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Monday, April 15, 2013

The Other Kind of Moneyball

I think this article is misguided but thought the masses here would like to chew on the topic

Harveys Wallbangers Posted: April 15, 2013 at 09:05 AM | 78 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: detroit tigers, envy, player salaries

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   1. James Kannengieser Posted: April 15, 2013 at 10:35 AM (#4414381)
Mess of an article. Would he rather all that money go to Jeffrey Loria and the Wilpons?
   2. JE (Jason) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 10:40 AM (#4414386)
I insisted their championship was as illegitimate as George W. Bush’s presidency

This was in the lede. Coincidentally, this is also where I stopped reading.
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: April 15, 2013 at 10:46 AM (#4414392)
This was in the lede. Coincidentally, this is also where I stopped reading.


Call me crazy, but I don't think it was a coincidence.

   4. JE (Jason) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 10:52 AM (#4414399)
Call me crazy, but I don't think it was a coincidence

Damn, I'm going to have to start waking up a little earlier....
   5. Gaylord Perry the Platypus (oi!) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:11 AM (#4414424)
I agree with James @ #1, the article doesn't really seem to have a point besides "Baseball players are overpaid!". There's not even the usual foolishness about ticket prices being high because of player salaries. And he does point out that the players have specific, irreplaceable skills that lead to the high salaries. But there's no suggestion on how to fix this alleged problem.

I mean, I agree that it's ridiculous that players are paid the way they are. But it's a reflection of the money flowing from TV contracts. And that's a reflection of the fact that televised sports are the single most DVR-resistant programming on TV, and thus have better advertising rates than pretty much anything else. So, if you take it as a given that the money is going to be paid into MLB, I think it makes more sense for that to end up in players' pockets rather than the owners...
   6. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:13 AM (#4414426)
From TFA:

They’re getting rich out there, but how am I profiting from the experience? I know we’re never going back to the days when Willie Mays lived in Harlem and sold cars in the offseason, but the market forces that have overvalued ballplayers’ skills while devaluing mine have made it impossible for me to just enjoy the damn game.

Yep.(*)

And extending the point, that development has made it much more difficult to credit the bread and circuses society that has overvalued the ballplayers' skills.

(*) The masses have pushed back against this impulse by making themselves faux-experts in the business of sport, which makes it even more difficult to just enjoy the damn game.
   7. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:13 AM (#4414428)
Because the reserve clause was eliminated at the insistence of the Major League Baseball Players Association, the Seitz decision is considered a victory for organized labor. It wasn’t. It was a victory for the laissez-faire marketplace.


This guy is a ####### idiot.
   8. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:14 AM (#4414432)
But there's no suggestion on how to fix this alleged problem.

People getting a life.

The players were paid way too much even before the latest cycle of local TV deals.
   9. zonk Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:18 AM (#4414435)
If one can weed through the thinly (and no so thinly) veiled whining over how much certain players make, there are some interesting tidbits in here... namely, the rather 'unique' role/location of the MLBPA in the union spectrum (the argument being -- they're not really a union).

As the author notes - the MLBPA is sort of the antithesis of a union because it's truly collective bargaining that the MLBPA has brought to pass (beyond the basic agreement) -- it's the ability of individual players to negotiate directly with owners.

It is interesting to look at the breakdown between the star salaries and the replacement level players -- and especially, the divergence in salaries between the classes within the MLBPA.


Part of this is the influence of the 'other'/real Moneyball -- the concept of Replacement level players, etc.... As a non-union person, but a pro-union politico -- I think there are some interesting questions here...

The benefit of collective bargaining from the rank-and-file perspective is negotiate contracts that benefit the whole union.... Do the current basic agreements really do that? I.e., league minimum salaries and such haven't grown anywhere near the pace of star salaries, while at the same time -- the 'apprenticeship' of arb and pre-arb time hasn't moved much.

I have no idea how you'd work out the framework, but it would be interesting to me to see what would happen if -- say -- the MLBPA essentially exiled say, the top 10% earners (but granted them some sort of exemption to continue what is really a closed shop). What if the MLBPA then -- instead of individual player bargaining -- simply set pay scales based on something like IP, games, PAs, etc?

Just like everywhere else under the sun -- I tend to doubt the rank-and-file would go for it... Everyone thinks they'll be rich some day (and I do suppose in nominal terms, most of the guys who get an MLBPA card will get close), so everyone's planning for the day when THEY'RE the ones with 10s of millions of dollars to be dealt with.
   10. zonk Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:22 AM (#4414441)
I agree with James @ #1, the article doesn't really seem to have a point besides "Baseball players are overpaid!". There's not even the usual foolishness about ticket prices being high because of player salaries. And he does point out that the players have specific, irreplaceable skills that lead to the high salaries. But there's no suggestion on how to fix this alleged problem.


Well, I think there's some point -- though, yes, it's buried under the whining -- but ultimately, I do think the intent was to talk about how the MLBPA isn't really engaged in 'collective bargaining' so much as a legal avenue to allow direct salary bargaining with ownership.... It's sort of the irony of the MLBPA.... they needed a union to essentially make possible individual bargaining.

FWIW... this is really one of the reasons why I tend to be so pro-union in a very generic sense, even though I don't work in a unionized field and am not likely to ever work under a union contract again: Never Trust Management.... so anything aligned against management is A-OK by me.
   11. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 15, 2013 at 11:22 AM (#4414442)
It's no accident that Major League Baseball has come to parallel American society in a bizarre co-dependent sort of relationship.(*) Each game is like a microcosm of modern America -- the players loafing and posing and engaging in seriatim acts of self-regard (**) and self-congratulation for banal achievements, as the overleveraged, attention-deflected patrons spend much of the game time shopping and stuffing their faces with overpriced, artery-clogging food.

