Warwick Smith, Senior Economist at Per Capita.
Warwick has an interest in the history and philosophy of economics, meaning he is well placed to provide an insight into the background to our worsening inequality. He has recently co-authored a report into the way that government money disproportionately goes to the wealthy, not to welfare.
Event Series: What do we mean by Equality?
Everywhere we are surrounded by indications of increased inequality in Australian society. But what does "inequality" mean? Are we strictly talking about economic differences in income and wealth? Or do other cultural forms of inequality, eg, class, race, gender, age or disability, also intersect with income and wealth, and if so, how? And what might be the keys to fixing such a complex and politically charged problem as inequality?
These questions form the basis of Victorian Fabians' Autumn Series of events.
Event 1: Inequality of Wealth and Income (Economic)
The causes and solutions to economic inequality are as varied as the number of economists there are to express them. However there is some consensus developing around the idea that disparities in wealth and income deferentially contribute to overall economic inequality, and that this inequality is growing.
Explanations for increasing economic inequality somewhat depend on the politics of the person explaining. Some see globalisation or neoliberal economics as the problem while others see the dismantling of trade unions and diminishing labour power as the culprit. Others have blamed increasing automation eating into routine occupations at many levels of the workforce, including and beyond manufacturing. Piketty suggests that wealth, not income per se, is the problem. Wealth has a tendency to concentrate into a few hands except during times of war and disaster. The wealthy can act to channel more wealth their way. The remedy he suggests, is active redistribution. However in a later essay he says the same causes do not explain income inequality.
Two prominent researchers whose work revolves around understanding economic inequality give insights on how can we explain economic inequality of wealth and income and what can we do to ensure it does not result in ever greater economic and social disparities.