The inequality conundrum - when inequality makes the unequal support inequality

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Doug
The inequality conundrum - when inequality makes the unequal support inequality

By analyzing hundreds of survey questions from 1952 to 2006, Peter Enns, assistant professor of government, and Nathan Kelly of the University of Tennessee found that as inequality rises, low income individuals' attitudes toward redistribution become more conservative

 

It's interesting to consider reasons why this would be so and how it might be possible to get into a virtuous circle where increasing equality creates more support for redistribution.

Brian White

I think it can be explained if you think of human pecking orders.  Chickens have pecking orders.  The chicken at the bottom of the pecking order gets a shit kicking every day and due to its social animal brain set, it accepts it.  Similarly the humans at the top think it is their god given right to be where they are and to really kick the shit out of homeless people, etc. (X premier Klein is a good example) 

Its an informal caste system.   If the humans at the bottom are moderately well off and a bit organized, they resist the shit kicking enough that the top orders "back off" and this perpetuates a fairly equal society.

This is why the top orders employ lieing thugs like Gordon Campbell to kick start the change from moderate equality to caste system psycologically reinforced deep inequality.  It is a kind of social brainwashing exercise. Campbell broke all the rules of just society and got away with it just long enough to break the will of the have littles.   He successfully turned them into have nots who accepted the beating and did not come back for more.

Doug wrote:

By analyzing hundreds of survey questions from 1952 to 2006, Peter Enns, assistant professor of government, and Nathan Kelly of the University of Tennessee found that as inequality rises, low income individuals' attitudes toward redistribution become more conservative

 

It's interesting to consider reasons why this would be so and how it might be possible to get into a virtuous circle where increasing equality creates more support for redistribution.

milo204

it might have something to do with the media constantly berating them with anti-immigrant/refugee/FN/homeless/unemployed/etc propaganda on a daily basis.

When you only have a little, your likely inclined to want to hold on to whatever it is you DO have, and take sides with those who claim to protect you.  The problem is no one investigates any further to hold those people to account or get rid of them.

absentia

It doesn't say that the lowest earners are uneducated, unskilled, ununionized, insecure, entirely dependent for subsitance, pension and health benefits on the employer, and the bosses keep threatening to shove them out in the cold: "If we have to pay tax, we'll close up the factories and move to another state/country." Or: "If our profit margin declines, we'll have to downsize the workforce."

And it doesn't say that conservative politicians keep saying that the wealthy determine the economic health of the country as a whole. And that social welfare means higher taxes and tax increase always hits the lowest income first. (This is true: the poor can't fight, can't lobby, and nobody important's interest is tied in with theirs.)

And it doesn't say that neither the press nor representatives ever explain the math - of income disparity, of comparative taxation, of the funding of social programs - nor the long-term costs and benefits of various proposed legislations, nor how redistribution works. Nor do the media report on the activities of corporations after receiving tax cuts, deregulation, bailouts, etc. They do a terrific job, however, of telling horror stories about socialist countries and of denigrating progressive thinkers. So do religious leaders.

 

mhandel

1) Maybe, they should ask the question whether governments should combat poverty more, than ask people what they think of welfare. It is well-documented, that people want more effort done to combat poverty but are often hostile to welfare (due to the negative, frequently racialized images that are deployed). (I'm not really sure whether welfare is a good indicator of attitudes towards distribution, or even whether combatting poverty is indicative of attitudes towards redistribution)

2) They should break it down by racial groups as well, e.g. do poor African-Americans favour economic redistribution downwards, irrespective of economic inequality facing African-Americans? Is this phenomenon simply a 'white' phenomenon? If it is, it suggests the difficulty of asserting any sort of universal law regarding causal relationships between economic equality and attitudes towards redistribution.

mhandel

There's another study that shows that people both vastly underestimate the level of inequality, but still want greater economic equality:

 

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/09/24-5

absentia

"...the richest Americans are getting richer, even as the country as a whole is getting poorer." Gee, what a coincidence!