(*) Thus the unending price inflation.

(**) Not just baseball, of course -- it happens in football, too, as we see every time a LB flexes and poses and dances around after tacking a running back after a 7-yard gain.
   12. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 12:15 PM (#4414480)

People getting a life.


You're right, people should be doing something more productive with their lives, like cooking. If people were interested in cooking instead of baseball, would we have TV networks dedicated to cooking? Would we be bombarded with overpaid 'celebrity chefs' hawking wares on TV like we are with baseball players? I'm not going to check, but I think the answer is 'no'.
   13. John Northey Posted: April 15, 2013 at 12:16 PM (#4414482)
In truth, if the general public would do what baseball players (and other pro athletes) did we could see a significant increase in pay - namely have all salaries be public. If you knew the guy beside you negotiated a 10% raise (by threatening to quit as that seems to be the only way to get a raise) while the boss told you that the company was broke and gave you 0% how would you respond? It would cut down the massive leverage the bosses have. Right now they have perfect knowledge - they know what everyone else in the company makes and they know if you are likely to stay or not. Meanwhile the average worker has no clue what the other employees make beyond judging based on their car/house/lifestyle which normally won't tell you much (some go deep into debt, others don't).

For capitalism to work 'perfect knowledge' is needed. The more everyone knows, the better it works. Right now the best employees might be making 1/2 of what the worst do (I saw that first hand at a company where I got to see payroll figures) just due to the worst ones being better at BS'ing the boss or more willing to walk. If we want 'ability to quit' and 'good bs' to be the top skills in our economy then we have a perfect system. If not then things need to change and releasing everyone's salary info (and job title, etc) into the public domain would be the best method. Sadly it won't happen as too many are embarrassed that they didn't negotiate better, or we'd get just a handful saying it and too many not. It'd require gov't mandates and that just isn't going to happen.

I suspect we are more likely to see a return to high tax rates on the extremely rich first - ie: 50%-75% income tax rate on incomes beyond a certain point. Ideally it'd be based on something like 40x average income thus creating incentive for the very rich to push up the average income.
   14. Swedish Chef Posted: April 15, 2013 at 12:20 PM (#4414488)
What I don't get is why the major league players have a powerful union and the minor league players don't. All the stars pass through the minor leagues, so there should be leverage enough to get heard.
   15. thetailor Posted: April 15, 2013 at 12:23 PM (#4414490)
I think this guy is only making half of his point.

The problem isn't necessarily that the wealth is flowing to the best players (not, as #1 stated "Would he rather all that money go to Jeffrey Loria and the Wilpons?").

The problem is that this has happened simultaneously with baseball becoming too expensive for the average person.

All of these teams are like US Steel -- wildly, wildly successful and wealthy -- and that has not translated into lower costs for fans. In fact, costs for fans are as high as ever, and the barrier between the fans and their heroes becomes higher and more impenetrable.

Baseball is a wonderful, amazing game at its most successful point ever. But one look at Yankee Stadium and all the empty Merrill Lynch boxes should tell you all you need to know about the money problem in the sport.
   16. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 15, 2013 at 12:56 PM (#4414521)
You're right, people should be doing something more productive with their lives, like cooking. If people were interested in cooking instead of baseball, would we have TV networks dedicated to cooking?

People have to eat. If you meant cooking themselves -- i.e., participatory cooking -- yes, it would be better if more people spent their time cooking as opposed to conspicuous consuming at major league baseball games.
   17. The Polish Sausage Racer Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:02 PM (#4414531)
This is basically just another anti-union screed. Screw off.
   18. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:19 PM (#4414563)
What I don't get is why the major league players have a powerful union and the minor league players don't. All the stars pass through the minor leagues, so there should be leverage enough to get heard.

Most minor league players, by numbers, are at the Single-A and Rookie levels, where the players tend to be young, naive, and confident that they'll be major leaguers within two or three years. They don't see the need for a MiLB union because they don't expect to be in the minors for very long.
   19. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:43 PM (#4414613)
Most minor league players, by numbers, are at the Single-A and Rookie levels, where the players tend to be young, naive, and confident that they'll be major leaguers within two or three years. They don't see the need for a MiLB union because they don't expect to be in the minors for very long.

Yeah, well that's stupid. Part of unions' appeal is that they often protect the membership from its own short-sighted stupidity.
   20. cmd600 Posted: April 15, 2013 at 01:48 PM (#4414627)
I can't help but assume this is a straight troll job. Kudos to this site for thinking deeply about this and giving it the appropriate discussion, but there's no way that was the intent of the author.
   21. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 02:00 PM (#4414662)
If you knew the guy beside you negotiated a 10% raise (by threatening to quit as that seems to be the only way to get a raise) while the boss told you that the company was broke and gave you 0% how would you respond? It would cut down the massive leverage the bosses have. Right now they have perfect knowledge - they know what everyone else in the company makes and they know if you are likely to stay or not. Meanwhile the average worker has no clue what the other employees make beyond judging based on their car/house/lifestyle which normally won't tell you much (some go deep into debt, others don't).


That's a good point. I've been job hunting lately and I have noticed that 90% of listings don't reveal salary ranges at all. Has it always been like that?

Because the reserve clause was eliminated at the insistence of the Major League Baseball Players Association,


Minor quibbling, but the "reserve clause" is still in place, right? That's what keeps players from hitting FA before six years?

