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Al Gore Tells Techpreneurs Some Truths They May Not Want to Hear About Inequality

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Cross-posted from AlterNet


Al Gore
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Inequality and democracy are the kind of topics you may expect to hear about at a political convention, but not necessarily at a tech industry conference. And so former Vice President Al Gore's discussion at Nashville's tech-focused Southland Conference this week could be viewed in context as a jeremiad spotlighting taboo truths about tech culture and philanthropic traditions.

Discussing the economy, Gore lamented that "we have rising levels of inequality and chronic under-investment" in public programs. He reminded the crowd that when "95 percent of all the additional national income in the U.S., since the recovery began in '09, goes to the top one percent, that's not an Occupy Wall Street slogan, that's a fact."

Gore may have been alluding to the tech economy becoming a significant driver of that inequality.

As Princeton economist Alan Blinder noted in a January Wall Street Journal op-ed, technology is "clearly the major villain" in rising economic inequality, as "e-commerce eliminated many 'ordinary' jobs (while) enhanc(ing) the opportunities and rewards for some 'extraordinary' jobs."

One way to see this is in the app economy, which often rewards billions to companies with a relatively few employees, thus concentrating wealth in fewer hands.

Later in his discussion, Gore said that "democracy has been hacked" by moneyed interests. Then, in response to a question about tech billionaires spending big on allegedly philanthropic enterprises, he said: "That's a good thing, as long as the rest of us don't ever fall prey to the illusion that charity is going to do the job of what democracy needs to do."

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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)
 

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