Monday, October 26, 2015

the real trouble begins when rising inequality splinters elites


charleshughsmith | History supports two narratives of rising inequality leading to social disintegration and political instability: one is inequality between the top classes and everyone else, and the the other is rising inequality within the top classes.
When the pie starts shrinking and there aren't enough slices to satisfy the rising expectations of the top class, the elites splinter in profound political disunity. In other words, when the offspring of the top 10% earn MBAs from respected universities and can only find internships, their parents become extremely dissatisfied with the status quo.
Josh and Maddie living at home or being subsidized by Mom and Dad was not part of the expected payoff for reaching the top tier of American society. Toss in a stock market crash or two, a medical emergency with co-pays larger than the GDP of small nations and a slump in business/fees/bonuses, and what people who expected to live comfortably on Easy Street are experiencing is downward mobility.
Many in the bottom 90% are also experiencing downward mobility, but their expectations tend to be less elevated than the professional/technocrat class.
Studies have found that our sense of wealth is less a matter of the actual dollar amount and more a matter of how we measure up to our peers. If our entire class is experiencing stagnating income, we're less likely to feel a sense of social inequity.
But if others in our class are still rising while we're stagnating, we sense a great disturbance in the financial and political Force. If our neighbor's kids are landing partnerships (due to superior connections, of course) while Josh and Maddie struggle to escape Intern-Hell, we sense a huge gulf opening that isn't necessarily reflected in income/wealth statistics.