1. 1. When communities change power relationships, property rights, and norms, why are they so willing to ignore those who are pillaged by the changes?

2. Should not the beneficiaries of a social change interrupt their celebrations to recognize the obvious: change has costs?

3. Are those harmed by change just a standard marginalized group, i.e., an obvious bearer of burdens?


Technology, cultural norms, levels of affluence, and human aspirations change persistently. The changes ebb and flow, but we can count on their lack of long-run stability.


A. Global Markets replace local and national markets:  The virtue of so-called "free-trade" is taught to hundreds of thousands of economics students. But in the eagerness to applaud benefits to an aggregate (GNP), where is the discussion of the distributional impact of the benefits AND the resulting employment insecurity so real to many?  "Average benefits" are real enough, but we can reasonably object to such benefits when they create a world that is more brutish and unhelathy. 

B. Knowledge about the negative ramifications of consuming specific products or using certain inputs in industrial processes changes over time: While it makes a lot of sense to me that we should reduce the production of coal and tobacco, I do not think vague promises of retraining programs is an apposite response to the unfair imposition of misery onto 4th generation tobacco farmers or coal miners.  How would a thoughtful society justify allocating benefits and costs of change in such a meat-handed fashion?

C. Different historical eras offer different employment prospects:  If the threats of Artifical Intelligence, even to jobs in the professions, are accurate, discussions of a guaranteed income are going to bloom. In other words, those who cannot discover employment that would provide a living wage will probably be offered a monetary sop to prevent their being the type of permananet underclass that fuels the forms of destructive rebellion represented by the imagery of the visual at the beginning of this post.


I wonder whether the failure to compensate the groups that absorb the impacts of change is caused by ethical blindness? Are people's needs habitually ignored when they are economically weak and relatively passive?  In other words, is the answer obvious in that powerless groups can expect for dominant classes to overlook them when considering the wisdom of particular changes?


1.  Are there generous counter-examples undercutting the assertions I am making in this post?

2.  Is caring perforce parsimonious?  In other words, is sharing, when it occurs, almost surely a puny response to the need?  If so, what does that say about humans?

3.  When beneficiaries of changes are absorbed in their delight with modernity, is it at all reasonable to expect them to look back over their shoulders at the human wreckage that the changes have propelled?



AuthorM Neil Browne