Will the elite learn? Which begs the question, who are the elite? I’ve always self identified as one. But I’m an anthropologist so for me such categories and identities are transient. But perhaps I and many like me are much more wedded to a state of mind that prevents me from seeing the bigger whole?
I can understand the Trump and Brexit voters in what they reject: Clinton, Obama, the EU or other reviled people and institutions are in a way prisoner if not warden of a very conservative mental universe where there really is no course of action other than the status quo one. Change must be gradual, never abrupt. Laws must be crafted by experts. The elite is very much afraid of disruption. And they/we have reason to be, disruptive changes lead to potentially immense social suffering. We’ve had a great many episodes in history where technological innovations lead to great disruption. Eventually in the past people always found new jobs in a new economy but in the process, vast upsets took place. I dread to witness such upsets in a nuclear armed world. I dread to witness these upsets in nations that rely on complex logistics to house and feed let alone keep employed billions.
And yet by trying to channel or prevent change, we only build up a larger inevitable force. That probably is the core lesson of the Arab spring; you can’t stop certain changes from happening, especially not climate change and technological advancement (robotics).
The answers for progressives really must come from people like Elon Musk who have positivist, technological answers. Climate change can be reduced by changing the source of energy. And as robotics reduces the role of the economy to one intrinsic of society to subservient, we must come up with an answer to providing meaning and value in a post-economic society. I don’t believe that Trump and the populists are going to provide any of these answers, rather they surf the inevitable reactionary forces to the elite’s delaying games to power.
And the middle, where the rational and scientific try to keep the positivist core of our civilization alive, is shrinking. But any true answer must come from there.
Thanks for an inspiring interview, kudos to prof Deaton for some solid fresh insights. That’s what Nobel prizes are for!