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Meritocracy Harms Everyone - The Atlantic
“Escaping the meritocracy trap will not be easy. Elites naturally resist policies that threaten to undermine their advantages. But it is simply not possible to get rich off your own human capital without exploiting yourself and impoverishing your inner life, and meritocrats who hope to have their cake and eat it too deceive themselves. Building a society in which a good education and good jobs are available to a broader swath of people—so that reaching the very highest rungs of the ladder is simply less important—is the only way to ease the strains that now drive the elite to cling to their status.

How can that be done? For one thing, education—whose benefits are concentrated in the extravagantly trained children of rich parents—must become open and inclusive. Private schools and universities should lose their tax-exempt status unless at least half of their students come from families in the bottom two-thirds of the income distribution. And public subsidies should encourage schools to meet this requirement by expanding enrollment.

A parallel policy agenda must reform work, by favoring goods and services produced by workers who do not have elaborate training or fancy degrees. For example, the health-care system should emphasize public health, preventive care, and other measures that can be overseen primarily by nurse practitioners, rather than high-tech treatments that require specialist doctors. The legal system should deploy “legal technicians”—not all of whom would need to have a J.D.—to manage routine matters, such as real-estate transactions, simple wills, and even uncontested divorces. In finance, regulations that limit exotic financial engineering and favor small local and regional banks can shift jobs to mid-skilled workers. And management should embrace practices that distribute control beyond the C-suite, to empower everyone else in the firm.

The main obstacle to overcoming meritocratic inequality is not technical but political. Today’s conditions induce discontent and widespread pessimism, verging on despair. In his book Oligarchy, the political scientist Jeffrey A. Winters surveys eras in human history from the classical period to the 20th century, and documents what becomes of societies that concentrate income and wealth in a narrow elite. In almost every instance, the dismantling of such inequality has been accompanied by societal collapse, such as military defeat (as in the Roman empire) or revolution (as in France and Russia).

Nevertheless, there are grounds for hope. History does present one clear-cut case of an orderly recovery from concentrated inequality: In the 1920s and ’30s, the U.S. answered the Great Depression by adopting the New Deal framework that would eventually build the mid-century middle class. Crucially, government redistribution was not the primary engine of this process. The broadly shared prosperity that this regime established came, mostly, from an economy and a labor market that promoted economic equality over hierarchy—by dramatically expanding access to education, as under the GI Bill, and then placing mid-skilled, middle-class workers at the center of production.

An updated version of these arrangements remains available today; a renewed expansion of education and a renewed emphasis on middle-class jobs can reinforce each other. The elite can reclaim its leisure in exchange for a reduction of income and status that it can easily afford. At the same time, the middle class can regain its income and status and reclaim the center of American life.

Rebuilding a democratic economic order will be difficult. But the benefits that economic democracy brings—to everyone—justify the effort. And the violent collapse that will likely follow from doing nothing leaves us with no good alternative but to try.“
meritocracy  danielmarkovits  neoliberalism  capitalism  society  2019  competition  policy  privateschools  taxexemption  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  inequality  redistribution  governance  taxation  hierarchy  oligarchy 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
Opinion | The Rich Kid Revolutionaries - The New York Times
"Rather than repeat family myths about the individual effort and smarts of their forebears, those from wealthy backgrounds tell “money stories” that highlight the more complicated origins of their families’ assets. If their fortunes came from the direct dispossession of indigenous peoples, enslavement of African-Americans, production of fossil fuels or obvious exploitation of workers, they often express especially acute guilt. As a woman in her early 20s told me of the wealth generated by her family’s global business: “It’s not just that I get money without working. It’s that other people work to make me money and don’t get nearly as much themselves. I find it to be morally repugnant.”

Even those I have talked with whose family wealth was accumulated through less transparently exploitative means, such as tech or finance, or who have high-paying jobs themselves, question what they really deserve. They see that their access to such jobs, through elite schools and social networks, comes from their class (and usually race) advantages.

They also know that many others work just as hard but reap fewer rewards. One 27-year-old white woman, who stands to inherit several million dollars, told me: “My dad has always been a C.E.O., and it was clear to me that he spent a lot of time at work, but it has never been clear to me that he worked a lot harder than a domestic worker, for example. I will never believe that.” She and others challenge the description of wealth garnered through work as “earned.” In an effort to break the link between money and moral value, they refer to rich people as “high net wealth” rather than “high net worth.”

