A future ravaged by revolution, French style where the rich and powerful meet their fate on the guillotine or by firing squad in a Russian type overthrow. The crime will have been the denial of rights to the majority and an utter contempt for the masses. The growing separation through inequality may force the hand of the poor to take action.
There is little doubt that inequality is increasing; Ha-Joon Chang (p333) points out, “Since the 1980s, income inequality has risen in the majority of countries”. He goes on to highlight that this is especially so on the UK and USA, “…which lead the world in pro-rich policies”. Economics: The User’s Guide. Krugman (p73) lends his support concerning the USA “…the income of the typical family grew less after 1980 than before”. End This Depression Now!
This view is shared by Stiglitz (p9) who illustrates his point with a host of data over the last 30 years:
- Low wage earners – increase over the period = 15%
- Top 1% of earners – = 150%
- Top 0.1% of earners – = 300%
Over a slightly different time scale Krugman (p76) substantiates the point made by Stiglitz. What this means in reality for the American worker is: an auto worker in 2007 could expect to earn $28 per hour now new hires are taken on at $15 an hour. Stiglitz (p71-72) The Price of Inequality
Another telling point comes from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which suggests that, “… the UK economy would have been 20% bigger had the gap between rich and poor not widened since 1980s”. Guardian 2014/12/09
The disparity is clear the rich have benefitted greatly, the super rich have benefitted fantastically. Over the same period extreme poverty has risen dramatically in the US as between 1996 – 2011 it has doubled to 1.5 million based on World Bank (WB) measures. Stiglitz reckons that 25% of all kids in the US live in poverty. (p20-21)
Two of the world’s rich nations have a damning ratio of inequality; what must it be like elsewhere: India, China and Africa, I dread to think. Moreover, we cannot rely on democracy to iron out the creases in our system, “…the political agenda is biased towards corporate power”. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluralism
A statement which is borne out by Chang (p325) “… recent dramatic upswings in inequality in the US and the UK can mainly be explained by deregulation and tax cuts for the rich”. A view supported by both Stiglitz and Krugman.
“Currently, as the wealthiest obtain more wealth, they use a portion of that wealth to reduce the risk of having and obtaining additional wealth. A good example of this is how the tax rate on the wealthiest decreases as they obtain more wealth. The average tax rate for the top 1% in the US is now 17%. The tax rate for the poorest is closer to 50%”. Maxkeiser.com cited in www.larsschall.com2011/06/13/hegels-masterslave-dialectic/
Therefore our politicians are less interested in the electorate. Is it because we are skint? In contrast we have the thoughts of Wang Fuzhi a 17th century philosopher who was critical of the rulers, “…government should benefit the people, not those in power”. A lovely sentiment but can we have it adopted in today’s world. It is a view shared by the 20th century philosopher Karl Popper who thought it essential that we have a society where ‘political institutions can be changed by the governed’. Personally I would have Wang’s statement emblazoned onto banners and paraded everywhere where there is a protest. It should be a mantra for all who believe in equality and democracy.
Unfortunately, we seem to be headed towards a society based on Hegel’s master – slave dialectic and the fight for survival that ensues. (Larsshcall.com as above)It would seem that we are outside /beyond the thought processes of the rich. In a study for the WB in 2000 which surveyed 10,000, Can Anyone Hear Us? Deepa Narayan et al. One of the main issues raised by those surveyed was the lack of a voice. Nobody listens! Stiglitz (p21 + 390 notes 69) It’s to their own detriment but the rich cannot understand the concept of fairness.
In elementary psychology the point is made clearly, “It is important for us to feel that we have some control over what happens to us”. Understand Psychology (p119) The rich accept no responsibility for the growing inequality; that is inexcusable. They cause it and then turn a blind eye to the consequences of their actions. According to the philosopher P.F. Strawson it is only natural that we hold others responsible for what they do. www.plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-responsibility
Nobody listens! Especially our politicians except when it’s election time. Then the voters are herded through a narrow alley where they are bombarded with spurious rhetoric and a bucketful of promises. At the other end they are set loose, once again, to fend for themselves against the wolves and other predators. Little wonder therefore that there is a rise of alternative political parties. These new parties have emerged because the people want a voice and because the mainstream parties have stopped listening.
People will make sense of the world in which ever way they can, in the environment they find themselves living; be it crime, gangs or non-participation in general society. However, any notion that such groups should be shut out of the welfare system will result in new sub-cultures with unforeseen consequences.
Moreover, control of the hoi polloi has more tentacles than your average octopus: booze, drugs, and soap operas etc. However, not even the legalisation of marijuana will depress the feeling of unfairness. On the other hand it may actually heighten the feeling of dislocation and anger. And the present fascination of the star-struck dilettantes, dazzled by the glamour will not dislodge the desire for equity.
Reality for most has two edges, work or unemployment. Those in work are generally happier people. Understand Psychology (p256-257). For those out of work various studies have shown a marked deterioration in physical health which exacerbates the problem. Long term unemployment can lead to ‘learned helplessness’ (p118) which can lead to apathy and a resignation which prompts an attitude of ‘why bother’ and, generates a ‘victim mentality’. The consequential costs over generations can prove so severe for society that government should set up training centres and community work to reduce the knock on effects.
The reality of the downtrodden is depressing. It is easier looking in than living the life. Nonetheless, people have a strong tendency to want to help as Chang (p197) suggests, “…people can, and do, pursue enlightened self-interest”. But these are generally ordinary folk who understand that at times we all need a hand because they too know aspects of that life. The rich are too busy flashing their bling in our faces.
M.K. Covey maintains that “Trust is the glue of life”. The Leaders Guide to Influence (p79) The same terminology is used by Stiglitz (p152-153) when he emphasises that social capital / trust is the ‘glue’ in society; that cooperation and trust are important, “…in every sphere of society”. Without the ‘glue’ without the belief that the economic and political system is fair, society won’t function well. He gives several instances where social capital works exceptionally well and where it has failed.
A poll carried out on behalf of the NYT/CBS News in 2011 found only 10% of respondents trusted their government to do things right most of the time. Stiglitz, (p440 notes 8) The distrust of politicians is widespread. In the UK trust has been steadily eroded by promises never kept and by the scandal of M.P.’s fiddling their expenses. Some have also utilised their position of authority for a fee to business. Obviously, lobbying is not enough for some businesses.
However, corruption of politicians is not a new phenomenon as Chang (p338) purports that business “…let’s not mince words- legally and illegally [are] buying up politicians and political offices”. Krugman (p86) is equally forceful in his view, “There is plenty of raw corruption—politicians who are simply bought, either with campaign contributions or with personal payoffs”. Stiglitz (p137-138) weighs in with several instances of ‘dishonest accounting’. It will make your eyes water with anger.
More recently in Brazil, the Petrobras scandal has 54 politicians in the dock and President Dilma Rousseff under suspicion concerning corruption at the oil giant. Federal prosecutors are seeking $1.5bn from 6 construction and engineering companies who are said to have bribed their way to huge contracts with Petrobras. www.msn.com/2015/03/03
It’s no different in France where 11 dairy companies have been fined a total of €192.7 million for organising a cartel. www.France242015/03/12 No wonder prices are so high!
So what’s the difference between fraud at the top and fraud at the bottom —–prison?
It needs to be well documented that if politicians do not listen to their constituents then they must accept full responsibility for any downsides in society. They tend to think that every 5 years or so they can tell a different story and blame someone else. They never accept blame themselves. Make them responsible!
Do some good ……join Robin Hood!!!!
Government should benefit the people not those in power