Archives for posts with tag: progressives

From Thomas Piketty’s new blockbuster:

[I]t seems to me that all social scientists, all journalists and commentators, all activists in the unions and in politics of whatever stripe, and especially all citizens should take a serious interest in money, its measurement, the facts surrounding it, and its history. Those who have a lot of it never fail to defend their interests. Refusing to deal with numbers rarely serves the interests of the least well-off.

(Via Matt Bruenig)

With the “Occupy X” rallies gathering momentum and attention, inequality is suddenly a prominent political issue. It’s pretty clear what people in the US are angry about – their unemployment rate is high, growth prospects are low, inequality is high and rising. Business Insider has a good summary of America’s economic and social problems, in chart form.

It’s important to bear in mind that Australia is not the US. Inequality here is lower than in the US, social mobility is much higher; the unemployment rate is much lower. Whereas real median wages in the US have stagnated for decades, we’ve seen fairly solid real income growth across the income distribution. I think  that Australians who are concerned about rising inequality should be aware of the facts, so as to avoid making overblown and unsubstantiated claims. It’s easy to dismiss people’s arguments if they’re based on a misunderstanding of the facts.

Below, I set out some facts about income inequality (as distinct from wealth inequality, which is quite a bit higher than income inequality in Australia and elsewhere).

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A debate has broken out across various left-leaning policy blogs about the virtues of a technocratic view of politics versus one that revolves around mobilising organised interests. It’s a fascinating discussion about the means and ends of progressive politics. I don’t have much to add to it, but I thought it might be worth linking to some of the key contributions for anyone who has missed the whole back-and-forth.

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