Immigrants who “make it” are often seen to exemplify the American dream of upward mobility. The children of immigrants I spoke with, though, don’t want their families’ “success stories” to legitimate an unfair system. Andrea Pien, 32, is a Resource Generation member and a daughter of Taiwanese immigrants who accumulated significant wealth in the United States. She spoke of refusing to be “the token that then affirms the capitalist meritocracy myth, the idea that ‘Oh, if Andrea’s family made it, we don’t need affirmative action, or we don’t need reparations.’”

In general, these young people don’t believe they are entitled to so much when others have so little. Many describe feeling guilt or shame about their privilege, which often leads them to hide it. One college student, a woman of color, told me that she worried what other campus activists might think of her. “What a fraud, right?” she said. “To be in those spaces and be acting like these are my struggles, when they’re not.” A white woman who lives on her inheritance of more than $15 million spoke of “deflecting” questions about her occupation, so that others would not know she did not do work for pay.

These progressive children of privilege told me they study the history of racial capitalism in the United States and discuss the ways traditional philanthropy tends to keep powerful people at the top. They also spend a fair amount of time talking about their money. Should they give it all away? Should they get a job, even if they don’t need the income? How much is it ethical to spend on themselves or others? How does money shape friendships and relationships? Resource Generation and its members facilitate these conversations, including one local chapter’s “feelings caucus.”

If you’re thinking, “Cry me a river,” you’re not alone. I have faced skepticism from other sociologists when discussing this research. One colleague asserted that rich young people struggling with their privilege do not have a “legitimate problem.” Others ask: How much do they really give, and what do they really give up? Aren’t these simply self-absorbed millennials taking another opportunity to talk endlessly about themselves?

I understand this view. There is certainly a risk — of which many of them are aware — that all this conversation will just devolve into navel-gazing, an expression of privilege rather than a challenge to it. It is hard for individual action to make a dent in an ironclad social structure. And it is impossible, as they know, to shed the class privilege rooted in education and family socialization, even if they give away every penny.

But like Abigail Disney, these young people are challenging fundamental cultural understandings of who deserves what. And they are breaking the social taboo against talking about money — a taboo that allows radical inequality to fade into the background. This work is critical at a moment when the top 1 percent of families in the United States owns 40 percent of the country’s wealth, and Jeff Bezos takes home more money per minute than the median American worker makes in a year.

As Holly Fetter, a Resource Generation member and Harvard Business School student, told me, “It’s essential that those of us who have access to wealth and want to use it to support progressive social movements speak up, to challenge the narrative that the 1 percent are only interested in accumulation, and invite others to join us.”

Wealthy people are more likely to convince other wealthy people that the system is unfair. And they are the only ones who can describe intimately the ways that wealth may be emotionally corrosive, producing fear, shame and isolation.

Class privilege is like white privilege, in that its beneficiaries receive advantages that are, in fact, unearned. So for them to conclude that their own wealth is undeserved, and therefore immoral, constitutes a powerful critique of the idea of meritocracy.

The fact that the system is immoral, of course, does not make individuals immoral. One person I spoke with, a white 30-year-old who inherited money, said: “It’s not that we’re bad people. It’s just, nobody needs that much money.” But judgments of systems are often taken as judgments of individuals, which leads white people to deny racism and rich people to deny class privilege.

So even the less-public work of talking through emotions, needs and relationships, which can seem self-indulgent, is meaningful. As Ms. Pien put it, “Our feelings are related to the bigger structure.”

One huge cultural support of that structure is secrecy around money, which even rich people don’t talk about.

Wealthy parents fear that if they tell their kids how much they will inherit, the kids won’t develop a strong work ethic. Yahya Alazrak, of Resource Generation, has heard people say, “My dad won’t tell me how much money we have because he’s worried that I’ll become lazy.” One man in his early 30s recounted that his parents had always told him they would pay for his education, but not support him afterward until they revealed that he had a trust worth over $10 million. Parents also have a “scarcity mentality,” Resource Generation members said, which leads them to “hoard” assets to protect against calamity.

Secrecy also often goes hand in hand with limited financial literacy. Women, especially, may not learn about money management growing up, thanks to gendered ideas about financial planning and male control of family assets. Some people I met who will inherit significant amounts of money didn’t know the difference between a stock and a bond.

When wealthy parents do talk about money, they tend to put forth conventional ideas about merit: They or their ancestors worked hard for what they have, scrimped and saved to keep and increase it, and gave some of it away. When their children reject these metrics, parents’ sense of being “good people” is challenged.

