Risk Shift

Jacob Hacker writes insightfully last month in the New York Times in an op-ed essay "The Economy Is Strong. So Why Do So Many Americans Still Feel at Risk?" about a major social trade-off: safety versus prosperity. Hacker's situational synopsis:

The basic problem is that most of the jobs offered today don't provide the guarantees that workers once expected. This transformation is obvious in "gig economy" jobs like driving for Uber. But the gig economy is still pretty small; for most Americans, the problem is that their work has been gig-ified. Corporations used to pool major economic risks within their labor forces. They did so because they could — the pressures of financial markets and global competition were less constraining. And they did so because they thought they had to if labor unions were to remain satisfied. Now those risks are mostly on workers alone.

That's important, and mostly accurate. (The part that's arguably off: personification of corporations as quasi-conscious actors making choices.) Key, which Hacker attempts to do in words, and which should be done quantitatively: examining the economy as a system with feedback loops and time delays on disparate scales, and making explicit the probabilities of various outcomes, not just the overall average state.

Kinda like the decision to buy insurance: not just yes-or-no, but how much, how likely, what if, and what then ...

(cf Bigger Pictures (1999-11-22), Shoot the Moon (1999-12-29), Since Fire (2000-04-29), Social Robustness (2000-05-17), For Great Justice (2002-12-01), ...) - ^z - 2019-06-02