Sunday, November 08, 2015

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Liz Farmer discusses the growing body of evidence showing that high-end tax cuts do nothing to build the economy for anybody but the few privileged beneficiaries. And Stephen Kimber writes about the billions of dollars Canada loses to tax evasion every year, while calling out the "taxpayer" lobby groups who are happy to leave the public on the hook for that loss. 

- Heather Stewart weighs on how increased automation stands to exacerbate inequality both between capital and labour, and within the workforce itself. And Matthew Wright comments on the effect of social capital as one of the means by which inequality of opportunity perpetuates itself:
The argument that economic inequality decreases a society’s overall stock of social capital is not new. However, scholars have only recently turned to the question of whether inequality also polarizes people along class lines in terms of standard social capital indicators: level of engagement in ‘civic’ activities, volunteering, trust in other people, and so on. To find out, I use the Monitoring the Future (MtF) Survey series, a nationally-representative survey of roughly 16,000 high school seniors conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research every year since 1976. These are combined with contextual information about economic inequality – the ubiquitous ‘Gini index’ running from perfect equality (scored ‘0’) to perfect inequality (scored ‘1’) for each survey year.

The pattern is both unmistakable and as expected. Figures 1 and 2 plot the average level of social capital on several common indicators against national-level Gini. Respondents are divided into three equally-sized groups according to parental education, which is the best available indicator of socio-economic ‘class’ in these data. The increased vertical spread between these groups moving from left (most unequal) to right (most equal) indicates disproportionate social capital accruing to the better-off. 
There is strong evidence that socio-economic inequality powerfully shapes social capital disparities between rich and poor.  The obvious prescription is reduced inequality, or as Ric Uslaner puts it ‘don’t get rich, get equal’. That said, even if one accepts this there are many ways one might try to ‘get equal’, and we still know relatively little about what kinds of resource inequalities really matter. Better-off parents spend relatively more time with and resources on, their children, and could help drive the growing social capital disparities observed.  Having relatively better-off parents also provides a more favorable institutional ‘opportunity structure’ in terms of school quality, extracurriculars, community-service opportunities, and even softer factors such as school pride and solidarity. Understanding whether and how these factors play into the relationship between inequality and social capital is necessary if progress is to be made.
- Leigh Phillips nicely sets out the arguments for and against a basic income - while noting that the potential for alliances between progressive and market-oriented supporters may also hint at some of the dangers of pushing a basic income at the expense of other social justice measures. 

- Tom Blackwell takes a look at the prospect that newly-appointed Minister of Health Jane Philpott might be able to use her position to deal with health inequality. And Cliff offers the eminently reasonable suggestion that the federal government can start in reducing poverty and inequality alike by ensuring that citizens under its jurisdiction have at least the same level of funding for public services like education as their compatriots under provincial jurisdiction.

- Finally, Jamie Brownlee and Kevin Walby comment on the importance of access to information (along with its sorry state in Canada).

[Edit: fixed link as per comments.]


  1. Greg, your link for "Cliff offers" is the same as Tom Blackwell's which I don't think you meant.

    1. Right you are, it's been updated.