When one woman told her immigrant parents she wanted to give their millions away, it was like “a slap in the face” for them, she said, because they felt they had “sacrificed a lot for this money.”

Parents — and the financial professionals who manage family wealth — also tend to follow conventional wisdom about money: Never give away principal. Charitable donations should be offset by tax breaks. And the goal of investing is always to make as much money as possible. As one 33-year-old inheritor said, “No financial adviser ever says, ‘I made less money for the client, but I got them to build affordable housing.’”

Talking about how it feels to be rich can help build affordable housing, though. Once the feeling of being a “bad person” is replaced by “good person in a bad structure,” these young people move into redistributive action. Many talked about asserting control over their money, pursuing socially responsible investments (sometimes for much lower returns) and increasing their own or their families’ giving, especially to social-justice organizations. And eventually — like the people I have quoted by name here — they take a public stand.

Finally, they imagine an alternative future, based on a different idea of what people deserve. Ms. Pien, for example, wants to be “invested in collective good, so we can all have the basics that we need and a little more.” In her vision, this “actually makes everyone more secure and fulfilled and joyful, rather than us hiding behind our mountains of money.”"
abigaildisney  wealth  inequality  activism  legacy  2019  rachelsherman  affluence  security  disney  merit  meritocracy  inheritance  privilege  socialjustice  justice  redistribution  morality  ethics  upwardmobility  immigrants  capitalism  socialism  fulfillment  joy  charity  shame  guilt  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  power  hierarchy  secrecy  hoarding  scarcity  abundance  money  relationships  isolation  class 
may 2019 by robertogreco
Episode 4: The Solidarity Economy by Upstream
"In this episode we explore a phenomenon that has existed throughout centuries both within and alongside Capitalism. Wherever relationships have been based on reciprocity, sustainability, and democratic governance you'll find the Solidarity Economy. We learn of it's origin and about how it is strengthened by countermovements and during times of crisis. We follow its presence throughout the history of a particular marginalized community in the U.S., celebrating the courage of African American cooperative thought and practice. We then paint a picture of a modern solidarity response to economic austerity. And finally, we dream about it's potential in the face of ecological peril and plan for what it will take to grow the Solidarity Economy to serve as a movement of movements.

Featuring:

Michael Ventura - Co-author with James Hillman of We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy – And the World's Getting Worse, columnist of Letters at 3AM with the Austin Chronicle

Caroline Woolard - Artist & organizer whose work explores intersections between art and the solidarity economy

Michael Lewis - Soildarity economy researcher; Co-author of The Resilience Imperative

Pat Conaty - Research associate Cooperatives UK, Co-author of The Resilience Imperative

Jessica Gordon Nembard - Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development, author of Collective Courage: A history of African-American Cooperative Economic Thought & Practice

Biba Schoenmaker - Co-Founder of Broodfonds Makers

Stuart Field - Founder of Breadfunds UK

Jos Veldhuizen - Member of Broodfunds, Amsterdam"
solidarity  economics  michaelventura  carolinewoolard  michaellewis  jessicagordonnembard  bibaschoenmaker  stuartfield  josveldhuizen  reciprocity  sustainability  cooperative  capitalism  governance  deregulation  regulation  democracy  cooperation  austerity  socialjustice  markets  redistribution  race  racism  coops  plunder  inequality  exploitation 
february 2017 by robertogreco
This One Chart Shows Everything That’s Wrong With Liberal Politics | Notes on a Theory...
"Let’s leave aside the fact that federal dollars do materialize out of thin air. Transferring money from the rich to the poor is precisely what conservatives don’t want to do. Normally this complaint is about “redistribution” but the reality is that conservatives (especially elite conservatives) are opposed to any distributions that don’t transfer money upward. They support policies that make the poor more insecure, more miserable, and they oppose those that prevent the rich from having more wealth and power. They will pay the costs when it comes to these goals. As I’ve said before, ‘big government’ is any action that enforces the law against the rich or provides protections to the poor while ‘small government’ is any and all protections and benefits for the rich or punishments for the poor. This is the conservative project, not spending less federal dollars as a matter of principle.

