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Rising inequality: A major issue of our time

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Neu California
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Rising inequality: A major issue of our time

Postby Neu California » Mon Feb 26, 2024 1:42 am

Almost a year old, but a good launching off point for discussion. Also, check out the source ("Brookings Institute wrote", below) for a bunch of charts and the like that I can't carry over easily.

Brookings Institute wrote:Income and wealth inequality has risen in many countries in recent decades. Rising inequality and related disparities and anxieties have been stoking social discontent and are a major driver of the increased political polarization and populist nationalism that are so evident today. An increasingly unequal society can weaken trust in public institutions and undermine democratic governance. Mounting global disparities can imperil geopolitical stability. Rising inequality has emerged as an important topic of political debate and a major public policy concern.

High and rising inequality
Current inequality levels are high. Contemporary global inequalities are close to the peak levels observed in the early 20th century, at the end of the prewar era (variously described as the Belle Époque or the Gilded Age) that saw sharp increases in global inequality.

Over the past four decades, there has been a broad trend of rising income inequality across countries. Income inequality has risen in most advanced economies and major emerging economies, which together account for about two-thirds of the world’s population and 85 percent of global GDP (Figure 1). The increase has been particularly large in the United States, among advanced economies, and in China, India, and Russia, among major emerging economies.

Beyond these groups of countries, the trend in the developing world at large has been more mixed, but many countries have seen increases in inequality. In regions such as Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa, income inequality levels on average have been relatively more stable, but inequality was already at high levels in these regions—the highest in the world.

Wealth inequality within countries is typically much higher than income inequality. It has followed a rising trend across countries since around 1980, similar to income inequality. Higher wealth inequality feeds higher future income inequality through capital income and inheritance.

The increase in inequality has been especially marked at the top end of the income distribution, with the income share of the top 10 percent (and even more so that of the top 1 percent) rising sharply in many countries. This was so particularly up to the global financial crisis of 2008-09. Those in low- and middle-income groups have suffered a loss of income share, with those in the bottom 50 percent typically experiencing larger losses of income share. These trends in inequality have been associated with an erosion of the middle class and a decline in intergenerational mobility, especially in advanced economies experiencing larger increases in inequality and a greater polarization in income distribution.

While within-country inequality has been rising, inequality between countries (reflecting per capita income differences) has been falling in recent decades. Faster-growing emerging economies, especially the large ones such as China and India, have been narrowing the income gap with advanced economies. Global inequality—the sum of within-country and between-country inequality—has declined somewhat since around 2000, with the fall in between-country inequality more than offsetting the rise in within-country inequality. As within-country inequality has been rising, it now accounts for a much larger part of global inequality (about two-thirds in 2020, up from less than half in 1980). Looking ahead, how within-country inequality evolves will matter even more for global inequality.

The interplay between the evolution of within-country inequality and between-country inequality, coupled with the differential growth performance of emerging and advanced economies, in recent decades presents an interesting picture of middle-class dynamics at the global level (as depicted by the well-known “elephant curve” of the incidence of global economic growth). It shows, for the period since 1980, a rising middle class in the emerging world and a squeezed middle class in rich countries. It also shows an increasing concentration of income at the very top of the income distribution globally.

Drivers of rising inequality
Shifting economic paradigms are altering distributional dynamics. Transformative technological change, led by digital technologies, has been reshaping markets, business models, and the nature of work in ways that can increase inequality within economies. While the specifics differ across countries, this has been happening broadly through three channels: more unequal distribution of labor income with rising wage inequality as technology shifts labor demand from routine low- to middle-level skills to new, higher-level skills; shift of income from labor to capital with increasing automation and a decoupling of wages from firm profitability; and more unequal distribution of capital income with rising market power and economic rents enjoyed by dominant firms in increasingly concentrated and winner-takes-all markets. These dynamics are more evident in advanced economies but could increasingly impact developing economies as the new technologies favoring capital and higher-level skills make deeper inroads there.

Globalization (international trade, offshoring) also has contributed to rising inequality within economies, especially in advanced economies by negatively affecting wages and jobs of lower-skilled workers in tradable sectors. These sectors increasingly extend beyond manufacturing as digital globalization expands the range of activities, including services, deliverable across borders.