Most of those guys are set for life,


This is a common and totally fals misconception. Justin Verlander is set for life. A few of the players that can put together 10 year careers are set for life. A guy making $400k for 2 years is not really set for life once you take out taxes, agent fees and other expenses.

A 2002 article by Keith Sill of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank calls this the “skill premium.” Sill explains that since 1970, “the wages paid to the most highly skilled workers—those who have higher levels of education, ability, or job training—have increased dramatically relative to the wages of the least skilled workers.”


Skills like journalism?

. Since my past two jobs disappeared in the Great Recession,


I have an offshore wagering account in Costa Rica.


Hmmm.

   22. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 15, 2013 at 02:12 PM (#4414691)
The problem is that this has happened simultaneously with baseball becoming too expensive for the average person.


Yea, but this isn't the players fault and neither is it the owners. It's constantly increasing demand by fans and their greater willingness to pay more every year that drives ticket prices higher. Which is really strange, because as we we know...

Over the past 40 years—the period of rising economic inequality that former Slate columnist Timothy Noah called “The Great Divergence”—Americans’ incomes have not grown at all, in real dollars


Over 40 years the American standard of living has stagnated, yet the Bonds family has perpetually lived better and better.

I was just a kid in the 70s but it was pretty much the same as now. We had a media center, which my dad called a TV, and home entertainment control system, which my dad called a remote and made a "CLICK" whenever he pressed it.

And we were a 2 Prius house-hold, but back then they were called "VW Beetles" for some reason, but basically the same thing, almost as luxurious with both a heater and an air blower. We had a family computer, which my dad spent hundreds of dollars on, and he called it (as old people would back then) a "calculator". I never did figure out how to connect it to the internet cause it was so hard to type commands on that 10 character screen with just a numerical keyboard.

One thing that was better back then were the iPhones. They ran forever without charging as long as you kept them connected (to a wall). And you never needed any of that "Find My iPhone" crap, because iPhones back then were always connected (to a wall). And you never had to struggle to figure out which of a half dozen providers you wanted to use, or what plan features you needed, Ma Bell gave you everything you needed and told you so whenever you complained. They gave you unlimited texting and data for free! I repeat, my dad never had to complain about us going over the texting limits.

And it was really great to travel. No TSA. No Southwest so far fewer of those under-dressed bumpkins roaming the airport. Airports and planes were as roomy and comfortable as graveyards, only 16 billion domestic miles flown in 74, vs. those jam pack planes that flew 800 billion miles last year.

You know what, we just don't live as well as we used to.
   23. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 02:15 PM (#4414700)
A 2002 article by Keith Sill of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank calls this the “skill premium.”

The phrasing of this sentence amuses me a bit, if only because it seems to attribute the phrase to a 2002 article, not to the fact that it's a term in the literature (and that the article he links is actually a literature review). Strange thing to have a reaction to, but I'm currently doing reading on skill-based technological change, and the phrasing in this sentence just struck me as odd-ish.
   24. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 15, 2013 at 02:18 PM (#4414702)
You know what, we just don't live as well as we used to.

Can't tell if that's sarcasm. In many ways, of course, we don't live as well as we used to. Baseball was a far better deal at 70s prices. And the airports used to be far more pleasant and tolerable.
   25. AROM Posted: April 15, 2013 at 02:36 PM (#4414736)
You know what, we just don't live as well as we used to.


I hear you KT. I'm not in the same field as my dad was, but have a job that pays similar to what he had back then when adjusted for inflation. I'd gladly give up all the tech to be able to give my kids what my dad gave to us: A decent sized yard. Stupid overcrowded planet.
   26. Morty Causa Posted: April 15, 2013 at 02:43 PM (#4414747)
You know what, we just don't live as well as we used to.


You think you had it good. We lived in a shoe!
   27. JJ1986 Posted: April 15, 2013 at 02:52 PM (#4414763)
Can't tell if that's sarcasm.


Really?
   28. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 15, 2013 at 03:03 PM (#4414783)
You think you had it good. We lived in a shoe!


I had sex in my VW Beetle.

With another person!

Never again.
   29. The John Wetland Memorial Death (CoB) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 03:11 PM (#4414792)
You think you had it good. We lived in a shoe!


You were lucky. We lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six o'clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down mill for fourteen hours a day week in-week out. When we got home, our Dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt!
   30. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: April 15, 2013 at 03:15 PM (#4414796)
You were lucky. We lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six o'clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down mill for fourteen hours a day week in-week out. When we got home, our Dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt!


And you turned out just fine! None of this mamby pamby new age crap needed!
   31. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 15, 2013 at 03:18 PM (#4414798)
Really?

Yep. If I had to guess, I'd say yes, but it's a 55-45 call. IPhone's are vastly overrated, the airports and air travel suck now, and TV existed in the 70s. You could do sarcasm mocking people who think they're a massive improvement, you could do sarcasm mocking people who think they aren't.

So, it's clearly sarcasm, but the direction is unclear.
   32. smileyy Posted: April 15, 2013 at 03:25 PM (#4414804)
Primey for the underappreciated [12]
   33. Perry Posted: April 15, 2013 at 03:31 PM (#4414811)
You were lucky. We lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six o'clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down mill for fourteen hours a day week in-week out. When we got home, our Dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt!


A bag! Luxury! What we would have given for a bag.
   34. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 03:37 PM (#4414819)
And the airports used to be far more pleasant and tolerable.

