Arnold Kling  

Status Competition

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Exposure Therapy: When Probabi... Unchecked and Unbalanced

Gordon Wood, in Empire of Liberty, writes,


After all, wealth, compared to birth, breeding, ethnicity, family heritage, gentility, even education, is the least humiliating means by which one person can claim superiority over another; and it is the one most easily matched or overcome by exertion.

The alleged goal of reducing economic inequality is trumpeted by people who want to strengthen inequality of political power. The goal is to entrench Harvard while delegitimizing those who are less educated.

When push comes to shove, political income redistribution favors Insiders over Outsiders. Thus, the bailouts and the continued support for "too big to fail."

In my view, the biggest threat to America's democratic tradition is not concentration of wealth. It is concentration of political power. That is an essential theme of Unchecked and Unbalanced.


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (5 to date)
Mike Rulle writes:

Completely agree.

Yet there are 10s of millions of people across the entire spectrum of sociology's categories who either disagree, and/or do not have the slightest idea what you are talking about. When I put that fact into the intellectual mix--and make myself the "transcendent" observer---it creates cognitive dissonance in me.

Perhaps it is the facts themselves which are in dispute--for example, "we really are not a nation which seeks redistribution", or something like that.

It's a mystery to me.

MANUELG writes:

> The alleged goal of reducing economic inequality is trumpeted by people who want to strengthen inequality of political power.

I consider myself a "Progressive", but I would nominate your statement as "Really Existing Progressivism described in 25 words or less".

Add ", serving themselves" to the end, and you got a winner.

Anyone who claims to be "Progressive" should explicitly state how they will avoid (or at least mitigate) a self-serving political regime. It is hardly "Progressivism" if the only thing guaranteed is self-serving arrangements by the well-connected self-described "progressives".

R. Richard Schweitzer writes:

One may plausibly question the assertion that the U S electorate does not *seek* politicaly determined redistribution.

They certainly have been making no efforts to avoid that; have generally reinforced those who foment it - and - generally when it falls to them personally, revel in it, like dogs in manure seeking and wrongly expecting relief from fleas and pests.

R. Richard Schweitzer

Doc Merlin writes:

"The alleged goal of reducing economic inequality is trumpeted by people who want to strengthen inequality of political power." So true, going to have to write this one down.

Deanna writes:

I think that it is a great thing that those in this country who wish to advance can do so by increasing their financial status through hard work and determination. The ability for the lower class to raise their status through the work of their own hands is one of the best aspects of America and something that should be encouraged, not looked down upon. If there were no room for advancement in our society, then I feel like nothing would be accomplished due to the lack of incentive.
It is this desire to move forward in society, economically and socially, that draws entrepreneurs into the market world and keeps the spirit of competition thriving. Without competition our markets would have to result to monopoly control and as we have learned in Microeconomics this is not the most efficient way for a market to run.

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