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While the economic meltdown did considerable damage, two interesting side-effects were that it led to serious consideration of economic issues and gave rise to a loose movement critical of business as usual. Not surprisingly, one core point of political and moral concern is the income inequality in the United States and other countries. While such inequality has always been present, what has made this an ever greater concern is that fact the disparity has significantly increased.

While income has been increasing in the United States, it has been especially great for the top 1%. Their after-tax income increased 275% from 1979 to 2007. This is in sharp contrast with the increase enjoyed by the other economic classes. The next economic class, the top 20% (excluding the top 1%) had a 65% increase in earnings. Those in the bottom 20% also saw an increase, but this was only 18%.

Given that all the classes saw an increase in after-tax income, it could be wondered why there might be any ground for concern. After all, if everyone is making more, then things would seem to be good.

The obvious reply is, of course, that while everyone is (on average) getting more, some people (the 1%) are getting very much more. In terms of income share, the lower 80% saw a decline of 2-3 percentage points while the folks in the top 20% enjoyed an increase of 10 percentage points (thanks mostly to the gains of the 1%).  This does seem to provide some grounds for concern.

To use an obvious analogy, imagine a business. Suppose that everyone got raises, but Sally(already the highest paid) got 275%, Bob 65%, and Sam 18%. While getting a raise is good (actually, being employed at all is good these days), Sam might have some concerns about why Bob and Sally got so much more. Bob would also probably be somewhat concerned about the fact that while he got more than Sam, he got far less than Sally. After all, such disparity does provide at least some grounds for worrying that something is not right. Perhaps, for example, Sally’s raise was the result of her connections and some (or much) of her increase was taken from what was actually generated by Bob and Sam.

However, Sam and Bob’s concerns could be unfounded. After all, each person might have received exactly the deserved raise. Perhaps, for example, while Sam was somewhat more productive, Sally was vastly more productive. Or perhaps Sally invented something that the company patented and was properly rewarded. As long as Sally exceeded Sam and Bob based on a legitimate standard or standards (such as productivity or inventing things), then the disparity could be reasonably  justified on the basis that it was earned fairly. This also assumes, of course, that Sally, Sam and Bob were working under comparable conditions. If, for example, Sally was given an abundance of assistance and support while Sam was required to do without, then this would be a relevant factor.

Turning back to the general income disparity, perhaps the 1% earned their 275% increase by simply outdoing the lower classes in ways that would legitimately justify the disparity. As might be imagined, there is considerable dispute over what justifies income. Fortunately, this is a relative situation in terms of comparing the classes. As such, whatever standards (such as productivity or inventiveness) that are used to justify an increase could be applied to all the classes (with some likely exceptions). As such, if the 1% did proportionally better than the 99% in terms of these standards, then the disparity could be justified. Provided, of course, that the conditions were comparable.

One common way to justify the disparity is to point to the massively profitable start up technology companies. These companies, such as Google, have created quite a few millionaires (and some billionaires). So, for example, it could be argued that someone like Mark Zuckerberg earned his billions through his efforts. In contrast,  it could be contended that the young people of Zuckerberg’s age who died in service to their country legitimately  earned considerably less (even taking into account the “free” funeral). After all, they could have created Facebook and become billionaires instead of going off to die in foreign lands. The same underlying principle would, of course apply across the board. For example, while Mitt Romney makes vastly more than most Americans, it could thus be asserted that he justly earned his large income. Those who elected to be firefighters, police, teachers, nurses, professors, electricians and so on also earn their money, but they justly earn considerably less. As such, the disparity is justified.

Of course, one might suspect that this sort of stock justification is circular. Those who make more income are justified in making more because they make more.  Likewise, the 1% are justified in their 275% increase because they made 275% more income. This seems to boil down to saying that they earn more because they earn more. This is like is like questioning a person who has taken a huge slice of cake and being told that her slice is big because it is a big slice. This sort of circularity fails to satisfy. What is needed is not just an appeal to the obvious fact that people who make more do make more, but rather some justification for the disparity.

One way to counter this is to argue that I have it wrong. The correct view, at least when it comes to earned income, is that people like Mark Zuckerberg generate vast amounts of money and hence are entitled to a significant cut of that money because of the value they generate. This is not, it could be argued, circular. It is like a cook who makes a bigger cake-his slice would thus be bigger. Those who do not create as much profit, such as Captain Jesse Ozbat (killed on May 20, 2012 at the age of 28) justly earn less. Sticking with the cake analogy, those who bake small cakes get smaller slices.

