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April 11, 2005



With you on a lot of this, except for that last one - what do we get once we overthrow them..?

Paddy Carter

I guess you are being provactive, but putting a few neglected extras in the cost column is not the same thing as demonstrating they outweigh the benefits. CD would you really prefer a society that inhibits social mobility? what would that look like?




your attribution of managerial success to self-confidence and an ability to interact with fellow middle-class business types is an interesting one which is worthy of further discussion but your broad dismissal of social mobility troubles me immensely. Though I appreciate all the problems with social mobility that you highlight, is there a fairer way of distributing wealth than to those with the greatest talent and industry? Are we not, inevitably, concerned with choosing the least bad option ?

Rob Read

You are confusing merit (i.e. fitness for a job) with intelligence/academic attainment!

The two are only vaguely related. There are lots of different types of jobs, and lots of different fitness sets for them. Getting rid of stupid laws preventing firing, will mean more hiring and firing, more roles per person, and more chances to find a good annealing fit.


Approve of this. Social mobility is only a good thing in so far as it results in an increase in the number of well-off people: if anything, social mobility in a society without expanding well-off groups is likely to be a bad thing, because it increases uncertainty and makes long-term planning (for persons, not firms) more difficult. The comments above confuse social mobility - a moves from w/c to m/c, but unless m/c increases in size, b moves from m/c to w/c - with rising general incomes - a does not neccesarily move from w/c to m/c, but gets better off. You can have social mobility in a very static social system, because although none of the social roles change, the people occupying them change.


I don't think social mobility has anything to do with practical politics. I feel it's entirely a philosophical point and if we have to devise a division of wealth, what fairer way than to award it to the most talented and hard working? The point about expanding well-off groups is barely relevant - how can one be comfortable with members of the better off groups lacking the merit to justify it?


My gut reaction - which I'm not sure could stand up to empirical scrutiny - is that the options are not social mobility vs. social stasis. They are social mobility vs. ever-deepening social segregation.

This is basicly a Lockean fear that money, status, confidence, knowledge of how the system works confer such massive and transmissible advantages upon those who hold them, that unless we actively shake it up, the differences will become so huge that there could be no meaningful interaction between people of different strata. We would become two species.

That would be bad for many reasons, including:
- Network theory suggests the value of human society is greatest when there are the maximum number of possible and meaningful human interactions. We want to foster nodes.
- Sooner or later the rich and powerful will want the also-rans to fight a war for them. They need a reason to do so.
- There is nothing sacred about property and the rule of law if the system is not sufficiently in your interests to warrant your obedience.

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