In emerging economies, technology is reshaping how international trade affects national inequality. The new technologies, born in advanced economies, are shifting manufacturing and global value chains toward higher capital and skill intensity. Leading manufacturing firms located in emerging economies and engaged in exporting are adopting these technologies in order to be able to compete, diminishing employment generation and wage growth prospects for less-skilled workers from this higher-productivity segment of industry in economies whose factor endowments would warrant less capital- and skill-intensive technologies—and thus limiting the potential of international trade to reduce inequality within these economies by boosting demand for their more abundant factor endowment (less-skilled workers). Meanwhile, smaller firms that absorb most such workers in these economies remain engaged in low-productivity activities, many in the informal economy and in petty service sectors.

Globalization has been a force in recent decades for reducing inequality between economies by expanding export opportunities for emerging economies and spurring their economic growth. But globalization’s role in promoting international economic convergence faces new challenges as technological change alters production processes and trade patterns (more on this below).

Other broad trends in recent decades affecting the distribution of income and wealth include changes in institutional settings such as economic deregulation, increasing financialization of economies coupled with a high concentration of financial income and wealth, and erosion of labor market institutions such as minimum wage laws and collective bargaining. Moreover, the redistributive role of the state has been weakening with declining tax progressivity and with transfer programs facing the pressure of tighter fiscal constraints.

Role of public policy
Large and persistent increases in inequality within economies are not an inevitable consequence of forces such as technological change and globalization. Much depends on how public policy responds to the new dynamics that these forces generate. In the midst of these common forces of change, the rise in inequality has been uneven across countries. The difference lies largely in countries’ institutional and policy settings and how they have responded. In general, looking across countries, public policy has been behind the curve. It has been slow to rise to the new challenges to promote more inclusive outcomes from economic change.

Public policy to reduce inequality is often viewed narrowly in terms of redistribution―taxes and transfers. This is indeed an important element, especially in view of the erosion of the state’s redistributive role in recent decades. But there is a much broader policy agenda of “predistribution” that can make the growth process itself more inclusive and produce better market outcomes—by promoting wider access to new opportunities for firms and workers and enhancing their capabilities to adjust as market dynamics shift.

This latter agenda of reforms spans competition policy and regulatory frameworks to keep markets competitive and inclusive in the digital age; innovation ecosystems and technology policies to put innovation to work for broader groups of people; digital infrastructure and literacy to reduce the digital divide; education and (re)training programs to upskill and reskill workers while addressing inequalities in access to these programs; and labor market policies and social protection systems to enable workers to obtain a fair share of economic returns and to support them in times of transition. In many of these reform areas, the new dynamics that economies are facing call for fresh thinking and significant policy overhaul.

Outlook for inequality
Absent more responsive policies to combat inequality, the current high levels of inequality are likely to persist or even rise further. Artificial intelligence and related new waves of digital technologies and automation could increase inequality further within countries. Even as new technologies increase productivity and produce greater economic affluence, and new jobs and tasks emerge to replace those displaced and so prevent large technological unemployment, inequality could reach much higher levels. The economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced some of the inequality-increasing dynamics. Also, a high and increasing concentration of wealth can exacerbate income inequality in a mutually reinforcing cycle.

Technological change also poses new challenges to global economic convergence that has reduced inequality between countries in the past couple of decades. Faster growth in emerging economies led by export of manufactures has depended greatly on their comparative advantage in labor-intensive manufacturing based on large populations of low-skill, low-wage workers. This source of comparative advantage increasingly will erode as automation of low-skill work expands. Emerging economies face the challenge of recalibrating their growth models as technology disrupts traditional pathways to growth and development.

Emerging economies’ growth prospects also face other headwinds, including the scarring effects of the pandemic and global supply chain disruptions exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and an unsettled global geopolitical environment, which would hit the more trade-dependent economies harder. If growth in emerging economies falters, the decline in between-country inequality will slow, which could stall or even reverse the modest decline in global inequality observed since about 2000 if within-country inequality continues to mount.

Climate change is another factor that could worsen inequality within and between countries. Low-income groups and countries are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and have less capacity to cope with them.

Conclusion
Income and wealth inequality is elevated. In the absence of policies to counter recent trends, inequality could rise to still higher levels. High and rising inequality entails adverse economic, social, and political consequences. Policymakers must pay more attention to the changing distributional dynamics in the digital age and harness the forces of change for more inclusive prosperity. History tells us that large and unabated rises in inequality can end up badly.