While this might seem to justify the disparity, it actually seems to simply reveal the foundation of the disparity. To be specific, the broader disparity exists (in part) because of the disparity in value placed on specific jobs. So, for example, Zuckerberg became a billionaire because of the way he was rewarded for what he does. Likewise for the millionaires Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama. Those who are mere teachers, professors, soldiers, electricians, plumbers, roofers, farmers and so on are rewarded to a vastly smaller degree because of the far lesser value placed on what they do. This disparity at the individual level obviously enough provides the foundation for the disparity that exists when considering the various economic classes in the United States. It is, I think, not unreasonable to inquire whether or not the value system that governs income is just or not. It might, of course, be quite just-but this is not something that can simply be assumed.

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  1. I assume most people would agree that the disparity between the top 1% and rest cannot go on increasing indefinitely. What is currently the difference between the top 1% and the bottom 20% will become the difference between the top 1% and the next 20% etc. More and more of a nation’s income will become concentrated in the 1% (or whatever percentage you want). Mark Zuckerberg may now earn 10,000 times more than his secretary. Could it be 1m or 1bn times as much?

    If it is therefore agreed that the disparity cannot continue to increase, at what point should it stop? It is for those on both sides of the argument to say what should be a reasonable maximum differential. If a certain size of differential was felt to be appropriate in 1979, was that unfair at the time, or has the ability or potential of those at the top to create wealth changed?

  2. Mike;

    We tend to believe that some people earn a lot of money because they made a huge business from scratch, starting in their basements like the Gates, Zuckerberg’s, etc. That is the story the media highlights and in fact the essence of the american dream: You do something great for society and you are heavily compensated. But is that true. Is it true that the current system compensates services to society.
    What are the benefits of creative destruction? Appart for less jobs, considerable distress to average people, there is no benefit for society but certainly handsome rewards for a few. What are the benefits of excessive speculation by huge banks? Particularly while the funds are guaranted by the taxpayers. None but huge rewards to those playing these games. What are the benefits for the taxpayers of the incredible influence that the 1% has into Washington through their buying of political power? Not a lot for America, they tend to get laws, loopholes and benefits that allow them to get more rich.
    At the same time that this happens, our infrastructure crumbles, our schools are not as good as they should be, and our unemployment is very high.
    It seems to me that this huge reward to the 1% is not based on a job well done but a clear abuse on a system that they control by the influence of their money on our politicians.
    Sadly, common people that love this country, like men in service that gave their lifes our limbs, teachers, scientists, firefighters and many others have to strugle every day.

  3. swallerstein (amos)

    The inequalities in income which you describe are simply obscene. I can think of no other adjective for them.

    On the other hand, if the U.S. were to limit the earnings of the 1%, the 1% would simply take their kapital to China or to Bangla Desh, where salaries and taxes are even lower, producing economic chaos.

    So the problem of inequality can only be solved at a global level.

  4. This is like is like questioning a person who has taken a huge slice of cake and being told that her slice is big because it is a big slice.

    Using the analogy of the cake assumes that the quantity of money is fixed in our economy, when it most definitely is not since the value of money is no longer dependent upon a gold standard. While the amount of purchasable goods is theoretically limited at a given time, those goods which are real goods (needs) as opposed to apparent goods (wants) are generally renewable. Ultimately, the only disparity which should concern people is whether there is a disparity between one group and another’s ability to purchase real goods–which may be a real concern, but that doesn’t seem to be a case when people talk about disparity in raises. A disparity in raises should only be a concern if the raises in any class are not enough to meet the rising prices of necessary goods–food, shelter, clothing, and those goods which allow for growth in personal perfections (health, knowledge, etc).

    If one group’s purchasing power of only apparent goods is so much greater than another, that may be odd, but it says more about those individuals who desire a greater amount of that which is only a means to another good in terms of ordering of desires. After a certain amount (that which is required to meet needs plus innocuous goods, that wealth can only be used to acquire apparent goods for personal use and thus they don’t likely grow in actual happiness, unless by some amazing act of altruism they devote all excess wealth to supplying the real goods for others, in which case they’re using their wealth to grow in virtue to the benefit of all.