So, they would like more equality and keep voting the people who violently oppose any attempt at redistribution. That's absolutely down to the media. I'd blame the educationial system, but suspect that teachers are under severe political limitations. I mean, they can be fired for teaching science - economics would be a jail sentence.

sknguy II

The idea of equality is itself a conundrum. I see the concept of equality as a part of the conditioning of socialization. It’s just one social strategy for addressing perceptions of fairness or reacting to what is thought to be unfair in the balances of need. From another perspective, if your socialization processes, your culture, interpret fairness as the acceptance and respect for differences, then the notion of equality can be an unnecessary concept. I don't find it to surprising that the effect of the level of financial stress and security can greatly effect personal attitudes. The differences between Obama's win on a tide of hope, and his midterm report card, now that the US has lived through a bit of this global economic crisis, seem reasonable parallels.

absentia

This isn't "difference" that's being accepted and respected (Just try being different in America today!), it's a huge discrepancy in opportunity; it's endemic class opportunism. What they're being trained by their culture to accept and revere is winners. The most ambitious and ruthless have a right to take; the weak and meek - losers - deserve their fate. 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

absentia wrote:

This isn't "difference" that's being accepted and respected (Just try being different in America today!), it's a huge discrepancy in opportunity; it's endemic class opportunism. What they're being trained by their culture to accept and revere is winners. The most ambitious and ruthless have a right to take; the weak and meek - losers - deserve their fate. 

So true and so true of their imperial forerunners the British and Romans.  If you don't agree with the system you are fair game for everyone to attack.

Brian White

Absentia,

I have a friend in the USA, a leftie with a sociology degree. I told her the pecking order theory. She does not like it and does not believe it  but she herself is frustrated that they (low on the ladder) just take so much abuse and do nothing!  (And she does NOT have an alternate testable theory) But I am lower (actually not even on) on the pecking order for sociology so she is unlikely to listen anyway. (If the theory is correct!)

You see, the theory is that "the losers" believe it too.  So instead of the classical private enterprise fable "the best people WILL win out",

what everybody believes is quite different.  It is " the competition is over and the best people HAVE won out".

I wouldn't know how to do it but social scientists could probably set up some way to test the theory.

It would be real interesting to see how different countries compare on the test.

 

mhandel

Perhaps, the problem lies not in what people think is 'good' (so people at the bottom recognize that inequality is bad), just that they don't see anything they can do to fight it ('what is possible' is limited).

With trade unions having been drastically undermined (at least in the U.S.), the working class doesn't have many tools to challenge economic inequality.

(it would be interesting to find out what the relationship between inequality and attitudes towards unions)

absentia

Brian White wrote:

what everybody believes is quite different.  It is " the competition is over and the best people HAVE won out".

They established this belief in about 1890, when 'Social Darwinism' became all the rage in America. It's just a different - modernistic, pseudo-scientific - angle on divine right, which is then bolstered from the other side by Calvinism, predetermined grace, etc. Ours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, and the rest of you are dog-meat.

Quote:
I wouldn't know how to do it but social scientists could probably set up some way to test the theory.

It would be real interesting to see how different countries compare on the test.

Yeah, it would.

I'm always amused at how popular entertainment and every establishment promotes this 'survival of the toughest' attitude, and then they keep trying to 'combat' bullying in school. GFL!

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Endless shows about the police state and its prisons have a real effect on the population. Americans all know they live in a country where they can expect to get sent to jail more often than in any other country. Those people jailed have to be bad or you have to say say America is evil since no other system requires those numbers of incarcerated peons. But then the corporations in America have figured out how they can profit by running gulags for pot smokers etc.  

I think is clear that inequality has many many consequences across the board. Leveling inequality is not necessarily a left right issue but it is a human rights issue.  The freedom to live under a bridge is no freedom at all.

Dodger718

I think that the concern over "economic inequality" is misplaced. I'm not concerned that there's a gap between people financially. I'm concerned that everyone be able to have a certain standard of living where their basic needs are met. Beyond that floor, if inequality of wealth exists, then so what? The fact that there are people out there who are able to buy a Ferrari whereas I drive a Subaru really has no bearing on my life and any objection I could make to the "inequality" that exists between myself and those who have significantly more would only seem to be based on envy or resentment.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Dodger718 wrote:

I think that the concern over "economic inequality" is misplaced. I'm not concerned that there's a gap between people financially. I'm concerned that everyone be able to have a certain standard of living where their basic needs are met. Beyond that floor, if inequality of wealth exists, then so what? The fact that there are people out there who are able to buy a Ferrari whereas I drive a Subaru really has no bearing on my life and any objection I could make to the "inequality" that exists between myself and those who have significantly more would only seem to be based on envy or resentment.

Try reading something on the issue then.  No one interested in the equality issue is saying that no one should be rich.  It is the scale of the riches.  Their is only one pie and the more one group gets the less everyone else does. The studies all show very negative outcomes for countires and parts of countries that allow for too great an inequality gap.

Quote:

In a recent working paper based on census data for the 100 most populous counties in the United States, Adam Seth Levine (a postdoctoral researcher in political science atVanderbilt University), Oege Dijk (an economics Ph.D. student at the European University Institute) and I found that the counties where income inequality grew fastest also showed the biggest increases in symptoms of financial distress.

