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  • Robert Reich: Welcome back to our class.

  • And class if you could just welcome back our visitor, just hello.

  • Hello visitor.

  • Okay, there.

  • You see how welcoming we are.

  • We are delighted to have you here.

  • But here's what we are going to do.

  • We are going to begin an inquiry into why all of this is happening, why it is that income

  • and wealth, and, to some extent, political power are becoming more unequal.

  • What is it that's going on?

  • Who is to -- I hate to use the expression "blame," it's not a matter of blame -- but

  • what is the actually central cause.

  • Are you with me?

  • Are you interested?I hope so because if you're not.

  • They are.

  • And let's examine something.

  • Probably the best way to begin, because you remember last week we talked about your values

  • about really the kind inequality you thought was inappropriate or what you expected the

  • inequality was, and the gap between the reality and the ideal.

  • And you participated as well, you also voted about what you wanted, and we found out that

  • it turns out there is a huge gap between the degree of inequality of wealth actually in

  • the United States and what people thought it was, and also the ideal people had in their

  • heads.

  • And it wasn't just Berkeley, and it wasn't just all of you, but it really was a random

  • sample of people across the country.

  • So we are going to take another cut at all of this, but what we are going to do now is

  • -- we are just beginning our inquiry into why all this has happened.

  • And I would like you, we're just going to do a couple of clicker votes, and you don't

  • have clickers, but we're going to figure out, I think we've figured out a way for you to

  • be involved as well.

  • I've got two questions.

  • Now, before you vote on this, let me explain why.

  • This is a matter of mapping some of your values, and the first question that I'm asking you

  • is how is it to you to preserve neighborhoods with small shops and bookstores.

  • And this is just -- in terms of the kind of environment you want.

  • Is it very important?

  • And the two choices here: Quite important or not really important at all?

  • And what do you think?

  • Let's go.

  • 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

  • And let's end it there.

  • Let's just see what you think in terms of importance.

  • Well, 82% of you, 82% of you, 605 of you say, it is quite important: preserving neighborhoods

  • with small shops and businesses.

  • And about 18% of you, 129 of you, say it's not really important at all.

  • Well, that's significant.

  • And you do it as well.

  • I don't know whether you feel the same way but we'll see, to tell the basis of what you

  • believe.

  • Now, let me ask you another question, and this is again mapping your preferences.

  • That's all we're doing now is mapping your preferences.

  • And the second question has to do with steady jobs and good wages.

  • How important is it to maintain steady jobs and good wages for American -- and I just

  • selected some workers -- retail workers, manufacturing workers, airline workers.

  • How important is it to you to maintain steady jobs and good wages for a bunch, a lot of

  • American workers.

  • Is it quite important, A, or not really important at all, B. And let's go.

  • 1, 2, 3.

  • And you participate as well, I'm assuming you're going to be part of this poll.

  • And let's end the bidding there.

  • And let's see where you are.

  • So 94% of you saw that it's quite important, quite important, 94% of you, to maintain steady

  • jobs and good wages for these retail workers, manufacturing workers, and other workers.

  • And only 42 of you, 6%, don't care.

  • I don't know who you are, but you cold-hearted people, I don't.

  • Well, alright, that's interesting.

  • So we have a little bit of mapping.

  • I could have asked you a number of questions, but I have a little bit of a mapping going.

  • But now I want to ask you a different question.

  • [Laughter] Now wait, I want to explain this.

  • I just want to ask you, I'm not trying to make you feel bad about yourself, I just want

  • to ask you, do you shop online for a lot of things, alright.

  • Just a question.

  • Go.

  • And you, do you shop online?

  • I just want to know from you.

  • Are you shopping online on for a lot of things?

  • Okay, let's end the bidding there.

  • End the bidding there and let's just see.

  • So three-quarters of you do a lot of shopping online.

  • And about a quarter of you don't.

  • What I'm going to ask you, and I don't mean to make you feel bad about yourself, but do

  • you see slight inconsistency?

  • In other words, you really, most of you, really value small shops and you value bookstores,

  • and you value jobs and good jobs.

