Ted Conference on Inequality


Wilkinson makes a compelling argument for why inequality produces economic inefficiency. The central assumption is that equality is no longer an end in and of itself but rather a way of increasing efficiency, and making society better. He uses data that is widely accepted but should be looked at with skepticism as he draws strong correlations between data while that data could feasibly be used to justify alternative arguments as well. In this lecture, he undervalues the concept of innovation through desperation which states that inequality, under the right circumstances, appears to be correlated with inventions, patents etc that great ideas are developed most often during recessions, or that people tend to wait until they really have to do something before they act; for example, write a university paper at the last minute. Only in a society where desperation, and inequality is higher do we see such a high number of patents as exemplified by the USA. The United States was an environment which created Google, Facebook, WordPress, and even the TED conference, so an innovative society versus a more equal one debate must take into account the sacrifice of either/or before we prescribe what appears to be an obvious policy. Admittedly, these patent numbers might be due to the cultural traditions of individualism, competition and the belief in an abstract “American dream….” Maybe the number of patents is shaped by access to patent offices, as absurd as that might sound. Perhaps the relative size of the US versus Germany or Japan might shape these numbers; although the US is still ahead (US 310mil= 6,666:1 patents per pop) versus (GR 84mil= 5,000:1 patents per pop) or (JP 124mil=4100:1 patents per pop) OR maybe Japan has low incidents of certain crimes because they do not report them as per some cultural traditions. Perhaps Japan’s success as a more equal healthier society are contingent on other factors other than equality. It’s complicated….Just a thought.

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