I reached out to Payne because his argument seems to lead to a counterintuitive conclusion: American society would be more be more stable if we had more poverty and less inequality.
Keith Payne Sure, it means that if you take two people who make the same income, but one lives in a very high-inequality place and one lives in a low-inequality place, the person in the high-inequality location is more likely to deal with these chronic diseases, more likely to deal with these drug and alcohol problems, more likely to actually die sooner than the same person living in a low-inequality environment.
The high-inequality countries also have more crime, more incarceration, more school dropouts – things that we normally associate with poverty, but in wealthy developed countries, they’re actually more closely linked to inequality than to poverty rates.
Sean Illing Is it fair to say that economic inequality produces more political tribalism?
Sean Illing Do you think we would be healthier and happier if we had more poverty and less inequality?
Even if by some miracle we doubled everyone’s income tomorrow, that would only increase the inequality because when you double the income of millionaires, they get a lot richer than when you double the income of somebody making $20,000.
Usually, there isn’t a trade-off between more wealth and less inequality, because if you look across countries, the countries with lower levels of inequality actually have greater levels of social mobility.
It’s easier to climb up that economic ladder if you’re in a place where inequality is on a human scale, as opposed to the astronomical levels of inequality that we see in America.
The orginal article.
Most remarkably, his research revealed that the Ju/’hoansi managed this on the basis of little more than 15 hours’ work per week.
More than any other food, meat was capable of making the Ju/’hoansi forget their customary good manners, so it required extra diligence in distribution.
Ironically, how envy functioned in societies such as the Ju/’hoansi suggests that, even if Smith’s hidden hand does not apply particularly well to late capitalism, his belief that the sum of individual self-interests can ensure the fairest distribution of the ‘necessaries of life’ was right, albeit in small-scale band societies.
Highlighting the explicit role of envy in Ju/’hoansi life risks giving the impression of a society of reluctant egalitarians constantly sniping at one another – an impression that any Ju/’hoansi will tell you is a far cry from the cheerful banter and mutual affection that characterises day-to-day life.
While, to be sure, the Ju/’hoansi do not reward people for being egalitarian, they are conscious of the positive emotional and social dividends that sharing, cooperation and harmony bring.
Unsurprisingly, envy still accounts for most conflict among the Ju/’hoansi in contemporary Nyae-Nyae where inequality is greater than ever before, because some have jobs or access to resources such as pensions that are denied to others.
With many Ju/’hoansi now dependent on the cash economy with its attendant employment hierarchies and management systems, many Ju/’hoansi are reluctant to take management roles or assume responsibilities that require making and imposing their decisions or authority on others.
If envy played a constructive role in small-scale band societies such as the Ju/’hoansi, it is harder to establish whether it has a similarly beneficial purpose in more complex, hierarchical societies.
The orginal article.
The ability to systemically affect entire societies in such short timespans isn’t something that I believe we’re intuitively geared up to deal with without very, very deliberately engaging Kahneman’s System 2.And yet everything isn’t better.
If technology is the solution to human problems, we need to do the human work to figure out and agree what our problems are and the kind of society we want.
Then we can figure out what technology we want and need to bring about the society we want.
Not because we’re technologists, but because we’re people, we’re responsible to society for the tools we make.
Clearly decide what kind of society we want; and thenDesign and deliver the technologies that forever get us closer to achieving that desired society.
For all of us: What would it look like, and how might our societies be different, if technology were better aligned to society’s interests?At the most general level, we are all members of a society, embedded in existing governing structures.
In the way that post-enlightenment governing institutions were set up to protect against asymmetric distribution of power, technology leaders must recognize that their platforms are now an undeniable, powerful influence on society.
If you’re a technologist, consider this question: what are the pros and cons of unionizing? As the product of a linked network, consider the question: what is gained and who gains from preventing humans from linking up in this way?Just as we create design patterns that are best practices, there are also those that represent undesired patterns from our society’s point of view known as dark patterns.
The orginal article.
The turn away from these statistics, and toward financial ones, means that rather than considering how economic developments could meet Americans’ needs, the default stance-in policy, business, and everyday life-is to assess whether individuals are meeting the exigencies of the economy.
In 1791, then-Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton wrote to various Americans across the country, asking them to calculate the moneymaking capacities of their farms, workshops, and families so that he could use that data to create economic indicators for his famous Report on Manufactures.
Around the middle of the century, money-based economic indicators began to gain prominence, eventually supplanting moral statistics as the leading benchmarks of American prosperity.
In the earlier parts of the 19th century, Americans in the North and South wielded moral statistics in order to prove that their society was the more advanced and successful one.
Hammond, in his speech, had chosen to measure American prosperity in the same way that he valued, monitored, and disciplined those forced to work on his own cotton plantation.
Many working-class Americans were not as enthusiastic about the rise of economic indicators.
Massachusetts labor activists fighting for the eight-hour workday spoke for many American workers when they said, in 1870, that “The true prosperity and abiding good of the commonwealth can only be learned, by placing money [on] one scale, and man [on another].”
By the early 21st century, American society’s top priority became its bottom line, net worth became synonymous with self-worth, and a billionaire businessman who repeatedly pointed to his own wealth as proof of his fitness for office was elected president.
The orginal article.
Such collapses have occurred many times in human history, and no civilisation, no matter how seemingly great, is immune to the vulnerabilities that may lead a society to its end.
Eventually, the working population crashes because the portion of wealth allocated to them is not enough, followed by collapse of the elites due to the absence of labour.
If the carrying capacity is overshot by too much, collapse becomes inevitable.
“If we make rational choices to reduce factors such as inequality, explosive population growth, the rate at which we deplete natural resources and the rate of pollution – all perfectly doable things – then we can avoid collapse and stabilise onto a sustainable trajectory,” Motesharrei said.
While some scholars cite the beginning of collapse as the year 410, when the invading Visigoths sacked the capital, that dramatic event was made possible by a downward spiral spanning more than a century.
According to Joseph Tainter, a professor of environment and society at Utah State University and author of The Collapse of Complex Societies, one of the most important lessons from Rome’s fall is that complexity has a cost.
Modern Western societies have largely been able to postpone similar precipitators of collapse through fossil fuels and industrial technologies – think hydraulic fracturing coming along in 2008, just in time to offset soaring oil prices.
“Western nations are not going to collapse, but the smooth operation and friendly nature of Western society will disappear, because inequity is going to explode,” Randers argues.
The orginal article.