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  1. January 27, 2014 8:02 pm

    A cynic might suggest that the collapse of communism created a scenario in which the rich no longer had to worry about international politico-economic suicide. There is no longer a boogyman to discipline the extremely well to do against excessive manipulation of the system to obtain more exclusive advantage.

    Which is NOT to say communism is a better approach, only to caution that there is a point beyond which propaganda and other persuasions do not suffice to cool the temper of the common folk. Reason itself is defeated by long-term deprivation. And there is deprivation.

    To be sure, a megacorporation (or other form of venture) cannot function without its assets and management. Yet, neither can it function without the littlest of its employees. Of course, some levels of management and of labor are ‘fungible’ in the sense that others can be found to fill those positions. That does not change the fact that the doing of those jobs is necessary to the health of the whole, and compensation should reflect that fact more than it now does. Workers are not a commodity, not merely another form of ‘electricity’ to make machines move.

    Until we reach a point that the child of the poorest has the same opportunities as the child of the richest, not merely in theory, but in actual fact throughout America, there is a part of the American theory that remains purely theoretical. The child of the freight handler at WalMart does not have equal access to top flight education with the child or grandchild of the Chairman of its Board. Period. Local public school 20 is not the equal of Exeter or Andover, or other regional top school. Local community college is not the equal of Stanford. Nowadays in some states the tuition at local community colleges is intimidating enough. There are not enough scholarships to give every qualified young person access to the best, and four years of tuition can mean a huge educational debt that to many seems ludicrous to incur, especially as well-paying jobs are not everywhere.

    To make the theory, fact, the public budgets should include free education through the Ph. D. at whatever institution the child/young person is intellectually fit to attend. Labor and public authority need to regard and reward teachers as builders of the future. Taxes necessarily will need to rise, not fall, and the progressive taxation approach needs to be adopted with gusto.

    In short, the era of the 1950′s needs to be looked to as an economic status to emulate. Brackets should range from a very low % to a very high % based upon a realistic definition of income. How we get there from here will depend upon one ‘simple’ change: the very rich must come to realize that unless the very poor have truly equal opportunity, the seeds of the destruction of the status quo generate dangerous growth. Hell hath no fury like that of a tea party that learns it has been manipulated into working against its own best interests, that Libertarianism is Autocracy.

  2. dismasdolben permalink
    January 27, 2014 10:32 pm

    Your economic, historical and social analyses are spot on, Minion, but you fail to note that the “structural cause of inequality” is actually caused by a THEOLOGICAL difference between the Anglo-Saxon societies and the societies of continental Europe, which remain culturally Catholic, albeit increasingly irregular in religious practice:

    This is not just an economic issue or even a social issue. It is a theological issue and a moral issue that gets to the very heart of who we really are—relational persons rather than autonomous individuals, who find meaning in social life and encounter with others, especially the poor.

    What does all of this mean for policy? It means, in the words of Pope Francis, that we need to tackle the “structural causes of inequality”.

    You typically leave out this theological-cultural difference in your list of “causes”:
    Many explanations have been put forward to explain these trends: technological change favored high skills, rampant globalization, the declining bargaining power of labor, the financialization of the economy, and diminishing minimum wages. All of these factors probably have some role to play.

    But then, in a different part of your cogent analysis, you say this:

    Civic virtue will be replaced by a mentality of self-absorption and individualism.
    In the dominant Protestant theologies of the Anglo-Saxon world, so tinged as they are with Augustinian, Lutheran and Calvinist pessimism about the human condition, to attempt to build a just society on earth smacks of what those deeply imbued with the anti-communitarian, Protestant soteriology consider to be the blasphemous theology of Pelagianism and “good works.”

    There is no way to “fix” an economic system that is supported by a cultural and religious context. The “myth of Horatio Alger” is a vital part of American Protestant culture.

    And the vaguely Catholic societies of South America were never so deeply affected by the “social justice teachings” of the Catholic Magisterium as were the various cultures of Europe—even the Lutheran ones of Scandinavia. The Hispanic establishments of Latin America, for instance, staunchly resisted the papacy’s denunciations of their slavery and their decimations of the indigenous populations on that continent, even when the Catholic Sovereigns sought haphazardly to control and limit them.

  3. trellis smith permalink
    January 29, 2014 11:39 pm

    It is interesting that Max Weber, the orignator of the thesis attributing the Protestant work ethic to the general rise of western capitalism believed in his own time that the religious imagination for the Protestant work ethic had largely vanished. Indeed by the time of Ben Franklin whom he quotes extensively capitalism had largely already passed into its rationalist phase. At no time did he attribute Protestantinism as the sole or major cause of the rise of American capitalism. Still a time capsule of an American protestant work ethic may be found among the Amish which is hardly diminished in communitarianism. While I too am struck by the differences in a “catholic” or “protestant” mentality that gives rise to sociologial differences particularly along the holistic or differential. I find the differences much more nuanced and more a question of emphasis rather than of broad charaterizations. The cross fertilization of ideas alone delimits the dominance of any one mentality.

  4. Sabarna Das permalink
    February 6, 2014 3:17 am

    Most of the details given are correct but the whole system of inequality isn’t something that hurts economies. To a certain extent inequality is required in the society. If all people are same then there won’t be people available to do jobs of different levels. A clear example would be if the CEO and a labour earn the same, then the labour won’t be encouraged to develop his skills and achieve the position of the CEO. With inequality the society can be more structured. With the capitalist system right now, inequality is extremely essential for the success of any corporation. In order for a company to flourish workers and management officers are required. If there is a problem in either of the sections, then turmoil is crated. In the current situation attempts to make economies fair and attempts to create equality among people could be disastrous. If we consider trade policies, free trade gets much more support that fair trade. With free trade everyone involved with the business benefits. With free trade policies there is an inequality but with the policies favouring the rich more capitalists are encouraged to bring more industries. With more industries there are more job opportunities for people. On the other hand if we have fair trade policies in place, capitalists wouldn’t have any incentive to bring more industries. This would lead to the rise of unemployment at the end hurting the poor and minorities. In addition to that if we consider government systems, democracy receives more acceptance than communism. Countries with communist governments don’t develop as much as democratic systems. This clearly explains how inequality is more beneficial for all rather than creating a system that is equal for all.

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