfully dirty. That does not follow at all. While we sympathize with the poor, let us not teach a doctrine like that.

Yet the age is prejudiced….

"…you can measure the good you have been to this city by what this city has paid you, because a man can judge very well what he is worth by what he receives; … it would have been better for Philadelphia if they had kicked you out of the city nineteen years and nine months ago. A man has no right to keep a store in Philadelphia twenty years and not make at least five hundred thousand dollars even though it be a corner grocery up-town.” … Oh, my friends, if you will just take only four blocks around you, and find out what the people want and what you ought to supply and set them down with your pencil and figure up the profits you would make if you did supply them, you would very soon see it. There is wealth right within the sound of your voice.

Some one says: “You don’t know anything about business. ….” Well, then, I will have to prove that I am an expert. I don’t like to do this, but I have to do it because my testimony will not be taken if I am not an expert. My father kept a country store, … sometimes when my father was away he would leave me in charge of the store, … the foundation of godliness and the foundation principle of success in business are both the same precisely. The man who says, “I cannot carry my religion into business” advertises himself either as being an imbecile in business, or on the road to bankruptcy, or a thief, one of the three, sure. He will fail within a very few years. He certainly will if he doesn’t carry his religion into business. … I would have actually done him a kindness, and I would have received a reward myself, which it would have been my duty to take.

… you would be a criminal to sell goods for less than they cost. You have no right to do that. You cannot trust a man with your money who cannot take care of his own. You cannot trust a man in your family that is not true to his own wife. You cannot trust a man in the world that does not begin with his own heart….

To live and let live is the principle of the gospel, and the principle of every-day common sense. Oh, young man, hear me; live as you go along. Do not wait until you have reached my years before you begin to enjoy anything of this life. If I had the millions back, or fifty cents of it, which I have tried to earn in these years, it would not do me anything like the good that it does me now in this almost sacred presence to-night. Oh, yes, I am paid over and over a hundredfold to-night for dividing as I have tried to do in some measure as I went along through the years. I ought not speak that way, it sounds egotistic, but I am old enough now to be excused for that. I should have helped my fellow-men, which I have tried to do, and every one should try to do, and get the happiness of it. …. The history of the thousands of millionaires shows that to be the case.

The man over there who said he could not make anything in a store in Philadelphia has been carrying on his store on the wrong principle. …

… You don’t know where your neighbor came from when he moved to Philadelphia, and you don’t care. If you had cared you would be a rich man now. … there is the fault right at your own door.

… “Why can’t you go into the mercantile business?” “Because I haven’t any capital.” Oh, the weak and dudish creature that can’t see over its collar! It makes a person weak to see these little dudes standing around the corners and saying, “Oh, if I had plenty of capital, how rich I would get.” “Young man, do you think you are going to get rich on capital?” “Certainly.” Well, I say, “Certainly not.” …

… get[ting] more money than he or she has grown to by practical experience [is] a curse. It is no help to a young man or woman to inherit money. It is no help to your children to leave them money, but if you leave them education, if you leave them Christian and noble character, if you leave them a wide circle of friends, if you leave them an honorable name, it is far better than that they should have money. It would be worse for them, worse for the nation, that they should have any money at all. … I pity the rich man’s son. He can never know the best things in life.

One of the best things in our life is when a young man has earned his own living … lovely young woman, and makes up his mind to have a home of his own. Then with that same love comes also that divine inspiration toward better things, … money. … money in the bank. … the suburbs….

… I pity the rich man’s son.

The statistics of Massachusetts showed that not one rich man’s son out of seventeen ever dies rich…. the discipline of a poor boy … is worth more than a university education to any man…. poor, weak, little lily-fingered, sissy sort of a boy had to earn his living with honest toil. I have no pity for such rich men’s sons.

Russell H. Conwell, founder of Temple University in Philadelphia

published in 1890 in this form but delivered many times in years preceding


According to Wikipedia:

Conwell’s capacity to establish Temple University … largely derived from the income that he earned from this speech.

(Source: gutenberg.org)

In contrast to copper and tin, iron is very widely spread as the great archaeologist Gordon Childe put it “cheap iron democratized agriculture and industry and warfare too”. So the jump to Iron Age technology may have impeded the development of states in Africa by making it more difficult for elite to concentrate and monopolize power.

Africa never experienced the nascent period of political centralization that Europe did during the Bronze Age, perhaps also with a path dependent legacy.

Slow and steady.