and I are heading out tomorrow to start reporting the next Change the List story, on America's growing gap between rich and poor. Anyone have suggested reading/viewing/listening on the topic? What are the best works (books, documentaries, songs, articles, websites) on income inequality? I'm trying to compile a list of the best/quirkiest/most important/least-likely-to-put-you-to-sleep stuff. I get that it's not a beach-reading list, but here's a fun one to start ...
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- Here are my submissions:
http://www.paulgraham.com/inequality.htmlAug 20, 2013
- I think money translates to power and as always, power corrupts.
The power of money is insidious and not necessarily deliberately so.
Big business corrupts government to tilt the playing field in its own favor.
Small business suffers as a result, especially very small business: self-employed independent contractors.
http://www.independent-self-employment.biz/Aug 20, 2013
- I think discussion about income inequality can be traced to two philosophical foundations in rough terms. John Locke's second treatise discussing what is traditional (not modern) liberal theory emphasizing individual liberty is a good foundation for one side of the equation. Karl Marx's communist manifesto provides a good foundation for laying out the case for the causes and problems of income inequality regardless of the failure of the communist system to provide an adequate workable solution.
At the end of the day, there is a tension between the needs and wants of the community vs the rights and responsibilities of individuals who have prospered above the norm. You will need to address this tension as it underlies every discussion on laws and policies.Aug 20, 2013
- The Bottom Billion by Collier discusses inequality on a global level and provides an interesting model of viewing income disparity by suggesting specific "traps" that tend to force populations to maintain their low position. Unfortunately, the best solution is to never encounter the traps at all, which is similar to being born with a silver spoon in one's mouth; great for those who have it, and almost impossible for those who do not.Aug 20, 2013
- I strongly recommend "The End of Work" by Jeremy Rifkin. (1996, Tarcher/Putnam, NY). Rifkin is always stimulating if not always completely convincing. This book is a history and projection of the potential of "technological unemployment." I picked it up in a used bookstore because it seems to me we at the dawn of a new robotics/AI revolution that is going to be a terrible challenge. The book is full of fascinating historical information - who knew that the US almost adopted a 30 hr. work week and that FDR was the person who blocked it. It also contains this chilling quote from Norbert Weiner, the "father of cybernetics": "Let us remember that the automatic machine is the precise economic equivalent of slave labor. Any labor which competes with slave labor must accept the economic consequences of slave labor." Those, of course, are low wages or no work. It seems to me this is a large part of the inequality problem.
My guess is that due to technological progress we are using about half the labor per capita in our (US) economy than we did 100 years ago. That we'd gone from working on average over our life times from 150,000 hrs (paid and household) to 75,000. This has been accomplished by
(1) holding folks back from entering the work force. Children used to go work when still of elementary school age - my wife's grandfather started working full time when he was 11. Now, for the most part, folks don't enter the work forces until they're 18 or, for many, years later.
(2) by ending the work life sooner. Before the advent of Social Security many folks had little conception of "retirement" short of complete physical incapacity. Now people retire (often involuntarily) in their 50s.
(3) other subtractions including military service, incarceration, disability provisions and social welfare programs.
But the gains and losses have been distributed unequally. Some still work 150,000 hours many work much less than that and for lower wages.
We still, however, have a system that allocates income on the basis of labor. Some labor cannot be easily automated and is well paid others are, or soon will be, competing with cybernetic "slaves" and will suffer.
As technological change accelerates we will have to find a different way to share the wealth or social chaos will result.Aug 20, 2013
- Read Scott Winship's "Mobility Impaired," the cover story from the National Review on 14 November 2011.
http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/282292/mobility-impaired-scott-winship.Aug 20, 2013