  • That's what you said, but you're also shopping a lot online.

  • And the inconsistency that I want to point out in case you are missing it is that buying

  • a lot of things on line, while I understand it completely, and I do it too, you are perhaps

  • having an effect on small shops and bookstores.

  • Are you not?

  • I say this, in part, because I have a personal interest.

  • I write books, and when I started writing books, you know, in the 20th century there

  • were a lot of bookstores.

  • Most of my books were sold in bookstores and now most of my books are sold I guess through

  • Amazon.

  • I mean the three dozen books I sell are sold through Amazon.

  • My books, by the way, I have to tell you a little bit of the story.

  • I went to a social event at somebody's house that I didn't know.

  • I didn't know this person.

  • About a year and a half ago.

  • And on this person's bookshelf was the first book that I had ever written.

  • And it was not even in paperback.

  • It was a hardback version.

  • I was so touched, and I was so honored, and I was so, well, I just thought wow.

  • I mean, I don't even know this person, and they have my first book on their bookshelf.

  • And I went to the host of this event and said, "I noticed that you have my first book on

  • your bookshelf."

  • And he looked a little abashed, a little embarrassed.

  • And he said I ought to pull it out and look at it.

  • And I opened it, and it had been hollowed out.

  • You see, he had bought it as a safekeeping device to put jewelry and other things in

  • it on the supposition that nobody would ever pull that book out.

  • [Laughter] Anyway, anyway.

  • The point is I have a very soft place in my heart for bookstores and you do to.

  • You like bookstores and also all of the other things in your neighborhood, but if you are

  • shopping online, there's a little bit of, there's a little bit of a contradiction in

  • your heads.

  • Let me ask you another question.

  • And again just an honest answer, alright.

  • Just a really honest answer.

  • This is -- Do you seek the lowest-priced goods and services, such as clothing, flights.

  • Are you, in other words, are you looking out for the best deal you can possibly get?

  • Is this important to you?

  • Yes, of course, or no?

  • Let's go.

  • 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

  • And let's end the bidding, end the bidding there.

  • So 87% of you are seeking the best deal you can, the lowest price you possibly can.

  • Of course you are.

  • And only 13% of you are not.

  • I don't know what planet you live on, but you are not.

  • I mean, and I don't mean to in anyway denigrate you, I think most of us though do look for

  • the best deals.

  • But, again, I want to suggest to you that in getting the best deal you might be encouraging

  • the companies that are selling you the best deal to outsource abroad or to reduce their

  • wages or to bust unions or to maybe cut wages or maybe lay people off and bring in machinery

  • to do.

  • In other words, there are a lot of things companies can do to give you great deals,

  • but a lot of what they do to give you great deals are inconsistent, or at least slightly,

  • with what you profess to be with your ideals about jobs and wages.

  • Do you see that tension?

  • I don't want to, I'm not suggesting that you are in any way hypocritical here.

  • I just am suggesting that there is an important tension between how you profess or what you

  • profess to believe in -- in terms of shops and bookstores and good wages and good jobs

  • and steady jobs -- and the way you actually behave as consumers.

  • Now you may also have a similar tension.

  • Again I'm not suggesting you're hypocritical, but I want you also to think about that tension

  • in terms of your behavior as a consumer versus your professed values.

  • Because in many ways, in many ways there is split brain in our heads.

  • If we can just, there we are.

  • There's your brain.

  • Because part of our brains, we are, for a shortcut way of saying it is we have a citizen

  • side of our brain -- that is the citizen side of our brain we are concerned about things

  • like the quality of life in our communities and bookstores and everything, and quality

  • of, you know, the other people's jobs.

  • We have sort of values as citizens in terms of the kind of place we'd like to live, but

  • then we also have another part of our brains that let's call the consumer part of brains.

  • And I want to suggest to you that there is some tension between the citizen part of our

  • brains and the consumer part of our brains.

  • Now, I'm not neurologist.

  • I don't know where these brain centers are, but they don't necessarily overlap.

