Unbracketing [Inequality]

World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think, 
Incorrigibly plural.
                            Louis MacNeice, "Snow"

–Start with the familiar story about income inequality:

We live in an interconnected world brought about by intensified globalization and market deregulation (liberalization, privatization)–a world whose most pressing failures include the erosion of: strong welfare states, progressive income tax structures, and social insurance mechanisms that were to mitigate or otherwise correct for rising income inequality within countries.

Evidence supports the narrative–as far as it goes. It would, however, be irresponsible not to push it further.

–Equally evident, the forces of globalization and marketization are realized differently depending on context. We would expect and do see different practices within and across regions in response to these forces and that the practices and consequences for inequality also differ.

Australia and Canada had a notably less severe “Global [sic] Financial Crisis” than did other countries. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates a wide range of behavior in economic and social welfare response, not surprising for a world with more than 190 nations and sovereign entities.

–There are so many different programs, projects, activities and initiatives connected to “income inequality” that the immediate challenge is to compare and contrast them before drawing generalizations about anything like an [Inequality] bracketed off from really-existing variability.

The comparison challenge is not so much at the level of that country’s family support program contrasted to this country’s family support program, when it comes to a capitalized benchmark called [Inequality].

The comparison is more across many family support programs, much along the lines that no single heart is the same as another but these different and other different hearts set the stage for recognizing patterns across really-existing ones. That patttern recognition is of inequality, with a small-i.

–Note one upshot: We must also demonstrate how any macro-variable is realized through that intervening variability.

When the macro-variable is “increased interconnectivity,” as in the narrative at the outset, we are left with the hard work not only of identifying what is meant by interconnectivity, but also the different configurations of interconnectivity and their own variabilities

Which, at the risk of tooting our own horn, is what Paul Schulman and I tried to do in our 2016 book, Reliability and Risk: The Challenge of Managing Interconnected Infrastructures (Stanford University Press).

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