Top-of-the-list thinking

Today’s reduced form narrative pivots on the three factors grinding Western economies into the ground. For a Nobel laureate in economics, the three are: rising income inequality, money power in politics, and systemic tax avoidance by the superrich and globalized corporations. For a German sociologist the three are: that rising inequality in income and wealth, but also the declining economic growth in the West and the equally persistent rise in overall indebtedness in leading capitalist states. Not quite so for a community organizer from Ohio: In addition to inequality and economic stagnation, there’s the third, global climate change.

And then there is your List of Three, and my List of Three, and all those other Lists of Three, when the demonstrable fact—patently obvious fact—is that any such top-of-the-list thinking simplifies what is going on in the U.S. and European economies. Do said factors explain 90% of the variance, or most, much, maybe? In the absence of any such qualification, we end in exaggeration, on par with the earlier writers who talked of the pantheon of seven wise men—for sure, there were seven, though just who they were is a different matter.

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