March 22, 2018

Retooling the American Dream

Rags to richesHumble beginnings. Came from nothing.
For decades, a particular archetype of success has dominated the American imagination. From The Great Gatsby to the glamorization of entrepreneurship, American culture has preferred rugged individualism as its national narrative.
But a new genre is emerging, one that suggests that the American Dream needs retooling in the face of structural impediments that make its promise unattainable to all but a select few. Somewhat strangely, the new genre is being created at least partly by those who arguably have benefited the most from the current system.

Does This Seem Fair?

Should America begin to question its tradition of uncritically celebrating extreme economic success? Yes, according to Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes (arguably the poster child of extreme economic success).Hughes' new book, Fair Shot, provides a unique perspective on his own meteoric rise and the inequality it perpetuates. Hughes recognizes his privilege and the systematic inequalities that helped him drastically out-earn 99% percent of America. His solution to the gap? Universal basic income. Learn how he proposes to make that fairytale concept into reality.


It may be tempting to put this impressive crystal-ball study from Bain & Co in the TL;DR pile. But spare a few minutes for at least a quick scan: there are some important takeaways in here about the mashup of automation and demographics, both of which may contribute to persistent inequality. Repeated themes like "the end of plentiful labor" and the impact on growth of "rising inequality" may add up to the ominous-sounding Great Transformation. Let's hope they're wrong.

How's It Going Down There?

Even Wall Street is concerned about inequality. We've posted this piece by Bridgewater Associates honcho Ray Dalio before, but we are giving it a reprise because it does such a good job of explaining the math of inequality. Dalio breaks down the split between the top 40 and bottom 60 percent, giving a fresh look at the prospects for the actual average American.

The Permanent Rich

Five years ago, Thomas Picketty’s bestseller Capital in the 21st Century influenced a lot of people’s thinking about wealth inequality in the US. In this podcast, economics professors Kate Waldock and Luigi Zingales sit down to discuss the insights and short-comings of his seminal work. In their own words, it’s time to get “persnickety about Picketty.” 

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