The digital revolution, we are told everywhere today, produces democracy. It gives “power to the people” and dethrones authoritarians; it levels the playing field for distribution of information critical to political engagement; it destabilizes hierarchies, decentralizes what had been centralized, democratizes what was the domain of elites.
Most on the left would endorse these ends. The widespread availability of tools whose uses are harmonious with leftist goals would, one might think, accompany broad advancement of those goals in some form. Yet the left today is scattered, nearly toothless in most advanced democracies. If digital communication technology promotes leftist values, why has its spread coincided with such a stark decline in the Left’s political fortunes?
The graph […] may resemble a mountain range, all plunging valleys and soaring peaks. In fact, it tells a remarkable story of social and economic change, a story that ends bleakly for millions of medium and low-paid Britons – one of relentless forces cutting deep into occupations that have traditionally made up our economic landscape, and driving ever lower the real wages of all but the most fortunate and best-paid of the country’s employees.
ALTHOUGH no company is mentioned by name, it is very clear which American internet giant the European Parliament has in mind in a resolution that has been doing the rounds in the run-up to a vote on November 27th. One draft calls for “unbundling search engines from other commercial services” to ensure a level playing field for European companies and consumers. This is the latest and most dramatic outbreak of Googlephobia in Europe.
Europe’s former competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, brokered a series of settlements this year requiring Google to give more prominence to rivals’ shopping and map services alongside its own in search results. But MEPs want his successor, Margrethe Vestager, to take a firmer line. Hence the calls to dismember the company.
The parliament does not actually have the power to carry out this threat.
Is inherited wealth making a comeback?
Yes, says Thomas Piketty, author of the best seller “Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” Inherited wealth has always been with us, of course, but Mr. Piketty believes that its importance is increasing. He sees a future that combines slow economic growth with high returns to capital. He reasons that if capital owners save much of their income, their wealth will accumulate and be passed on to their heirs. He concludes that individuals’ living standards will be determined less by their skill and effort and more by bequests they receive.
To be sure, one can poke holes in Mr. Piketty’s story. Since the book came out, numerous economists have been doing exactly that in book reviews, blog posts and academic analyses.
Moreover, given economists’ abysmal track record in forecasting, especially over long time horizons, any such prognostication should be taken with a shaker or two of salt. The Piketty scenario is best viewed not as a solid prediction but as a provocative speculation.
95% of all the additional national income in the U.S. goes to the top 1%, that’s not an Occupy Wall Street slogan, that’s a fact. [alternet.org]
Discussing the economy, Gore lamented that “we have rising levels of inequality and chronic underinvestment” in public programs. He reminded the crowd that when “95 percent of all the additional national income in the U.S., since the recovery began in 09, goes to the top one percent, thats not an Occupy Wall Street slogan, thats a fact.”
Gore may have been alluding to the tech economy becoming a significant driver of that inequality.
As Princeton economist Alan Blinder noted in a January Wall Street Journal op-ed, technology is “clearly the major villain” in rising economic inequality, as “e-commerce eliminated many ordinary jobs while enhancing the opportunities and rewards for some extraordinary jobs.” One way to see this is in the app economy, which often rewards billions to companies with a relatively few employees, thus concentrating wealth in fewer hands.
The Wright brothers’ critical insight was the importance of “lateral stability” — that is, wingtip-to-wingtip stability — to flight. And their great innovation was something they called “wing warping,” in which they used a series of pulleys that caused the wingtips on one side of the airplane to go up when the wingtips on the other side were pulled down. That allowed the Wrights’ airplane to make banked turns and to correct itself when it flew into a gust of wind.
But when the Wrights applied for a patent, they didn’t seek one that just covered wing warping; their patent covered any means to achieve lateral stability. There is no question what the Wrights sought: nothing less than a monopoly on the airplane business — every airplane ever manufactured, they believed, owed them a royalty