How does one prove that people's lives are getting worse under capitalism?

Charlotte S. Wellen cwellen at
Tue Sep 24 01:07:47 MDT 1996


Greetings to all comrades from Wei En LIn

How does one prove that people's lives are getting worse under

The apologists of capitalism are sometimes very adept at using
statistics to deceive the worker.  Would that marxists were as
adept at using statistics to uncover the truth!  (No one did
this better than Marx himself).  In a recent Washington Post
editorial, economist Paul Samuelson argued that assertions
about the declining living standards of the average US worker
were bogus.

If we look at what people actually possess, he says, we will
see that the quality of life is improving

Examine the following:

IN 1980:

11 % of households owned a microwave
37 % owned a a dishwasher
56 % a dryer

BY 1990

78 %  owned a microwave
50 % owned a a dishwasher
68 %  a dryer

Robert Samuelson argues that statistics showing an overall
decline in living standards are contradicted by what people buy
and what they own.

We could follow this line further:

If one looks at all the vital statistics which measure
well-being, one would find trends indicating a general
improvement in the most significant areas:

For example:

In 1920, average life expectancy in the US was 54 years.

(Years of LIfe expectancy at Birth)

1930     59
1940     62.9
1950     69.6
1960     69.7
1965     70.2
1970     70.8
1975     72.6
1980     73.7
1985     74.7
1990     75.4
1994     75.7

Similar improvements have been made in lowering infant
mortality,  and raising literacy rates nationwide.

A recent Gallop Poll survey said 66% of all US citizens
believed their financial situation would improve this year.

These sorts of statistics are constantly used by capitalist
economists, like Robert Samuelson, to prove that the quality of
life is improving for the vast majority of people in the United

I dare say, having looked at the figures, that the same
arguments could even be concocted for most of the countries in
sub-Saharan Africa.  That is, one could say, in spite of
hardships and dislocation, Black African countries have shown
measureable improvement in Life Expectancy, Infant care, and
literacy, even during the last decade. The trends are
definitely steady and definitely upward.

IN SENEGAL, for instance we find the following:

LIfe expectancy   45 male   48 female
Infant mortality  100 (per thousand)
LIteracy 10 %

LIfe expectancy   56 male   59 female
Infant mortality  74  (per thousand)
LIteracy 29 %

If these figures are accurate, they indicate an increase of ten
years in the average life span, a lowering of the infant
mortality rate by 25 %, and a near tripling of the number who
can read.


How does one respond to the claim that there is gradual
improvement in the human material condition

1) in advanced industrialized countries, such as the US, and
2) in poor, underdeveloped countries such as Senegal

? ? ?


Wei En Lin

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