Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Two Forces Changing Everyday Life for the Better!

I'm always a bit perplexed when I hear folks lament the ills of modern society. They tell tales of a hollowed out middle class and of increased poverty at home and abroad. All the while I know that they, in their own communities, see what I see as I meander along the trails in my own neck of the woods; which vividly illustrate for me that while life in 21st Century America ain't perfect, it certainly ain't all that bad either. 

Now I don't expect most folks to closely monitor the hard and soft economic data published the world over (life in 21st Century everywhere else is looking up as well), as my vocation demands, but I can't get how the lamenters are not forever awestruck, as am I, by the life improvements for folks on every rung of the economic ladder that arrive on a virtual daily basis at the hands of the world's technological and entrepreneurial geniuses.

Steven Pinker, in his most enlightening 2018 book Enlightenment Now, explains what's underneath what I'm seeing:
"Income is just a means to an end: a way of paying for things that people need, want, and like, or as economists gracelessly call it, consumption. When poverty is defined in terms of what people consume rather than what they earn, we find that the American poverty rate has declined by ninety percent since 1960, from 30 percent of the population to just 3 percent. The two forces that have famously increased inequality in income have at the same time decreased inequality in what matters. The first, globalization, may produce winners and losers in income, but in consumption it makes almost everyone a winner. Asian factories, container ships, and efficient retailing bring goods to the masses that were formerly luxuries for the rich. (In 2005 the economist Jason Furman estimated that Walmart saved the typical American family $2,300 a year.) The second force, technology, continually revolutionizes the meaning of income (as we saw in the discussion of the paradox of value in chapter 8). A dollar today, no matter how heroically adjusted for inflation, buys far more betterment of life than a dollar yesterday. It buys things that didn’t exist, like refrigeration, electricity, toilets, vaccinations, telephones, contraception, and air travel, and it transforms things that do exist, such as a party line patched by a switchboard operator to a smartphone with unlimited talk time."

1 comment:

  1. Underlying all that prosperity is capital in the service of technology and innovation. No capital, all those great ideas sit idle...