The last few decades, it has been noted that disparity among Americans is widening and becoming dysfunctional in a number of basic variables, such as skills, working hours, income, wealth....
It's not only the usual disastrous effect of quick wealth, like the ruin of families that inherit or win great wealth. It's also the ruin of families that have wealth long term, e.g., on the Oprah Winfrey show on 12/27/2004 (via colleague Kate), wives were 'swapped' between rich and poor families and the big difference noticed by the poor wives in the rich families was how little the rich see their children.
One wealthy family with 3 children had 3 nannies, one for each child, and they almost always ate together without their parents, who would dine out at fashionable restaurants (shades of Upstairs Downstairs).
"Love" in these wealthy families comes almost exclusively via expensive gifts.
So the wealthy have not only isolated and insulated themselves from any negative consequences of any of the major decision-making they've drawn to themselves - they've even isolated and insulated themselves from their children. Truly "the rich are different" (Scott Fitzgerald) - and sicker.
Note this piece in the New Year's edition of the Boston Sunday Globe:
Boston 2050: future shock - Jobs, class and a growing divide - Wealth is quickly becoming to the new Boston what race was to the old: the defining feature of who is let in and who is kept out - The criteria are different, but the parochialism is the same, by Douglas Belkin, Bostom Globe Magazine 1/02/2005, 29.
The Boston of 2050 stands to be as segregated as the Boston of 1960. But the barrier to entry won't be color; it will be class. "This is the biggest economic divide we've seen in this country since the Civil War," says economist Richard Florida. "There really are two societies."...
[And don't forget the talk about the "dual economy" in the mid-1990s.]
Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, postulates that Boston's phenomenal success over the past quarter century was attributable in large part to an abundance of three T's: talent, tolerance, and technology....
The Boston area already has one of the greatest disparities of wealth in the country. Between 1990 and 2000, the richest and the poorest represented the two fastest growing categories of households in Boston....
More broadly, there's this piece in the New Year's edition of The Economist of London:
Ever higher society, ever harder to ascend - Whatever happened to the belief that any American could get to the top? - More dynastic than dynamic, Economist 1/1/2005, 22.
The United States likes to think of itself as the very embodiment of meritocracy: a country where people are judged on their individual abilities rather than their family connections.... But...a growing body of evidence suggests that the meritocratic ideal is in trouble in America. Income inequality is growing to levels not seen since the Gilded Age around the 1880s. But social mobility is not increasing at anything like the same pace: would-be Horatio Algers are finding it no easier to climb from rags to riches, while the children of the privileged have a greater chance of staying at the top of the social heap. The U.S. risks calcifying into a European-style class-based society....
The most remarkable feature of the continuing power of America's elite - and its growing grip [make that "stranglehold"] on the political system - is how little comment it arouses.
[Or rather how little of the much comment gets published - because of the huge concentration of media ownership and consequent subtle censorship.]
Britain would be in high dudgeon if its party leaders all came from Eton and Harrow [but] everywhere you look in modern America...you see elites perpetuating themselves. America is increasingly looking like imperial Britain with dynastic ties proliferating, social circles interlocking, mechanisms of social exclusion strengthening and a gap widening between the people who hade the decisions and and shape the culture and the vast majority of ordinary working stiffs....
Here we glimpse the unnoticeably gradual dismantling of the feedback mechanisms of the American system. And if continued long enough, the ultimate outcome of these kinds of policies and strategies is subspeciation.
However, social evolution in the West is going in the opposite direction. The widening of wealth and class divisions in Euro-American evolution peaked during the feudal period and have been narrowing since. The British Empire abolished overt slavery in 1824 and the American Empire 40 years later. South Africa instituted, then removed, apartheid in the second half of the 1900s. Ruling elites throughout the 1900s retreated from financial subspeciation on grounds of personal security and consumer base maintenance. So chances are these developments in America will eventually be reversed also.
But meanwhile America's pilot house will get less and less reality-checking - despite America's constant references to "that's reality" - and if the rest of the world, particularly Europe and Japan, can shake off the remnants of their fascination with America left over from the years when the USA was a respected democracy that respected its own founding ideals, the secondary economies will pull ahead and the USA will slide to the level of China and India. Of course, the U.S. won't realize this because they will by then have defined all their economic indices to show themselves in first place. That should be good for a couple of decades anyway.
The alternative to the road to subspeciation, of course, is integrating the population on a new more generalized principle. Next up is integration on the principle of self-support within a range of safe workweeks and thence on a series of dimensions of specifiably more extended self-interest and generalized activity, such as income per person, wealth per person, credit per person.... The EU is closer to step one than Japan or the U.S. However, not knowing what they're doing right, Europe is currently backsliding, pathetically mimicking the self-diminishing tough talk of American CEOs (tough toward everyone else but themselves). See articles like "Dodging market forces gives Germany rude awakening," 11/21/2004 Boston Globe.
The next-up integrating principle involves the abandonment of artificial government job creation and makework in favor of the automation-by-design of full employment regardless of how short or alternating a workweek this may require. The three simultaneous changes this requires, of course, are the shift of inflation control from recession (unemployment) fostering to inflationary-deflationary incentive balancing, the elevation of workload resectioning and shift suturing to the topmost levels of management skills, and the harnessing of the incidence of overtime to target, trigger, size, pace and fund wartime levels of on-the-job training and hiring.
For details of our counteracting, positive vision, see our campaign piece Timesizing, Not Downsizing, which is available online from *Amazon.com and at the Harvard Square Coop, Cambridge, Mass. )3d floor mgmt or economics).
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