Monday, April 18, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Robert Frank discusses the essential role of luck in determining the opportunities we have - and how the advantages of a strong social fabric are too often ignored by the people who benefit the most from them:
(C)hance plays a far larger role in life outcomes than most people realize. And yet, the luckiest among us appear especially unlikely to appreciate our good fortune. According to the Pew Research Center, people in higher income brackets are much more likely than those with lower incomes to say that individuals get rich primarily because they work hard. Other surveys bear this out: Wealthy people overwhelmingly attribute their own success to hard work rather than to factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time.

That’s troubling, because a growing body of evidence suggests that seeing ourselves as self-made—rather than as talented, hardworking, and lucky—leads us to be less generous and public-spirited. It may even make the lucky less likely to support the conditions (such as high-quality public infrastructure and education) that made their own success possible.
Being born in a favorable environment is an enormous stroke of luck. But maintaining such an environment requires high levels of public investment in everything from infrastructure to education—something Americans have lately been unwilling to support. Many factors have contributed to this reticence, but one in particular stands out: budget deficits resulting from a long-term decline in the United States’ top marginal tax rate.

A recent study by the political scientists Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels, and Jason Seawright found that the top 1 percent of U.S. wealth-holders are “extremely active politically” and are much more likely than the rest of the American public to resist taxation, regulation, and government spending. Given that the wealthiest Americans believe their prosperity is due, above all else, to their own talent and hard work, is this any wonder? Surely it’s a short hop from overlooking luck’s role in success to feeling entitled to keep the lion’s share of your income—and to being reluctant to sustain the public investments that let you succeed in the first place.
- Brennan Leffler exposes how employers are all too often able to brazenly flout legal protection for workers due to a lack of enforcement. Sara Mojtehedzadeh and Geoffrey Vendeville report on the multiple disadvantages facing women in the retail sector, while Mary Cornish studies the broader gender gap. And Teuila Fuatai surveys how some workers have been fighting for a fair minimum wage across Canada.

- The Economist examines the plunging cost of solar energy which figures to radically reshape our energy choices based on comparative costs alone, while Rebecca Penty reports that tar sands operators are well past believing it's worth developing new megaprojects. Daniel Oberhaus notes that with a political push, we could end our reliance on fossil fuels within a decade. And Chris D'Angelo writes that the oil industry has gone far out of its way to make sure decisions about our energy options aren't based on facts.

- Finally, Michael Butler weighs in on the Libs' failure to move ahead with a national pharmacare plan. And the McMaster Health Forum looks to the UK's experience to argue for pharmacare in Canada.

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