For those who could afford to fly, anyway.
   35. Walt Davis Posted: April 15, 2013 at 05:42 PM (#4414979)
namely, the rather 'unique' role/location of the MLBPA in the union spectrum (the argument being -- they're not really a union).

They are a craft union (or guild) and operate roughly similarly to how all craft unions have operated throughout history. Set a bar for entry into the profession (usually a degree or legally regulated license or both), have an apprenticeship period after entry, if you survive all that you can make the big green. Lawyers, doctors, academics, lollypop makers, baseball players. The main difference is that MLBPA doesn't really control entry into the profession but still set the bar high (40-man roster).

Of course they're not like the Teamsters or the UAW but there's no reason to expect they would be anymore than you'd expect the ABA to be like that.

A decent sized yard. Stupid overcrowded planet.

US homeownership rates have basically held steady for the last 50 years, ranging from 63% to 67% (after a huge jump post-war) and actually peaked in the early 2000s at 68%. Despite all the craziness, they're still at 65% which is basically as high as anything seen prior to 1996.

Go out and buy a freaking house already if you want a freaking house. :-)

   36. toratoratora Posted: April 15, 2013 at 06:56 PM (#4415041)
I had sex in my VW Beetle.

With another person!

Never again.



Because sometimes you have to...

Shannon Hamilton: You see, Bruce, I like to pick up girls on the rebound from a disappointing relationship. They're much more in need of solace and they're fairly open to suggestion. And, I use that to #### them some place very uncomfortable.

Brodie: What, like the back of a Volkswagen?
   37. Random Transaction Generator Posted: April 15, 2013 at 07:14 PM (#4415062)
I'd gladly give up all the tech to be able to give my kids what my dad gave to us: A decent sized yard. Stupid overcrowded planet.


If you live in North America, I find it interesting that you'd call the planet "overcrowded".
One of the things that people who were born/raised in Europe and Asia find hard to comprehend is the vast amount of space that exists in North America.

The USA would be 28th (out of 37) in Asia, and the 39th in (out of 45) in Europe, in terms of population density (ppl/km2)

Netherlands, Belgium, Bangladesh, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Philippines, Japan, and Sri Lanka all have 10 times the population density of the US.
(I didn't bother the city states (in Asia) or microsized nations (in Europe) in the group above.)



   38. Greg K Posted: April 15, 2013 at 07:39 PM (#4415083)
For me (because really, that's the only important person in the world), 2013 beats 1970 hands down.

Flights: I doubt in 1970 I'd be able to afford to fly from the UK to Canada for Christmas (and Canada Day this year!...and Barcelona in May...and Prague in September to meet my parents!)

iPhones: technically the 70s would be ok, since I don't own an iPhone...but my pay-as-you-go cell phone that costs me about £3 a month to call friends and family on another continent is pretty keen.

Cars: a bit of a "not applicable" as I don't drive, and likely wouldn't have in 1970 either...though I guess you never know.

Media Centre: I'm sure there were many sports fans who had a better set up than my laptop to watch baseball games on. But on the other hand the modern magic of mlb.tv allows me to watch many, many more games.

Internet: the internet alone would have to seal it. Just off the top of my head it has
A) allowed me to remain close friends with many, many people I wouldn't otherwise see for years at a time, because of either me or both of us moving to different continents.
B) Makes research/keeping up to date on historical scholarship about a million times easier/efficient
C) Has allowed me to "meet" dozens of really great people who share a particular interest in baseball that I otherwise would never have met.
D) has a site that combines Arrested Development and Game of Thrones in a humorous fashion.
   39. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 08:09 PM (#4415124)
allowed me to remain close friends with many, many people I wouldn't otherwise see for years at a time, because of either me or both of us moving to different continents.

For me, this alone is worth the price of admission. I've been able to still be "there" with my close friends, despite living halfway/all the way (depending on when) around the world, which has been absolutely wonderful.
   40. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: April 15, 2013 at 08:20 PM (#4415145)
and Prague in September to meet my parents!


I hope when they meet you they think as highly of you as we do here.
   41. Joe Kehoskie Posted: April 15, 2013 at 08:44 PM (#4415181)
If you live in North America, I find it interesting that you'd call the planet "overcrowded".
One of the things that people who were born/raised in Europe and Asia find hard to comprehend is the vast amount of space that exists in North America.

Right. I saw a map not long ago that claimed that if every American lived in an area with the same population density as Manhattan, the entire U.S. population would fit into an area about the size of New Jersey. Kind of amazing.

EDIT: Actually, it was Brooklyn and New Hampshire. (Link)
   42. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: April 15, 2013 at 10:56 PM (#4415327)
People getting a life.

The players were paid way too much even before the latest cycle of local TV deals.


It's no accident that Major League Baseball has come to parallel American society in a bizarre co-dependent sort of relationship.(*) Each game is like a microcosm of modern America -- the players loafing and posing and engaging in seriatim acts of self-regard (**) and self-congratulation for banal achievements, as the overleveraged, attention-deflected patrons spend much of the game time shopping and stuffing their faces with overpriced, artery-clogging food.


Dude, do you even like baseball? You are a massive downer all the time. Does it really spoil your view of the game because top players make millions? I think that's just dumb. If you don't like it, then piss off, seriously.

