Friday, May 01, 2015

In Defense of Inequality?

On some days I have a populist streak  On some days I have a contrarian streak.

Today I was reading "The Great Escape" by Angus Deaton.  In a chapter on the improvements in life expectancy over the centuries in different countries he observed that inoculation for smallpox used to be very costly: a family like John Adams' would go off for a week or so to be in isolation as they waited for the mild case of smallpox to emerge and run its course until they were no longer infectious.  That required money.  Of course over the years, over the centuries the cost came done, but in this case the richer people were by necessity the early adopters.

Christenson's Innovator's Dilemma argues that innovations develop from a product which may be more expensive and less capable for most purposes, but which better fits the needs of the niche market than the mainstream product.  By capitalizing on the niche, and using the revenue to finance improvements, the innovators can improve and expand, eventually reducing the mainstream product to niche status.

There's another announcement, from Tesla, which builds ridiculously pricey electric cars, but now they're using their battery expertise to expand into power supplies for backup and filling the gaps from solar power.

So, at least today, maybe I'm living in the best of all possible worlds, where the rich finance innovations.  Maybe.


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