Archive for the ‘Wealth’ Category
The US government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities has concluded. The report, entitled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, used extensive policy data collected from between the years of 1981 and 2002 to empirically determine the state of the US political system. Researchers concluded that US government policies rarely align with the preferences of the majority of Americans, but do favour special interests and lobbying organisations: “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.” This paper reports on using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues. Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.
Economic inequality is rapidly increasing in the majority of countries. The wealth of the world is divided in two: almost half going to the richest one percent; the other half to the remaining 99 percent. The World Economic Forum has identified this as a major risk to human progress. Extreme economic inequality and political capture are too often interdependent. Left unchecked, political institutions become undermined and governments overwhelmingly serve the interests of economic elites to the detriment of ordinary people. Extreme inequality is not inevitable, and it can and must be reversed quickly. representation. When wealth captures government policymaking, the rules bend to favor the rich, often to the detriment of everyone else. The consequences include the erosion of democratic governance, the pulling apart of social cohesion, and the vanishing of equal opportunities for all. Unless bold political solutions are instituted to curb the influence of wealth on politics, governments will work for the interests of the rich, while economic and political inequalities continue to rise.
La desigualdad económica crece rápidamente en la mayoría de los países. La riqueza mundial está dividida en dos: casi la mitad está en manos del 1% más rico de la población, y la otra mitad se reparte entre el 99% restante. El Foro Económico Mundial considera que esta desigualdad supone un grave riesgo para el progreso de la humanidad. La desigualdad económica extrema y el secuestro de los procesos democráticos por parte de las élites son demasiado a menudo interdependientes. La falta de control en las instituciones políticas produce su debilitamiento, y los gobiernos sirven abrumadoramente a las élites económicas en detrimento de la ciudadanía de a pie. La desigualdad extrema no es inevitable, y puede y debe revertirse lo antes posible. Cuando la riqueza se apropia de la elaboración de las políticas gubernamentales secuestrándolas, las leyes tienden a favorecer a los ricos, incluso a costa de todos los demás. El resultado es la erosión de la gobernanza democrática, la destrucción de la cohesión social y la desaparición de la igualdad de oportunidades. A menos que se adopten soluciones políticas valientes que pongan freno a la influencia de la riqueza en la política, los gobiernos trabajarán en favor de los intereses de los ricos, y las desigualdades políticas y económicas seguirán aumentando.
The one percent, those at the top of the income and wealth distributions, are fundamental to understanding social and economic inequality and mobility, but sociologists rarely focus research attention on this group. This article presents updated evidence showing that both income and wealth are very highly concentrated in the United States but that the concentration of wealth, particularly financial wealth, is extremely high. We focus on the one percent of wealth owners and identify patterns in asset ownership, liabilities, and demographic traits that are relevant to sociological research. Findings show, for example, that those in the one percent have unique asset and debt portfolios that, to some extent, insulated them from the ill effects of the recent recession; however, patterns reported also highlight inheritance and suggest that mobility into the one percent is possible. The article concludes with suggestions for future research.
Although wealth is one of the pillars of the economic system, reliable data on personal wealth ownership is in short supply. The Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report aims to help bridge this deficit by providing the most comprehensive, reliable and timely source of information on global household wealth. Global wealth has reached a new all-time high of USD 241 trillion, up 4.9% since last year, with the US accounting for most of the rise. Average wealth hit a new peak of USD 51,600 per adult, but inequality remains high, with the top 10% of the world population owning 86% of global wealth, compared to barely 1% for the bottom half of all adults.
This document presents details on the wealth and income distributions in the United States, and explains how we use these two distributions as power indicators.
Some of the information may come as a surprise to many people. In fact, I know it will be a surprise and then some, because of a recent study (Norton & Ariely, 2010) showing that most Americans (high income or low income, female or male, young or old, Republican or Democrat) have no idea just how concentrated the wealth distribution actually is. More on that a bit later.
As far as the income distribution, the most striking numbers on income inequality will come last, showing the dramatic change in the ratio of the average CEO’s paycheck to that of the average factory worker over the past 40 years.
