2018/09/10: is society incapable of tackling income inequality peacefully?
Walter Scheidel: No, but history shows that there are limits. There is a big difference between maintaining existing arrangements that successfully check inequality (Scandinavia is a good example) and significantly reducing it. The latter requires real change and that is always much harder to do: think of America or Britain, not to mention Brazil, China or India. The modern welfare state does a reasonably good job of compensating for inequality before taxes and transfers. However for more substantial levelling to occur, the established order needs to be shaken up: the greater the shock to the system, the easier it becomes to reduce privilege at the top.
Are we really living in an unfathomable period of wealth inequality, or was the relatively equal society that followed the second world war the real aberration?
Walter Scheidel: When we view history over the long run we can see that this experience was certainly a novelty. We now know that modernisation as such does not reliably reduce inequality. Many things had to come together to make this happen, such as very high income and estate taxes, strong labour unions, and intrusive regulations and controls. Since the 1980s, liberalisation and globalisation have allowed inequality to rise again. Even so, wealth concentration in Europe is nowhere near as high as it was a century ago. America, meanwhile, is getting there, which shows that it all depends on where you look.
measures that worked well in the past may have done so because they were taken in the unique context of massive violent shocks and threats: the world wars and communism. This requires us to be more creative in dealing with inequality. Above all we must think harder about feasibility. It is not enough for economists to come up with recipes to reduce inequality, we also need to figure out how to implement them in an environment that is politically polarised and economically globalised. Both factors limit our scope for intervention.
in practice there will always be losers, and even basic-income schemes can take us only so far. At the end of the day, someone owns the robots. As long as the capitalist world system is in place, it is hard to see how even huge productivity gains from greater automation would benefit society evenly instead of funnelling even more income and wealth to those who are in the best position to pocket these gains.
And it seems to me as if in America, we are taught to see personal violence — but remain blind to structural and institutional violence. The American always bears on their own shoulders the risk of being left for dead, abandoned, neglected, forced into having to make terrible choices like “my mortgage or my cancer.” But the job of modern, democratic institutions and structures is precisely to prevent all that, and bear that risk — not to enforce it.
2017/03/17: No one stated their intention to create a social welfare program for white people, specifically white men, but they didn’t need to. By handing control to employers at a time when virtually every good paying job was reserved for white men the program silently accomplished that goal.
When Democrats respond to job losses with an offer to expand the public safety net, blue collar voters cringe and rebel. They are not remotely interested in sharing the public social safety net experienced by minority groups and the poorest white families. Meanwhile well-employed and affluent voters, ensconced in their system of white socialism, leverage all the power at their disposal to block any dilution of their expensive public welfare benefits. Something has to break.
We may one day recognize that we are all “in it together” and find ways to build a more stable, sensible welfare system. That will not happen unless we acknowledge the painful and sometimes embarrassing legacy that brought us to this place. Absent that reckoning, unspoken realities will continue to warp our political calculations, frustrating our best hopes and stunting our potential.
The publication by the RSA of this carefully researched and argued case for a Basic Income in the UK is an important moment in a growing debate. The RSA is an independent and respected organisation
Localism can only flourish with a competent, generous, and fair federal government.
Two years ago I wrote about my experience in a London emergency department with my son, Victor. That post has since been viewed more than 450,000 times. There are over 800 comments with no trolls (a feat unto itself) and almost all of them express love for the NHS. I was in England again this week. And yes, I was back in an emergency department, but this time with my English cousin.
The 'Hajnal line' marks the eastern limit of a longstanding pattern of late and non-universal marriage. The line in red is Hajnal's. The d...
Bisogna dunque essere onesti, e dire che l'occasione ideologica è stata colta al volo da Renzi e dalla sinistra sindacale per un'evidente ragione identitaria, con obiettivi contrapposti. Per il Premier, un blairismo a portata di mano (in un Paese che però ha avuto vent'anni di Berlusconi, non di Thatcher: populismo demagogico invece di estremismo liberista), e soprattutto una carta da giocare sull'altare del rigore europeo, per provare a guadagnare credito da convertire in flessibilità per la crescita. Per la Cgil un plusvalore politico immediato, che richiama la tradizione, recupera la storia, costituisce l'identità, crea automaticamente un campo.