The Black-White Wage Gap: How Inequality and Monopoly Amplify Racial Discrimination

Black men’s wages as a percent of White increased rapidly after World War II, only to level off at a bit over 55% after the 1970s. That’s a paradox: If racism causes the Black-White wage gap, how come the gap closed dramatically while Jim Crow laws remained in effect, and then stagnated even as Black education improved and overt racism declined? . . . → Read More: The Black-White Wage Gap: How Inequality and Monopoly Amplify Racial Discrimination

Taxing More from the Rich Is Difficult. This Is How to Do It.

In the March 1 UK Prospect, economist James Galbraith offers the Brits, and us, two proposals to repair a broken economy. The first, unsurprisingly, is a heavy tax on estates, with a high exemption. The second is a land tax. Yes! This was the preferred tax of the classical economists, the one Adam Smith called “the most equitable of all taxes.” This tax—at the extraordinary rate of 4 shillings to the pound or 20%—launched the British Empire in 1692, by funding the British fleet. A land tax is already part of the ordinary property tax. It could be applied to other publicly-created property rights, such as mineral rights, electromagnetic spectrum, corporate charters, and patents. The One Percent own the bulk of such valuable rights, directly or through corporate shares. . . . → Read More: Taxing More from the Rich Is Difficult. This Is How to Do It.

The Big Bean Bubble

In the mini-economy of Beanland, reckless bank lending has caused a crash. Hardly anybody has money to buy beans. The price of beans plummets. To the farmers it looks like there’s a bean surplus. Actually, there’s a deficit in demand for beans. . . . → Read More: The Big Bean Bubble

Garlic, Cancer, and the Public Funding of Scientific Research

Four years ago, in The Mouse That Wouldn’t Die, I described how my husband’s colleague Zheng Cui found some mice in his lab that were naturally immune to cancer. Astonishingly, transferring special white blood cells, granulocytes, from immune mice killed cancer in non-immune mice. It turned out that some humans are also super-immune to cancer. . . . → Read More: Garlic, Cancer, and the Public Funding of Scientific Research

From Germany to America: A Dialog on Inequality

At a coffee break between sessions at a history of economics meeting, I chatted with a young woman professor of political science at a German university. On hearing that I work on inequality, she immediately challenged me: “I don’t believe in equality. Inequality is just a statistic… What matters are policies to improve citizen’s wellbeing, like health or education, not policies to reduce inequality.” . . . → Read More: From Germany to America: A Dialog on Inequality

How Colonies Can Liberate Themselves by Taxing Real Estate

A colony is an area of land belonging mostly to outsiders, who extract more than they put in, hold good property underused, and control local politics. Greece, Haiti and Puerto Rico are colonies. Given the political will, and absent military intervention, colonies can liberate themselves by taxing the land. . . . → Read More: How Colonies Can Liberate Themselves by Taxing Real Estate

Part II Beauty, Cooperation, and the Hadza Hunter-Gatherers

In The Evolution of Beauty, Yale ornithologist Richard Prum focuses on how female choice affects natural selection. Among the brightly-colored neotropical manakins, the females do all the work of raising chicks, while the males contribute only sperm. That gives the females the pick of the males. The males respond by dancing and singing on a common ground called a lek. Some males even dance in cooperative groups; the females mate with the alpha male of the group they pick. Prum says this cooperativeness happens because that’s what females prefer. Among the hunter-gatherer Hadza tribe in Tanzania, as reported by Nicholas Blurton-Jones in Demography and Evolutionary Ecology of Hadza Hunter-Gatherers (2016), the women produce 90% of the food. Hadza men and women are extremely cooperative and non-violent. Could this be due to female choice? . . . → Read More: Part II Beauty, Cooperation, and the Hadza Hunter-Gatherers

The Dissing of Henry George

Henry George (1839–1897) was a journalist, self-educated economist and philosopher, and eventually prominent politician. In 1879 he published Progress and Poverty, which soon became a worldwide bestseller. His followers played a major role in the early 20th Century Progressive movement. How could it happen that if he is remembered at all today, he’s considered a crackpot? . . . → Read More: The Dissing of Henry George

Dead Empires: How China May Overtake the U.S.

“The earth is the tomb of dead empires, no less than of dead men.” Thus wrote the American economist and journalist Henry George in his 1879 worldwide bestseller, Progress and Poverty. Adam Smith had identified cooperation and specialization—“the division of labor”—as the forces that generated economic growth and prosperity. George claimed that those same forces led eventually to collapse, as monopolization of land and other natural resources directed more and more wealth into ever fewer hands. Two astute observers have recently offered complementary predictions of the imminent demise of the American empire, and its replacement by China. . . . → Read More: Dead Empires: How China May Overtake the U.S.

Piketty’s Model of Inequality and Growth in Historical Context, Pt 2

Many individuals helped construct neoclassical economics, often with financial support from the robber barons and their successors. I will focus on two: in the United States, John Bates Clark (1847-1938), and in Europe, Vilfredo Pareto (1848 to 1923). . . . → Read More: Piketty’s Model of Inequality and Growth in Historical Context, Pt 2