Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Crawford Kilian writes that growing inequality has been largely the product of deliberate engineering rather than any natural process, while Paul Krugman focuses on the preferential treatment of capital income in particular. And Simon Barrow discusses the sources and beneficiaries of the increasing wealth gap:
(T)he anti-change interests arrayed against any attempt to substantially reform global finance, block the privileging of huge corporate interests (TTIP being a prime example), ensure labour rights, address income and wealth gaps, stop tax evasion and tax dodging by the wealthiest on an industrial scale, legally enshrine transparency for governments and companies, guarantee public services become and remain public, end carbon subsidies, invest in a green future, abolish wasteful and immoral spending on WMDs, adopt redistributive fiscal and monetary policies, bail out debt slaves rather than debt enforcers, achieve a universal financial transaction tax – and many other policies that genuinely reverse inequality – are enormous, deep, entrenched and persistent.

For example, UK governments say, "we're all in this together", but pursue policies that have allowed income and wealth gaps to widen and foodbanks to proliferate. When criticism is issued and well-documented evidence proffered, they are swift to denounce it as "out of touch" and "factually incorrect". Beneath accommodating rhetoric about "hard working families" and "fairness" lies a continuing denial of the harsh realities of poverty and inequality by many of those in power.
It is also fashionable right now to say that inequality harms the wealthy as well as the poor, degrades social bonds, "inhibits growth" (of what kind?) and so on. This is true to a significant extent. But it hurts its victims much more: let's not forget this in an "it's still all about us" rush to avoid the conflict underling [sic] the gulf in wealth. For the simple reality is that inequality would not persist if it did not benefit those at the top of the economic ladder extravagantly. Which it does, as Oxfam's research (albeit nuanced by a closer look at the statistics from Channel 4) shows. Sure, the real damage caused by the gap between the haves and the have nots or have-much-lesses comes back to visit us all. But at that point the elites devise and popularise scapegoating mechanisms to evade far-reaching responsibility themselves.
- Meanwhile, Kaja Whitehouse takes a first look at how Uber - one of the leading examples of the "on-demand" economy - is exacerbating the pattern by driving down the income of its drivers.

- All of which leads to Guy Standing's proposal for a Precariat Charter to recognize the needs of a class which is otherwise excluded (in practice if not in theory) from political decision-making.

- Finally, Doug Cuthand reminds us of Canada's sad history of racism against First Nations. And Joe Friesen reports on just one example of continued systematic exclusion, as Canada's economic data is skewed by a deliberate choice to ignore people on First Nations reserves.


  1. The fact that most inequality is neither market- nor merit-based but is legislated is chronicled brilliantly in the 2012 book, "The Price of Inequality", by Nobel laureate economist, Joe Stiglitz. It is a seriously overlooked work. Stiglitz has been on this since his 1966 PhD thesis, "Studies in the theory of economic growth and income distribution." That's almost half a century.

    1. I'll second the recommendation of Stiglitz' work - he focuses slightly more on regulation rather than redistribution as a solution than I'd see as ideal, but does an excellent job tracing how the financial system is set up to benefit the few.