Friday, February 05, 2010

The second figure, 23, is the Gini for Sweden, the world’s most egalitarian country. Whereas most of Europe, Canada and Australia have Ginis in the low 30s, the US has over the past several decades developed inequalities usually found only in poor countries with autocratic governments.
So what? Isn’t inequality merely the price of America being No. 1?
“That’s almost certainly false,” Bowles tells SFR. “Prior to about 20 years ago, most economists thought that inequality just greased the wheels of progress. Overwhelmingly now, people who study it empirically think that it’s sand in the wheels.”

"...Suppose instead what we did is this: We said, ‘Look, when somebody turns 18, he gets a quarter of a million dollars and, after that, you’re on your own,’” Bowles says. “Once you’ve got your quarter-million, you’ve got to make a decision: ‘Should I go to college or do I want to start a business?’—which you could do with a quarter of a million.”
And Henry Farrell calls him a leftist. The reason for Sweden's low GINI is the cultural opposition to individualism. Bowles is an American individualist trying to solve problems according to his moral sensibility.

Reading Hermann Broch on the irrationalism at the heart of any value system.

Related to that: when I first heard the terms emics and etics my immediate association given my interests was not "phonemic" and "phonetic" but "poemic" and "poetic". I invented a word on the spot, but one that fits the original meaning just as well, if as I imagined poemics would mean the understanding of the poet, as craftsman, and poetics the understanding of a reader. Bowles practices the poemics of American culture and specifically American economics, generalizing from that subjective "knowledge". My standard example is transportation policy. If all you have is a hammer than everything is a nail, and if all you know is cars then everything's a highway. Individualism is a mythology and public transportation, as foreign, is irrational.
As always, pretty basic. But Broch is a smart man.

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