How Capitalism Actually Generates More Inequality

By Geoffrey M. Hodgson – At least nominally, capitalism embodies and sustains an Enlightenment agenda of freedom and equality.

Typically there is freedom to trade and equality under the law, meaning that most adults – rich or poor – are formally subject to the same legal rules. But with its inequalities of power and wealth, capitalism nurtures economic inequality alongside equality under the law.

Today, in the USA, the richest 1 per cent own 34 per cent of the wealth and the richest 10 per cent own 74 per cent of the wealth. In the UK, the richest 1 per cent own 12 per cent of the wealth and the richest 10 per cent own 44 per cent of the wealth. In France the figures are 24 cent and 62 per cent respectively. The richest 1 percent own 35 percent of the wealth in Switzerland, 24 per cent in Sweden and 15 percent in Canada.

To what extent can inequalities of income or wealth be attributed to the fundamental institutions of capitalism, rather than a residual landed aristocracy, or other surviving elites from the pre-capitalist past? A familiar mantra is that markets are the source of inequality under capitalism. Can markets be blamed for inequality?

In real-world markets different sellers or buyers vary hugely in their capacities to influence prices and other outcomes. When a seller has sufficient salable assets to affect market prices, then strategic market behavior is possible to drive out competitors.

Would more competition, with greater numbers of market participants, fix this problem? If markets per se are to be blamed for inequality, then it has to be shown that competitive markets also have this outcome. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

The secrets of shopping
By Amy Merrick – A woman suffering from a headache walks into a drugstore. She faces a shelf of remedies: mostly bottles of branded aspirin, such as Bayer. Next to those colorful, heavily advertised boxes are store-brand packages of generic aspirin. The woman puts the generic into her basket and goes home.

A quartet of researchers find that she’s not alone, as sophisticated shoppers—such as doctors or pharmacists, the people most likely to know whether the extra few dollars spent on a brand are worth it—opt to buy generic headache drugs more often.

In fact, a doctor or pharmacist is 18 percentage points more likely than the typical shopper to buy a private-label headache remedy. The magnitude of the difference surprised one of the researchers, Matthew Gentzkow, Richard O. Ryan Professor of Economics and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow at Chicago Booth.

“The effects are really big across a lot of health-care categories,” Gentzkow says. The researchers estimate that if all US consumers were to start shopping like pharmacists, they could save a collective $410 million a year on headache remedies. more>

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Updates from Autodesk

Design Master Electrical
Design Master Software – Design Master Electrical is a complete electrical drafting and calculation software program that works directly inside AutoCAD. It is compatible with AutoCAD 2004 to 2019.

Engineers across the country are using it to complete their designs faster, easier, and with fewer errors.

You “accomplish more work in less time, with greater accuracy,” says Angie Hester of Trindera Engineering in Coeur d’Alene, ID.

“There’s never a disconnect of information between drawings and schedules,” explains Donald Evans of Evans Engineering and Consulting in Post Falls, ID. more>

The Liberal Conception Of ‘Freedom’ Is Incapable Of Addressing The Problems Of Contemporary Capitalism

By Andrea Lorenzo Capussela – In a forthcoming book, Branko Milanović identifies four ‘troublesome features’ in ‘meritocratic liberal capitalism’.

In its simplest form, liberal theory – equal rights for all citizens, which guarantee their freedom, which is in turn conceived as absence of interference – has no obvious answer to those problems. For if freedom is non-interference, then it is compatible with both inequality and private domination, at least within certain bounds, as neither directly interferes with people’s individual choices.

Indeed, accepting precarious employment is a choice. And as liberals cannot say that Milanović’s four ‘troublesome features’ pose a fundamental challenge to their idea of a good society, their answer is a Ptolemaic one: sets of diverse, if potentially effective remedies such as redistribution, poverty relief, active labor market policies, civic education, and policing fake-news.

For the liberal conception of freedom is not the only conceivable one. Another notion, equally negative, is the republican or neo-roman one, which views freedom as non-domination. If I depend on someone else’s arbitrary will, or am subject to their enormous and unchecked power, I am not free, irrespective of how that power is exercised.

Hence the paradox of the ‘free slave’, frequent in republican literature: liberal theory implies that the slave who has a kind master is free, as she suffers no interference in her choices; republicans object that this depends entirely on the master’s benevolence, which can be revoked at will and may have to be cultivated: domination and unfreedom remain, therefore, and typically lead to self-censorship and a slavish mentality. more>

Platform Work – Breaking Barriers Or Breaking Bad?

By Irene Mandl – In the abstract, platform work is the matching of supply and demand for paid work through an online platform. In practice, most people are likely to have encountered it through big online platforms such as Uber, Deliveroo or Amazon Mechanical Turk. This is a new form employment that began to emerge in Europe about a decade ago. And while it is still small in scale – estimates of the percentage of workers employed by platforms are in single digits – it is growing relentlessly.

New platforms are constantly starting up, changing their business models and sinking into obscurity. But some have gained a solid foothold and look likely to be around for some time to come.

Increasing numbers of workers are attracted to working this way – for some, out of necessity as they have no alternative employment opportunities; for others, it’s an easier way to get work than looking for a standard job. Some use it as a way to earn extra income on the side – perhaps to pay for a holiday or buy a new car. And some do it simply because they enjoy it – like the designers who use it to showcase their creativity online.

Many try it once and never do it again, others do it regularly but not intensively, and a small proportion of Europeans do platform work as their main income source.

It is growing thanks in part to the ever-expanding variety of tasks being mediated through platforms. At one end are the online micro-tasks – click-work – that do not require particular skills, such as tagging photos. At the other are larger projects commissioned from highly skilled professionals.

