Friday, June 02, 2006

Are We Reaching Critical Mass?

Freakoutonomics - New York Times:
Before the Civil War, America was perhaps the most egalitarian society in the world. But the unbridled entrepreneurialism of the 1870's gave rise to the robber barons. Even if ordinary people were doing better in the 1870's, the yawning gap between the very rich and everybody else fanned resentments. Interestingly, wealth inequality in today's America is roughly the same as in the Gilded Age.

The sharply increased social and geographic mobility of the 1870's set people adrift from traditional sources of security in families and villages. In our own day, the destruction of employer-employee relationships, the erosion of pension protection and employee health insurance may be creating a similar loss of moorings.
I've said over and over to anyone who will listen that once all the marbles are in one hand the game is over. There comes a time when the rich have to get poorer (or at least not as much richer), and the poor richer, or the whole system falls apart. Joe and Joan Workingclass are beginning to wake up to the fact that, even in suburbia, they are getting closer to the fate of the inner-city poor rather than that of the gated-community rich. Sooner or later, the sleeping giant's gonna' wake up and smell the gasoline. At that point, it only takes a spark to start a conflagration.

Labor lost it's grip on the wheel when management was able to drive a wedge between the whites and the blacks and, later, the white collars and the blue collars. Maybe it's getting time to rejoin and recombine....
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