Here's a fascinating profile on radical Santa Fe Institute economist Samuel Bowles, an empiricist who says his research doesn't support the Chicago School efficient marketplace hypothesis. Instead, Bowles argues that the wealth inequality created by strict market economics creates inefficiencies because society has to devote so much effort to stopping the poor from expropriating the rich. He calls this "guard labor" and says that one in four Americans is employed to in the sector -- labor that could otherwise be used to increase the nation's wealth and progress.
The greater the inequalities in a society, the more guard labor it requires, Bowles finds. This holds true among US states, with relatively unequal states like New Mexico employing a greater share of guard labor than relatively egalitarian states like Wisconsin.
The problem, Bowles argues, is that too much guard labor sustains "illegitimate inequalities," creating a drag on the economy. All of the people in guard labor jobs could be doing something more productive with their time--perhaps starting their own businesses or helping to reduce the US trade deficit with China.
Guard labor supports what one might call the beat-down economy. Community Action's Porter sees it all the time.
"We have based almost everything we have done on the idea that we always need a part of our workforce that is marginalized--that we can call this group into action at any time, pay them nothing and they will do anything that needs to be done," she says.
More discouraging, perhaps, is the statistical fact that a person born into this workforce has little chance of rising beyond it.
That point of light between Saturn’s rings is Earth, captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on April 12. More about the image here at NASA JPL. It reminds me of the last photo taken by the Voyager I spacecraft before engineers shut off its imaging systems. Carl Sagan had persuaded NASA to turn Voyager I’s cameras […]
As AI improves, the mystery of consciousness interests more programmers and physicists.
Most of us need a computer interface implanted in our brains like we need a hole in our head. That said, there are benefits to bridging the gap between mind and machine. Joel Murphy is the founder of OpenBCI, an inexpensive, and non-invasive, brain-computer interface (BCI) platform. People have used OpenBCI to control robots, compose […]
Even the most expensive pair of hi-fi headphones can’t match the feeling of bass rumbling through your body at a live show. That’s why music aficionados designed The Basslet, an accessory that reproduces that sensation from your wrist. Does it make your whole body shake with deep subs? Not really, because that would be terrifying, but […]
They probably just sleep a lot. But still, you can remotely keep an eye on them when you’re at work and missing them deeply with this HD monitor from Kodak.If you have a new puppy that destroys everything in sight, or you just want to be a little more security-conscious, this WiFi camera is a […]
Thinking of a business idea is the easy part. Doesn’t even have to be a “good” idea, you can still get people to throw money at a non-existent venture, but to do that you need to at least have something even resembling a viable business plan. Why doesn’t anyone do it then? Because building that semi-viable […]