There is increasing hand-wringing about economics, seemingly from all directions. There are masses of poor who say they don't have enough, up to the petite billionaires who say, or their actions say, they don't have enough.
While we are part of nature's economy, most of our talk is about the economy we have made. There is reason for this. There is little to complain about, and to whom do we complain, about the laws of physics or the extent of natural resources? However, our monetary economies are a very different story.
Monetary economies are human machinations. You are probably familiar with the term “promissory note”. Money, itself, is an abstraction, a promise. To say it plainly, it is an IOU; it is pretend. Because of this, money has no power apart from the state (the government). Monetary economies are inextricably linked to government, and thusly, to policy and politics.
While money gains its value and power from the state, there are forces that, with some irony, increasingly want government out of money or economics. Like biologists study the ‘invisible hand of nature”, these non-interventionists revere the “invisible hand of the market”, treating the monetary economy as a natural system, and wishing to eschew human agency, or intervention, within that system. While it may not be their end-goal, and they may not know why, they report that good-times for the wealthy equal corollary good-times for the poor, and vice versa – the “trickle-down effect.” “Trickle-down” is justified by its proponents as an anecdote to their ideological imperative of “free-market.” While the term “trickle-down” is often maligned, and its purveyors present it based on their feelings or predictions, there is very sound logic behind it.
Nature shows us with great, testable, consistency, that its varying economic or resource conditions affect proportionally the most advantaged and disadvantaged organisms. Regardless of the size of the resources within a group, there is a scientifically-observable ratio of productivity and resource distribution. This is Pareto Efficiency or the 80-20 rule.
Pareto Efficiency is observable in myriad systems: worker productivity, sports performance, word use, internet traffic, event probability, nearly every system that represents an economy…most importantly nature. And, it is the best, most rational, justification for acceptance of a market-monetary-economy, as just and beneficial. I believe it is also a mechanism through which to scientifically determine economic injustice.
While economic injustice is palpable to most of us, through observation or our experiences, our inability to truly define it, to measure it, stalls meaningful discussion. It remains an anecdote that is accepted or rejected along ideological lines.
These thoughts were brought to my mind, again today, by a thoughtful comedian. Mr. Brand, like most of us, can sense that something is wrong (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YR4CseY9pk). He knows that monetary economies and politics can’t be separated. But, the gut-knowledge of compassionate people is not now, if it ever was, enough. He, you, I, should be able to state, without equivocation, that something is wrong, something is immoral, when 95% of new resources go to just 1% of the population (http://www.businessinsider.com/95-of-income-gains-since-2009-went-to-the-top-1-heres-what-that-really-means-2013-9).
If there is a way to measure economic justice, we must find it and prosecute it. I propose as a starting point, that, if the resource curve isn’t 80-20, or flatter, the economy is not just. It is unnatural. It is oppression.