Mr. Chakrabortty\’s lament

Non-economists don\’t seem to have much to say about economics.

Next week we discuss how chemists aren\’t adding much to the scholarship of Elizabethan sonnets.

It wasn\’t always like this. One way of characterising what has happened in America and Britain over the past three decades is that people at the top have skimmed off increasing amounts of the money made by their corporations and societies.

And an economist would then go on to ask how? Why? Is it remediable? Would we even want to remediate it?

And the general pencil sketch answers might be because globalisation. Those at the very tippy top, the top 0.1% (and the increased inequality really is up there, not even the top 1%) are now able to sell their rare talents (and there\’s even room for exploit their rents if you prefer) by taking pennies off billions of people rather than just the tens of millions in their home economies.

Is it remediable? The market distribution of such incomes: sure. Pull back on globalisation. That\’ll cut those top incomes very nicely indeed. Do we want to remediate it thus?

Probably not for the flip side of globalisation has been the largest reduction in absolute poverty in the history of our species. Hundreds of millions, nay billions, have moved from rural peasantry to the pleasures of three squares and fresh clothes each day. With a roof n\’all.

The effects of globalisation have roughly been a rise in within country inequality, a falling in global inequality and the rise of those billions up out of absolute poverty. And despite my not being in that top 0.1% (nor even the top 1%….some years I just about manage to scrape into the top 10% of UK incomes) I do have to say that I think that\’s an extremely good bargain for all.

You know, we are supposed to celebrate the poor getting rich, aren\’t we?

4 thoughts on “Mr. Chakrabortty\’s lament”

  1. That he’s surprised that scientists don’t often publish outside their area of expertise speaks volumes…

  2. Do I worry that there are some people who are so rich they can spurge on yachts, bling, soccer clubs or charity?


    Should I?


  3. @blokeinfrance

    Exactly. Poverty worries me. Real poverty. Third world poverty. The don’t get enough to eat, live at the mercy of the elements, catch poor people diseases, die young type of poverty. Not the UK I can’t afford to… whatever – type of poverty.

    The guy with the top-end Bentley, five houses and five ex-wives (each with a mansion) (Rod Stewart?) and a private jet does not worry me.

    Reading CIF it seems our caring types are the other way round. And they are not going to do anything about it. The State will sort it.

    I’m with Tim on this one. I don’t care if you have more than me as long as the true havenots begin to get a crack at hauling themselves up out of their situation and making a future for themselves. And it is clear what gives them that opportunity and it ain’t charidee.

  4. “in the history of our species” – getting rather grandiose .
    You are in danger of caring more for the foreign than the locals. And when you are over 70 years old you will find why this is not a good idea.

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