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.
2018/09/07: As long as we depend on the arbitrary will of another for our subsistence then it is hard to claim that we are free. While some of us would be able to find alternative employment in the event of our being dismissed, or of leaving a job after being harassed or otherwise mistreated, some would struggle, and some would suffer substantial harm. We cannot know for sure in advance which category we fall into. This suggests that welfare payments or alternative forms of employment ought to be available as of right, not only for the benefit of those who find themselves without work but to protect all workers from the insults and injustices of their employers. It further suggests that workers have a right to organize to reduce their vulnerability to arbitrary power in the workplace. Indeed, a fully achieved democratic republic would want to establish workplace democracy in an economy where individuals could always secure independent access to the means of subsistence.20
This general right to be free from domination has implications for the extent and nature of state activity. Without a general right to healthcare, we are not free to decide whether to take a job or to leave it. The overwhelming need to cover existing conditions, or to secure treatment for dependents, or to hedge against future risks, will make us vulnerable to pressure from our employers that need not ever be stated to be real. Here we can see the limitations of the liberal tradition’s attempt to understand unfreedom in terms of physical interference and coercive threats.
la sfida non è solo commerciale:"L’ambizione è che i nostri punti vendita diventino luoghi di vita, luoghi dove le persone s’incontrano, si parlano, sul modello di un mercato rionale; perché i supermercati – per cercare di investire sulla qualità del prodotto – hanno perso un po’ del loro aspetto di convivialità"
CCCB, 7 October 2016: The idea of postcapitalism consists of two hypotheses, about the unique effects of information technology. First, that information technology is preventing the normal adaptation
We are creating a permanent class of unemployed Americans.
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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
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We need an economy that finally cements the most fundamental freedom: to decide how we live our lives. One simple policy can deliver that.
A WAVE of automation anxiety has hit the West. Just try typing "Will machines " into Google. An algorithm offers to complete the sentence with differing degrees of disquiet: "...take my job?"; "...take all jobs?"; "...replace humans?"; "...take over the world?" Job-grabbing robots are no longer science fiction.
Last Friday I was invited by Uber to participate in a day-long seminar on platforms and the future of work at their London headquarters.
Copyright Passive BIBO Currency Project 2013
Copying and pasting emails. Inventing meaningless tasks for others. Just looking busy. Why do so many people feel their work is completely unnecessary?
Why a Universal Basic Income won't produce the benefits its boosters claim it will.
Universal basic income, a regular unconditional cash payment to the whole population is increasingly being discussed in social, political, academic circles and among citizens in general. People are championing it from right and left. But, if it's being pushed from both ends of the political spectrum, what's its secret? Is it so amazingly convincing that all differences between political extremes are abolished? Hardly. More like it, the fact that basic income is being hailed from such different political positions muddies serious debate and is downright bewildering for a lot of people.
Research shows poverty can have a profound effect on how you think as well as your decision-making.
A Free Paper for Free People