For example, even after controlling for other factors, these counties had the largest increases in bankruptcy filings.

Divorce rates are another reliable indicator of financial distress, as marriage counselors report that a high proportion of couples they see are experiencing significant financial problems. The counties with the biggest increases in inequality also reported the largest increases in divorce rates.

Another footprint of financial distress is long commute times, because families who are short on cash often try to make ends meet by moving to where housing is cheaper — in many cases, farther from work. The counties where long commute times had grown the most were again those with the largest increases in inequality.

The middle-class squeeze has also reduced voters’ willingness to support even basic public services. Rich and poor alike endure crumbling roads, weak bridges, an unreliable rail system, and cargo containers that enter our ports without scrutiny. And many Americans live in the shadow of poorly maintained dams that could collapse at any moment.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/business/17view.html?_r=2

 

Brian White

Dodger718 wrote:

I think that the concern over "economic inequality" is misplaced. I'm not concerned that there's a gap between people financially. I'm concerned that everyone be able to have a certain standard of living where their basic needs are met. Beyond that floor, if inequality of wealth exists, then so what? The fact that there are people out there who are able to buy a Ferrari whereas I drive a Subaru really has no bearing on my life and any objection I could make to the "inequality" that exists between myself and those who have significantly more would only seem to be based on envy or resentment.

Dodger accepts their place in the pecking order.

And dodger says "SO SHOULD YOU" You resenting good for nothing PECK PECK! to you

Anyway, accepting the pecking order as it stands gave us this "economic/political  reality"  and gave us Hitler, Campbell, Harper, Black, Murdock Asper and other nasty fuckers past and present. 

I work fairly hard and I have a decent living but I see no reason why someone should have a million times more economic freedom than me.

I also know people who work just as hard as me and earn 1/3 per hour.  That is the best that society will give them.   It is crap.

6 or 7 years ago the bus drivers were striking for more money  at the 20 to 25 dollar mark, I think. (greatly inconvenienced me).

I went to a sausage stand and the seller was complaining about the "fucken bus drivers".  I was comparing them to pilots in my head.  50-90 sometimes abusive passengers put their life in the drivers hands. Some drunk, some nasty.  Some think its funny to go upstairs as a group and swing side to side.  (Bus has to pull over for safety sake).  But the pilots get huge money and the drivers just take abuse.

Why are the drivers not right up there with the pilots or close?

 

 

Dodger718

Brian White wrote:

I work fairly hard and I have a decent living but I see no reason why someone should have a million times more economic freedom than me.

If Bill Gates has billions of dollars more than you and I, how does that affect your life or mine? Sure, I'm "economically unequal" but my basic needs are met and exceeded and if he wants to have yachts and private jets and luxury cars, it has absolutely no impact on me and I certainly don't go to bed feeling envious or resentful of him for having so much more than I do.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Dodger718 wrote:

Brian White wrote:

I work fairly hard and I have a decent living but I see no reason why someone should have a million times more economic freedom than me.

If Bill Gates has billions of dollars more than you and I, how does that affect your life or mine? Sure, I'm "economically unequal" but my basic needs are met and exceeded and if he wants to have yachts and private jets and luxury cars, it has absolutely no impact on me and I certainly don't go to bed feeling envious or resentful of him for having so much more than I do.

Given this question I guess you still haven't read any of the links.  It affects the whole community turning it into a nasty brutish existence 

Dodger718

It affects people when they let themselves be overcome by resentment and envy towards others or when they are not content with what they have and do things like buying houses they could never afford with "no money down!!" and then have that come back and bite them in the ass...

Brian White

I am using Ubunto to reply.  If I was using windows to reply, I would have had to smash my computer 2 years ago and replace it at least once just to have a usable one.  So yes, BILL got some towards his  billions directly  from me and maybe twice to 3 times as much directly from you.

My gf practically practically cried herself to sleep while she waited for her laptop  to boot up in its last days of windows.  But now, about 8 months after dual booting with ubuntu, she is using it very happily without using the windows section at all. 

Bill took money from your pocket buddy. And antivirus software is just a protection racket. He gets some of that money too.

If you caught someone trying to pick your pocket (lower on the pecking order than you) would you wish them well? 

"Thanks man, private enterprise is alive and well, now off with you before my thinking brain processes this"?

Dodger718 wrote:

Brian White wrote:

I work fairly hard and I have a decent living but I see no reason why someone should have a million times more economic freedom than me.

