- Branko Milanovic points out how the commodification of our interactions may create an incentive for short-term exploitation:
Commodification of what was hitherto a non-commercial resource makes each of us do many jobs and even, as in the renting of apartments, capitalists. But saying that I work many jobs is the same thing as saying that workers do not hold durably individual jobs and that the labor market is fully “flexible” with people getting in and out of jobs at a very high rate. Thus workers indeed become, from the point of view of the employer, fully interchangeable “agents”. Each of then stays in a job a few weeks or months: everyone is equally good or bad as everyone else. We are indeed coming close to the dream world of neoclassical economics where individuals, with their true characteristics, no longer exists because they have been replaced by “agents”.- Sandro Contenta and Jim Rankin report on new research showing how poverty, race and other factors influence the removal of children from their families by Ontario's Child Services. And Jake Johnson discusses the place of race in the U.S.' ongoing class war.
The problem with this kind of commodification and flexibilization is that it undermines human relations and trust that are needed for the smooth functioning of an economy. When there are repeated games we try to establish relationships of trust with people with whom we interact. But if we move from one place to another with high frequency, change jobs every couple of weeks, and everybody else does the same, then there are no repeated games because we do not interact with the same people. If there are no repeated games, our behavior adjusts to expecting to play just a single game, a single interaction. And this new behavior is very different.
Increasing commodification of many activities, the gig economy and flexibilization of labor market are just a part of the same change; they should be seen as a movement toward a more rational, but ultimately more depersonalized, economy where most of interactions will be one-shot contacts. Holding of many jobs and the shortness of interactions make investing in cooperative behavior prohibitively expensive. This Is the key reason why I am less optimistic than others that we are moving toward a society with a more collective, or “nicer” ethos. Actually, I think we are moving in the opposite direction.
- Tom Parkin examines how Justin Trudeau is falling far short of his promises of reconciliation with First Nations. And Jason Warick highlights the racist assumptions behind much of the institutional response to Colten Boushie's shooting, while John Baglow exposes the virtual lynch mob that has formed to try to justify the killing.
- Finally, Ian Millhiser examines how fines and fees imposed by the criminal justice system can trap an already-poor family in a further cycle of debt. And Michael Powell writes about the Rio Olympics as a painful example of billions being spent on an elite vanity project while people living in poverty are forced to do without necessities.