Inequality - good, bad and neutral
You can’t have it all and must balance among and between good things. Freedom and justice are like that and so are equality and opportunity. It is not a zero sum game and there are times when you can get more of both and in fact have one enhance the other, but not forever. Of the two, opportunity is better. It is not really important that everyone is equal. In fact, few of us want a world like that; it is important to have opportunities to achieve your potential.
Choice and diversity MUST lead to inequality, since different choices, behaviors and habits will produce different outcomes. We can forget that some - much - of our inequality "problem" is the result of choices and we should do little to counter this. The inequality we SHOULD fight is that caused by structural differences and random events.
Random events can be addressed with insurance. It is more complicated than my simple sentence, but it is doable. The bigger problem is in structure. What has happened is that our technology and society has magnified and over-rewarded small differences.
Consider the Oscars. We have a bunch of millionaires who are paid fortunes for what they are. Is there really millions of dollars of difference between Brad Pitt and some guy waiting tables in hopes of getting that good part? Yes. It has to do with star power and the difference of very small percentages. If Brad Pitt is only 1% better and his movies pull in millions of dollars, that small percentage is worth big bucks.
In the past, many people played music. Most were not very good, but they didn't know it. There were places for them where they could earn money. Today a big star makes music that we all buy and listen to. We know that the star is better than the guy down the street. In the past, a big star could make money by filling a concert hall. A limited number of people fit. Today, there is an audience limited only by the population of the planet. With the Internet, the cost of reproducing music is almost zero and few people are employed in sending it around the world.
I choose the example of entertainers because it is easy to see. But it works in other places. It is the key to Bill Gates' wealth, for example.
The problem is protean as it is ubiquitous and growing. A few winners and lots of people getting nothing. Worse, in the case of many things on Internet, we work for nothing. I am currently working for Mark Zuckerberg. I am preparing content, which he aggregates and essentially sells. I get "free" Facebook.
The challenge will be figuring out how to make free pay in order to increase the good inequality and limit the bad.
Posted by Christine & John at March 3, 2014 9:48 AM
The bigger problem, for the moment, IMO, is that the status quo seems to be that the exponential growth of inequality is just ok.
Of course, the longer folks will tolerate it Corpocracy is emboldened and loving it. Kinda like Puting rite now.
The growth of inequality itself is not a problem. A decline of opportunity is the bigger issue and related the decline of the middle. Some of this has to do with the increase of diversity and choice and we might not want to change this.
Maybe inequality would work, C&J. Let’s say in 10 years that the .1% own everything; cars, clothes, houses, etc. They would be so wealthy they could put each of us on a stipend of say, $100k. In turn, we would rent everything we need; car, clothes, house, etc.
Everybody, except the .1% would be equal. Still do our jobs but each make $100k/yr.
But that won’t happen.
I would hate it if everyone was equal. And why should I take such a big pay cut anyway?
My goal it to make it to the top 1%. But you know that most people don’t stay in the top 1% for more than a year or two. If I sell lots of timber, I can make it into the top 1% for that year. Of course, it took 30 years to get there, so the average is not nearly so high.
I still have a problem understanding people who think that the 1% (or now .1%) are the same 1% (or now .1%) now as they were 10 year ago, or will be the same 10 years from now.
Income mobility in this country has been fairly standard over the past several decades, just because a few money lenders got rich because of FED actions by keeping the insurance rate so low for so long (ostensibly to help keep Armageddon from occurring) I don’t see why there is such hysteria in thinking that those same people won’t lose their asses when the punch bowl is finally taken away from them?
A large academic study released in 2014 found income mobility has not changed appreciably in the last 20 years.
The odds of moving up — or down — the income ladder in the United States have not changed appreciably in the last 20 years, according to a large new academic study that contradicts politicians in both parties who have claimed that income mobility is falling.
Absolute mobility has continued to improve in recent decades because incomes have risen; median family income is about 12 percent higher today than in 1980, adjusted for inflation. As a result, most adults today have more income at their disposal than their parents did at the same age.
From the same article.
BTW, I agree that we could do BETTER at income mobility than we are currently. But that would mean removing barriers, not putting up more. For example, Canada has better income mobility that we currently do. But they achieved this by having fewer regulations on business than the US has, engaging in ‘austerity’ to make their economy stronger than ours and spending the last two decades decentralizing their government while we have been increasing centralization…
But, as with most things, there are just some people who see a problem and wonder what government can do to fix it.
Everyone can argue about which regulations they would support. If corporations weren’t hell bent for 100% efficiency we wouldn’t need near so many regs.
I like the variety of groceries I can choose from but I also like to know something about what I’m going to eat. You would think corps would willingly label their products. But, they won’t, ink cost too much.
IMO, it is fraud, criminal, corrupt what the food industry legally puts out there for consumers. Any competition is to make food worse, not better.
Give me some regs that tell me country of origin and puts the real contents of the product on the label. If there is wood filler in their I want to know about it.
The FDA is supposedly doing some tests on some products to actually try and determine what is in some food products. Should be interesting, if it ever sees the light of day.
Never before in the history of the world have people like you and I had so much access to so much variety of food so cheaply.
Maybe you care about all those details of your food. If you do, go to Whole Foods. They can tell you. I don’t care and don’t want to pay more for it.
We Americans pay less for food in terms of the amount of time we have to work to earn it.
If people in India pay more for eggs etc, it is probably because of their inefficient distribution systems and interfering government. Indeed, they should do better.
But WE Americans have little to complain about. We are very lucky and despite all our crying and carrying on, things are better now than they were a in the past. I think our problem is not that we have too little but rather that our expectations have grown faster than our capacities. It is the ancient problem. Some people have too much money, but nobody has enough.
Food, like almost everything we use has become less expensive in given quality and the amount of time we have to spend getting it.
Considering our growing girth, it is clear that we could spend even less on food and it might be a good thing. I have been trying to move to better quality. You actually SAVE money that way. Smoked salmon is expensive, but that big bag of potato chips - and I eat the whole big bag - costs about the same for the amount you should eat of the salmon. That Hershey bar will buy a good deal of fresh fruit. Eat less but eat better should be the slogan. To be honest, I don’t really follow my own advice as often as I should. I actually take a kind of perverse pride in my capacity to down a whole box of cookies w/o taking more than a few breaths. But when I don’t do as a should I know that only I am to blame and so I cannot complain.
My father used to use that phrase a lot, “I can’t complain.” He was right.
BTW - One of my “best” meals in Ramen. I know people say Ramen is not good for you and they are right - if you eat only Ramen. But I boil up lots of vegetables and have a whole bowl of vegetables with the Ramen on top for flavor. Ramen is almost free and so are things like cabbage and carrots. I don’t know if you can live off Ramen, but I have been experimenting and so far, so good.
C&J, some food products may be considered cheap because they contain very little food value but will make you put on pounds quickly. Good food is generally more expensive.
Yes, we use the Ramen noodles too, as they are made in the US. I wouldn’t buy a similar product made overseas, or ‘distributed by US’.
The data are just not on your side. Almost everything costs you less today in the time you have to work to get it. We are fooled by the dollar prices.
People are fat because they make poor food choices and/or sit around too much. If you can afford to be fat from cheap food, you can afford to be lean with good food.