Thursday, March 24, 2011

New York Times puts a thumb on the inequality scale

This teaser for a recent "Room for Debate" feature on the topic Rising Wealth Inequality: Should We Care? pisses me off.

Who says a negative response to rising wealth inequality signals "envy" of the wealthy?

Speaking for myself, I hate inequality because I believe a grasping insistence by rich people who want to hoard their surplus is destroying the potential for all of us to live decent lives together. I don't covet their stuff; I just think they ought to share. They benefit from this society -- give back, already. Yeah -- it's that old maxim "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs" that keeps a civilized society going.

The Times feature itself isn't as bad as the teaser. it takes off from Michael Norton and Dan Ariely's social science finding that most of us don't realize how very unequal wealth distribution is in this country and want it to be far more equal. ( See their graph below; click for larger image.) They wonder, why aren't we out their with our pitchforks?

That's easy to understand though few of the contributors to this series mention the main reason: our mass media almost never mention the extraordinary gap between the very rich and the rest of us. (When they do, the allusion is strictly tangential.) Individuals are encouraged to think that, if they aren't finding jobs or getting an education, it's their own fault, not the fault of a society that has lost track of its responsibility to its members.

So I guess this Room for Debate is progress, even if some headline writer gave it an absurd, dismissive appearance.

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