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Mal-Distribution: Reaching the Boiling Point?

Mal-Distribution: Reaching the Boiling Point?

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Published by Paul Schlieben
Trying to make sense of the turmoil in the Mideast to determine if it has broader implications.
Trying to make sense of the turmoil in the Mideast to determine if it has broader implications.

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Published by: Paul Schlieben on Mar 28, 2011
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03/28/2011

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Mal-Distribution: Reaching the Boiling Point?
© Paul Schlieben - 1 - synaptia.blogspot.com
Are we misreading what going on in the Mideast? Or, to put it another way, arewe missing its broader implications? Is what we're seeing there a precursor of what we're likely to see here and in other countries in the future? Are the spreadof Wisconsin-inspired demonstrations related to the unrest we¶re seeingelsewhere? Are these revolutions the natural consequence of the mal-distributionof wealth?We're a country caught between two virtues, the virtue of Personal Responsibility±the idea that each person should make his own way in the world and control hisown fortunes ± and the virtue of Social Responsibility ± the notionthat we are all in this together andthe wealth of the nation shoulddevolve to the benefit of all, thatwe'd all be better off (even thewealthiest among us) if the wealthwere distributed more equitably.The challenge is to reconcile thesetwo seemingly opposingvirtues.I believe that the fundamentalproblem is that therejust isn't enough work and that this will only get worse.Asthe use of technology expands, jobs slowly disappear; work graduallybecomes obsolete.
1
Today, most workers are At-Will employees, with theemployer holding all the cards. Purchase new technology to displace personnel?Great²Fewer people to feed and the government will pick up the tab. Contrastthis with the 1950s, when 28% of our workforce belonged to unions,
2
virtually allemployed in the private sector. But, such is the wealth of the nation that even the
1
See my previous blog post:In the Shrinking of a Pie
 
2
In 2003, 11.5% of workers are union members, three-fourths working in the public sector. In 1954, virtually nopublic workers were union members.
 
Mal-Distribution: Reaching the Boiling Point?
© Paul Schlieben - 2 - synaptia.blogspot.com
poorest will survive, somehow. Look at Egypt where the majority live on twodollars a day. Even they get by.As the divide between the rich and the poor grows, and it becomes harder for therich to hide their fortunes, the unemployed and poor get angry. They feelcheated. Sometimes, as in Saudi Arabia, the government tries to buy off itspeople, but usually, by the time anger has boiled over, it¶s too late. You can puta lid on it, but it only boils all the harder. As long as there have been revolutions,it has ever been so.
3
 Our system requires that we work or accept being poor. But in the USA, thereare five applicants for every job opening, and this is not likely to improve soon, if at all. A college education is no longer a guarantee of employment.
4
Time will tellwhether today¶s high unemployment is cyclical. Evidence suggests it¶s not.Theprevailing fiction is that the wealthy
earn
their money by the sweat of their brow and deserve to keep every penny. However they gained their advantage,they'renowin a position to leverage their power and resources to acquire evenmore of both without much personal effort, at a cost to our nation¶swell-being.The trend of the past ten years is indisputable; the rich have become much richer ± 50% richer ± while the rest of the population has lost ground; many,are far worse off. Most would agree that, whatever the cause, for the good of the nation,this trend must be reversed. But how?The challenge is to get our leaders, most of whom are part of the privilegedclasses, to talkhonestly about our problems without being drowned out by thechattering classes and a well-financed opposition. Corporate influence inWashington and its ownership of the media ensures that the ideology that favorswealth is in ascendance.This
must 
change. We need to achieve a balance.
3
For a brief historical perspective, seeNYTimes: Every Revolution Is Revolution in Its Own Way
 
4
See NYTimes:Educated, Unemployed and Frustrated
 

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