A trusted confident recently took me through the synopsis of a book titled “Why Nations Fail”. Our mutual conclusion was that the degree of centralisation or liberalisation in political, economic and social infrastructure are the key drivers to equality (prosperity). This made me wonder about why economic inequality exists, where did it come from and why has it been allowed to persist? Could it be an aggregation of our collective political, economic and social philosophy? Even more, why does it seem to persist in the Start-Up era?
Why Nations Fail suggests that the most damage has been done by abuse of both economic and political apparatus. That is, most inequality exists where wealth and power are centralised amongst a small chosen few. This puts the spotlight on undemocratic capitalist systems. Most countries today are somewhat or at least apparently democratic, so does it stand true that they fall behind on account of wealth and innovation distribution?
Back in Wakanda for context, most of us inherited a colonial infrastructure which largely remains unchanged today. This dominates the economic and political fronts. I don’t want to offend anyway so let me put it musically; Yes, DJs have changed, but most of the Kingdom (with some notable exceptions) is still dancing to the pre-liberation tune… Hence inequality has continued, if not widened. Chairs have changed hands but when the music stops there is still a majority that has nothing to sit on. I speak of Wakanda because I know the landscape and you can’t argue! But having travelled the world a bit, this narrative is in rinse and repeat in most jurisdictions.
My one ray of hope though is this; the economic, political and social landscape is shifting with the rise of technology. There is an emerging way to break away from the traditional mould. Technology startups are breaking down the high barriers to entry in certain industries. As well as social media, as an example, is giving a voice to the historically politically voiceless. Granted that there are the so-called Cambridge Analyticas out there; but one can choose to opt-out of Cookies and actually read the disclaimer before signing metadata away, I suppose.
I still have a fear though, that again the technology or innovation pipeline is being strangled by the so-called “Wall St Analytica” (I hope I don’t have to explain that one…) Especially down here in Australia. The broader community, and to be honest, the ongoing economic existence (or relevance) of Australia desperately relies on a pipeline of funded innovation going forward. Not just as it is hingeing on big listed companies in extractive or service industries, which are themselves facing an inevitable cliff given the shifts in consumer sentiment.
We are living in a customised value addition age, Australia needs to reignite its dominance, at a global stage, with a healthy and funded innovation pipeline. That means both winners and losers. Picking will help make a few wealthy for now (and they are probably already wealthy) and yet damage the entire ecosystem for generations of economic and innovative irrelevance at a global stage. Australia did this before with innovative (how be it manual) mining techniques in the Ballarat gold rush. Those who have been to Sovereign Hill know it was ahead of its time! It gives everyone a chance, well whosoever dared, local or migrant… and that’s all we need, an environment where whosoever dares gets a fair go!