And as someone who is old enough to remember the 70s, 2013 is WAAAAY better. Mobile phones, internet, safer more efficient cars. If you choose not to enjoy any of the perks of modern society, that's your problem, don't effing whinge about it. Airports in the 70's? Uh, you all forget you could pretty much smoke anywhere back then right? Anywhere enclosed was like a gas chamber. Heck, I remember when people smoked in the movie theatres.
   43. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 16, 2013 at 04:35 AM (#4415406)
I insisted their championship was as illegitimate as George W. Bush’s presidency

This was in the lede. Coincidentally, this is also where I stopped reading.

The truth can be tough to take, granted.

If you live in North America, I find it interesting that you'd call the planet "overcrowded".
Once I got out of the burbs it got interesting. The country in much of this country isn't 'overcrowded' in a meaningful sense, but it's almost impossible to get away from people. Even up here, in the middle of not very much, any decent building lot starts at 30k.

If the US was as densely populated as the rest of the planet's land masses, we'd have closer to 500 million than our current 300 million. Take out the Arctic and Antarctica and it's got to be over 600 million. Our population has doubled since I was a kid and while there are too many of us it's not a big deal, yet. I suppose if China can sort of deal with a pop. of 1.3b, so could we. Hope it doesn't get to that, though. Other than grinding out more souls for God, and satisfying a half dozen loonies who feel the only way to have a healthy economy is by ceaseless growth,*** what's the point?


***A senseless argument, btw. Growth will have to stop at some point; why not stop it before it becomes catastrophic?

   44. depletion Posted: April 16, 2013 at 08:30 AM (#4415441)
Our population has doubled since I was a kid and while there are too many of us it's not a big deal, yet. I suppose if China can sort of deal with a pop. of 1.3b, so could we. Hope it doesn't get to that, though.

Me neither, but the prospects aren't looking good. Biggest difference between 1970 and 2013 is: No Vietnam War. That is a huge difference. Otherwise:
Cars: More efficient and safer now, but had more style and were cheaper in 1970.
Telecom: no smartphones in 1970 but I don't think anyone missed them.
Internet/computers: Make getting a job and doing taxes more straightforward, not necessary for entertainment. Instead of buying "Rock Band" we actually made a rock band.
Housing: Much more expensive now than 1970, better quality in some ways today.
Music: No contest, life is worse today since downloaders essentially destroyed the pop music business.
Environment: Thanks to Nixon (clean air act)and others the protection of the environment is much better today. However, due to a 50% increase in population development marches on clearing tree and swamps in its wake.
Human rights: much better protection of minority/women's rights now than then.
   45. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: April 16, 2013 at 08:45 AM (#4415450)
Music: No contest, life is worse today since downloaders essentially destroyed the pop music business.


Maybe the pop music business has been harmed but as a consumer my ability to access music is MUCH enhanced over what it was even 20 years ago, let alone 40. The ability to buy a single song for a low cost ($1.29 today vs. a $2.99 "cassingle" in 1987) plus the immediacy of it is great. Plus, if I hear a song and don't know it I can use Shazam or similar programs to get determine was the song is and buy it instantly. I have a much more diverse music collection now than I had 20 years ago.
   46. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: April 16, 2013 at 08:48 AM (#4415457)
US population density numbers are a bit misleading, in that we have a massive state (Alaska) that is mainly empty, and we have a vast corridor down the middle of the country that is mostly empty. We're noting like Belgium, but the populated areas of the US are far more crowded than the overall density numbers would suggest. Moreover, the underpopulated central areas will likely never be densely populated. There isn't enough water.

Telecom: no smartphones in 1970 but I don't think anyone missed them.


No more than we miss cleaning robots and flying cars and whatever other Jetsons-style technology we'll have in 2050. No more than people in 1650 missed microwaves.

Music: No contest, life is worse today since downloaders essentially destroyed the pop music business.


You can now get music by almost anyone at any time from any place. Well into the 1980s it could be a real struggle to get a Velvet Underground album in a suburban area, and in 1980, if you were outside of a major urban area you would only hear them through a tape made by your sister's boyfriend's cousin's dentist. While now I own about 15 hours of West African funk and soul, all purchased with no real effort, and my cousin's kids living in the mountains in east Tennessee have impressive and global musical tastes. Also, there are far more good bands touring in 2013 than in 1970. Maybe the big names at the top of the charts are much worse (I have no idea), and certainly the world of pop music feels a lot less essential to the culture than it once did. But overall it's vastly better to be a music fan now.
   47. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 16, 2013 at 08:48 AM (#4415458)
If you don't like it, then piss off, seriously.

Brilliant!!

Mobile phones, internet, safer more efficient cars. If you choose not to enjoy any of the perks of modern society, that's your problem, don't effing whinge about it.

I do enjoy them, but at the same time am able to see and acknowledge their frivolity.(*) The recession of smoking has effectively zero impact on the quality of the society and culture.

(*) As I am able to both enjoy baseball and acknowledge its unbalanced place in society.
   48. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 16, 2013 at 08:54 AM (#4415461)
@44: Interesting.

No Vietnam War: I suppose even with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan it's better now, but the defense budget is even more insane than it was in 1970.

Cars: I'll give you style, but I've always gotten great deals on 8 to 10 year old foreign cars, so price isn't an issue. I think it's only an issue for those that let it be one. Quality now is extraordinary.

Telecom: hmm. Having to make arrangements by phones that did not move was a real problem. Much better now.

Internet/computers: Changes so huge I have no idea how to evaluate them here. For the better as I age, I think. Computers are my only shot at immortality, so...

Housing: disagree re quality. Many new houses outgass the worst poisons. Uglier, too.

Music: More variety. Don't know that downloaders have kept bands from recording, though that's probably naive.

