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Welcome back to our class.

The third week of class introduces questions that continue to be vigorously debated — the effects of globalization and technological change on widening inequality. Many policymakers regard both globalization and technological change as “inevitable” forces that improve economic efficiency — and which should not be altered by political decisions. I remember discussions in the Clinton White House leading to NAFTA and China’s ascension to the World Trade Organization in which administration officials described both as “necessary” to the evolving global economy. New technologies such as supersonic jets and facial-recognition software have also been assumed to be beyond political debate or control.

Many Americans bear the consequences of decisions over globalization and technological change without knowing it.

But neither globalization nor the path of technological change is inevitable. Both can (and one might argue should) be managed in ways that improve the wellbeing of most people while protecting the most vulnerable.

Such management may have to do with timing (how quickly should we globalize or should a new technology be introduced?), or with what particular goods and services should be subject to globalization and technological change (more or less labor-intensive industries? technologies critical to national security?), or with how these changes come about (trade or direct investment? public subsidies? regulations?), or with the choice of measures to help those who bear the costs and burdens of such changes (refundable tax credits? education and training?).

The government makes many such decisions, often behind closed doors. Even if the public doesn’t know about them, big money usually does know — and influences the outcomes. As a result, many Americans bear the consequences of decisions over globalization and technological change without knowing it.

The questions we’ll be exploring today are: How have globalization and technological change widened inequality? Given their effects, what are the major job categories now and into the future? Why have low-wage “personal-service” jobs replaced higher-paying “routine production” jobs? Why are high-paying “symbolic analytic” jobs usually limited to college graduates? Why are all jobs becoming less stable? What are the consequences of these trends for politics?

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Recommended Articles

Recommended readings on globalization and inequality:

Recommended readings on technological change and inequality:

Robert Reich

QUESTION: Knowing what you now know about the effects of globalization and technological change, what do you think of a universal minimum income?

Thanks for joining me today.

Robert Reich

Reposted by permission.