    Ultimately, the disparity in wealth, and in this case raises in particular, is only a disparity of apparent goods and does not touch on whether the general state of happiness, or the ability to pursue happiness is in any kind of gross disparity. If one’s happiness is dependent on lessening the merely apparent goods of another or their increase, then one’s sense of happiness is disordered indeed.

  5. The gap between the rich and the poor can be managed within narrow limits. It all depends on the nations philosophy,culture,stage of development etc.

    Gini Coefficient used to measure inequality of income – with a gini of zero representing perfect equality and a gini of 1 representing maximal inequality, Sweden ranges 0.23 and Namibia 0.7 showing the most equality of all the nations on earth that have been measured. Broadly speaking the Scandinavian countries, have lower gini because they have employment policies and culture that narrows the gap.

    Argueably those are self made and have greater enormous wealth, like Bill Gates and Mark Z, propably deserve it – and Bill Gates is given it all back to society through his foundation any.

    Those who do not probably deserve it, are those many heads of corporation who through false/fathom competition between their leadership keep pushing compensation up – particularly the Banks – and they do so on the basis that top talent will attract big salary packages. This continuously pushes wages up – the limit is surely whatever they can get away with in a capitalist democracy nation like the USA, unless politicians have the will and means to adopt the Scandinavian model.

  6. I’m okay with the income disparity in the United States; it seems like a necessary consequence of capitalism, and I’m very interested in keeping capitalism around (full disclosure: I grew up below the poverty line in the US, so I may be biased).

    This isn’t because I hope to become wealthy through capitalism–the odds of that happening don’t seem good–but rather because capitalism appears the be the single best system for driving research and technological gain.

    In the long run, I suspect that this last will turn out to be worth more than all the harms capitalism will doubtless perpetuate in the meantime.

    At the very least, this hope of mine is more enduring and enjoyable than whatever goods a bit more wealth under some other economic system could probably afford me.

  7. Shawn Slayton

    The rich don’t make the poor, poorer. It’s unscientific to think otherwise. Do a randomized, controlled study, where the control group has “rich folks”, and the treatment group has “no rich folks”. I wonder what the outcome at steady state would be? Do you think the treatment group would have increased net wealth? Or greater average wealth? Or whatever your measure of interest?

  8. David,

    That cake analogy doesn’t hinge on their being a zero sum game (although it would make for a better analogy). I was just saying that being told X is big does not really answer the question “so, why is X big?”

    True, happiness can be split apart from material well-being (although there is probably a base level of material well being that would be required by most people). However, wealth does seem to have a very useful role in at least laying the foundations for happiness. This does take us back to the clash between Aristotle and Plato about this. Plato seems, in the ring of Gyges discussion, to accept that the life of justice even under horrific conditions would be preferable. Aristotle, though, says that defending such a life as happy would be absurd. He seems to hold that happiness has many components (such as social connection) and they seem to include some material goods.

  9. Juan,

    That is a core issue, namely determining the proper value of things. While Zuckerberg did make billions, it can easily be wondered whether or not his contribution is more valuable than that of people who are compensated with far less.

  10. POD,

    That is also a core point. I do think that people should get what they deserve. So, folks who do amazing things that contribute greatly to humanity should get the rewards they have earned. However, like you, I am skeptical about people who get rich by questionable means in regards to their actually meriting such rewards.

  11. I’m not sure exactly what you mean here. On the face of it, there seem to be many cases in which the rich make the poor poorer. For example, if someone takes over a company and guts it, resulting in the workers being fired then the poor just got poorer. As another example, if the big banks engage in risky behavior that wrecks the economy, then the rich just made the poor poorer.

  12. Mike,

    You say that “True, happiness can be split apart from material well-being (although there is probably a base level of material well being that would be required by most people). However, wealth does seem to have a very useful role in at least laying the foundations for happiness.”

    This is, I think, absolutely correct.

    Now, as you point out, there is likely a base level of wealth necessary for happiness–as a loose definition, let’s say that level is ‘wealth sufficient to provide for food, shelter, education, and reasonable entertainment’.

    This can be used to argue that the wealthy–who have much more wealth than that needed to provide for these things–don’t actually need (or perhaps even have reasonable use for) all of their money, hence that they could stand to have less wealth.

    Presumably, the difference would go to the poor. But what of the poor?

    I think it could also be argued that the poor in America already have–albeit partially through external programs (foodstamps etc), which nevertheless constitute part of their ‘wealth’ on a reasonable parse–wealth sufficient to provide for food, shelter, education, and reasonable entertainment.