Environment: Planet's in much worse shape than it was, though tech developments may save our sorry butts.
   49. McCoy Posted: April 16, 2013 at 08:56 AM (#4415462)
US population density numbers are a bit misleading, in that we have a massive state (Alaska) that is mainly empty, and we have a vast corridor down the middle of the country that is mostly empty. We're noting like Belgium, but the populated areas of the US are far more crowded than the overall density numbers would suggest. Moreover, the underpopulated central areas will likely never be densely populated. There isn't enough water.


But even outside those two areas our congested areas still have tons of space. New York state, NJ, New England, Pennslyvania, Maryland, Virginia, and so forth are heavily populated yet all of them have vast swaths of areas that are lightly populated.
   50. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 16, 2013 at 09:07 AM (#4415469)
It's important to keep in mind the fundamental reality of American consumerism: The sellers and makers of things like the iPhone manufacture the want. The want does not precede the product and the ads for it.

Failing to understand this and keep it in mind distorts one's perspective of life's "improvements."
   51. BDC Posted: April 16, 2013 at 09:16 AM (#4415473)
The biggest difference between 1970 and 2013 would be access to information, IMO. Many of us remember what it was like to base our knowledge of the world on a print encyclopedia, the Information Please Almanac, Who's Who in Baseball, the evening news, the Sunday paper, and (when really motivated) a trip to the public library. Now, if I hear about a book (my main interest in life) I can pretty instantaneously find out all its bibliographical details, the author's career and life, how many libraries hold which editions, and order it over InterLibrary or Amazon before I even reflect a few minutes and wonder why in the hell I was interested in it in the first place. To me, that's amazing.

I don't really think, though, that the Internet has helped me cultivate friendships or stay in touch with people. I mostly closed down my Facebook because I realized it was just another spectacle; it had never helped me actually develop a friendship, though it helped me display hundreds and display myself to hundreds. I used to grow and maintain friendships via paper letters and I do so now via e-mail, which are very analogous technologies in many ways: asynchronous and given to elaboration. Phones are of course different now, emulating letters more than they used to, so that I can talk or text with someone in San Diego very cheaply, just as I used to be able to send a letter there for a dime (?) in 1970.

Travel is faster, and more is expected of us, so it's at least as time-consuming. I commuted from New York to DFW in the mid-2000s and could not have done that in c.1970 without being very substantially richer than I was in 2005. I go to Europe every summer; in 1970 that would have been a once-in-a decade proposition (in fact my parents and grandparents never went there at all). OTOH, we did move cross-continent quite a lot; my grandparents thought nothing in 1970 of getting in the Cadillac and driving from Chicago to Philadelphia. It was easy and comfortable.

Housing, I dunno, I live now in a house older than the one we lived in in 1970, and it hasn't been much updated. My grandparents owned their houses, and they were better homes than any subsequent generation of us has ever lived in. (My parents didn't own a home, and I don't now.)

Music: evidently the biggest pop hits of 1970 were Bridge over Troubled Water and American Woman. Sounds like what was playing at the supermarket this morning.

   52. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 16, 2013 at 09:31 AM (#4415480)
Travel is faster, and more is expected of us, so it's at least as time-consuming.

The new communications technologies are more enslaving than they are liberating, on balance. You can't really get away from the office, or people generally, anymore and that doesn't even account for the way in which they distract and refract attention.
   53. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 16, 2013 at 09:44 AM (#4415489)
Cars: More efficient and safer now, but had more style and were cheaper in 1970.


I think they are actually cheaper now when adjusted for inflation and when factoring in how much more fuel effecient they are and how much fewer repairs they need.

Housing: Much more expensive now than 1970, better quality in some ways today.


Now that the housing bubble has burst, the average home is just a bit more expensive than the average home in the 1970s, inflation-adjusted.


Environment: Thanks to Nixon (clean air act)and others the protection of the environment is much better today. However, due to a 50% increase in population development marches on clearing tree and swamps in its wake.


Yes, I think people forget just how dirty things were in the 70s. Supposedly there are more trees in the United States now than there were 100 years ago, although I don't know how reliable that fact is.

Human rights: much better protection of minority/women's rights now than then.


OTOH, Patriot Act, Gitmo, rendition, drone strikes/surveillance
   54. AROM Posted: April 16, 2013 at 09:56 AM (#4415498)
Go out and buy a freaking house already if you want a freaking house. :-)


Got one. What I said I wanted was a freakin yard. I've got a tenth of an acre. My job in 1970 could have bought me one with a full acre. It was fun, growing up, to play baseball in my own yard.

I don't really think, though, that the Internet has helped me cultivate friendships or stay in touch with people.


It helps people cultivate different friendships. Take the option of the internet away and you don't have contacts with people all over the world. But that doesn't mean you have to sit on your butt and wish Tim Berners-Lee would get his act together, you'd get to know more people who live near you.
   55. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: April 16, 2013 at 09:58 AM (#4415499)
But even outside those two areas our congested areas still have tons of space. New York state, NJ, New England, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and so forth are heavily populated yet all of them have vast swaths of areas that are lightly populated.


Oh, sure. My point wasn't that the US is as dense as Europe, just that it's a lot denser than the raw numbers say.

Just a few numbers -- the total US population density is something like 83/sq mile. If you drop Alaska and Hawaii it jumps to 104/sq mile. And then consider that the Great Plains states account for 42% of the land area and about 14% of the population. So the non-Plains lower 48 have a density of around 150/sq mile. So a quarter of the UK rather than a seventh.