So, income inequality, especially major income inequality, is bad for democracy and for those who are poorer, as well as the economy itself, as even the IMF notes. Obviously, we should do something about it, but what? What do you think we should do, NSG?

I'm of the opinion that the predistribution mentioned in the quoted article, providing worker retraining for jobs that are booming so workers whose jobs are disappearing have new economic opportunities, raising taxes on the rich, implementing a wealth tax, and doing more for the poor who can't work or are between jobs, such as expanding welfare are very good ideas that would help us avoid entering a second gilded age, with all the challenges and issues that would create.
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Postby Fractalnavel » Mon Feb 26, 2024 2:11 am

If you read some of Kim Stanley Robinson's works (scifi), he has some good takes on this.

Some of the "solutions" proposed in that article seem to be more like masking the problem while perpetuating it.

A lot of the Biden administration's policies and implemented actions are an attempt to reverse what Reaganomics did to us, switching from supply-side to demand-side.
Last edited by Fractalnavel on Mon Feb 26, 2024 2:12 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Emotional Support Crocodile » Mon Feb 26, 2024 3:22 am

In the twentieth century the two world wars led to a rebalancing of wealth inequality in post-war settlements for the people who fought and died in them. I think it is not too hard to envisage that that may not happen again. Another world war might lead to rapid development of autonomous drones and robot combatants. Billions of people could die but the extremely wealthy would not need to give anything to protect their own position, and could inherit a world with a much diminished population. This might incentivise the richest people in the world into deliberately starting a world war.
Last edited by Emotional Support Crocodile on Mon Feb 26, 2024 3:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Entropan » Mon Feb 26, 2024 3:33 am

Emotional Support Crocodile wrote:This might incentivise the richest people in the world into deliberately starting a world war.


that claim would require an extraordinary amount of evidence, income inequality has risen the most when the rich have convinced lawmakers into adopting suicidal neoliberal and austerity politics, which is considerably easier to do than start a global war.



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Postby Emotional Support Crocodile » Mon Feb 26, 2024 3:40 am

Entropan wrote:
Emotional Support Crocodile wrote:This might incentivise the richest people in the world into deliberately starting a world war.


that claim would require an extraordinary amount of evidence, income inequality has risen the most when the rich have convinced lawmakers into adopting suicidal neoliberal and austerity politics, which is considerably easier to do than start a global war.


Do you disagree they might benefit from one?
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Postby Entropan » Mon Feb 26, 2024 3:44 am

Emotional Support Crocodile wrote:
Entropan wrote:
that claim would require an extraordinary amount of evidence, income inequality has risen the most when the rich have convinced lawmakers into adopting suicidal neoliberal and austerity politics, which is considerably easier to do than start a global war.


Do you disagree they might benefit from one?


In that extreme situation, they would be worse off, but might benefit in the 1984-esque "everyone is worse off, but at least we're significantly less worse off than everyone else"



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Postby Emotional Support Crocodile » Mon Feb 26, 2024 3:59 am

Entropan wrote:
Emotional Support Crocodile wrote:
Do you disagree they might benefit from one?


In that extreme situation, they would be worse off, but might benefit in the 1984-esque "everyone is worse off, but at least we're significantly less worse off than everyone else"


I disagree. I think tech billionaires, for example, would profit enormously.
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Postby Hirota » Mon Feb 26, 2024 4:32 am

I've got some concerns over their initial premise - that inequality is approaching it's historical highest.

Let's look at their source data - aka the "world inequality database", Pick the 10 current largest economies based on the IMF and include the world average on it's own as well, for both the top 10% and top 1%.

Image
Image
Image


The assertion that it's approaching it's peak seems about 22 years late, so I don't see how you can correlate inequality with a new found distrust and political polarisation if one is comparing against the "Gilded Age" of the 1890's to 1920's.

If one wishes to compare against the last time we had a decline in democratic governments towards more dictatorial leaderships of the 1930s, it looks like income inequality declined in that period. Of course, wall street happened in 1929...

