The Economist je cel prejšnji teden gostil debato o tem, ali je kapitalizem lažiran oziroma prirejen sistem v korist elit. Debata je bila motivirana z uvodnimi stališči dveh podobno znanih, vendar osebnostno in svetovnonazorsko diametralno različnih ekonomistov. Jason Furman, profesor na Harvardu, prej pa 8 let eden glavnih in nato zadnja leta glavni ekonomski svetovalcev Baracka Obame, ki se je proslavil predvsem z analizami glede monopsona na trgu dela (dominantna moč delodajalcev nad delojemalci) in analizami povečane monopolizacije v večini panog v zadnjih desetletjih, pravi, da je. Sicer ima pri tem v mislih predvsem ameriški kapitalizem, pri čemer to tezo dokazuje s tem, da zato, ker ameriški kapitalizem daje sistematično socialno slabše rezultate (večja neenakost, manjša medgeneracijska mobilnost, slabša kvaliteta izobraževanja, slabši dostop do kvalitetnih zdravstvenih storitev itd.) od različnih evropskih tipov kapitalizma, mora biti ameriški sistem prirejen v korist elit.
Meni je všeč njegov pristop v medčasovni primerjavi socialnih izidov ameriškega kapitalizma s kazinom. Če je ta isti ameriški kapitalistični kazino dajal pred desetletji socialno bolj ugodne izide kot zdajšnji kazino in če zdajšnji ameriški kapitalistični kazino daje slabše socialne izide kot evropski kapitalistični kazinoji, potem je velika verjetnost, da je ameriški kapitalistični kazino lažiran oziroma prirejen v korist elit.
Na drugi strani debate je Deirdre McCloskey iz univerze Illinois v Chicagu, zelo vokalna neolibertarka in proponentka “prostega trga” oziroma kot se (po spremembi spola) sama imenuje: “postmodern free-market quantitative Episcopalian feminist Aristotelian,” verbalno dokazuje, da to ne drži. Monopolov naj bi bilo danes bistveno manj kot pred 50 do 100 leti. In seveda, danes nam gre bistveno boljše, kar je zasluga povečane inovativnosti “svobodnih” posameznikov. Neenakost pa je posledica tega, da so nekateri bolj sposobni in inovativni. Itak pa inovatorji zase poberejo le 2% družbenih koristi njihovih inovacij, 98% koristi njihovih inovacij uživamo preostali člani družbe.
No, velika, 7 dni trajajoča anketa med bralci The Economista, je pokazala, da tri četrtine tistih, ki so glasovali, meni, da je kapitalizem nasploh (ne samo ameriški) prirejen v korist elit.
Spodaj je uvodno stališče Jasona Furmana, stališče Deirdre McCloskey pa je dosegljivo tukaj.
You walk into a casino and try to figure out whether or not it is rigged. You notice that 1% of the people are winning 20% of all the money. Does this mean that the casino is rigged? It might seem a little suspicious but, then again, talent is not distributed equally, and some people are always luckier than others, so it is not necessarily surprising that a small fraction of the people get most of the winnings.
While looking at the casino’s record books you find that 40 years ago the top 1% were only winning 10% of all the money. This seems more suspicious. Are they that much more talented now or does luck matter that much more? You might also notice that in other casinos in Europe and elsewhere the top 1% is taking more like 9-14% of all the money.
In an attempt to strain the metaphor of the American economy well beyond where it should go, you come back to the casino a generation later and find that the children of the bottom 20% of winners in the previous generation have only a 7% chance of being in the top 20% today, again suspiciously less than in many other countries.
If this casino had a roulette wheel and the house was winning more than about 10% of the money you would infer it was rigged even if you could not observe exactly how it was rigged or who was doing the rigging. Similarly, the outcomes in the American economy are prima facie evidence that it is tilted towards societal elites.
We can, however, observe many of the ways the economy systematically favours the wealthy and powerful. For most people inequality begins at birth. In America one-fifth of four- and five-year-old children do not go to school, putting us 29th in the OECD in this regard—below much poorer countries like Mexico. When the child does eventually enter school, the amount spent per pupil varies from over $28,000 per pupil in rich areas to less than $8,000 per pupil in poorer ones because America has chosen to primarily fund schools at the local level and thus further perpetuate local inequality. A game where the participants have purposefully been given radically different amounts of preparation could be fairly described as rigged.
Then there is the fact that, as Adam Smith observed nearly 250 years ago, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” The fewer businesses engaged in the same trade, the easier it is to collude, either tacitly or explicitly and illegally. And in most trades there are many fewer businesses today: hospitals, beer, railroads, trucking, retail, technology, airlines, and most other categories of the economy. In certain industries this may have been a natural outgrowth of economies of scale, but it is hard to not also see that increased government-sponsored monopolies, through stronger intellectual-property protections, and reduced antitrust enforcement have also played an important role.
The result can be higher prices or worse service for consumers. Witness the cases of air travel and broadband internet. Or it can be lower wages for workers. Witness the illegal collusion that has taken place to lower the wages of nurses and software workers or much more extensive but legal practices, such as non-compete agreements, which help to keep those wages down.
The less cited second half of Smith’s quote is no less important: “[the law] ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary. A regulation which obliges all those of the same trade in a particular town to enter their names and places of abode in a public register, facilitates such assemblies…” The regulations that facilitate collusion and the perpetuation of economic rents do not just come from nowhere. They come from the beneficiaries of those gains. These regulations manifest themselves as overly strong intellectual-property protections, occupational licensing that requires a florist to undertake extensive certification work, or land-use restrictions that keep housing prices high and make it more difficult for more people to move to areas with better jobs, schools and amenities.
Capitalism does not exist in a vacuum. It requires laws that establish property rights, adjudicate disputes, fund public infrastructure and finance all of these inputs. If you look at how elites currently shape the operational rules of capitalism, the outcome of these rules in terms of inequality and low levels of intergenerational mobility, or observe the many specific policies that establish and perpetuate inequality. It is clear that capitalism today could fairly be described as rigged in favour of elites.
Jason Furman, The Economist