Every once and a while there’s a renewed effort among liberals to insist that the GOP is the party of death because they oppose universal health care (or more to the point, somewhat more universal). People die without health care, people don’t get health care without health insurance, so those who oppose expansion of health insurance are ensuring people die. But if we admit that people die without health care than what do we say about not fighting to change that? The Democratic Party has still not engaged in a serious effort to fight for Medicaid expansion. The original bill was designed to coerce states into accepting it, and when the Supreme Court took that mechanism away, Democrats mostly threw up their hands. (I mean officials and candidates. Even then there are exceptions. There are people out there fighting for this, and they are to be commended and supported). The party put most of its resources and attention on the Senate, never really made a case for why people should vote for them, never tried to move passive supporters of Medicare expansion or various other policies into active supporters, and the GOP ended up racking up large victories in state houses around the country in addition to taking the Senate.

The thing is that Medicaid expansion is popular. It’s popular in red states. It gives Democrats a wedge to use in less hospitable places.  But to translate that position into political support takes work. And charts won’t do that. Facts won’t do that. ‘Cost’ arguments won’t do it. Only contestation will."
obamacare  democrats  republicans  politics  policy  healthcare  insurance  2014  inequality  poverty  medicaide  affordablecareact  georgia  redistribution  biggovernment  government  elections 
november 2014 by robertogreco
A broader tax base, it is thought, will insure... • see things differently
"A broader tax base, it is thought, will insure that wealthy suburbanites pay for essential services needed by the poor. No evidence is available to indicate that this actually happens in large cities.

Poor neighborhoods receiving ”services” which are not tailored to their needs may not be better off when increased resources are allocated to their neighborhood. In large collective consumption units, residents of poor neighborhoods may have even less voice about levels and types of services desired than they do in smaller-sized collective consumption units. Increasing the size of the smallest collective consumption unit to which citizens belong may not help solve problems of redistribution."

[PDF: http://socsci.colorado.edu/~mciverj/Ostrom-PG%26PC.PDF ]
elinorostrom  vincentostrom  economics  resources  colonization  imperialism  universalbasicincome  taxes  services  pverty  cities  urban  urbanism  development  democracy  redistribution  ubi 
september 2014 by robertogreco
On Smarm
"It is also no accident that David Eggers is full of shit."

"Smarm should be understood as a type of bullshit, then. It is a kind of moral and ethical misdirection."

"The old systems of prestige are rickety and insecure. Everyone has a publishing platform and no one has a career."

"What carries contemporary American political campaigns along is a thick flow of opaque smarm."

"Romney clambered up to a new higher ground, deploring the divisiveness of dwelling on his divisiveness."

"Through smarm, the "centrists" have cut themselves off from the language of actual dispute. In smarm is power."

"A civilization that speaks in smarm is a civilization that has lost its ability to talk about purposes at all."

"Joe Lieberman! If you would know smarm, look to Joe Lieberman."

"The plutocrats are haunted, as all smarmers are haunted, by a lack of respect. On Twitter, the only answer to "Do you know who I am?" is "One more person with 140 characters to use.""

"To actually say a plain and direct word like "corrupt" is more outlandish, in smarm's outlook, than even swearing."

"Anger is upsetting to smarm. But so is humor and confidence."

"Immense fortunes have bloomed in Silicon Valley on the most ephemeral and stupid windborne seeds of concepts. What's wrong with you, that you didn't get a piece of it?"
criticism  culture  smarm  snark  daveeggers  malcolmgladwell  2013  tomscocca  buzzfeed  heidijulavits  isaacfitzgerald  daviddenby  bambi  arifleischer  lannydavis  leesiegel  cynicism  negativity  tone  politics  writing  critique  mittromney  barackobama  michaelbloomberg  ianfrazier  centrists  power  redistribution  rebeccablank  civilization  dialog  conversation  purpose  jedediahpurdy  irony  joelieberman  marshallsella  billclinton  mainstream  georgewbush  maureendowd  rudeness  meanness  plutocrats  wealth  publishing  media  respect  niallferguson  alexpareene  mariabartiromo  gawker  choiresicha  anger  confidence  humor  spikelee  upworthy  adammordecai  juliachild  success  successfulness  niceness  tompeters  bullshit  morality  ethics  misdirection  insecurity  prestige  audience  dialogue  jedediahbritton-purdy 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Cockblocked by Redistribution: A Pick-up Artist in Denmark | Dissent Magazine
"Roosh comes to the conclusion that women who aren’t as dependent on men for financial support are not susceptible to the narcissistic salesmanship that constitutes phase one: “attraction.” That’s why Roosh fails to advance to the second level—”trust”—without being creepy. Thus “seduction” is almost always out of the question.

