Bill Gates' net worth hits $90B, proving Thomas Piketty's point

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When Thomas Piketty published his 2013 book Capital in the 21st Century, he said that capitalism's primary beneficiaries aren't those who make amazing things that improve the world (as its proponents claim) -- rather, it favors those who have a lot of money to begin with. Read the rest

Afterbrexit: Scotland trolls Theresa May by passing laws she has ridiculed

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The Brexit vote split firmly along the Scottish-English border, with the Scottish Remain vote leaving no doubt that the region wanted to stay in the EU; it's just the latest in a series of ever-more-obvious examples of the political incompatibility of the Scottish electorate with English Toryism. Read the rest

Whuffie would be a terrible currency

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My latest Locus column, Wealth Inequality Is Even Worse in Reputation Economies, explains the ways in which "reputation" makes a poor form of currency -- in a nutshell, reputation doesn't fulfill most of the roles we expect from currency (store of value, unit of exchange, unit of account), and it is literally a popularity contest where the rich always get richer. Read the rest

Tim O'Reilly schools Paul Graham on inequality

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Y Combinator founder and essayist Paul Graham's essay on the inevitability -- and desirability -- of income inequality sparked many scathing rebuttals, some of them quite brilliant, but the best so far comes from Tim O'Reilly, one of technology's towering figures. Read the rest

Independent economists: TPP will kill 450,000 US jobs; 75,000 Japanese jobs, 58,000 Canadian jobs

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Proponents of the secretly negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership -- which lets companies force governments to get rid of their labor, environmental and safety rules in confidential tribunals -- say it's all worth it because it will deliver growth and jobs to the stagnant economies of the rich world. Read the rest

Delhi's "Sleep Mafia" control the nights of 100,000 homeless workers

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With an estimated 100,000 homeless people living on the streets of Delhi, and 18,000 shelter beds, the city's nighttime sidewalks are the only bed for tens of thousands of workers. Read the rest

The world's richest 62 people have as much wealth as half the rest

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Just 62 people own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world together. Of this elite, 52 are men. Moreover, the richest 1 percent now own more than the other 99 percent.

The numbers come from UK-based anti-poverty charity Oxfam, which reports rising inequality worldwide just in time for this year's Davos.

But the divisions go far beyond those that exist between the haves and have-nots. In the Middle East, the divide between Shi'ites and Sunnis has reached crisis point, with Iran and Saudi Arabia jostling openly for influence in a region reeling from war and the barbarism of Islamic extremists.

The conflicts there have spilled over into Europe, causing deep ideological rifts over how to handle the worst refugee crisis since World War Two and - with Britain threatening to leave the European Union - raising doubts about the future of Europe's six-decade push towards ever closer integration.

The shock emergence of Donald Trump as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has exposed a gaping political divide in the United States, stirring anxiety among Washington's allies at a time of global turmoil.

Read the rest

Why Americans can't stop working: the poor can't afford to, and the rich are enjoying themselves

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Ever since Keynes's seminal 1930 paper Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren predicted that technological progress would virtually eliminate work by making labor much more productive, economists have puzzled over why Americans' working hours have gotten longer and longer, until they are some of the longest in the world. Read the rest

The more unequal your society is, the more your laws will favor the rich

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Political scientists and economists who've undertaken peer-reviewed research into policy outcomes have concluded that all over the world, and at every level of government, wealth inequality is correlated with corrupt policy-making in which politicians create laws and regulations that favor the rich at the expense of the wider public. Read the rest

Tragic rabies death in China

A 41-year-old Chinese man died from a rabies infection that he picked up in an attempt to save his son from the disease. The boy was bitten by a rabid dog. The father sucked blood out of the wound in hopes it would remove any poison. The family ended up taking the boy in for shots, anyway, but the father turned them down, largely because of the cost. Read the rest

Mark Dery on Trayvon Martin

Mark Dery on his essay about the death of Trayvon Martin: "It’s a polemic, it’s cultural criticism, it’s Southern Gothic in the greasy faced, lynching-postcard mode, it’s the muck that came up when I dredged the deepest, darkest places in the river bottom of the American psyche." Of course it is. From the essay, titled "Skin in the Game," over at Thought Catalog:
Americans hate history lessons because Americans hate history.

It’s the dead weight of centuries, jettisoned (we thought) when we left Europe, a drag coefficient on forward movement. And who doesn’t want to move forward in this land of boundless opportunity, bullish investors, consumer confidence, housing starts, Achieving Your Personal Best, and if all else fails, Reinventing Yourself?

But history, especially the night terrors of slavery and Reconstruction and the century after, refuse to stay buried. There are so many rooms in this old house, some of them bricked up, others perfectly preserved, visions of antique elegance and gentility except for those unsettling spatter patterns, not quite faded, on the cabbage-rose wallpaper.

I’m old enough to remember driving through Mississippi in 1965, the year of the Bloody Sunday march on Selma, two years after Medgar Evers’s murder, one year after the slaying of the CORE field workers by the Klan. I was five, a white middle-class kid nose-deep in his comic books, oblivious to current events, but I’ve never forgotten a non-event that was somehow eventful…

"Skin in the Game: An American Gothic, in Black and White" Read the rest

Income inequality can be seen from space

How? It's surprisingly simple. Turns out, demand for trees in neighborhoods behaves a lot like a luxury item, as opposed to a basic necessity.

Tim De Chant at The Per Square Mile blog wrote about research on this a couple of weeks ago. Then, he went out and found examples, using images from Google Earth. Read the rest