Monday, June 25, 2018

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Don Reisinger reports on Capgemini's latest research into the continued concentration of wealth at the extreme top end. And James Galbraith comments on the instability which arises inevitably out of extreme inequality:
Controlling inequality—like controlling blood pressure—is good for your economic health. Economies with less inequality generally have lower unemployment and stronger productivity growth, and some researchers also claim better human health and social cohesion. In terms of the rest of the world, the peculiar organization of the United States into a boom/bust economy based on finance and high technology is the exception rather than the rule: We combine record-breaking inequality with low unemployment. But this is a formula that generates massive instability, as well as the resentments that gave us President Trump. Countries with stronger stabilizing institutions built on the principle of countervailing power may be less rich over the short term, but they are better-governed and built to last.
In the United States, the key driver of inequality is capital-asset prices. This is because in a capitalist nation, capitalists and not workers own such assets and get their income from dividends, interest, stock options, and capital gains. Capitalist booms yield prosperity—often a wasteful prosperity—along with instability; as the bankers say, it’s not the speed that kills, it’s the sudden stop. Concentrated ownership of capital assets is therefore a central issue. Spreading the wealth sensibly over time means more public investment at every level and more investment by nonprofits with longer time horizons and sensible social objectives. It means fostering cooperatives and other stabilizing private economic forms that are not dependent on Wall Street. Instead of boosting the economic growth rate—a measure largely disconnected from social well-being—we should have a strategy to live better: more sustainably, more equally, with less waste and more common spaces, more public goods and enjoyments.
The US government, in short, needs to break away from the grip of concentrated financial power and from the illusions of dominance that come with feeling exceptional, invincible, and rich. Financial power has an interest in instability at home and abroad. It has an interest in seeking to dominate what can no longer be dominated. It is therefore a vector for depredation and for conflict, neither of which we can afford—especially in an era of existential risks to the environment, through climate change, and to the future of life on the planet, through nuclear war.
- Andrea Gordon writes about a new report showing how students in poorer Ontario neighbourhoods are losing out from the selective availability of before- and after-school care and other programs. And Rachel Black and Aleta Sprague point out how everybody loses out from barriers to social services set up largely out of racial resentment in the U.S.

- Meanwhile, Kerry Geraldine Malone reports on the grossly disproportionate number of Indigenous youths who are incarcerated.

- Finally, Josh Ryan-Collins reminds us of the folly of treating government budgeting like a family's finances. And Jordan Press reports on the federal government's plan to start ensuring that public money helps to secure social benefits.

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