Republicans, Democrats split on why people are rich or poor | Pew Research Center

English: The "substantive" conceptio...

English: The “substantive” conception of equality of opportunity, in contrast to the “formal” conception, focuses on fairness before a competition begins by trying to help disadvantaged persons have a better chance at the upcoming competition. Examples include “affirmative action” programs, educational assistance and other ways to help applicants disadvantaged by circumstances beyond their control be more “equal” at the starting point. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a brilliant, thought-provoking, must-read article published by Pew Research. It argues that beyond partisan differences over economic policies, there are stark divisions on a fundamental question: What makes someone rich or poor?

Source: Republicans, Democrats split on why people are rich or poor | Pew Research Center

I particularly like Pew Research because its view are evidence-based and not loose opinion without argument.

The findings will be of interest to North American readers. But more importantly, many of the issues are generalizable to other countries, especially the UK after the general election, where prime minister, Theresa May, is being propped up by the Conservatives because they are fearful of the results of an early election.

My political views are well known but for simplicity, I restate them below:

  1. Libertarian, rather than authoritarian
  2. Internationalist and Pro-Europe
  3. Right of centre , favouring strongly individualism compared to state
  4. Strongly anti-bureaucracy, favouring small government
  5. Pro democracy
  6. Anti corruption
  7. Pro Keynesian and anti monetarist (I favour a belt & braces approach with sound monetary policy, good fiscal discipline but leaving room for state intervention where necessary)
  8. Pro Monarchist

As a lifelong conservative, I believe passionately in hard-work and personal fulfillment. But I’m a one-nation conservative, who supports social safety nets for the less fortunate. I come from an average middle-class, post-war family and was a product of state education. Like many people of my generation, I have scars, deep experiences and passionate viewpoints. When I was younger, I soon spotted the magic doors that opened for the privileged.  But my generation were much luckier than today’s young.

Young people today are polarized between two groups. Firstly, there are those with wealth, privilege and private education, for whom work experience and career opportunities abound – my insights and experiences are deep, having been a tutor at an elitist French Grande Ecole for many years. Secondly, there are the rest, the proletariat, or the ‘great unwashed’ (an expression that my fellow blogger, John Gelmini, favors). Ordinary people, without privilege, are at a serious disadvantage – this is more noticeable today than for my generation. Of course, there are contextual changes, including the impact of technology, widespread tertiary education, travel and multi-culturalism.

Returning to the Pew article, for many more successful people, hard-work is closely correlated with success. But it’s not really a level-playing field. I suggest that for my generation, there was greater equality of opportunity for those prepared to work and take reasonable risks. Today, since the economic crisis of 2008, it is much harder for young people, without privilege and family wealth. Young people seem to have lost faith in traditional political parties and are being swayed by the Pied Piper promises of the populists. It’s significant that we now have populists on both the right and left of the political divide, for example, Trump in the US and Corbyn in the UK. Corbyn owes his power base to shadowy Far-Left elements infiltrating the UK’s Labour Party – in the US, it’s the Far-Right supporting Trump. The problem is that for both the Far-Left and the Far-Right, the end justifies the means, truth and evidence are suppressed in favor of political expediency.

For me, the answer is to move away from the traditional political parties, with their vested interests and shadowy practices. Macron’s example in France provides a benchmark. For example, I sense that it’s the ‘Last Chance Saloon‘ for the UK Conservative Party – they must become popular with young voters.

Let me ask an open question:

So beyond rich and poor, how do governments offer greater equality of opportunity?







2 responses

  1. Thank you very much for your input here.

    I agree that big business, de-unionized labour, off-shoring and eye water executive pay are part of the problem. But search consultants argue that massive income is necessary to attract the best people and to ensure proper motivation. I dare say that the overpaid executives cite poorly skilled labour as the need for immigration and offshoring.

    Income inequality is part of the challenge. The distribution of wealth is also key.

    There is also a challenge of laziness and absence of motivation. Surely this needs to be ad
    dressed too?

  2. Tough question! To answer it would take volumes…But let me try with just a few words: equality of opportunity requires a more equal society. Bottom line, the problem is income inequality and we are all aware since Piketty’s book how much worse the situation has become. It is now a universally known fact that since the 1980s, income inequality has been on the rise everywhere, but especially in the US. Big business has taken control of American democracy ever since the Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United decision.

    So the starting point is to address the problem of income inequality. And on this score, a lot can be done. I just read a fascinating book in this regard, Keith Payne’s THE BROKEN LADDER: How Inequality Changes the Way we Think, Live and Die. Written by a psychologist, it opens truly new vistas on the problem and how to address it. Highly recommended read!

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