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Human Capitalism

Human Capitalism: How Economic Growth Has Made Us Smarter--and More Unequal

Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: DGO - Digital original
Pages: 115
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  • Book Info
    Human Capitalism
    Book Description:

    What explains the growing class divide between the well educated and everybody else? Noted author Brink Lindsey, a senior scholar at the Kauffman Foundation, argues that it's because economic expansion is creating an increasingly complex world in which only a minority with the right knowledge and skills--the right "human capital"--reap the majority of the economic rewards. The complexity of today's economy is not only making these lucky elites richer--it is also making them smarter. As the economy makes ever-greater demands on their minds, the successful are making ever-greater investments in education and other ways of increasing their human capital, expanding their cognitive skills and leading them to still higher levels of success. But unfortunately, even as the rich are securely riding this virtuous cycle, the poor are trapped in a vicious one, as a lack of human capital leads to family breakdown, unemployment, dysfunction, and further erosion of knowledge and skills. In this brief, clear, and forthright eBook original, Lindsey shows how economic growth is creating unprecedented levels of human capital--and suggests how the huge benefits of this development can be spread beyond those who are already enjoying its rewards.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4572-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Education, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. iv-iv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    “Things were so much simpler back then . . .”

    If you’ve reached a certain age—your forties? thirties? twenties?—you’ve doubtless uttered this familiar, plaintive refrain at some point or another.

    And you were right. Because the fact is—and it’s an extremely important fact—our world is getting more and more complicated all the time.

    There are many reasons, but economic growth is the biggest. Growth means a more far-flung, more intricate, more highly specialized division of labor. It means continued additions to the immense accumulation of knowledge and know-how dispersed throughout society. And it means proliferating choices...

  5. One The Rise of Complexity
    (pp. 7-12)

    Twenty-first-century America is a mind-boggling place. We’ve got more than 310 million people, 80 percent of whom are congregated in densely populated urban areas. In the business sector, more than twenty-seven million different firms compete and cooperate to supply a bewildering variety of goods and services—the typical supermarket alone stocks some thirty thousand different items. Another 1.5 million registered nonprofits, along with countless informal groups, collaborate to serve an immense range of perceived community needs. And providing the nation’s legal and regulatory framework, as well as a host of other public services, are the vast bureaucracies of the federal...

  6. Two The Abstract Art of Modern Living
    (pp. 13-24)

    The rise of complexity has thrust us into a social environment of vastly superhuman scale. According to the anthropologist Robin Dunbar, our brains are constructed so that we can maintain personal relationships with only about 150 people at a time—which just happens to have been the size of the typical Stone Age tribe. And today, this “Dunbar number” equals the number of names in the average address book.⁸ Yet now, in addition to the “tribe” of our personal relationships, we are enmeshed in interdependence with untold millions of other people, the vast majority of whom we will never meet....

  7. Three Capitalism with a Human Face
    (pp. 25-33)

    The mutually reinforcing interplay between economic development and cognitive development has had profound implications for the structure of American society. Who gets ahead, who struggles to keep up, and who gets left behind are now determined primarily by how people cope with the mental challenges of complexity. And the stakes have risen considerably in recent decades as the distance between society’s winners and everybody else has widened.

    Capitalismwas Marx’s term for the social system dominated by the owners of physical capital—the plant, machinery, and equipment that at that time constituted the rising industrial economy’s “means of production.” That...

  8. Four Class and Consciousness
    (pp. 34-45)

    In the previous chapter we saw that economic life today is organized around differences in human capital—in particular, different capacities for dealing with complexity. The occupations that provide the highest pay and status are, in general, the ones that handle society’s most complex and cognitively demanding tasks, and thus the socioeconomic elite consists of people who are good at performing these kinds of tasks. The less adept you are at coping with complexity, the humbler your position in the social hierarchy is likely to be.

    All of which raises the question: what determines who is rich in human capital...

  9. Five Inequality as a Culture Gap
    (pp. 46-57)

    Making the argument that socioeconomic inequality is reinforced and perpetuated by cultural differences embroils me in a two-front war. On my right, I’m squaring off against critics who see current inequalities as rooted, not in culture, but in innate and unalterable biological differences. Genes, they say, are the dominant factor in transmitting socioeconomic advantages from one generation to the next. By contrast, differences in upbringing play at most a minor role. On my left, meanwhile, I’m taking on those who dismiss any analysis like mine as “blaming the victim.” They argue instead that the real problem is a lack of...

  10. Six From Convergence to Polarization
    (pp. 58-76)

    With the emergence of human capitalism in the United States during the middle decades of the twentieth century, it first appeared as if the class divisions that had plagued old-style capitalism were, if not disappearing, at least fading in significance. The postwar boom was indeed a rising tide that lifted all boats, and actually the humbler vessels were proving more buoyant than the yachts. Between 1947 and 1973, real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) income grew at an average annual rate of 3.0 percent for people in the bottom fifth of the income distribution, as opposed to 2.8 percent for those in the...

  11. Seven Reforming Human Capitalism
    (pp. 77-111)

    The emergence of human capitalism is a stupendously beneficial achievement that has brought enormous human progress. The rise of social complexity has catalyzed the development of cognitive capabilities on an unprecedented scale. Educational attainment has soared, and the division of labor has shifted from one deeply dependent on brute manual labor to one ever more heavily reliant on the ever more elaborate honing of talents and skills.

    And yet. . . . At the same time there is a big problem: this progress has been extremely uneven. And these days, alas, this problem is much more salient than all the...