    The situation seems to be, then, that the wealthy are not in need of the vast wealth they have, but also that the poor are not in need of more wealth than they have, either.

    This seems to imply that the distribution of wealth in America really doesn’t matter.

    A criticism of this might be that great inequality regarding wealth is simply not fair–but if we say that, what can ‘fairness’ mean?

    According to the above, ‘fairness’ could not seem related to supplying needs. If not related to needs, then it seems that we could only mean ‘fairness’ in regards to supplying wants. However, ruling out needs, why would the mere wants of the poor be more important than the mere wants of the wealthy, who would presumably want to keep their wealth?

    I don’t think that there is a line of argument sufficient to support such a notion of ‘fairness’.

  13. Mike:

    I don’t understand this desert stuff.

    It seems to me that any hour of socially useful labor done with full effort, concentration and ability deserves to be paid as much as any other given hour of socially useful labor done with the above variables. Maybe labor done in dangerous jobs, such as firefighter, deserves more pay.

    A garbage collector in Chile probably earns the minimum wage, about 350 dollars a month before deductions. I fail to see why that garbage collector deserves less than Mr. Zuckerberg.

    The garbage collector works in the cold, in the rain, under the hot sun and is in danger of injuring his back. His work is repetitive and boring. It is more obviously socially necessary than that of Zuckerberg. Moreover, it is work that very few people enjoy doing.

    I can understand why a rational society might try to incentivate people to undertake certain socially necessary jobs which involve sacrifice by paying them more: for example, a nurse who works the night shift or the above-mentioned fire fighter, but what sacrifice does Mr. Zuckerberg make?

    Please don’t say that he sacrificed his time studying at Harvard. For me at least a semester at Harvard, far from being a sacrifice, would be a greater reward than a semester lying on the beach looking at the palm trees. If one values culture and learning, then studying at Harvard, far from being a sacrifice, is a privilege and a pleasure.

  14. Asur:

    How about healthcare?

    Do the poor in the U.S. have adequate access to healthcare?

  15. Shawn Slayton

    Mike~Forgive me, but you’re forwarding the ‘Mitt Romney and private equity guys are evil’ trope. The fundamental premise of all human exchange is self-rationality. Investors don’t just show-up at healthy companies, gut them, and extract productive assets for their own enrichment. Who destroys a sustainable company that’s working, with ongoing positive economic returns? This would be irrational. This would be an intentional destruction of wealth. Companies that are failing get gutted, and there will be blood here. Cutting off a necrotic limb to save the body is a very necessary endeavor. And yes, certain men get rich doing this.

    And regarding the banks, absent taxpayer bail-outs, the problem fixes itself in one elegant swoop! The bad guys die (so to speak) and the good (responsible) guys live to fight another day. But we bailed-out AIG, and Bank of America, and CitiBank, and even General Motors (its risk was not downsizing sooner).

    But again I pose the question: do you believe that if we evaporated the wealthy right now, and distributed their money, that the poor would be sustainably better off? Meaning, do you infer causation such that the rich make the poor poorer, net-net?

  16. swallerstein,

    If by ‘adequate’ you mean the same thing I do, then the answer is ‘yes’.

    The question was about needs qua happiness, though…can you justify including “adequate access to healthcare” as such a need?

    I assume you mean ‘modern healthcare’ as that would be understood in the US. If so, then there are…many…people throughout time and geography who haven’t had access to anything remotely like that.

    Do you mean to imply that these people were and are excluded from having happiness? That would be the consequence if what you propose belonged on a list of such ‘needs’.

    Perhaps that’s not what you mean.

  17. Asur:

    You say that the poor in the U.S. now have sufficient wealth to provide for their food, education, shelter and recreation.

    I don’t live in the U.S. and I’ll accept your word for that.

    Now I assume that when you speak of food, shelter, education and recreation, you’re using contemporary standards. For example, shelter, according to contemporary standards, involves more than a cave or a tent or a hut: it probably involves a house or apartment with running water and electricity. Similarly, recreation, by contemporary standards, involves more than walking in the hills: it probably involves a movie from time to time. Education by contemporary standards involves access to internet.

    I myself live fairly modestly and I assume that I could live, without problems, on what the average poor person (some poor people are below average in terms of income) in the U.S. lives on, with the exception of healthcare expenses.

    However, when you speak of healthcare in your comment (5:27) above, you imply that contemporary standards of healthcare do not matter for happiness.