Supposedly there are more trees in the United States now than there were 100 years ago, although I don't know how reliable that fact is.


I believe it. All throughout New England you can walk through the woods and find old stone farm fences that used to block off fields. There have also been incursions of trees into the plains, now that there aren't regular prairie fires to keep them in check.
   56. AROM Posted: April 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM (#4415500)
Yes, I think people forget just how dirty things were in the 70s. Supposedly there are more trees in the United States now than there were 100 years ago, although I don't know how reliable that fact is.


Without clicking the link, I could believe that is true. Farming has become much more efficient, taking less land to produce more food. (Like most changes, this a mixed bag). I would not be surprised if it turned out there were more farms reverting to forest than forests being torn down for suburbs.
   57. BDC Posted: April 16, 2013 at 10:04 AM (#4415503)
more trees in the United States now than there were 100 years ago

I do believe that. The development of a relatively far more sustainable timber industry has helped. You see pictures of northern Michigan around the turn of the 20th century, and it's just clean-shaven by clear-cutting of old forests. Modern logging isn't aesthetically beautiful, and it may have lots of deleterious side-effects, but at least it mostly does not just take entire counties, denude them, and move on to the next county.
   58. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 16, 2013 at 10:24 AM (#4415526)

I don't really think, though, that the Internet has helped me cultivate friendships or stay in touch with people


Maybe its a generational thing or varies by person or whatever, but the internet has been terrific at not only helping me stay in touch with people, but meeting new friends (for example, all of you, right? You're my friends?) The internet is a tool that can be used to bring people together or keep them apart, it does not do things for you though, it only assists you.
   59. PreservedFish Posted: April 16, 2013 at 10:34 AM (#4415535)
I remember reading an EB White essay on the proper way to cover your cocktail if you step away from it, so as to prevent soot from collecting in it.
   60. Greg K Posted: April 16, 2013 at 10:35 AM (#4415536)
The internet is a tool that can be used to bring people together or keep them apart, it does not do things for you though, it only assists you.

This is my take, and the beauty of the internet. It is (almost) whatever you choose to make of it. I'm just as close (or near enough) with childhood, or university friends as I ever was despite not living anywhere near each other for years now. I've at various times been able to maintain long-distance relationships. I'm sure both those things are possible without the internet, but it is much, much easier with.

Reading a bunch of Bill James' old abstracts this Christmas I was struck by how limited communication must have been among like-minded baseball fans. In one section he mentions a fan in Ontario that had collected box-scores to see how well various Jays hit against left-handed starters, in day games, etc. If you wanted more detailed information he provided his mailing address. It really made me appreciate BTF, which is an easy place to take for granted seeing as we (most of us anyway) seem to use it every day.

There is the flip side of being constrained, or "too connected" by the internet. But I think that can be over-stated/is a personal choice. I pretty much always have the internet on in the background (today for instance I have three BTF threads open, a Dylan Moran comedy special on youtube paused, and a transcript of the Earl of Strafford's 1641 treason trial I'm researching. It's been a lovely afternoon of running a 15 minute rotation through all three activities), but when I go out of the house I have no internet access, and enjoy just walking around, or (less enjoyably) do chores or work. Same with travel, I rarely bring my laptop with me...though if the Jays are still in the hunt I think I might for a September trip I'm planning.
   61. Greg K Posted: April 16, 2013 at 10:41 AM (#4415540)
I remember reading an EB White essay on the proper way to cover your cocktail if you step away from it, so as to prevent soot from collecting in it.

There's a pub here in Nottingham that is carved into the natural rock wall that forms the foundation of the castle. It's produced and distributed booze since 1089, though I think it's only technically been a pub since the 14th century because before that it just produced stuff for the castle. The inside is carved from the rock cliff the castle sits on, so they say you have to drink your pint fairly quickly because if it sits for 15 minutes you'll get a nice film of sandstone on the top of it.
   62. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: April 16, 2013 at 11:02 AM (#4415561)
they say you have to drink your pint fairly quickly because if it sits for 15 minutes you'll get a nice film of sandstone on the top of it.


This is basically beer with insoluble fiber added. They should patent it and sell it as the world's most enjoyable laxative.
   63. Urkel's Boner Posted: April 16, 2013 at 12:10 PM (#4415617)
Music: No contest, life is worse today since downloaders essentially destroyed the pop music business.


That is a feature, not a bug.
   64. smileyy Posted: April 16, 2013 at 12:18 PM (#4415626)
Airports in the 70's? Uh, you all forget you could pretty much smoke anywhere back then right?


You forgot the best part -- you could smoke on the plane. You know, where fire might be REALLY BAD?
   65. smileyy Posted: April 16, 2013 at 12:24 PM (#4415635)
This is basically beer with insoluble fiber added.


More bentonite clay supplement than fiber, but yeah.

On a more revolting topic, I'm eternally amused by extreme "colon cleansing" programs that have you consume cellulose and bentonite clay, then claim to be working by showing you these horrifying rubbery masses that come out of your butt.
   66. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: April 16, 2013 at 01:21 PM (#4415721)
they say you have to drink your pint fairly quickly because if it sits for 15 minutes you'll get a nice film of sandstone on the top of it.


This sounds like a marketing gimmick. "Drink faster and buy more beer!" It's kind of an old school wide mouth can.
   67. Steve Treder Posted: April 16, 2013 at 02:55 PM (#4415884)
The term "tapas" supposedly derives from small snacks sold in Spanish taverns that could be used to cover one's wine goblet between sips, to keep the flies out of your wine.
   68. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 16, 2013 at 07:47 PM (#4416181)
I pretty much always have the internet on in the background (today for instance I have three BTF threads open, a Dylan Moran comedy special on youtube paused, and a transcript of the Earl of Strafford's 1641 treason trial I'm researching. It's been a lovely afternoon of running a 15 minute rotation through all three activities),...