Yeah, inequality is clearly bad, but I don't see a clear correlation between that and an erosion of democratic values.
Last edited by Hirota on Mon Feb 26, 2024 4:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Technoscience Leftwing » Mon Feb 26, 2024 4:48 am

* The growth of inequality under capitalism is a natural phenomenon noticed by Marx.
* If you give everyone an equal share of state property (and in Russia they did just that in 1991 - they gave every citizen a privatization check, a voucher of 10,000 rubles), then very soon society will be divided into an impoverished majority and a super-rich minority. This is the result of the concentration of capital - the ruin of small shops and workshops, and their displacement by large retail chains and huge production cartels, trusts, and corporations. This was written about both in Marxist journalism and in fiction (the dystopia “The Iron Heel”). The next stage is lobbying of politics by the proteges of these corporations, the hollowing out or elimination of democracy as an equal opportunity for citizens to influence the country's politics.
* Result: the transformation of free competition capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism. Lack of means of production for 90% of the population, and concentration of capital and power in the hands of a handful of billionaires. :(
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Postby Corporate Collective Salvation » Mon Feb 26, 2024 7:45 am

Bear in mind that inequity, and inequality are not the same thing.
One can be institutionally perpetuated for selfish ends, while the other is the natural result of institution managing beings that are not equally deserving, capable, or motivated.
Not an aspersion, but just a basic truth of our condition.

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Postby Osmauri » Tue Feb 27, 2024 8:26 am

Emotional Support Crocodile wrote:
Entropan wrote:
In that extreme situation, they would be worse off, but might benefit in the 1984-esque "everyone is worse off, but at least we're significantly less worse off than everyone else"


I disagree. I think tech billionaires, for example, would profit enormously.

If the world is that far gone to ruin, I don't think that money will turn out to be worth very much.
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Postby Dimetrodon Empire » Tue Feb 27, 2024 9:08 am

Osmauri wrote:
Emotional Support Crocodile wrote:
I disagree. I think tech billionaires, for example, would profit enormously.

If the world is that far gone to ruin, I don't think that money will turn out to be worth very much.

I think most of those people are evil enough to destroy the world to ensure they get to rule over the ashes of it.

They'll have backups in place to ensure they still live in extreme opulence.
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Postby Kvatchdom » Tue Feb 27, 2024 9:50 am

Osmauri wrote:
Emotional Support Crocodile wrote:
I disagree. I think tech billionaires, for example, would profit enormously.

If the world is that far gone to ruin, I don't think that money will turn out to be worth very much.

They've shown well enough that they're perfectly fine with short-term gains even if it'll kill the future.
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Postby Osmauri » Tue Feb 27, 2024 10:20 am

Kvatchdom wrote:
Osmauri wrote:If the world is that far gone to ruin, I don't think that money will turn out to be worth very much.

They've shown well enough that they're perfectly fine with short-term gains even if it'll kill the future.

No, what I meant was that you'll struggle to use your ten trillion stolen dollars if the most expensive thing on the "market" remaining is a billy club going for five roaches.

Never said that uberrich people aren't self-destructive.
Dimetrodon Empire wrote:
Osmauri wrote:If the world is that far gone to ruin, I don't think that money will turn out to be worth very much.

I think most of those people are evil enough to destroy the world to ensure they get to rule over the ashes of it.

They'll have backups in place to ensure they still live in extreme opulence.

They'd be the future's textbook examples of diminishing returns writ large, which might just be their humiliation kink tbh.
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Postby Dimetrodon Empire » Tue Feb 27, 2024 2:36 pm

Osmauri wrote:
Kvatchdom wrote:They've shown well enough that they're perfectly fine with short-term gains even if it'll kill the future.

No, what I meant was that you'll struggle to use your ten trillion stolen dollars if the most expensive thing on the "market" remaining is a billy club going for five roaches.

Never said that uberrich people aren't self-destructive.
Dimetrodon Empire wrote:I think most of those people are evil enough to destroy the world to ensure they get to rule over the ashes of it.

They'll have backups in place to ensure they still live in extreme opulence.

They'd be the future's textbook examples of diminishing returns writ large, which might just be their humiliation kink tbh.

I think they'll be willing to even take a hit as long as we take a bigger one.
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Postby Fractalnavel » Tue Feb 27, 2024 3:17 pm

Dimetrodon Empire wrote:
Osmauri wrote:No, what I meant was that you'll struggle to use your ten trillion stolen dollars if the most expensive thing on the "market" remaining is a billy club going for five roaches.

