Commentary (7)

 

 

Challenging Economist Worldview

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Through the Eyes of Yankelovich

Challenging the Economist Worldview

In a recent New York Times article, the noted American economist Tyler Cowen challenged one of the truisms of economic theory: the assumption that it is just a matter of time before technological innovation replaces all the jobs that it destroys. Economists have taken this assumption for granted ever since Britain proved the Luddite challenge unfounded in the late 18th century. The Luddites wanted to destroy the new machines that they felt were destroying their jobs. But as time passed, technology came to be seen as a mighty creator as well as destroyer of jobs.

A Debate with Large Consequences

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Through the Eyes of Yankelovich

A Debate with Large Consequences

In industrialized nations we are in the early stages of one of the most important debates in our lifetime:
• Is growing income inequality inevitable or susceptible to change?
• If it is inevitable, what should we do to reduce its harmful effects?
• If it is susceptible to change, what actions should we take to restore greater fairness to our economies? Starting in the 1970s, and accelerating after the Great Recession of 2007-8, income of those at the top of the scale grew enormously, while wages for the middle and bottom parts of the scale stagnated.

It wasn’t until the gifted French economist Thomas Piketty published his masterful book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” that a serious and thoughtful debate about inequality trends began in earnest. The book has caught the attention of the industrialized nations for several reasons.

Through the Eyes of Yankelovich

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Through the Eyes of Yankelovich

Tokyo 5

In the coming months, people in America and Japan should expect a lot of discussion on a topic that may at first glance seem like technical economics, but is in fact a red-hot political issue whose consequences are hard to exaggerate.

The topic is whether or not our capitalist systems are undergoing a lasting structural change. Are we inadvertently shifting from forms of capitalism that are compatible with political democracy to forms that are undemocratic?

Standing Up To Culture

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Standing Up To Culture

By Daniel Yankelovich


IN a changing world, Japan and the United States face similar challenges even though our histories and cultures are very different. In both nations, the influence of tradition and culture is wearing thin while individual choice grows stronger. This places a heavy burden of responsibility on the individual, more than most people are comfortable with.

In late September, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe wrote an editorial in The Wall Street Journal 1, titled “Unleashing the Power of Womenomics.” He out- lined a series of policies for which the dual purpose is to boost women in the workforce significantly and thereby also raise fertility rates.

Prime Minister Abe is well aware that combining these two goals runs counter to the long-held belief that female participation in the labor force lowers fertility rates. He cites a number of government policies that would make his twin goals compatible. These include: expanded day-care and nursing-care services, flexible work arrangements and better pay for women.

文化への抵抗
ダニエル・ヤンケロビッチ

この変化の時代にあって、日本と米国は、歴史的文 化的背景が大いに異なるとはいえ、似たような問

題 に直面している。日米のいずれでも、伝統と文 化がすたれつつある一方で、個人の選択が優先されるよ うになっている。この流れにより、多くの人が望む以上 に個人に重い責任がのしかかっている。 この秋、ウォール・ストリート・ジャーナル紙に安部 晋三首相の寄稿があった。タイトルは「安部総理、ウィ メノミクスのパワーを解き放つ」。女性の雇用を大幅に増 やし出生率上昇を促す一連の政策をまとめたものだ。

この2つの目標を掲 げることが、女性の雇用増は出生率 を下げるという長く正しいとされてきた論理に反するこ とを、安部首相は十分承知している。そのうえで彼は、 この2つの目標を両立させるための多くの政策に言及し ている。デイケアや介護サービスの拡大、柔軟な就労形態、 女性の賃金増などである。

A Philosophical View of the Economy

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THE British philosopher A.N. Whitehead had many wise things to say about business and society. One of his wisest observations was his statement that a great society is one in which its busi- ness leaders “think greatly of their functions.” When they fail, Whitehead concludes, the consequences are “orgies of exploitation” followed by “a descending standard of living.”

This philosophical way of thinking about business and society is strikingly different from the dominant view of economists and politicians. They favor a more technical picture of economies operating in accord with impersonal laws. In this view economies are semi-autonomous entities obeying laws that are independent of the norms, mores and characters of the societies in which they are embedded. The moral vision of the nation’s business leaders carries little economic weight.

Rethinking the MBA

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Rethinking the MBA

 

As the global financial crisis has subsided, some business schools have added one or two courses on ethics to their MBA programs. The courses are mostly an afterthought. The thinking behind them is: “Our financial institutions have behaved badly, so maybe it would be a good idea to add a touch of ethical instruction to the curriculum.” Nothing could be more revealing of the mindset of our economic thinkers than that business ethics has become a sideshow, an add-on, an extra frill.

The prevailing view of the economy as a giant autonomous mechanism following inexorable laws is a highly abstract, quasi-scientific conception. Like the laws of gravity, there isn’t much room for ethics. But, in fact, this prevailing view conflicts sharply with how we actually experience the economy in our day-to-day encounters.

The Hungarian philosopher Karl Polanyi emphasized the importance of what he called “tacit knowledge,” or non-conscious knowledge that accumulates from our experience with ideas, objects, people or institutions without our being fully aware of it.

A PROBLEM NOT CONFINED TO THE UNITED STATES

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See how one of the world’s most influential people in public affairs, communications and public relations, Daniel Yankelovich, views the world.

A PROBLEM NOT CONFINED TO THE UNITED STATES

DEMOCRACIES with capitalist economic systems like those in Japan, the United States and Europe have many features in common. One is to compartmentalize thinking about the economy as if it were an autonomous system that operated in isolation of the larger society to which it belongs. Such thinking can lead to serious miscalculations of the sort that currently threaten the social contract that now prevails in the United States.

Most economic theorists acknowledge that capitalism creates inequalities. This is a tradeoff that most Americans up to now have willingly accepted, despite the high value we place on equality. To reconcile the conflicting pulls of freedom and equality, Americans have settled on the principle of equality of opportunity as the underlying core value of democratic capitalism. Unfortunately, however, the traditional American value of seeking to “better oneself ” is beginning to show signs of erosion. This is because it is becoming increasingly difficult to realize.



Staff Continued

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