In Plenitude economist and bestselling author Juliet Schor offers a groundbreaking intellectual statement about the economics and sociology of ecological decline, suggesting a radical change in how we think about consumer goods, value, and ways to live. Humans are degrading the planet far faster than they are regenerating it. As we travel along this shutdown path, food, energy, transport and consumer goods are becoming increasingly expensive. The economic downturn that has accompanied the ecological crisis has led to another type of scarcity: incomes, jobs, and credit are also in short supply. Our usual way back to growth a debt-financed consumer boom is no longer an option our households, or planet, can afford. Responding to our current moment, Plenitude puts sustainability at its core, but it is not a paradigm of sacrifice. Instead it’s an argument that through a major shift to new sources of wealth, green technologies, and different ways of living, individuals and the country as a whole can actually be better off and more economically secure. And as Schor observes, Plenitude is already emerging. In pockets around the country and the world, people are busy creating lifestyles that offer a way out of the work and spend cycle. These pioneers’ lives are scarce in conventional consumer goods and rich in the newly abundant resources of time, information, creativity and community. Taken together, these trends represent a movement away from the conventional market and offer a way toward an efficient, rewarding life in an era of high prices and traditional resource scarcity. Based on recent developments in economic theory, social analysis, and ecological design, as well as evidence from the cutting edge people and places putting these ideas into practice, Plenitude is a road map for the next two decades. In encouraging us to value our gifts nature, community, intelligence, and time Schor offers the opportunity to participate in creating a world of wealth and well-being.
It is a confounding moment in American political history. On the one hand, evidence of democratic possibilities is undeniable. In 2008, millions of Americans helped catapult a man of half-African descent into the White House long before observers thought the nation was “ready.” Democratic movements have won major victories in recent decades, spreading civil rights, improving the status of women and ending unpopular wars. This is the continuation of a trend with deep roots in American history, reaching back at least to the Jacksonian era, of extending the equality principle into American culture at large.
On the other hand, democracy appears chronically dysfunctional when it comes to policies that impinge on the rich. Despite polls consistently showing that large majorities favor increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans, policy has been moving for decades in the opposite direction. Reduced taxes on the ultra-rich and the corporations and banks they dominate have shifted fiscal burdens downward even as they have strained the government’s capacity to maintain infrastructure, provide relief to children and the poor, and assist the elderly.
The United States holds the dubious distinction of having the most unequal income distribution of any advanced industrialized nation. While other developed countries face similar challenges from globalization and technological change, none rivals America’s singularly poor record for equitably distributing the benefits and burdens of recent economic shifts. In Categorically Unequal, Douglas Massey weaves together history, political economy, and even neuropsychology to provide a comprehensive explanation of how America’s culture and political system perpetuates inequalities between different segments of the population.
Categorically Unequal is striking both for its theoretical originality and for the breadth of topics it covers. Massey argues that social inequalities arise from the universal human tendency to place others into social categories. In America, ethnic minorities, women, and the poor have consistently been the targets of stereotyping, and as a result, they have been exploited and discriminated against throughout the nation’s history. African-Americans continue to face discrimination in markets for jobs, housing, and credit. Meanwhile, the militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border has discouraged Mexican migrants from leaving the United States, creating a pool of exploitable workers who lack the legal rights of citizens. Massey also shows that women’s advances in the labor market have been concentrated among the affluent and well-educated, while low-skilled female workers have been relegated to occupations that offer few chances for earnings mobility.
America’s unrivalled disparities are not simply the inevitable result of globalization and technological change. As Massey shows, privileged groups have systematically exploited and excluded many of their fellow Americans. By delving into the root causes of inequality in America, Categorically Unequal provides a compelling argument for the creation of a more equitable society.
This is a transformative book. It’s the best book on American politics that I’ve read since Before the Storm. Not all of it is original (the authors seek to synthesize others’ work as well as present their own, but provide due credit where credit is due). Not all of its arguments are fully supported (the authors provide a strong circumstantial case to support their argument, but don’t have smoking gun evidence on many of the relevant causal relations). But it should transform the ways in which we think about and debate the political economy of the US.
The underlying argument is straightforward. The sources of American economic inequality are largely political – the result of deliberate political decisions to shape markets in ways that benefit the already-privileged at the expense of a more-or-less unaware public.
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