Zero Shocker

from Peter Radford

What with the World Economic Forum folks wading in on inequality ahead of the annual Davos shindig for the great and beautiful, here’s what Oxfam has to say:

“Global wealth is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of a small wealthy elite … These wealthy individuals have generated and sustained their vast riches through their interests and activities in a few important economic sectors, including finance and pharmaceuticals/healthcare. Companies from these sectors spend millions of dollars every year on lobbying to create a policy environment that protects and enhances their interests further.”

Moreover Oxfam predicts that the top 1% will have more wealth than the bottom 99% by about 2016. Here’s their chart:

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There’s no shock, is there?

The odd thing is that even though people are talking endlessly about inequality, very little is being done. Is this because, as Oxfam tells us, that the rich and beautiful are able to stifle the debate? Is it ineptitude on the part of our leadership? Is it outright corruption? Whatever it is, it remains undeniable that inequality looms larger than ever as both an economic and a political issue.

More to the point, for me at least, the collective known as the economics profession is all over the lot on the inequality. Instead of staying with the meta theme that inequality is clearly an concern, economists, as is their wont, tend to dive into the weeds and study endless theoretic details, offer widely contradictory opinions, and engage in fruitless picayune discussions that move the debate not an inch forward. This great cloud of dust raised by economists is familiar to the profession, but can be deeply disappointing to outsiders. After all if the profession within whose remit inequality appears to reside best cannot present a coherent critique, who can?

No wonder the rich and beautiful continue along their merry way.

And no wonder that regular people remain frustrated with the ever greater distance between what they need economic policy to be and what it turns out as.

  1. Marko
    January 21, 2015 at 1:21 am

    QE – infinity , aka GWST ( Global Wealth Share Targeting ) is working , beautifully.

    Truly a tribute to the economics profession. Take a bow , folks !

  2. Rhonda Kovac
    January 21, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    “Inequality” is not the right word to characterize this issue. The term was hand-picked by politicians exactly for the reasons discussed in this post, namely that no one can quarrel with incomes being ‘unequal’, plus–and more importantly–plausible sounding arguments defending ‘inequality’ can always be contrived.

    The real issue is not ‘inequality’ of wealth at all. It’s the systematic and institutionalized theft of wealth by the rich from everyone else, resulting in massive poverty and destitution. Inequality is only one indicator of that theft. To treat inequality as the primary issue puts the ball in the wrong court, as if we somehow are obligated to prove that it is the inequality that is causing the theft.

    We should instead be calling a spade a spade–speaking rather of unfairness and theft and injustice–and put the ball in the right court.

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