Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Two Consequences of "Winner Take All" Societies

Tim Harford — Article — The lost leisure time of our lives
"The economic elites, meanwhile, continue to embody a paradox: all the income gains that Keynes expected and more, but limited leisure. 
The likely reason for that is that, in many careers, it’s hard to break through to the top echelons without putting in long hours. It is not easy to make it to the C-suite on a 20-hour week, no matter how talented one is. And because the income distribution is highly skewed, the stakes are high: working 70 hours a week like it’s 1830 all over again may put you on track for a six-figure bonus, while working 35 hours a week may put you on track for the scrapheap. 
The consequences of all this can emerge in unexpected places. As a recent research paper by economists Lena Edlund, Cecilia Machado and Maria Micaela Sviatschi points out, urban centres in the US were undesirable places to live in the late 1970s and early 1980s. People paid a premium to live in the suburbs and commuted in to the city centres to work. The situation is now reversed. Why? The answer, suggest Edlund and her colleagues, is that affluent people don’t have time to commute any more. They’ll pay more for cramped city-centre apartments if by doing so they can save time."
The above (long) quote is yet another piece of evidence in regards to the direction the world seems to be headed. That is a direction that rewards people at the very edge of their fields in ever smaller numbers, while the rest are automated, outsourced, or otherwise paid very minimal wages due to replaceability.

I see this as having two immediate consequences that all (young) people should be aware of.

First, recognizing that innovation and knowledge creation are likely to continue to garner the highest rewards makes understanding creativity, mastery, and expertise that much more important. If you can't get to the edge of the field through massive time and energy investments in gaining expertise, you will probably be one of the people automated, outsourced, or paid minimally. This is important to know. Choose appropriately how you spend your time and energy.

Second, deciding on what kind of society we should have becomes vastly more critical. If the majority of financial rewards will go to a smaller and smaller percentage of working people, while the majority of working people continue to earn relatively less over time, then creating societal norms around giving back and taking care of the less privileged becomes even more important.

It's a statistical fact that not everyone will be in the one percent regarding intelligence, physical prowess, creativity, or ability to persist on difficult work for decades at a time. For people not born with these outlier abilities through no fault of their own, it seems only right to care for them as a society. After all, it is society that allows the outliers to prosper in the first place, therefore, society should be entitled to many of those rewards.

This makes education aimed at caring, compassion, and inclusivity that results in citizens willing to engage and vote in elections to the benefit of all one of the most pressing issues of our time.

1 comment:

  1. Well said Kyle! The depth of your mind and thought processes continue to amaze me and your writing compels me to think more in depth about values & ideals I embrace and decisions I have made over the years to determine if change within my world, of this journey called life, should be eminent.