    It may be that when you speak of shelter, education and recreation, you are not referring to contemporary standards.

    By the way, even Aristotle lists having good health among external goods which are necessary for a good life.

  18. swallerstein:

    I enjoyed reading your comment, you raise good points.

    I take the needs for ‘shelter’ and ‘food’ to be context-independent in the sense that the same things would satisfy them regardless of whether we use contemporary standards or otherwise.

    ‘Education’, on the other hand, I take to be completely context dependent (ie relative to something like a given time period or culture) on the above sense.

    ‘Recreation’ is somewhat hard to pin down, I assume because it has a large subjective component. It’s probably safest to say that, like education, it’s context dependent, though that may be wrong.

    Regarding good health, I don’t intuitively equate ‘good health’ with something like ‘access to healthcare’. That aside, good health is certainly important…I think it would be reasonable to observe that ‘shelter’ and ‘food’ are valuable partly intrinsically in the sense of pleasure derived from having them, but also partly extrinsically in the instrumental role they play in having good health.

  19. Asur,

    True-the very wealthy do not need all their wealth. I would even be willing to say that I, a person of modest possessions, actually have more than I need. I could be just as happy with less. In fact, I spent about a month last year clearing out my small house and giving away what I did not need. It felt great to see a young couple excited about their new china cabinet (a leftover from when I was married) and another couple overjoyed at getting two bikes I never used. I actually feel better having less stuff.

    Some of the very poor still do need things. For example, food stamps do not actually provide enough for a healthy diet. However, it is fair to question whether or not poor people should simply be given what they need. While I do give stuff away and have compassion, I do recognize that it can be foolish rather than compassionate to simply support people who do not earn their own keep.

    That said, it is also rather fair to ask why some people are so poor. If it is the case that the very mechanisms, polices, laws and so on that enable the rich to be rich also causes people to be poor, then a reasonable case can be made as to why the rich should provide some compensation to the people who are impoverished by these factors.

    Ideally, we would have a society advanced enough to supply everyone with the basic needs yet also have incentives to do great things. Or just okay things. 🙂

  20. Swallerstein,

    I would agree that an hour of useful labor with full effort, concentration and so on would be worth about the same as any other hour. However, this is rather like saying that if person A runs an hour exactly like person B, then they will cover the same distance. This is true, but not very useful. Continuing with the analogy, just as one person might run far more than another person in an hour, one worker can produce far more than another in the same time. To use a real example, consider painting. Last year I repainted my house aide by my friend Ron. We are about the same speed rolling the walls, but Ron has a lot more experience doing the edges, so he will do it faster and better than I. So, in an hour he’ll have more done and his work will be of higher quality. As such, I would think that if we were working a job, he should be paid more.

    Or to take another example, consider teaching. I’ve known very conscientious teachers who pour their soul into their lectures and work very hard. However, they just are not very good at teaching. I’ve known other teachers who are slackers, but can get across an idea very well and the students pay attention. Writing is also a similar sort of thing: some people can labor for hours and crank out a few pages of crap, while other folks can just sit at the keyboard and bang out some decent stuff quickly.

    As such, just as in actuality some people can cover 10 miles in an hour and others can only cover 1, some folks can produce a great deal of value in an hour while others cannot.

    However, you do make an excellent point in that work should be assessed in terms of social value.

  21. Swallerstein,

    There is medicaid. However, quite a few people cannot afford insurance (even working professionals). One serious problem in the US is that people w/o insurance use the emergency room because of the law that prevents people from being turned away in a medical emergency. This has various bad consequences, ranging from increasing costs and waits for everyone as well as resulting in people waiting until a condition is an emergency.

  22. I’m not against private equity as such, just its misuses and abuses.

    As far as humans acting rationally, that seems to be unlikely. I’ve seen humans in action and it would be odd that they would act rationally in this area, given that they generally do not in most other areas. After all, wrecking the world economy in a quest for new ways to become even more wealthy hardly seems like a rational action. I would contend that people act in the economic arena just as they do in all other arenas. That is, mostly based on emotion, poor reasoning, and influenced by cognitive biases.

    Unfortunately, the banks are not isolated entities that can just die without doing a lot of damage to everyone else (like the folks who havesavings accounts, retirement and so on). Now, if they were like a comic shop whose failure would just sadden comic book readers and the owner, then the cleansing by death would be “fine” I suppose. But they are more like the grocery store in the area-if that goes under, so much for getting food for a while. This is one argument as to why banks need to just stick with banking and leave the risky money games to other companies.

