Inequality has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we ought to be conscious about this. Wealthy individuals can work from home and afford to move, while others need to be physically at work and can’t move. As a result the prices of houses outside of cities have risen has more people look for more space to accommodate working from home.
We also know that the suburbs are drivers of regressive political attitudes and horrible environmental damage. We ought to be conscious about this too. Since people want to keep working from home and move further from sustainable infrastructure, what should we do? Over at Fast Company they explore this 2020 conundrum.
As we face aclimate turning pointfor which our post-COVID-19 behaviors are especially crucial, it’s important that higher-income individuals who move outward live in an eco-friendly way, especially when manyessential and lower-wage workersmust stay in cities and, often, climate hotspots. “COVID-19 has illustrated a sad truism: We may all be in the same boat, but we all do not have the same paddles,” Daniel Kammen, the other Berkeley study author, wrote in an email toFast Company. Affluent individuals in New York and San Francisco have the financial means to insulate themselves from climate risks, such as wildfires and unsafe air, by working from home and relocating, he explained. “Multiple properties, often larger suburban and rural homes, and longer delivery chains all mean that individual emissions of the affluent rise when they take the extra precautions they can afford.”
Chuck Feeney became a billionaire by founding and running Duty Free Shoppers, and since he collected his unimaginable wealth he made it a point to give it all away. This month it has been revealed that Feeney successfully gave away billions of dollars to charitable causes and will die an average person like the rest of us. Of course, if there was a wealth tax or similar then he would not have found himself in such an inequitable situation and the money would have been spent democratically. Regardless, it’s good to see that this (now former) billionaire recognized the inequality in our world and did something about it!
Over the last four decades, Feeney has donated more than $8 billion to charities, universities and foundations worldwide through his foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies. When I first met him in 2012, he estimated he had set aside about $2 million for his and his wife’s retirement. In other words, he’s given away 375,000% more money than his current net worth. And he gave it away anonymously. While many wealthy philanthropists enlist an army of publicists to trumpet their donations, Feeney went to great lengths to keep his gifts secret. Because of his clandestine, globe-trotting philanthropy campaign, Forbes called him the James Bond of Philanthropy.
We’ve all heard the refrain that millenials are lazy because they can’t afford to live and that they spend all their money on avocado toast (instead of something useful like diamonds?). The problem isn’t millenials but the world they were born into, crafted by their parents and grandparents. It is up to millenials and subsequent generations to literally clean up the mess. How do we do this though? Step one is admitting that we have a problem, then we can address the core issues causing that problem: unregulated hyper-capitalism. This is what author Malcolm Harris calls for in his newest book, here’s a quote from a recent interview he did with Vox:
I mean, that’s what neoliberalism is, right? We’re all individuals, not members of a class or a community. We’re all economic agents pursuing our self-interest. This is the basis of our whole society right now, and both Republicans and Democrats have signed on to it.
In the book, I talk about an Obama-era education policy that basically seeded this idea that education was all about job preparation. There was no other real justification for it. That puts you on a really dangerous course because that’s all about human capital production, and then you have a system where the schools set out to produce skills in children based on what people who own companies say they want those kids to have, what skills they’ll need from their workers.
So our entire lives are framed around becoming cheaper and more efficient economic instruments for capital. That, taken to an extreme, has pretty corrosive effects on society, particularly young people.
Since the late 1970s (coinciding with the rise of neoliberalism) wages have stagnated while executive pay keeps rising. This has led to inequality being one of the largest issues facing companies and countries in the 21st century. Accordingly, people sick of neoliberalism have been looking into ways to address inequality and the subsequent economic stagnation. One solution is to have workers sit on the board of their employer. This results in better treatment of the workforce while providing more opportunity for growth in efficiencies within the company.
Research has found that the setup reduces worker turnover, boosts salaries and productivity, and supports income equity. Shareholder returns do suffer slightly, but researchers largely agree that tilting the flow of revenue back toward workers is a good thing.
It stands to reason that the concept holds a great deal of sway over the American public. The gulf between CEO and shareholder earnings and that of employees is often as extreme as 25 to one. Wages for regular workers have held largely stagnant over the last three decades, as executive salaries have ballooned. Bringing actual employees to the table where these decisions are made could serve to flatten the cliff between management and workers.
Economic influencers and generally super-rich have occupied Davos, Switzerland this week to discuss how to get wealthier. They also discuss global issues that impact more than just their own wealth. Unsurprisingly interest in climate change and inequality during the Davos meeting increases every year. This year the host of the event, the World Economic Forum (WEF), presented an alternative to the stale measurement of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to assess how well countries are performing. They call it the inclusive development index which takes into consideration income inequality.
The WEF proposes a measure of its own, dubbed the “inclusive development index.” While it takes into account growth, as measured using GDP per capita, employment, and productivity, it also incorporates several other metrics, including gauges of poverty, life expectancy, public debt, median income, wealth inequality and carbon intensity. The index also considers investments in human capital, the depletion of natural resources, and damage caused by pollution.
This is the second year WEF has published the Inclusive Development Index, and the second time Norway has topped the list for advanced economies, scoring highly on all indicators except wealth inequality. Norway’s high rankings on everything from median income and public debt to pollution, suggest that it will be difficult to fulfill Donald Trump’s desire to entice more Norwegians away from their homeland to the US, which ranked 23rd.