Brad and Progress

Michael Perelman michael at
Sat Mar 18 16:20:36 PST 2000

A few days ago, either on pen-l or LBO, Brad discussed progress in terms of whether he would be better off today or in the condition of ancestors. I wonder how fair that test is.

Brad, for instance, is a distinguished professor at a major university. A number of people agreed that their personal circumstances were better than their grandparents.

Of course, this test is biased. If we would survey all winners of lotteries to see its purchase of lottery ticket makes economic sense, we would discover that lotteries are an excellent investment.

It is probably true that a higher percentage of people worldwide are not poor today than in most earlier periods. However, I suspect that being poor today -- especially thinking in global terms -- might be harsher than in earlier times.

Brad mentioned better access to medical care as another indicator of progress. Again, on a worldwide standard, I suspect that medical care for the average person may have improved someone like to a far less degree than it might appear from the perspective of a comfortable academic.

-- Michael Perelman Economics Department California State University Chico, CA 95929

Tel. 530-898-5321 E-Mail michael at

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