How did we get to this level of dishonesty and distrust?

It something that I’ve been trying to understand all year. Researchers know now deregulation combined with a sole focus on maximizing shareholder returns has contributed to the rise in inequality over the last 50 years.

A recent Times article shed light on changes made in 1987 to the FCC’s fairness doctrine for broadcasters and media companies. The changes enabled the creation the political echo-chambers [ie. FoxNews, CNN etc.] that exist now. Unfortunately campaign finance laws allow political leaders to amplify the resulting divide. President Trump took it to the next level with the use of derogatory and misleading names and labels.

We shouldn’t take comfort in an election outcome that results in the status quo when a broader transformation is needed.

Meritocracy

By definition, meritocracy is a political system in which economic goods and/or political power are vested in individual people on the basis of talent, effort, and achievement, rather than wealth or social class. Advancement in such a system is based on performance, as measured through examination or demonstrated achievement.

Those who have achieved success in the current system want to believe the system can work for anyone who works hard enough and perseveres long enough. According to Harvard Business School Professor and author of Edge, Laura Huang that’s not the case.  

Our perceptions and biases influence who gets the opportunities and support needed to achieve success in the current system. Addressing the inequalities is more complicated than most realize because our biases are more nuanced than just gender, race and ethnicity.

The book provides insights into how you can influence how others perceive you. It’s worth reading because few people are exempt from misperceptions. However, addressing bias on a broader scale remains a challenge without the right intervention.

Prop 22

Prop 22 was a ballot measure for California voters that created a quasi employment category for the gig economy. Other states are expected to adopt the same or a similar law.

Soon after Prop 22 passed, Uber emailed customers admitting that they made mistakes in the past and are vowing to ensure drivers are more fairly compensated. What concerns me is that few voters understood the issue before they voted.

When I raised the issue with colleagues, some of them recalled the early days of Uber. One recounted the fact that his child was able to get financing for a car, network into a better job and earn some money. He didn’t realize the economics of the Uber model had changed and that many of the current drivers are working 30-40 hours per week and not realizing any of those benefits.

Researchers need to consider the economic impact of Prop 22 on the broader workforce. It is already anticipated that more companies will eventually use the new employment class to reduce payroll costs. If so, it could further increase the level of financial and health inequality across America.

Stakeholder Capitalism

The rise of Stakeholder Capitalism is what gives me hope in the absence of regulations to adequately protect the environment and people. It requires more of leaders but those who care enough to do the work are being rewarded.

Leading investors, such as Black Rock, are urging and supporting the shift. A new Venture Capital fund backed by MIT and Harvard foundations has a longer investment timeline to invest in startups working to solve our toughest problems. A new category has emerged called Tough Tech which includes agriculture, energy and other challenges related to climate change.

More tough tech funds will likely emerge especially if Biden is in a position to pass his planned stimulus package in 2021. Tough tech will impact healthcare too. It has the potential to change the health fundamentals [toxin exposure, food, and infrastructure] needed to reduce the risk of disease and consequently, curb the cost of healthcare.