Never said that uberrich people aren't self-destructive.

They'd be the future's textbook examples of diminishing returns writ large, which might just be their humiliation kink tbh.

I think they'll be willing to even take a hit as long as we take a bigger one.

"Relative wealth" is as much a thing as "relative poverty".

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blah blah capitalism blah blah communism blah blah profit motive blah blah
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Postby Osmauri » Tue Feb 27, 2024 10:49 pm

Dimetrodon Empire wrote:
Osmauri wrote:No, what I meant was that you'll struggle to use your ten trillion stolen dollars if the most expensive thing on the "market" remaining is a billy club going for five roaches.

Never said that uberrich people aren't self-destructive.

They'd be the future's textbook examples of diminishing returns writ large, which might just be their humiliation kink tbh.

I think they'll be willing to even take a hit as long as we take a bigger one.

They do have a spite/humiliation kink then. Idk why someone hasn't made XXX for them yet... though I'm not checking to see if anyone has already.
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Postby Neu California » Wed Feb 28, 2024 3:04 am

Osmauri wrote:
Dimetrodon Empire wrote:I think they'll be willing to even take a hit as long as we take a bigger one.

They do have a spite/humiliation kink then. Idk why someone hasn't made XXX for them yet... though I'm not checking to see if anyone has already.

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Postby Saarenmaa » Wed Feb 28, 2024 1:22 pm

I will make a small remark. If we consider the question as a whole, equality does not and cannot exist in nature, because people cannot be equal morally and physically. There will still be someone who is predisposed to leadership, someone who is predisposed to submission and other behaviors. Hierarchy is part of our code, which is embedded in our brains by Mother Nature.

As for the topic raised, I will say that inequality will always exist, but to avoid its extreme manifestations, I think, and this is probably true, that it is necessary to raise the bar of who can be considered poor. Obviously, it's better for everyone when a poor person can afford to rent an apartment and buy an iPhone than when a poor person works all day for a bowl of rice and is on the edge of survival.

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Postby Isle of Westland » Wed Feb 28, 2024 1:43 pm

Personally I couldn't give two shakes of a dogs cock about inequality.

Edit: the first paragraph from the above comment is broadly correct though
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Postby BEEstreetz » Thu Feb 29, 2024 10:08 pm

Technoscience Leftwing wrote:* The growth of inequality under capitalism is a natural phenomenon noticed by Marx.
* If you give everyone an equal share of state property (and in Russia they did just that in 1991 - they gave every citizen a privatization check, a voucher of 10,000 rubles), then very soon society will be divided into an impoverished majority and a super-rich minority. This is the result of the concentration of capital - the ruin of small shops and workshops, and their displacement by large retail chains and huge production cartels, trusts, and corporations. This was written about both in Marxist journalism and in fiction (the dystopia “The Iron Heel”). The next stage is lobbying of politics by the proteges of these corporations, the hollowing out or elimination of democracy as an equal opportunity for citizens to influence the country's politics.
* Result: the transformation of free competition capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism. Lack of means of production for 90% of the population, and concentration of capital and power in the hands of a handful of billionaires. :(


* ...Which is why this hasn't happened in most countries since WW2 with the exception of both US ad PRC?
* The voucher system of 1991? It concentrated capital because the workers were blackmailed by (formerly state-appointed but the same people) directors into selling the vouchers to them for paycheck. It wasn't a production-retail nor even distribution cartel which lead to the Oligarchy, it was lack of depoliticisation prior to privatising the banking sector. Depoliticisation, which did not occur. You claim that politicisation will occur "in the next stage" by lobbying, which requires regulation and actual manifestation of Political Action Committees (example of "lobbyists"). This being somehow worse than patrimonial clientelism which exists in failed transition Eastern European countries today?
* State-monopoly capitalism is what lead to the present day inequality in (Russia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, so on).
* If you gave everyone an equal share of state property in the form of public property & worker cooperatives, while pursuing gradual privatisation, you end up being the sole country (which actually chose that privatisation method) and which today has both the highest GNI per capita and lowest Gini inequality compared to the rest I've mentioned... If you guessed Slovenia, good job, you're minimally informed.
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