  • And so when we get to the question of who is actually driving inequality, poor jobs,

  • insecure jobs, the closing of bookstores, neighborhoods that are actually becoming backwaters.

  • And we ask, what is happening?

  • And who is doing it all?

  • You, and you, are complicit.

  • Again, I'm not blaming you, I'm just, I wan- I'm just trying point out that you

  • are complicit.

  • When we're inquiring into the sources of widening inequality, job insecurity, and everything

  • else, you are complicit.

  • We could have done this about the environment, too.

  • A lot of us, a lot of you, I imagine, want a healthy environment, clean air, good water

  • and everything else, but maybe you don't want to pay for, or maybe, in seeking the

  • best deals, you are creating incentives for companies not to voluntarily be terrific citizens

  • with regard to the environment.

  • You get the drift of what I'm saying.

  • And you understand what I'm saying.

  • So, the question that I want to close on, or I want you to think about, is why is it

  • that the consumer side of our brains wins out so often over the citizen side of our

  • brains?

  • Doesn't always, but why does it so often win out?

  • Well, I wanna offer to you, and to you, three possible reasons.

  • One possible reason is that you have limited resources.

  • I mean, all of us have limited resources.

  • We would like to be better, we would like to be more conscientious, we would like to

  • be better people, but we would like to get the best deal we can, we feel, because we

  • don't have endless amounts of money.

  • Maybe you do.

  • No you don't!

  • And so we have limited resources.

  • But there is something else.

  • There's something else going on.

  • And part of is, we don't connect our pursuit of good deals with consequences that we may

  • dislike.

  • That is, what I said to you before, you are trying to get good deals, you are driving

  • competition between companies to get you the best deal, and that is driving companies to

  • slash wages, or outsource abroad, or bring in automated equipment and digital equipment

  • instead of jobs, or doing all kinds of things, or maybe doing stuff over the internet, selling

  • stuff over the internet instead of setting up a shop.

  • Whatever it is, you are driving companies to do this, but you may not see the link.

  • You and many other people may not see that causation.

  • Maybe if you did, you would behave differently.

  • And maybe some of you, even today, maybe some of you only buy a garment that is certified

  • as not being sewn in a sweatshop by children in a developing nation who are not going to

  • school because they are working seven days a week in a sweatshop.

  • Maybe you are looking for that certification and maybe you are willing to pay more for

  • that kind of a garment, that kind of a certification, than you would pay otherwise.

  • But surveys show that most people are not willing to pay more.

  • They like that certification, for example, but they're really not willing to pay that

  • much more.

  • So, you may not know, but even if you did know, maybe you wouldn't take dramatically

  • different action than you're taking now.

  • But there's something else, and that is that you're not prepared to sacrifice good

  • deals for the sake of better consequences because you don't believe anybody else will.

  • Now this is a collective action problem.

  • You know whatyou understand what I'm talking about when I saycollective action

  • problem”?

  • I mean that people will behave differently if they think everybody else is doing the

  • same or making the same sacrifices, or behaving the same way, than they would if they don't

  • really trust that other people are going to make the same sacrifices because they say

  • to themselves, “Why should I sacrifice?

  • Why should I be the one who is going to not get the garment, or not buy the book on the

  • internet when I think everybody else is going to do it.

  • I'm not going to affect any change.

  • I'm not going to really affect the economy or politics if it's just, if it's just

  • me!”

  • So there is this, number three, let's call it a collective action problem.

  • You can be sure, you cannot be sure that other people are doing the same thing, sacrificing

  • the same way.

  • Now the point of all of this is to say, number one, that some of this can be overcome.

  • i mean if you really are worried about good jobs and steady jobs and small stores and

  • bookstores and all of the other things in your society, in your environment, that you

  • don't want to sacrifice, you really are worried about it, wellmaybe on number two

  • there could be more widespread understanding, more widespread education, more connectedness

  • between what people do in their private purchases, getting the best deals and these kinds of

  • consequences, maybe we could just have a lot of publicity.

  • But what do we do about three?

  • Well three, that is the collective action problemwhere you're not gonna do it