That describes a lot of my days, as well (well, not the treason trial). It's impossible to be bored. I have a dozen interests that I in other lives I might have made careers out of, and while it's impossible to keep up with those fields, trying is a great pleasure.

Supposedly there are more trees in the United States now than there were 100 years ago, although I don't know how reliable that fact is.

I believe it. All throughout New England you can walk through the woods and find old stone farm fences that used to block off fields. There have also been incursions of trees into the plains, now that there aren't regular prairie fires to keep them in check.


I believe it, too. In, for instance, Iowa, as bare as it is, what few trees exist are part of a conscious planting program by the state and various organizations. A hundred years ago farming and cutting trees for lumber had turned the state into one, gigantic pasture.
   69. Jay Z Posted: April 16, 2013 at 11:45 PM (#4416516)
Just a few numbers -- the total US population density is something like 83/sq mile. If you drop Alaska and Hawaii it jumps to 104/sq mile. And then consider that the Great Plains states account for 42% of the land area and about 14% of the population. So the non-Plains lower 48 have a density of around 150/sq mile. So a quarter of the UK rather than a seventh.


I'm not sure why you're dropping Hawaii, since it's a denser than average state.

Every country has some uninhabitable territory. There are mountains in Switzerland. Illinois may be flat, but all the parts I've seen are habitable. Yet it has about 40% the density of Germany, and 25% that of England. (Overall Great Britain is close to Germany because of the less inhabited Scotland and Wales.) And Illinois has a major regional population center in Chicago. Surrounding states are equally habitable and even less dense. Simply put, the distance between major urban centers in many other parts of the world is a lot less than it is here. We've got lots of quality room compared to almost anywhere else.

   70. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 17, 2013 at 02:56 AM (#4416546)
Now that the housing bubble has burst, the average home is just a bit more expensive than the average home in the 1970s, inflation-adjusted.


That is comparing apples to watermelons, given how much larger and more luxurious modern homes are today (far more are air conditioned for example, have 3 car garages, etc).
   71. BrianBrianson Posted: April 17, 2013 at 06:01 AM (#4416556)
I do believe that. The development of a relatively far more sustainable timber industry has helped. You see pictures of northern Michigan around the turn of the 20th century, and it's just clean-shaven by clear-cutting of old forests. Modern logging isn't aesthetically beautiful, and it may have lots of deleterious side-effects, but at least it mostly does not just take entire counties, denude them, and move on to the next county.


Well, and we slaughtered all the big herbivores that produced grasslands/shrublands rather than forests (Buffalo, mostly, in the last 100 years.). Of course, our picture of "primative" nature is wildly off anyways, because the Indians slaughtered all the elephants, which really kept the amount of trees down.
   72. formerly dp Posted: April 17, 2013 at 08:15 AM (#4416581)
I know this moneyball thread is not about Moneyball, but I thought it would be a good place to share: One of my students is doing a research project on fantasy sports, and in his presentation yesterday, he explained the origins of WAR to the class, and described its role in the Trout/Miggy MVP debate. I can't really take any credit for it, as he came to it on his own through his research-- but that makes it even more awesome.
   73. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 17, 2013 at 08:40 AM (#4416590)
I know this moneyball thread is not about Moneyball, but I thought it would be a good place to share: One of my students is doing a research project on fantasy sports, and in his presentation yesterday, he explained the origins of WAR to the class, and described its role in the Trout/Miggy MVP debate. I can't really take any credit for it, as he came to it on his own through his research-- but that makes it even more awesome.

Glad to hear that the future of the country is being challenged so vociferously and have concerned themselves with such weighty matters. That can't help but make one very optimistic about our shared tomorrows.
   74. Lassus Posted: April 17, 2013 at 09:02 AM (#4416600)
Glad to hear that the future of the country is being challenged so vociferously and have concerned themselves with such weighty matters. That can't help but make one very optimistic about our shared tomorrows.

You must be a killer at parties.
   75. formerly dp Posted: April 17, 2013 at 09:17 AM (#4416606)
Glad to hear that the future of the country is being challenged so vociferously and have concerned themselves with such weighty matters.
Next time a student is looking to do a case study on internet dickheads, I'll know where to direct them. Thanks for your reply!
   76. villageidiom Posted: April 17, 2013 at 09:20 AM (#4416608)
I believe it, too. In, for instance, Iowa, as bare as it is, what few trees exist are part of a conscious planting program by the state and various organizations. A hundred years ago farming and cutting trees for lumber had turned the state into one, gigantic pasture.
You're also describing New England 350 years ago, which is hard to imagine today given how heavily forested New England is now.

   77. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 17, 2013 at 09:28 AM (#4416617)
You must be a killer at parties.

The "Everything around us is collapsing, and we all know it is, but that just makes the cocktails taste better and the parties more fun" thing actually works quite well -- handled properly. Hitting the right inflection of exhausted knowingness, with a jigger of sarcasm, is generally the right way to play it.
   78. Lassus Posted: April 17, 2013 at 10:12 AM (#4416649)
The "Everything around us is collapsing, and we all know it is, but that just makes the cocktails taste better and the parties more fun" thing actually works quite well -- handled properly.

So you're a cocktail nation hipster. All becomes clear.

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