When Uber recruits drivers, it tells them they can ‘make great money’ while setting their own schedules. When it recruits investors, it lays out plans for doing away with drivers altogether. The whole ‘innovation economy’ works this way. Workers help dig their own vocational graves. Free trade, mass immigration, just-in-time-inventorying, software entrepreneurship, Skype meetings: ‘innovation’ has so weakened the position of median workers that the most useful role many of them can play is just to shut up and collect their welfare cheques. Politics is split between those who believe the economy needs a major overhaul and those who think it simply needs a better public-relations strategy. The American Ryan Avent, an editor at The Economist, is closer to the latter camp than the former. But his view of the new economy’s shortcomings is unflinching. The Wealth of Humans does not offer the meditation on the end of work promised in the subtitle. It is, however, a balanced and sometimes bold presentation of the Establishment position on the important economic issues of today.
David Ricardo’s age-old fear that landowners would pocket the gains from economic advances is as justified in a world of fibre optics as it was in a world of barley, Avent believes. High-tech cities – New York, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, London, Frankfurt – have overregulated their housing