The premise is said best by the economist George Magnus in 2015:

"Advances in technological productivity gains are benefiting a limited number of people. The principal rewards of modern technology are accruing to the owners of capital, not the owners of labor. Think about the three biggest firms in silicon valley: they have 137,000 people. These three companies are worth 1.2 trillion dollars. Now cast your mind back just 25 years to 1990. The three biggest companies in Detroit had 10 times as many workers, but their combined market value was a mere 36 billion dollars." (in 2015 index dollars)

Magnus is making the case that the "pendulum" is swinging away from labor/masses in the main, and into the hands of the highly technically trained few. However, in America, nearly everyone has smartphones and laptops these days, but is this kind of access to capital enough to modestly challenge Magnus' assertion?

Main Question: I concede a good portion of the middle class' top performers are indeed in the tech sector, but is it possible that there is still a lack in access to capital in America's middle class (despite our affinity for gadgets)?

On a related note, in addition to technological capital, if we examine other measures of capital, like real estate, we find a similar trend. America's real estate market has very high prices, despite the fairly well-documented data that American national's demand for housing is weak. This is reflected by the Home Owner's index. It has been postulated that the housing demand stems stems from a wealthy few speculators who buy the land.

Tangent Question: Is their any connection to these two facets of capital and how capital is owned in the US?

  • $\begingroup$ Your terminology is confusing. Highly technically trained few are still workers. A laptop and smartphone are not normally seen as capital (as a mean of production), but as consumer goods. Land is normally treated separately from capital. And in the end, you talk about capital ownership. Are you referring to firm ownership or access to smartphones/laptops? $\endgroup$
    – luchonacho
    Jul 3 '17 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ @luchonacho Sorry for the confusion, I guess I wanted to juxtapose gadgets (consumer goods) with large scale technological capital (data centers, supercomputers, ect) for effect. The tangent question is optional, I was just kind of curious. But the main point of my question is to examine how the trend of "access to capital" is moving in the past decade or two (more and more people having access vs less and less people having access) in light of Magnus' thoughts. $\endgroup$ Jul 3 '17 at 12:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.