Monday, February 25, 2008

Inneqaulity in the US.

Economics is flawed, at least as currently practiced. Currently markets are used quite effectively to carry out the key function of resource distribution. States cannot do this, as the Soviets so convincingly illustrated. However, distribution of economic resources is not the only problem that we need to solve.

If you are a traditional economist then the two areas of concern are:

  • Distribution of resources efficiently. (this gets all the atention at present)
  • Allocation of wealth. (Ineqaulity in excess leads to low economic productivity)

If you are an ecological economist then these two issues are joined by a third

  • Scale. (if the physical limits of the planet are to be considered there is an optimum scale for the economy; with a given distribution and allocation pattern a variety of standards of life are possible depending on scale)

This is best explained by means of an analogy:

Boat's have a plimsol line. You can add goods to the vessel untill the water reaches this level. If you are careful and distribute the goods evenly over the vessel you may carry more than if the weight is to one side. The weight is analagous to the economic activity, the boat our planets carrying capacity and the distribution is the perfect distribution of resources in the economy.

We can stretch this analogy further to cover inneqaulity. It is well known that a unit of wealth for very poor is more productive than for the wealthy. If you give a poor farmer $500 dollars he may be able to transform his livelihood, the same can not be said for a millionaire. So if we imagine not a deck with goods to be sifted around but a series of decks where goods on the higher decks represent the wealthy we can see that this to destabilises our boat. The higher the centre of gravity the more the boat rocks, even if the load is even and not great the plimsol line will be diping into the water and tising far above.

When dealing with envieronmental issues we must embrace economics. We must say, what a facinating system, let us set it a new challange. Having largely solved distribution let us then look at scale and allocation. We must fight inneqaulity and population growth as we promote innovation and eco-efficiency.

All of this is important not only in terms of comming to grips with communal challanges but also in terms of getting such a movement off the ground. Ineqaulity has many associated malodies, it does not emerge out of thin air and the related social issues of insecurity and lack of trust are certain to promote reactionary, defencive politics not a generous progressive agenda.



The video bellow covers the current economic state of play in the US.



Panel discussants:

Alan Krueger, the Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Policy and Director of the Survey Research Center at the Woodrow Wilson School;

Douglas Massey, the Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at the School;

Viviana Zelizer, the Lloyd Cotsen '50 Professor of Sociology at Princeton.

Moderator:

Stan Katz, Lecturer with rank of Professor of Public and International Affairs
Faculty Chair, Undergraduate Program

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1 Comments:

At 9:14 PM, Blogger Calvin Jones said...

Panel discussants:
- Alan Krueger, the Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Policy and Director of the Survey Research Center at the Woodrow Wilson School
- Douglas Massey, the Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at the School
- Viviana Zelizer, the Lloyd Cotsen '50 Professor of Sociology at Princeton.

Moderator: Stan Katz, Lecturer with rank of Professor of Public and International Affairs, Faculty Chair, Undergraduate Program, Director, Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, Director, Fellowship of Woodrow Wilson Scholars

(Feb 5, 2008 at Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs)

Alan Krueger’s primary research and teaching interests are in the general areas of labor economics, education, industrial relations, economics of terrorism, and social insurance. He is the author of Education Matters: A Selection of Essays on Education, co-author of Myth and Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage, and a member of the Editorial Board of Science. His current research projects include a study of the effect of economic growth and poverty on terrorism, a study of the effect of school vouchers on student achievement, and research on new measures of well being.

Douglas Massey’s research focuses on international migration, race and housing, discrimination, education, urban poverty, and Latin America, especially Mexico. He is the author, most recently, of Return of the L-Word: A Liberal Vision for the New Century (Princeton University Press, 2005) and Strangers in a Strange Land: Humans in an Urbanizing World (Norton, 2005). He is currently president of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences and past-president of the American Sociological Association and the Population Association of America.

Viviana Zelizer has taught at Rutgers University, Barnard College and Graduate Faculty of Columbia University, and Princeton University (1988-), as well as holding appointments at the Institute for Advanced Study, Russell Sage Foundation, and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Her main research is in the field of economic sociology and in particular, the various interpretations and social meanings of money. She has chaired the Princeton Department of Sociology, chaired the economic sociology section of the American Sociological Association, and served on numerous editorial boards. She's currently a member of the Paris School of Economics' Scientific Council. She has held fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Rockefeller Foundation.


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