Zero Sum Game: The Widening Income Gap

2209 words - 9 pages

When the average person thinks of a 'class system', the first things that spring to mind are the British system of nobles and commoners, and the Indian caste system. In both systems, it can be difficult to rise above the station that an individual is born to. Some societies have loosened the strict codes they once held to. One very good example is the recent marriage of future king of England, William, and his commoner bride, Kate Middleton. William is not held to the same strict standards as his own father was. William's mother, Diana, was not only a noble, but she was also required to be a virgin. In Ms. Middleton's case, more than one rule was relaxed. It will be quite interesting to see how the passing of the British throne will commence, after Queen Elizabeth II's reign ends. If they are bending the rules, in just one generation, perhaps Charles and Camilla's story will have a different ending, with two generations dividing them from his great uncle, who abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson. Luckily, other than as an example of an aristocratic class system / tabloid fodder, it is not America’s immediate concern, right? But, the chance to escape an overbearing class / caste system was at the heart of the emigration to ‘The New World’. That, and the unfair tax system. Is history repeating itself?

Our current levels of unemployment, wage index between the small percentage of top earners, versus the majority of the population, make it harder to remember that America’s founding fathers -- in structuring a new culture -- made it possible for individuals, born of humble means, to achieve great wealth and power - in a way they never could have, in Europe. This is the country that once had the largest middle class in all of history; the country responsible for statesmen, such as Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln; or businessmen, such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. However, even though Americans experience what Weber describes as greater social 'mobility', with a wide berth of permissiveness in crossing class lines - it is incorrect to believe that that a class system, and more importantly, class division - does not exist in the United States (Zweig, 2000) (Stewart & Dunkerley) (Moyers). Even without a formal class system in place, there are unwritten norms and 'invisible lines in the sand' that serve as guidelines, in most every society - regarding status between members of different classes (Weber Lecture, 2011). Status is based upon individual power, perceived influence, economic, and sociopolitical value (Zweig, 2000) (Marx & Engels, 1992). Make no mistake; there is still a ‘ruling class’ in America. But, until recently, it was just disguised as lack-of-initiative, or other labels that make ‘poor people’ into the scapegoats and outcasts of society.

Zweig’s book, “The Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret” adds value to the ongoing discussion among economists, sociologists, political scientists, and the worried citizens of America....

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