If Bill Gates has billions of dollars more than you and I, how does that affect your life or mine? Sure, I'm "economically unequal" but my basic needs are met and exceeded and if he wants to have yachts and private jets and luxury cars, it has absolutely no impact on me and I certainly don't go to bed feeling envious or resentful of him for having so much more than I do.

Dodger718

Actually, I'm writing this on a MacBook. It works very well. I put some money into Steve Jobs' pocket and I'm happy to do so because it's a good product. Lots of people agree, so Steve Jobs is rich. And his being rich doesn't affect me in the slightest, except for the fact that perhaps his desire to get even richer inspires him to introduce new and better products that I may also buy if I choose to.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Dodger718 wrote:

Actually, I'm writing this on a MacBook. It works very well. I put some money into Steve Jobs' pocket and I'm happy to do so because it's a good product. Lots of people agree, so Steve Jobs is rich. And his being rich doesn't affect me in the slightest, except for the fact that perhaps his desire to get even richer inspires him to introduce new and better products that I may also buy if I choose to.

Let me guess Ayn Rand is one of your favourites.

Dodger718

I read one of her books in high school and found it borderline un-readable in that it was so cringe-inducingly terrible. But perhaps in teh minds of some,anyone who doesn't want to have anyone with a six-figure income lined against a wall and shot must be some sort of Ayn Rand reading nutcase...

ygtbk

Brian White wrote:

I am using Ubunto to reply.  If I was using windows to reply, I would have had to smash my computer 2 years ago and replace it at least once just to have a usable one.  So yes, BILL got some towards his  billions directly  from me and maybe twice to 3 times as much directly from you.

My gf practically practically cried herself to sleep while she waited for her laptop  to boot up in its last days of windows.  But now, about 8 months after dual booting with ubuntu, she is using it very happily without using the windows section at all. 

Bill took money from your pocket buddy. And antivirus software is just a protection racket. He gets some of that money too.

If you caught someone trying to pick your pocket (lower on the pecking order than you) would you wish them well? 

"Thanks man, private enterprise is alive and well, now off with you before my thinking brain processes this"?

Dodger718 wrote:

Brian White wrote:

I work fairly hard and I have a decent living but I see no reason why someone should have a million times more economic freedom than me.

If Bill Gates has billions of dollars more than you and I, how does that affect your life or mine? Sure, I'm "economically unequal" but my basic needs are met and exceeded and if he wants to have yachts and private jets and luxury cars, it has absolutely no impact on me and I certainly don't go to bed feeling envious or resentful of him for having so much more than I do.

I guess I'm showing my age, but I was very happy to get a PC (it ran DOS, not Windows), given that my alternative was to try to scrounge time on a mainframe. I recommend reading Neal Stephenson's "In the beginning was the Command Line". He makes the slightly provocative suggestion that Linux users should be thankful to Bill Gates, because the advent of cheap PC's was exactly what was required before Linux could take off on a mass basis.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Dodger718 wrote:

But perhaps in teh minds of some,anyone who doesn't want to have anyone with a six-figure income lined against a wall and shot must be some sort of Ayn Rand reading nutcase...

 

If this is directed at me or another ACTUAL REAL poster on this board then please do one of two things.  Either back it up with a quote from me [or frankly anyone else on this board] or take your broad brush insults to the left back to whatever bridge you crawled out from under.

Dodger718

Give ME a quote to show that I'm a devotee of Ayn Rand or that I "don't support public education" or am "brainwashing" my daughter, each of which you've accused me of in the past few hours alone...

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

You do not send your children to public school so to me it is clear you do not support the concept of public education.  The fact you still pay taxes is irrelevant.

It is not you personally brainwashing your children it is the combination of you and their school.  I went to catholic school so I have a good idea what brainwashing looks like.  Some of it is subtle and some of it is just "our" religion is the only one god really likes.  

As for Ayn Rand quite frankly above you keep stating the right wing mantra of let the rich eat the poor.  IMO the problem is people like you who can afford to drive a Subaru and ignore the people in society that have to line up at food banks.  The articles linked too all show real quantifiable harm being done to real people and their is a direct correlation between that grinding murderous poverty and income inequality but your satisfied with the Subaru and the people improvised are what?  Some sort of collateral damage.  Or do you think its is their fault they can't put food on the table or afford a bus pass let alone a fancy car like a Subaru and a private school for their children.  

Dodger718

You've clearly gone off the deep end and I'm simply going to ignore you from now on. Besides, I have to go pick up my daughter from her brainwashing lessons in my very "fancy" old Subaru...

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Nice that I have you so pissed on your first day on a progressive forum.  Would you like all us "radicals" to leave since you are now here?

