TO BE FAIR, IT’S VOX WE’RE TALKING ABOUT HERE: Pokemon Go Reveals Everything Wrong With Conventional Wonk Thinking.
Because mainstream policy thinkers lack creative ideas for reinvigorating the American economy and helping the middle class, they issue familiar calls for more wealth redistribution and stimulus. We’re not necessarily opposed to a more progressive tax code or demand-boosting policies like infrastructure spending, but neither looks to us like a serious fix for deep structural problems.
A great deal of policy proposals today are rooted in a sense of resignation: capitalism naturally causes inequality, so the best we can do is have the government take more and more from the rich and give more and more to the poor.
That approach bespeaks a lack of imagination and historical awareness. Time and again, doomsayers have bewailed free market; time and again, their fears have proven to be greatly exaggerated. In the late nineteenth century, as the United States transitioned from agriculture to heavy industry, new technologies were making farm hands obsolete and rapid urbanization was creating social disorder and depleting rural communities. But no worried mother in 1890 could imagine that her young children would grow up to become mechanics or telephone operators. Those jobs didn’t exist because automobiles and sophisticated landline infrastructure didn’t exist. In any age, it’s difficult and often impossible to know what the jobs and industries of the future will be.
Instead of simply redistributing wealth and doubling down on short-term stimulus policies, we should be looking at ways to make it easier for people to start businesses and move jobs. Relaxing licensing requirements and confronting the gatekeepers who lobby for them so that more people can compete for jobs in traditionally-protected industries would be a good place to begin. So would faster implementation of portable pension plans. In addition to reforming housing policies in urban centers, we ought to think about how telework can allow more people who don’t live in San Francisco to make money off of the tech boom.
Rather than resigning ourselves to managing “late stage capitalism”, we should be creating a regulatory and commercial framework that can support an information economy. The jobs of the future may be unknowable, but that shouldn’t stop us from imagining and starting to build a country in which they are more likely to be created.
Then again, if all our creative energies are directed toward debating the merits of catching virtual Pikachus instead of toward building a new economic model, humanity may indeed be doomed.
The thing is, redistribution of wealth provides superb opportunities for graft. But it’s fair to assume that any author using the phrase “late stage capitalism” unironically has nothing useful to contribute.