Consider two plausible assumptions: Within a few centuries, “immortality” goes on sale. That is, if you pay enough, and your body is of a convenient type (e.g., android), then you can buy backups and replacement parts, and keep functioning indefinitely. (At least until correlated failures hit all your backups at once). Most folks, however, may be unable to afford the price.
How economic inequality harms societies: http://www.ted.com/talks/ri...
I don't see the future, or even the present, as being about capitalist meritocracy. The market is subordinate to culture, politics, and law. In an era of artificial intelligence and invasive neuroscience, the human race will either end up as a communist borganism, a posthuman hierarchy, or even as a communist borganism serving a posthuman hierarchy. (Or maybe I'm just projecting the present on the future.)
I'm not against inequality per se. I'm against unhappiness. It just happens that, given a constant amount of resources, distributing them about evenly maximizes happiness. Giving people a higher proportion of resources because of their merit, assuming total resources stay constant, still reduces net happiness. The advantage to such inequality is that it tends to create more resources. You have to balance it so that the marginal benefits of increased incentive equal the marginal costs of inequality.
Also, wealth insurance wouldn't work very well. You will tend to be more likely to buy it if you know you'll generate less wealth than you appear to at first. The top 10% wouldn't buy it, followed by the top 10% of the bottom 90%, etc. Also, it would case the same disincentives to work that normal wealth distribution would.
"proportional growth of the world and the richest by a factor of twenty, roughly what we achieved in the twentieth century" does not sound correct to me. The world part, yes. "The rich" as a large group, probably true as well.
But the single richest person in history is still probably Rockefeller Sr, who was several times richer than anyone today. Other gilded age entrepreneurs like Carnegie and Vanderbilt were also richer than anyone today. Later on, Ford was as well.
This makes Tyler's story seem likely to me.
US equality then and now! Slaves sold from Africa then. Slaves sold by traffickers now. Equal! Wealth is behind this. Wealth is behind every devious action taken. Ponzi. Trafficking. Pedophilia. You name it. Wealth degrading equality. The failed "trickle down" of wealth hasn't trickled. The wealthy get wealthier. Poor get poorer. Charity is given, not deducted from your income tax
I too have a propensity towards techy, self-made billionaire fanboyishness.
But I don't let my freak flag fly the way you do, Prof. Hanson.
I intuit that we want resources to go to those best able to administer them against our existential risk -- not to those individuals who "merit" them due to lifelong ability to accumulate wealth. I do think there's going to be a tension there, that they're not going to be the exact same population. It's a fair niggle that redistributive inefficiencies in a proportion of situations will mean the cost-benefit of non-market redistribution doesn't pass cost-benefit analysis -that we'll sometimes have lower existential risk by not redistributing from the self-made to particular existential risk minimizing programs. But I think that's an empirical question for the relevant expert communities to determine.
So beware tech billionaire fanboyishness biasing you away from optimized existential risk minimization.
terminal values = individual evolutionary goals/specific intelligenceoptimization power = individual general intelligencecreativity/signals = individual representational system
memes = social goalsmoney = social optimization powernarratives/art = memetic representation/signaling
The key analogy here is that money is 'social optimization power'. It is the 'social engine' or 'GO' (social motive force for memes) as drug dealers call it. You don't want to be putting too much optimization power in any one persons hands.
Off-topic, but a recent paper argues that people with power but not status are the most prone to demeaning others. Hat-tip to Balko.
Hanson already specified; equality of wealth.
I think that you are right about the two problems with billionaires, but you see them as adding up rather than canceling out. In practice, most of what the rich spend on is status competition VIA creating more value via business. Poor people buy diamonds to show off, but huge diamonds are just gaudy. Billionaires can only really compete for status via display of art collections, public art, charity projects, and making more money, all of which are positive sum games and underprovided public goods.
Ideally, we would want near equality in wealth as consumption but massive disparities in wealth as power corresponding to who wanted and cared about power, but we wouldn't want all power in the hands of a few people. A basic income of $100 per capita per day with good anti-monopoly law and almost all wealth in the hands of people with $5M to $500M seems ideal to me.
That's a great way to put it. Basically, massive wealth inequality produces the same problems as communism.
It would effectively eliminate the law against perpetuities which would make for a very different world. Imagine a city with a farm in the center because it appeals to the sensibilities of the original and still existing owner. What charities would be worth contributing to at that point beyond education and science? Think of culture with significant portions frozen in time. Perhaps change itself would be rejected to preserve the past and a caste system be established to make it permanent. It doesn't sound inviting.
If I am "immortal", will I even care about offspring?
The question of desert is less relevant than the question of welfare, imho. I welcome inequality if and only to the degree to which it is useful (for general welfare). Are billionaires useful? Will trillionaires be useful?
"were nevertheless able to get rich because of the mostly public/govt institutions that build the infrastructure on which their businesses rely, educate their workers, etc."
The trouble is that given our tax structure and the percentage of it paid by the "rich", they're the ones who paid for all of those things, so the question of whether wealth is deserved is less complicated than you think. Should people who paid for something not be permitted to enjoy it's benefits? I should note that I agree much of banking industry profits involve rent seeking, primarily because of government regulation.
I recognize that some people have a problem with inequality in and of itself; greed and envy are normal human behaviors. All I ask is that we stop hiding behind sanctimonious nonsense like "problem with inequality" and call that "problem" what it really is.