March 5, 2013

Things That Rise To the Top

Behold this, and likely be surprised.

It is a staggering display, but I'm equally staggered at the fact that most people don't realize how big the discrepancy is between the one-percent and all the rest.

This difference is most likely the result of undesign rather than design, of deregulated ambitions rather than plotted greed. Even Jesus observed that those who have will get more, and those with less will lose even what they have. Any "free" market will eventually produce disproportionate wealth for the very few. It takes regulation, planning, and will and work to produce a more equitable distribution of wealth. Left to itself, the stats behind these graphs show what happens.

Which is why I am at heart a Christian Socialist who utterly opposes the myth of "trickle down." Money does not trickle down, it floats to the top, where it attracts more of itself.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


Deacon Charlie Perrin said...

How sadly true.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Deacon C.

David Shepherd said...

Here's how the wealthy rig the game! The Washington lobbyist is the 21st century publican, conniving with commercial imperialism to ease the tax demand on hedge fund managers (who only pay 15 per cent through the 'carried interest' provision) and expect the rest of us to bear a comparatively extortionate tax burden. It's the same here in the UK with the heavily exploited non-domicile tax status, and the Google and Starbucks tax avoidance mechanisms. As with the covetous Pharisees, it's easier to strain at a gnat of a single Mum on benefits who 'forgot' to relay a change in her circumstances and swallow a whole camel of bailing out banks considered 'too big to fail'.

Ask Charles Schumer to explain how he got tax reform on 'carried interest' deferred in order to ensure massive campaign contributions from the wealthy at the expense of re-distribution of wealth to help those on the poverty line.

Of course, a bit of philanthropic PR (Africa and/or climate change, please) works wonders in distorting their self-perception: 'The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.' (Luke 22:25)

Ryan said...

I wonder if people don't notice it because people increasingly live in places of their own economic class. So most people are surrounded by people like themselves. So while one can look at a chart and see inequality, the super-rich don't even live in the same geographic space. (The same for the super-poor.) It's only when you figure out that someone like Mitt Romney makes more money in a month than my entire extended family will make in centuries...

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

David, politics indeed plays a major role in this process. But this may be an expression of a general principle rather than its cause. Wealth seems to rise in all sorts of different political climates, and the lust for possessions, though it worketh desolations, takes on many forms as it drives the infernal engine of economy.

Ryan, that may be a big part of it. Those who live in gated communities need not deal with those outside the gates (cue reference to Dives and Lazarus!). I recall (but not completely) the candidate who was asked to guess what a pound of butter (or something similar) costs, and being totally clueless.

Antonio said...

There is a book called "Winner Take All Politics" by a pair of political scientists that does a really great job of showing how the levels of income stratification that we've seen in the last half-century in the United States were the direct result of the rich and powerful organizing politically in their own self-interest - eviscerating labor unions, supporting the Religious Right, etc. I recommend it highly. If it were simply a matter of wealth floating to the top, all industrialized countries would have our levels of disparity.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Antonio. I didn't mean to imply that there was no ambition or greed in the equation; my doubt centers on the extent to which it is a grand design. I think it more likely a confluence of interests for which the American political scene provides a growth culture. The "free" market is a large part of this, and the reason we don't see as much in other industrialized countries because almost all of them have a greater degree of "socialism" (not always government-mandated) in their ethos, and greater regulation. Sometimes this is cultural: Japan has a stratified economy, but there is a strong group-loyalty ethos and solidarity.

At the same time, I of course acknowledge the reality of the power-brokers who busted unions and fought for deregulation. I just don't see it so much a conspiracy as an incarnation of the brute ambition shared by a species of capitalist.

Let's hope, whatever the cause, that increased awareness of the results can bring about change!