Again a majestic article from FT columnist John Kay.
It applies to our times, insofar as it raises the right questions… What about the solutions?
As the author of Obliquity, Master Kay remains very oblique indeed.
I believe everyone will take out of this punchy text what he/she wants to extract…
For me, who believes “scientific selfishness” should end to be the hegemonic paradigm of so much questionable science, there is only one questions that remains:
How can we rebalance the power structure of global society?
Indeed, I find it difficult to imagine trying to set up any balanced way of measuring the “marginal contribution” of each of us to global society? And certainly not now, at a time where the balance of power is so imbalanced.
What are the solutions once the power structures have been rebalanced? This might usher the design of real plural democratic institutions! How? Everyone gets truly listened to, and his/her ideas truly accounted for. Then and then only, it seems to me, will we all discover how close we are to a renewed view of our shared Humanity. Utopia?
Our business here is to be Utopian, to make vivid and credible, if we can, first this facet and then that, of an imaginary whole and happy world.
H.G. WELLS, A Modern Utopia
Why the rioters should be reading Rousseau
Two broad economic theories describe the allocation of income and wealth. The power theory states, broadly, that people get what they grab: from the forest, the markets, or the shop window. The distribution of income reflects the distribution of power. For most of history, this was plainly true – the landlord took what he could from the tenant, the baron what he could from the landlord, and the king what he could from everyone. The sixth Duke of Muck was rich because the first Duke of Muck had been an especially successful gang leader. The alternative theory is that what people earn reflects their marginal productivity – how much they personally add to the value of goods and services. The marginal productivity theory has many attractions, especially to those who are well paid: if what they receive is a product of their own efforts, their rewards are surely well deserved.
A recent survey of children – by Sky television, of all organisations – showed that their career aspirations, once directed towards professions, were now aimed at celebrity. They hoped to be pop stars or footballers, not teachers or doctors. They wanted – like the sixth Duke of Muck – respect: to be valued for what they were, not for what they had contributed. Children, of course, tell adults what they want to hear. But adults’ expectations are further confirmation of how economic and social values have been eroded.