    I do agree that the bail out was generally not a good idea. After all, this makes it clear that profit is privatized and risk is socialized. So, when the financial companies screw up and say “we were gambling to make more money, so we bet your retirements and you lost” we are rather stuck. As noted above, one way to avoid this in the future is to split banking from the other stuff. That way our money can be safer while high risk companies can win or lose with their own money rather than everyone else’s.

    Well, if the wealthy vanished and their wealth got handed out to everyone, then yeah the poor would be better off. Now, if this included the lobbyists, politicians and such, this could create a sustainable system-assuming that those of use who remained learned a lesson from past disasters and did not simply rebuild the old system and replace the old 1% with a new 1%. However, I do not advocate vanishing people.

  23. Mike,

    Having been on food stamps, I understand that they are simply a supplement.

    My point is that people don’t need much at all to be both healthy and happy.

    Why does wealth disparity matter if you already have what you need? Really? It’s like a schoolyard argument over who’s hogging the marbles. It’s trivial who has them.

    What is it that the ‘poor’ in America lack? I grew up below the poverty line; my family was homeless at points. I feel like I understand first-hand the effects of having very little in the US.

    Yet, here I am seeing debates over how terribly unfair it is that the 1% have so much more than they need. ‘Unfair’ in what sense?

    If I have what I need, then by definition I don’t need more.

    What am I missing?

  24. Asur,

    True-if you have what you need, by definition you do not need more. As the folks on the right often argue, the poor in the US are better off than many folks around the world and they do have more than folks in the past (as is often said, even Caesar didn’t have a microwave or cable TV). That said, it does seem that some people do lack. The very poor who are homeless and hungry would seem to be in need. The folks who cannot meet their house payments because they lost their jobs would seem to be in need. Those who were driven into bankruptcy would also seem to be in need.

    In your case, you might not need anything. There are, of course, folks who are content with what they have, even if that is relatively little in material goods. But, people do vary in their legitimate needs.

    As far as the unfair aspect, this would require considerable laying out of details. However, one point of concern is whether or not the 1% got to have so much in ways that would be unjust. After all, even if a person does not need what was stolen from him or her, that would still seem to be unfair.

  25. We all know that American style of capitalism is not good anymore.
    We have to move on.

    New style of rich is not only American it is international.
    So we have global capitalism.

  26. Careful, not to conflate income and wealth. Income is merely the bookkeepers’ way of measuring changes in wealth. Wealth involves owning (think shareholder) or controlling (think management or government) how wealth is employed or deployed.

    Where I live there was no Food Bank until the early 80’s; and homeless people were invisible until the late 80’s. I blame the loss of social cohesion and drugs. When we had WW-Two, everybody even women were involved in the effort. We were tightly together. And there were no drugs of which to speak.

    What’s the bottom-line? Let’s have a war on Mexico, eh?

  27. We already have a couple wars going…probably best not to add another one. 🙂

  28. To me, the big scary question is just what those on the top may be willing to do to keep the gap spreading between 1% and the rest. Here in the U.S. we’re witnessing a sustained effort to subvert the democratic process through voter suppression, the institution of martial law in some cities, attacks on due process, attacks on collective bargaining, attempts to gut public education and replace it with private ed with a private agenda, efforts by those within government to discredit the role of government as a stop on corporate power and other scary things. The specter of Socialism is constantly raised and fear is used instead of inspiration. There’s two clear cultures in this country who cannot communicate with each other. It’s a philosophical divide. One side has bad ideas; one side unfortunately seems to have no ideas. The general move to the Right has led to a distorted, stunted version of conservatism which exults individualism but now discounts the responsibilities of citizenship or even community. It seems to be leading to a second Gilded Age. This time around, as they light their cigars the Robber Barons will be burning thousand dollar bills instead of hundred dollar bills, and they will likely be quoting Ayn Rand to one another instead of Darwin or Spencer.

  29. One irony of attempts to maintain disparity is that the generally seem to exacerbate the destruction of the very social system that allows stable economic prosperity. While I am not a Marxist, his notion that the upper class will cause its own destruction does seem plausible.

    One of my main concerns with much of current American politics is poverty of logic (and the richness of fallacies and rhetoric) and the willingness to distort and deceive. While these things are a normal part of the political game, they are hardly conducive to getting things right.

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