Analyzing a LateStageCapitalism meme

Published by marco on

There was a meme posted to Reddit at How are we supposed to live? that discusses the costs of various features of life now vs. 40 years ago.

The discussion petered out quickly when someone posted a refutation from Meme Policeman. In fairness, it didn’t exactly refute the meme, but questioned its numbers and tried to put them into a better context.

I responded with the following comment,

It’s not just the cost of these things, but also the value obtained for the money.

While offering more information, the memepoliceman also does not state its facts clearly enough. For college costs, it includes inflation, but uses averages (as does the original meme). Is that the average cost charged? Or average cost paid? Also interesting would be to see the average amount of debt incurred or the cost of college relative to income or net worth. Breaking up into percentiles would also be illustrative of the meme’s point, I think [citation needed]. Obviously not useful for a meme.

It’s a complicated topic, made more so by asking what the paid-for value is for most people. 40 years ago, a bachelor’s degree was arguably worth more than it is today, as you were more likely able to support a family on a job obtained with such a degree [citation needed, I know]. What percentage do you use to indicate a degree that costs 2.5 times as much but gets you far less advantage than it used to?

The same rigor can be applied to all of the other topics (health care, housing, etc.):

  • Which percentile is paying how much of its income/net worth for the service?
  • What is the relative quality of the service they’re getting today vs. 40 years ago?