People generally appreciate a sense of balance in many things, or perhaps better to say they are suspect in the extremes. As I get older I appreciate this heuristic, this more nuanced and complicated way of looking at the world. In my basic research in parallel computing, scheduling processes “in a balanced way” can equally utilize the available resources and often get the job done most efficiently. A nice, intuitive result.
Recently the economist Thomas Piketty has received praise for his book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I am not an economist, but my understanding is that he provides a detailed model of financial inequality, with substantial data to support this model. Of course, there are those who have issues with this work, but my sense is that this work is generally accepted as accurate and contributing.
The simple answer proposed is “wealth redistribution” to make things more equal. I do not think this is the way to go for many reasons such as the wrong incentives, “punishing actual good behavior,” and others. I also want to note that my instinct tells me to be careful of such a simple answer; the most effective options are often the hardest (but most worthwhile). I do support some tax policy changes to incentivize wealth from actual worth as opposed to simple inheritance-based wealth. I really like Warren Buffett’s take on this issue.
I leave taxes as a solution at the policy level; the mechanisms are beyond my understanding or abilities, but they are important and I hope all government, financial and economic leaders dive in deeply here. What I do know a bit about is the role and impact of education, both personally (i.e., anecdotally), and professionally.
That’s why I was glad to see Fareed Zakaria’s piece on the potential role of education to impact inequality. It is an idea I have thought and felt personally, and believe in professionally. I am the only kid in my family to attend college (my dad did complete college after his military service), and I attended college “to the extreme” (yes, I see the irony here :). I think it is safe to say that my education did provide more of an opportunity for financial stability/success than my siblings, all brothers (another extreme).
My personal beliefs aside, there is evidence of this correlation between education and success. Employers, especially in tech, complain about a lack of skilled workers. There is data and research connecting resources invested in education vs. those spent on imprisonment (dramatic, yes, but thought-provoking).