A sad picture of America, but important for us to understand
Looking in the mirror is the first step to growth and reform for an individual and a nation.
Look at this graph. Compared to other nations we have both a high degree of income inequality AND low social mobility (fathers’ and sons’ incomes are highly correlated). This has many consequences, none of them good. Esp given our high rate of immigration; this suggests that we are building an underclass.
From “Growing Unequal? Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries“, OECD, October 2008 — Figure 8.2, page 213. The little button to the right of the “Add to Basket” button allows a free download of the report. This image of the graph is from “Pain all round, please“, The Economist, 23 October 2008 — “The importance of fairness in an economic downturn”
This ugly graph tells a story contrary to a core American belief, immortalized in the books by Horatio Alger. Social mobility probably was high in the past, when there was a frontier and far great rates of growth. But the data shows today’s America has a low level of social mobility. I did not know this until Oldskeptic corrected me (in comments here and here).
Restoring a high degree of social mobility may be essential to reclaiming America’s soul, revitalizing its spirit. The alternative are income and wealth redistributionist policies like Europe’s. I doubt a society can remain stable and free if it has both a high degree of income inequality and low mobility.
The means to fix this both obvious and at hand, if we but have the will to use them.
For more information from the FM site
How did America get to our present situation? What can we do to reform it? This series poses question and provides few (if any answers). The discussion in the comments are often far longer — and more interesting — than the posts themselves. Often heated, the different views clash discordently.
To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Including About the FM website page. Of esp relevance to this topic:
Here are a few posts from this series, about the American spirit and the American soul:
- America’s Most Dangerous Enemy, 1 March 2006
- Diagnosing the eagle, chapter IV – Alienation, 13 January 2008
- Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
- de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
- A philosphical basis for the Batman saga, 23 July 2008
- The American spirit speaks: “Baa, Baa, Baa”, 5 August 2008
- We’re Americans, hear us yell: “baa, baa, baa”, 6 August 2008
- The intelligentsia takes easy steps to abandoning America, 19 August 2008
- The corruption of a nation is usually hidden, but sometimes becomes visible, 21 November 2008
- This crisis will prove that Americans are not sheep (unless we are), 8 January 2008
- Sources of inspiration for America’s renewal, 23 April 2009 – The Law of Equivalent Exchange
- Dispatches from the front lines in the war for America’s soul, 11 May 2009
- Are we citizens? Or peasants?, 21 May 2009
- A famous guest speaker visits the FM site to tell us that we are not weak — we are strong, 8 June 2008
- A great artist died today. We can gain inspiration from his words., 26 June 2009
- A wonderful and important speech about liberty, 23 July 2009
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