James Surowiecki reminds us that social mobility has never been very great at any time or in any place. But if that is so, he says, then it makes more sense to shift our attention to people's standard of living:
. . . in any capitalist society most people are bound to be part of the middle and working classes; public policy should focus on raising their standard of living, instead of raising their chances of getting rich. What made the U.S. economy so remarkable for most of the twentieth century was the fact that, even if working people never moved into a different class, over time they saw their standard of living rise sharply. Between the late nineteen-forties and the early nineteen-seventies, median household income in the U.S. doubled. That's what has really changed in the past forty years. The economy is growing more slowly than it did in the postwar era, and average workers' share of the pie has been shrinking. It's no surprise that people in Washington prefer to talk about mobility rather than about this basic reality. Raising living standards for ordinary workers is hard: you need to either get wages growing or talk about things that scare politicians, like "redistribution" and "taxes."
True, it's politically easier to talk about mobility than inequality, but that's because we live in a plutocracy. In a genuinely democratic society it shouldn't be so difficult for politicians to raise, much less tackle, the issues that affect the economic well-being of the vast majority of the population.
In an earlier post
I took note of Hard Spell and Evil Dark, two urban fantasy novels by Justin Gustainis. I was very enthusiastic about them, and so I said that I was looking forward to the next title in the series. Well, Known Devil is available now, and it was no disappointment.
Stan Markowski, an officer in the Scranton PD's Occult Crimes Unit, is once again on the case. There's a new drug on the street called Slide, and it's been designed to hook supes, which is a major headache for the OCU, since up to now only goblins have been susceptible to drug addiction. Bombs start going off as out-of-town mobsters try to take over the local action, but the locals aren't going to give up without a fight. It's a turf war between rival gangs of vampires! To make matters worse, there are nefarious developments in local politics as the Patriot Party tries to stir up a race war against supes. In short, life on the mean streets of Scranton is totally FUBAR. Markowski learns, much to his chagrin, the truth of the saying that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know.
I greatly enjoyed Known Devil. It's all in good fun, but once again not really suitable for children because of the graphic adult language. I've read all three books in the series
and I'm ready for more.
If you haven't yet read any of the titles in the series, I recommend that you read them in the order of their publication, i.e., Hard Spell followed by Evil Dark followed by Known Devil. You could read them out of order, but then you'd spoil a few of the surprises.
One last thing. Somebody somewhere must have bought the film rights by now. When can we expect to see Stan Markowski on the big screen?
Thomas B. Edsall discusses Thomas Piketty's forthcoming Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Apparently, Prof. Piketty's book looks at capitalism's tendency to generate inequality of sufficient extremity that it stirs up political dissent and threatens democratic values, or something to that effect.
Here's a video in which Prof. Piketty briefly summarizes his book:
This is definitely a timely book, one that I plan on reading as soon as it becomes available.