We can agree with pick-up artists that men and women exhibit some behavioral differences. But the PUA framework places their sources in evolution instead of the sexual and social division of labor. In her essay “A Marxist Theory of Women’s Nature,” philosopher Nancy Holmstrom argues that women’s lives are less free than men’s under capitalism “both because they are dependent on men and because they have children dependent on them.” Therefore, “traditional sexual values constrain women more than they do men,” and women “are less able to act to realize their own desires” and must be “more passive and oriented to other people’s wishes than men.”

But in societies with a less marked sexual division of labor, those sexualized generalizations dissipate. Marginalized women who need male spouses to flourish might, indeed, find pick-up artists alluring. But women in countries that have gender-equalizing policies supported by an anti-individualist culture may not.

***

By his last night in Copenhagen, Roosh’s game is not on point. His face is shining “a molten red” at the injustice of it all. He can’t stop himself from calling his buddy’s friend a “stupid, ugly, fat, cock-blocking bitch.” He ends the night by lying his way into bed with an apprehensive eighteen-year-old virgin. The determined pick-up artist can switch from “proactive” to predatory at the drop of a fedora. Since the Community deploys the strategies of hypercompetitive “meritocratic” societies in which self-promotion is indispensable to survival, Roosh felt he was responsible for making his night a success. If the inexperienced teenager had been more reluctant, it seems doubtful he would have relented.

As Roosh himself admits in Don’t Bang Denmark, Nordic social democracy doesn’t support his kind. His guidebook concludes with a resigned “bottom line” acknowledgment that his time in Denmark “liberalized me when it came to a government taking care of its citizens….Denmark sucks balls for women, but it kills the United States when it comes to having a higher standard of living.” Still, he won’t be going back anytime soon.

“Unfortunately, we have to accept that they go hand-in-hand, that we can’t fulfill basic human rights for all without viewing everyone as equal,” Roosh writes. “That’s fine for most people, but I’ve spent way too much time happily surviving in the jungle to pack my bags and move into the zoo.”"
culture  denmark  feminism  gender  socialism  redistribution  power  democracy  equality  socialdemocracy  meritocracy  capitalism  predation  marginalization  narcisism  marxism  individualism  collectivism 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Boston Review — David Bollier and Jonathan Rowe: The 'Illth' of Nations
"Current beliefs about economic freedom emerged in West during 17&18th centuries…entrepreneurs were challenging the remnants of feudalism, & private property stood as a symbol of freedom against arrogant royal rule. …yesterday’s answer became today’s problem. Today it is private property, as embodied in corporation, that has become arrogant…solution is not all-encompassing state—authoritarian “we” that has been the reactive refuge of Left. Regulation there must be; but there must also be a different kind of property—common property—that exists alongside the market, providing a buffer against its excesses & producing what the corporate market can’t.

As market culture intrudes ever-deeper into daily life—from public spaces to the inner lives of kids— there is a yearning for space that is beyond the reach of buying & selling. People might not use the word “commons;” but they seek increasingly what it represents—community, freedom, & the integrity of natural & social processes."
economics  anarchism  marxism  via:javierarbona  davidbollier  freedom  jonathanrowe  illth  growth  property  perspective  commons  privateproperty  we  autoritarianism  left  politics  policy  commonproperty  excess  scarcity  abundance  future  wealth  culture  society  progress  community  intefrity  social  distribution  markets  marketfundamentalism  local  gdp  work  prosperity  well-being  affluence  income  incomegap  redistribution  taxes  taxation  wealthdistribution 
april 2011 by robertogreco
The psychological effects of recession - Brainiac
"In each case, a recession during one's impressionable years had a significant effect on political and economic attitudes. People with such an experience were more committed to redistribution, more inclined to attribute success to luck, and less likely to trust public institutions. In each case, having been through a severe recession accounted for 4 percent of the variation in attitudes. For the sake of comparison, in the case of income redistribution, that's about one-third of the effect of possessing a high school education--as opposed to a B.A. or B.S, the authors said. (People with college degrees are less amenable to income redistribution.) ... The paper was intended partly as a contribution to the theoretical debate on how opinions are formed. But it doesn't seem a stretch to conclude that the current economic crisis may have long-lasting political effects--or that American attitudes toward inequality may become somewhat more "European" in years to come."
recession  greatdepression  psychology  policy  politics  economics  change  age  generations  income  redistribution  class  wealth  opinions  crisis  2009 
december 2009 by robertogreco

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