Piketty and 100 researchers: inequality is getting worse, and will continue to worsen

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/12/14/oligarchy-on-ice.html



And in other “news,” water is wet, deserts are dry, and Republican politicians work even more for the sake of rich people than Democratic ones do.

I hope the ever more obvious nature of greedy, perverse power grabs keeps inspiring resistance of the sort we just saw in Alabama. On better days, I think the tide just might be turning.


The Ancien Régime, before the French Revolution, probably had over 90% of the wealth controlled by the nobility, which was about 1.5% of the population. We know what the remedy for that was. And Pikettey, who is French, is also well aware of that history, and concerned that we don’t repeat it, if possible.


The Fissured Workplace by David Weill who worked in the Obama administration points out why it is getting worse.

Something like 94% of the net jobs created since the financial crisis are mostly no benefit contractor type jobs.

Consider that most of the large name brand hotels across the US only 5% actually own the building and employ the staff the rest are managed “brands” where the property is owned by an equity trust or some real estate investors group who have no experience or interest in running a hotel. That is outsourced to hotel management company which in turn outsources all the way down the line so they don’t really care whether the employees have any benefits or what they get paid. I

It is also intended as a cost savings measure. One example given is a Texas construction firm with 600 employees. They get approached by one of these outfits that promises to save them money by turning the workers into independent contractors. So the employees leave work on a friday and monday they are no longer employed by the company but are independent contractors now responsible for their own benefits, and payroll deductions etc. (Of course what typically happens is the state now collects less in taxes and payroll source deductions)

According to Weill the state of Texas was keen on partnering with the federal government on enforcing employment regulations but secretly because they didn’t want to be seen as co-operating with the Obama administration.

here is a talk by David Weill.

Also interesting to note the high accident and mortality rate in the cell tower industry (10x higher than construction and 3x higher than coal-mining) all due to the huge growth after the Iphone came in and the telcom industry rather than employing more people ended up outsourcing the work.


I knew there was a reason that every time I try to imagine my 2yo daughter’s future, all I can see is her on top of a garbage pile in a smudged tank top with a machine gun, gritting her teeth with a red bandana flapping behind her head. Well, at least she has a little sister to keep her company and hand her reloads now.


They prescribe a global wealth tax and a crackdown on tax-havens as the only means of addressing this mounting inequality.

Well then, they’re correct to assume that inequality will continue to grow. The global community can’t get full agreement right now on a plan to save the planet from a climate trend with existential implications due to interference from greedheads and their dupes, so it’s highly doubtful they’d reach agreement on a global wealth tax.

Whether this unsustainable trend will continue to 2050 is another question, because eventually a critical mass poor people do get fed up with gross inequality and take matters into their own hands. Depending on how long the trend has been left to fester unabated, those hands may be clutching pitchforks, torches, and buckets of tar.



Sadly, In some places that is already the case (minus the machine gun). Indonesia waste avalanche kills 143

It shouldn’t even be a called a garbage dump because that implies it is managed, which this one wasn’t.


That brings back unpleasant memories about my history lessons.

The Aberfan community is still scarred by the disaster.


It’s hard to envision a larger demographic than that represented by the BB community who are inclined to give a shit about this, but a mere ten replies in ten hours tells me we’re completely fucked.


Yeah well, it’s not like “Inequality Really Is Getting Worse” is something most bbsers didn’t already know.


Oftentimes science isn’t about finding out new things in spectacular breakthroughs, but rather patiently and methodically checking and consolidating what some consider obvious.


No doubt (and, “Yes, I know”). Given the comment I was responding to, I don’t know why you’re telling me that.

I was answering your previous comment.


Ah! Okay, thanks for explaining, and i see the apt analogy now.

I find it harder to tell what comment is being replied to on my phone.


Okay, to add one point that is often missed in these stories:

Once you get beyond bare subsistence, inequality is worse than poverty.

Most of the extreme poverty in the 21st century is preventable. We have more than enough for everybody; the problem is distribution, not production. Modern famines are caused by failures of politics rather than failures of agriculture.

But I’m not talking about extreme poverty here. Even in a wealthy country, even with socialised medicine and a civilised welfare safety net, extreme wealth inequality is still a disaster. A rising tide does not lift all boats.

Because: inequality of wealth creates inequality of political power, and unequal power will always be abused.

You can build a political system to limit the influence of wealth, but so long as extreme inequality exists, money will find a way to exert power.

:musical_note: Absolute power corrupts absolutely
But absolute powerlessness does the same
It’s not the poverty, it’s the inequality
We live with every day that will turn us insane :musical_note:


Yep. In our current system, it only lifts yachts and aircraft carriers.


my favourite quote from economist Mark Blyth is what he tells his hedge fund friends. The Hamptons (being low lying beaches) are not a defensible position. Eventually they will come for you.

That’s one solution. Here’s another.
At this point older people are 3x more likely to vote than the young (although the boomer generation has had it better than any other). Young people need to start voting and demand a policy with progressive taxation, for that matter any of the tax regimes from the 50s 60 70s. Raise the minimum wage. Maybe even a helicopter drop (a la Iceland) to get people to reduce their debts, because ever since the wage stagnation began, many have made up for lost wages by borrowing. Start to demand free education or at least subsidized. Many European countries have it and it really is the best bang for dollars investment a government could make. The same thing with healthcare.

Also time to seriously consider a universal minimum basic income. There are a lot more experiments going on and in all cases people actually start to work more on improving their education or start a business etc.
If this is provided the state may dispense with a lot of bureaucracy that exists to simply decide who is eligible etc… It also provides a safety net that will help people out of the poverty trap. That lack of the safety net during the Depression is one of the causes of WWII.


What a common misconception.
The French nobility didn’t control most of the wealth, the various merchants and business interests of the day did. When circumstances created social unrest (because of poor farming years), those same interests took advantage of them to start the Revolution: those who had financial power wanted to get political power.
It just so happen that they got overwhelmed by the average people for a while. It’s no wonder those interests (and their brethren in other countries, starting with the UK) spent the next 200 years saying how bad, violent and uncivilised that period was, and how much better it could have been if reasonable people had always stayed in power.
That period has been called “The Terror”.