The tendency of platform work to encroach on existing areas of business has sparked debate in many EU member states and attracted media attention – the backlash of food-delivery riders against platforms like Deliveroo or Foodora or of traditional taxi companies against Uber have been widely reported.

Platform work does not fit into traditional economic and labour market structures, and is challenging the institutions and legislation built around them. Courts in various countries have been asked to decide whether or not this business model creates unfair competition for traditional operators and whether it circumvents labor law. more>

Negative capability

By Paul Tritschler – The unconscious can perform astonishing feats of memory, but it can also play a remarkable role in creativity: sudden insights, solutions and life-enhancing ideas sometimes surface unbidden when the mind is adrift in unconscious reverie. If such chance awakenings are possible, how can you replicate those conditions to become more the author, and less the reporter, of your own meaningful life story? To find that elusive voice, we’ve got to search in the ‘now’, in the moment of true, lived experience that fleetingly exists between past and future. It is within that space that we must seek the locus of personal transformation and change.

But being in the moment, developing an awareness of ‘now’, means gaining control over our thoughts and the unconscious patterning of memory so that they don’t intrude. If we can’t wrestle control over things, then something has gone awry in the master-servant relationship – there is truth in the old aphorism: ‘The mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master.’

To overcome this complex bind, we must identify how the mind constrains us, and then we must break free. Among the traps of the mind, there is preoccupation with the past (including attachment to intrusive memories) and preoccupation with the future (including continual desire). By definition, these lures are incompatible with being in the moment. We must offload this excess baggage to glimpse what we are and what we might become. more>

Updates from Siemens

Multi-Discipline Data Management for Electronics
Siemens – Integrated hardware and software design and testing on electronic products are now part of a system of delivery needs, which can only be enforced by a tightly integrated and unified multi-discipline platform.

Manage multi-disciplinary engineering teams with an integrated approach to engineering lifecycle management that leverages integrated requirements management, secure supplier collaboration and an engineering management platform that combines mechanical, electronic and software co-design and co-simulation in a single collaborative environment.

Today’s electronic devices are a synthesis of multiple designs—mechanical, electrical, electronics, embedded software and application software. In addition, because of rapid development, many hardware features remain unexplored and under-managed resulting in sub-optimal integration between hardware and software.

The disadvantages of operating in different single-discipline platforms and the increasing role of global suppliers in early stages of design are driving engineering organizations to invest in multi-domain integration strategies to ensure the system works flawlessly. more>

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The Finnish Basic Income Experiment – Correcting The Narrative

By Jurgen De Wispelaere, Antti Halmetoja and Ville-Veikko Pulkka – The Finnish government’s refusal to extend or expand the experiment may not come as much of a surprise once the budgetary implications are taken into account but it nevertheless amounts to one more disappointment amongst those closely watching how the experiment is progressing. And disappointments have been plentiful with this project.

After a promising start, the first blow came when the Sipilä government ignored most of the suggestions and recommendations of the research consortium led by Kela (the Social Insurance Institution of Finland) and charged with preparing the experimental design — incidentally, appointed by the very same Juha Sipilä.

The design now being rolled out is much more limited than many had hoped for. Repeated requests for additional budget or postponing the starting date were ignored. Much-needed coordination between the different ministries involved was not forthcoming. The government also delayed appointing the team charged with evaluating the result until the experiment was well into its second year – with detrimental effects for any attempt to gain a more comprehensive insight into the experiment’s wellbeing effects. more>

Self-Driving Vehicles: What Will Happen to Truck Drivers?

By Andrew Yang – You would have to have been asleep these past years not to have noticed that manufacturing jobs have been disappearing in large numbers. In 2000 there were still 17.5 million manufacturing workers in the U.S. Then, the numbers fell off a cliff, plummeting to less than 12 million before rebounding slightly starting in 2011.

More than 5 million manufacturing workers lost their jobs after 2000. More than eighty percent of the jobs lost – or 4 million jobs – were due to automation. Men make up 73% of manufacturing workers, so this hit working class men particularly hard. About one in six working-age men in America is now out of the workforce, one of the highest rates among developed countries.

What happened to these 5 million workers? A rosy economist might imagine that they found new manufacturing jobs, or were retrained and reskilled for different jobs, or maybe they moved to another state for greener pastures.

In reality, many of them left the workforce. One Department of Labor survey in 2012 found that 41 percent of displaced manufacturing workers between 2009 and 2011 were either still unemployed or dropped out of the labor market between within three years of losing their jobs.

This is a good indicator of what will occur when truck drivers lose their jobs. Truck drivers’ average age is 49, 94% are male, and they are typically high school graduates. Driving a truck is the most popular job in 29 states – there are 3.5 million truck drivers nationwide. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

No, America is not more divided than ever before
By Howard R. Gold – It may seem sometimes like the United States is coming apart. “While rural America watches Duck Dynasty and goes fishing and hunting, urban America watches Modern Family and does yoga in the park,” write Chicago Booth’s Marianne Bertrand and Emir Kamenica.

“The economically better-off travel the world and seek out ethnic restaurants in their neighborhoods, while the less well-off don’t own a passport and eat at McDonald’s.” Conservatives, they write, favor masculine names for boys while liberals prefer more-feminine names, and men play video games while women browse Pinterest.

These kinds of cultural splits can have economic, social, and political consequences in that they may ultimately reduce social cohesion within a country. But according to Bertrand and Kamenica, who measured cultural divisions over time, the cultural gap in the US is largely stable—not widening.

The data reveal that divisions definitely exist. Watching certain movies or television shows, reading certain magazines, or buying particular consumer products are predictable markers of traits such as how much money people make or how far they got in school. more>

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