“Elysium” takes place in 2154, where the 99.9% live in poverty and the 0.1% on a paradisaical space station with robots and medical pods that can cure cancer.
Wonder what the film’s explanation will be for such stark inequality? Bush tax cuts? Free trade? Given that Matt Damon is starring in the film, both are possibilities.
A more interesting twist would be to blame accelerating technological change. Over at EconLog, Bryan Caplan gives this answer to a question about what would happen if artificial intelligence researchers were able to “produce and patent a perfect substitute for human labor at zero [marginal cost]” and the technology was widely available.
Human owners of land, capital, and other non-labor assets capture 100% of all output. Humans who only have labor to sell, however, will starve without charity or tax-funded redistribution.
Better get those universal 401k plans up and running!