First, I apologize for the length of this thread. I wish I were a bit more terse. Secondly, no, this isn't an "America Bashing" thread. I am creating it in hopes of having a philosophical discussion of economic possibility and the role of the middle class, specifically in the United States (though, of course, everyone is free to chime in). Without further adieu... This is something I have thought about for a long while now, and it wasn't until reading Nassim Taleb's 'The Black Swan' that I was able to fully understand what I was thinking. I have always felt that America's greatest asset was our respect for intellectual property. Entrepreneurial ventures would never take off if it weren't for patent and copyright laws. This intellectual protection is the great equalizer in our society. Only in America can the largest corporations start from the laboratory project of two nerds from Stanford. Others, argue, however, that America owes its rich economic history to a strong middle class, starting from the industrial revolution and continuing until after World War II. In these days, the middle class represented a much larger proportion of society -- people were more 'average'. Yet now, it seems that the middle class is shrinking. We are more bound to 'extremism'. What has happened? My theory, so acutely described by Taleb, is the concept of job scalability. You see, in a non-scalable job, your payout is restricted by your energy input. A baker can only bake so much bread -- his income will be capped. On the other hand, due to expanding technology, it takes a writer no more effort to write a book for one person than it does a few hundred million. This job, therefore, is scalable -- your energy input does not restrict your income. The same goes for inventing a cure for a disease or developing a new technology. It was scalable film that put non-scalable local theatre out of business. This, therefore, is why I believe that our middle class is shrinking. By exporting our labor, America has drastically decreased the number of non-scalable jobs in the United States, decreasing the size of the middle class. In its place, the number of scalable opportunities has increased. The fact of the matter is: there is more money in the idea than in the product. To Nike, the concept of the shoe is worth more than all the factories in Asia combined. Our economy is leveraged on idea design -- which is why we can lose non-scalable jobs and still have an increase in standard of living. Unfortunately, this also means that there will be higher inequality. It also means that opportunity (more aptly named luck) will play a larger role in success in the future than it ever has before. So where does that leave America? Well, in a pickle, I suppose. There will always be a need for certain non-scalable jobs ... I will always want my freshly baked bread and my teeth cleaned and my yearly doctor check-ups. For the most part, though, factory jobs will go out the window. Even more so, in the future, as those with the scalable jobs design robots to replace those in the non-scalable. Technology seems to replace the non-scalable at a faster pace each year. Obviously, this propels society in a more 'efficient' direction, but it also severely skews the wealth distribution. Is it appropriate to eventually say 'enough is enough' and end the ongoing march of technology, to preserve certain non-scalable jobs to maintain the size of the middle class? Is society better off when everyone is closer to 'average'? It could be said that more opportunity exists, if successful, in a more scalable economy -- but failure would also be far more drastic, as there are fewer scalable jobs to fall back on. On perhaps it is possible to live in a society where the distribution is skewed, without symmetric fat tails. Can we have the opportunity of scalable jobs while still maintaining a large, non-scalable middle class? Does a free market approach ever truly allow this where the goal is profit maximization? Or have we finally found an appropriate place for government regulation? What are your thoughts? What are we to do? Can we have it both ways? The extremes seem to be free-market capitalism, which brings us further and further into extremism, or communism, which caps the fat tails and forces everyone into perfect equality. Must we be black and white, or can we use concepts of both?