Inequality

When Queen Marie Antoinette was told about peasants’ lack of bread just before the French revolution, she reportedly suggested “Why don’t they eat cake?”  Nowadays, more adults are obese than underweight and obesity kills three times as many as malnutrition. Even though the plight of the common (wo)man has improved much over the last two centuries, in many areas inequality is still comparable to 18th-century France. The current rise of populism involves many verbal attacks on the elites; how big is the risk that they end up under a 21st-century guillotine?  

To answer this question, The New Normal will analyse trends in Society, Finance and Technology. Our articles and photographs in print, as well as videos and podcasts in our digital publication, will deconstruct utopian and distopian scenarios, including successful redistribution and a modern-day storming of the Bastille. We will rationally assess the likeliness and impact of these trends and scenarios, in order to arrive at concrete opportunities and threats on the lives of our readers: should they move to less unequal countries? Or should they join the modern elite?

The rise of populism is widely seen as a symptom of a crisis in liberal democratic Society. Even though it has been clear to everybody for decades that a large chunk of the population hasn’t benefited from free markets and globalization, traditional political parties haven’t improved their plight. The rise of populism therefore isn’t that surprising; the impact of populist policies on the common (wo)man however remains a source of great uncertainty. What if populists do not succeed – will disappointed voters turn to strong-man systems like Turkey and Russia? Or will conventional politicians come to their senses and devise innovative solutions?

The problem is most clearly visible from a Financial perspective: even though companies and their owners have after the banking crisis turned back to producing record profits, disposable income of ordinary citizens has been under pressure for most of the past decade. The welfare state is under pressure from increased sovereign debt, low interest rates and ageing populations. Efforts to force global corporates out of tax havens have up to now produced only moderate successes.  Will citizens, states and corporations manage to balance the budget and distribute profits more evenly? Or will European and American states end up like Marie Antoinette, who by the end of her life was known as Madame Déficit?

Deregulation and the web have since the 90s enabled an unprecedented mobility of capital. They were initially celebrated as expressions of freedom and democracy, providing everybody access to new opportunities. Today, freedom of expression has lead to online misbehaviour and fake news, whereas innovative business models have concentrated wealth in the hands of a small global tech-elite. Will technology provide more entrepreneurs, professionals and freelancers with a larger portion of the cake? Or has Technology just changed the faces of the global elite?

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