If you will not even read articles but simple restate your views with no response to the thread or links then I do admit to a tendency to go for the cheap shot.

At post #15 I offered you a different view of income inequality and you did not respond to the real arguments but instead merely restated right wing drivel. Welcome to babble.  If you want a discussion then that would be great but don't expect to ignore the facts and get a free ride.

Maysie Maysie's picture

kropotkin, you seem to be harassing Dodger718 and I'm going to have to ask you to back off.

Dodger wrote:
 I think that the concern over "economic inequality" is misplaced. I'm not concerned that there's a gap between people financially. I'm concerned that everyone be able to have a certain standard of living where their basic needs are met. Beyond that floor, if inequality of wealth exists, then so what?

I think this makes Dodger's position pretty clear, and it seems on the left side of the divide. Accusing people of being Ayn Rand fans, them's fighting words. But seriously, don't do it. And it also is really helpful to not bring issues from other threads into this one.

And nobody has to read links, as annoying as that might be to the substance of a thread. 

absentia

So, like, is this thread about the underdog accepting his position and no longer even asking for a second bowl of gruel?

Or are we debating whether the mega-rich ought to be lined up someplace? I'm up for either, but i like to know which is current.

ETA - Sorry, Maysie; didn't se you there.

Brian White

Duplicate post due to babble going offline for a few minutes, sorry.

Brian White

Dodger718 wrote:

Actually, I'm writing this on a MacBook. It works very well. I put some money into Steve Jobs' pocket and I'm happy to do so because it's a good product. Lots of people agree, so Steve Jobs is rich. And his being rich doesn't affect me in the slightest, except for the fact that perhaps his desire to get even richer inspires him to introduce new and better products that I may also buy if I choose to.

You do know that Bill bailed out apple 6 or 7 years ago when apple were broke?

I cannot remember how many hundred million he gave them just to keep the company going.

"Edited to add"  With apple products, you need a money tree to afford them. 

What about the poor person, what does she do?

sknguy II

Dodger718 wrote:

I think that the concern over "economic inequality" is misplaced. I'm not concerned that there's a gap between people financially. I'm concerned that everyone be able to have a certain standard of living where their basic needs are met. Beyond that floor, if inequality of wealth exists, then so what? The fact that there are people out there who are able to buy a Ferrari whereas I drive a Subaru really has no bearing on my life and any objection I could make to the "inequality" that exists between myself and those who have significantly more would only seem to be based on envy or resentment.

I agree it isn't about "economic equality or inequality". And I think that the thread title, or article, are misleading in that respect. The principle of equality has nothing to do with the economic system. The fuel for that system is competition and entitlement. The economic system can't work on the principle of equality. It's just not what motivates the system and keeps it ticking.

I think kropotkin1951 was trying to make the point that we should be concerned with the accumulation of wealth. Aside from the immediate social damage, it's about the accumulation and concentration of socio-economic power, building monopoly over others, and the crappy attitudes (oppression) towards those who have not.

absentia

Plus, the wider the gap, the less able society is to function. Especially a so-called democratic society, where votes are supposed to be eaqual, and decisions are supposed to be made by the entire populace, not just the top tier. Besides, the more lopsided income numbers are, the more lopsided they go on becoming, because, like matter, wealth is neither created nor destroyed; it is merely transformed and transported.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Sorry Maysie but the  quote from Dodger ignores the central theme of the articles and I did not just post a link I also posted a relevant quote.

The problem highlighted in this thread is that there is no floor and the poor are starving wherever income inequaliuty gets too large.  Seems to me his view was a lot like I would oppose carbon emmisions if I thought they caused environmental damage but otherwise whats the problem. Duh that is the problem.

Quote:

I'm concerned that everyone be able to have a certain standard of living where their basic needs are met. Beyond that floor, if inequality of wealth exists, then so what?

Doug

Brian White wrote:

Why are the drivers not right up there with the pilots or close?

 

If we actually had to interact with pilots - such as having to show them your ticket - we'd probably like them a lot less.

trippie

Well if you look at America, you can see the rise of poverty and the adherence to religious beleives go hand in hand. The bourgeoisie, in this case the Republicans, have helped propagate the myths.

trippie

The problem with right wingers and their logic... it's flawed.

They never equate how value is created. It's through labour power.

They don't understand, that the person creating the value, is the person that owns that value.

To them, the Capitalist is the owner of that value, not the worker.

So to them, they don't see the exploitation.

If you have millions of dollars in your bank account, most of that money is not yours. You only own the part were you used your labour power to create it. The rest, you control, because you have exploited someone else for it.