jueves, noviembre 16, 2006

¿Puede ser que, en la sociedad actual, las diferencias de riqueza sean un signo de salud social y riqueza general?

Paul Graham es un genio. Escribe muy bien (osea, de forma sencilla) y tambien tiene ideas geniales qu explica de una forma sencilla acerca de la tecnología y la sociedad contemporánea. Además no se preocupa ni lo mas mínimo en hacer su sitio web esteticamente bonito, cosa que me encanta. La belleza está en los textos. Y vaya belleza guau!.

Por ejemplo, esto que es mejor oda al Capitalismo que he leido en mucho tiempo:


Mind the Gap (extraigo unos cuantos párrafos, pero es mejor leerlo enterito)

When people care enough about something to do it well, those who do it best tend to be far better than everyone else. There's a huge gap between Leonardo and second-rate contemporaries like Borgognone. You see the same gap between Raymond Chandler and the average writer of detective novels. A top-ranked professional chess player could play ten thousand games against an ordinary club player without losing once.Like chess or painting or writing novels, making money is a very specialized skill. But for some reason we treat this skill differently. No one complains when a few people surpass all the rest at playing chess or writing novels, but when a few people make more money than the rest, we get editorials saying this is wrong.Why? The pattern of variation seems no different than for any other skill. What causes people to react so strongly when the skill is making money?I think there are three reasons we treat making money as different: the misleading model of wealth we learn as children; the disreputable way in which, till recently, most fortunes were accumulated; and the worry that great variations in income are somehow bad for society. As far as I can tell, the first is mistaken, the second outdated, and the third empirically false. Could it be that, in a modern democracy, variation in income is actually a sign of health?

The Daddy Model of Wealth

Because kids are unable to create wealth, whatever they have has to be given to them. And when wealth is something you're given, then of course it seems that it should be distributed equally. [2] As in most families it is. The kids see to that. "Unfair," they cry, when one sibling gets more than another.
In the real world, you can't keep living off your parents. If you want something, you either have to make it, or do something of equivalent value for someone else, in order to get them to give you enough money to buy it. In the real world, wealth is (except for a few specialists like thieves and speculators) something you have to create, not something that's distributed by Daddy. And since the ability and desire to create it vary from person to person, it's not made equally.
It may seem unlikely in principle that one individual could really generate so much more wealth than another. The key to this mystery is to revisit that question, are they really worth 100 of us? Would a basketball team trade one of their players for 100 random people? What would Apple's next product look like if you replaced Steve Jobs with a committee of 100 random people? [6] These things don't scale linearly. Perhaps the CEO or the professional athlete has only ten times (whatever that means) the skill and determination of an ordinary person. But it makes all the difference that it's concentrated in one individual
When we say that one kind of work is overpaid and another underpaid, what are we really saying? In a free market, prices are determined by what buyers want. People like baseball more than poetry, so baseball players make more than poets. To say that a certain kind of work is underpaid is thus identical with saying that people want the wrong things
Well, of course people want the wrong things. It seems odd to be surprised by that. And it seems even odder to say that it's unjust that certain kinds of work are underpaid. [7] Then you're saying that it's unjust that people want the wrong things. It's lamentable that people prefer reality TV and corndogs to Shakespeare and steamed vegetables, but unjust? That seems like saying that blue is heavy, or that up is circular.
The appearance of the word "unjust" here is the unmistakable spectral signature of the Daddy Model. Why else would this idea occur in this odd context? Whereas if the speaker were still operating on the Daddy Model, and saw wealth as something that flowed from a common source and had to be shared out, rather than something generated by doing what other people wanted, this is exactly what you'd get on noticing that some people made much more than others.
When we talk about "unequal distribution of income," we should also ask, where does that income come from? [8] Who made the wealth it represents? Because to the extent that income varies simply according to how much wealth people create, the distribution may be unequal, but it's hardly unjust.
Seventeenth-century England was much like the third world today, in that government office was a recognized route to wealth. The great fortunes of that time still derived more from what we would now call corruption than from commerce. [11] By the nineteenth century that had changed. There continued to be bribes, as there still are everywhere, but politics had by then been left to men who were driven more by vanity than greed. Technology had made it possible to create wealth faster than you could steal it. The prototypical rich man of the nineteenth century was not a courtier but an industrialist.
But since for most of the world's history the main route to wealth was to steal it, we tend to be suspicious of rich people. Idealistic undergraduates find their unconsciously preserved child's model of wealth confirmed by eminent writers of the past....

Only a few countries (by no coincidence, the richest ones) have reached this stage. In most, corruption still has the upper hand. In most, the fastest way to get wealth is by stealing it. And so when we see increasing differences in income in a rich country, there is a tendency to worry that it's sliding back toward becoming another Venezuela. I think the opposite is happening. I think you're seeing a country a full step ahead of Venezuela.
The Lever of TechnologyWill technology increase the gap between rich and poor? It will certainly increase the gap between the productive and the unproductive. That's the whole point of technology. With a tractor an energetic farmer could plow six times as much land in a day as he could with a team of horses. But only if he mastered a new kind of farming.I've seen the lever of technology grow visibly in my own time. In high school I made money by mowing lawns and scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins. This was the only kind of work available at the time. Now high school kids could write software or design web sites. But only some of them will; the rest will still be scooping ice cream.
...The rich people I know drive the same cars, wear the same clothes, have the same kind of furniture, and eat the same foods as my other friends. Their houses are in different neighborhoods, or if in the same neighborhood are different sizes, but within them life is similar. The houses are made using the same construction techniques and contain much the same objects. It's inconvenient to do something expensive and custom.The rich spend their time more like everyone else too. Bertie Wooster seems long gone. Now, most people who are rich enough not to work do anyway. It's not just social pressure that makes them; idleness is lonely and demoralizing.
Nor do we have the social distinctions there were a hundred years ago. The novels and etiquette manuals of that period read now like descriptions of some strange tribal society.....A woman who married a rich man was expected to drop friends who didn't. You'd seem a barbarian if you behaved that way today. You'd also have a very boring life. People still tend to segregate themselves somewhat, but much more on the basis of education than wealth. [16]
Materially and socially, technology seems to be decreasing the gap between the rich and the poor, not increasing it. If Lenin walked around the offices of a company like Yahoo or Intel or Cisco, he'd think communism had won. Everyone would be wearing the same clothes, have the same kind of office (or rather, cubicle) with the same furnishings, and address one another by their first names instead of by honorifics. Everything would seem exactly as he'd predicted, until he looked at their bank accounts. Oops.

I'd like to propose an alternative idea: that in a modern society, increasing variation in income is a sign of health. Technology seems to increase the variation in productivity at faster than linear rates. If we don't see corresponding variation in income, there are three possible explanations: (a) that technical innovation has stopped, (b) that the people who would create the most wealth aren't doing it, or (c) that they aren't getting paid for it.
The only option, if you're going to have an increasingly prosperous society without increasing variation in income, seems to be (c), that people will create a lot of wealth without being paid for it....
Will people create wealth if they can't get paid for it? Only if it's fun. People will write operating systems for free. But they won't install them, or take support calls, or train customers to use them. And at least 90% of the work that even the highest tech companies do is of this second, unedifying kind.
All the unfun kinds of wealth creation slow dramatically in a society that confiscates private fortunes...