What does it mean to say that a worker is being paid more than they deserve, or less than they deserve?
Income inequality is widely considered to be one of the most pressing social problems of our time. There is an intuitive sense that the economic pie ought to be carved up in a fairer way, coupled with the assumption that less for some will result in more for others. This post introduces my conference paper on the tension between such distributive concerns on the one hand, and the productivity goals of corporate law on the other.
Some people think work is just drudgery, and they can't wait for the robots to take over so we can all go on a perpetual holiday and never have to do a stitch of work ever again.
This is a post about chiselled features, courage under fire, and rugged individualism. Just kidding. It's a post about competitive markets. But yes, at the end of the day everything on this blog is about individual liberty, otherwise what's the point of it all?
We are all concerned with being paid as much as other people so we can all have the same amount of stuff and feel that life is equal and fair, but we don’t usually worry about the inequality of production, or the fact that some people and nations are far more productive than others.
It is very difficult to stop people from having ideas, or to control them while they’re trying to see if they can make those ideas work. All the more so because most ideas don’t work out in the end – they swallow up a gazillion research dollars and then come to nothing.
The problem with income inequality is that most people don’t like it when others are richer than them. As soon as winter is over and the weather turns pleasant the 99% will take to the streets to riot, burn cars, etc., to show how unhappy they are about some people being billionaires. Of course, the assumption is that billionaires must have done something wrong (cheating, stealing, being greedy, being unfair to other people, etc) to invite public ire.
When you live in Canada, as I currently do, there's no point getting pissed off at all the snow that keeps burying you overnight, so you have to add two or three hours to the start of each day just to have a chance to dig yourself out of your burrow. This is how life is and you just have to get on with it. No point ranting and raving at the elements. It's the same with technological advances. As long as life goes on, there will be new ways of doing things that will replace the old ways and create structural unemployment.
Poor Thomas Stuart. He must have been suffering from a grave mental affliction. Why else would he try to stand on his own two feet and subsist on his own wages, in conditions where he obviously needed help in order to attain a higher standard of living?
Artificial intelligence is good news for skilled workers, and tragic news for unskilled workers. For sufficiently skilled workers, it will increase their productivity and free up time that would otherwise be spent doing large amounts of repetitive work so that they can focus their energies on being creative and innovative and having more fun at work, doing cool stuff. For insufficiently skilled workers, they’ll soon be replaced by robots.