Has Wealth Gone Digital?

May 27, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. A revolution is underway around us and it’s called the digital. And it’s changing everything. More than 80% of wealth is now non-material. — Charles Foran in Just don’t say his name: the modern left on Karl Marx’s place in politics (41:30) Has wealth gone digital? Both … Read more

An Evolutionary Theory of Resource Distribution (Part 3)

March 1, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. When it comes to earning income in a hierarchy, it’s not what you know that matters. It’s who you control. This was the provocative idea that I proposed in Part 2 of this series on an evolutionary theory of resource distribution. In this post, I put this … Read more

An Evolutionary Theory of Resource Distribution (Part 2)

February 21, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. A 25% chance. That’s the likelihood that when I tell someone I’m searching for a job, they’ll say: Remember, Blair … to land a job, it’s not what you know that matters. It’s who you know. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating this chance. Still, it’s an open secret … Read more

An Evolutionary Theory of Resource Distribution (Part 1)

February 15, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. The biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky famously wrote that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. I propose a corollary in economics: nothing in economics makes sense except in the light of human social evolution. [1] I explore here how the evolution of human sociality … Read more

Tribalism in Science (and Economics)

February 10, 2020

If you ask the average person what ‘science’ is, they’ll probably answer something like ‘it’s what we know about the world’. To the lay person, ‘science’ is a body of facts. To the trained scientist, however, ‘science’ means something different. It’s not a body of knowledge. It’s a method for determining what’s true and what’s … Read more

A Reading List For Economic Heretics

February 3, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Do you think that the discipline of economics is a sham — an ideology masquerading as science? If so, here is a reading list for you. These 10 books have influenced my thinking over the years. Read them and join me in the journey of the economic … Read more

When Inequality Increases and Decreases at the Same Time

January 25, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. In Problems With Measuring Inequality, I discussed how inequality is an ambiguous concept. The problem, in short, is that a single metric can never capture every aspect of a distribution of income. Much like we cannot tell the shape of an object from its perimeter or area, … Read more

No, Productivity Does Not Explain Income

January 17, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Did you hear the joke about the economists who tested their theory by defining it to be true? Oh, I forgot. It’s not a joke. It’s standard practice among mainstream economists. They propose that productivity explains income. And then they ‘test’ this idea by defining productivity in … Read more

Rethinking Causation in the Social Sciences

January 11, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. For the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about causation in the social sciences. As with many instances of reflection, this was prompted by rejection. A political economy journal recently rejected a paper that I had submitted. The paper (available here) studied the correlation between hierarchical power … Read more

Problems With Measuring Inequality

January 4, 2020

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Economists often talk about income inequality the same way a doctor would talk about a child’s height. Just as a doctor would say “Sylvia continues to grow taller”, economists say things like “US income inequality continues to grow”. (Full disclosure, I’m sure I’ve said similar things). On … Read more

The Legacy of Aaron Swartz: The Fight for Open Access

December 23, 2019

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about Aaron Swartz. Swartz was an internet pioneer who, in his teens and early 20s, made huge contributions to computer culture. Among other things, Swartz helped develop RSS (which organizes web feeds), Markdown (a simple language for … Read more

What If Scientific Impact Could Be Negative?

December 16, 2019

Originally published on Economics from the Top Down. Scientists live and die by their scientific ‘impact’. For the uninitiated, ‘impact’ is a measure of a scientist’s contribution to their field. While there are many measures of scientific impact, almost all of them focus (in some way) on citations. So if more people cite your papers, … Read more