project WORLDVIEW  choice info         copyright 2022               Home         

Related Words, Beliefs, Background for Choice #27

Worldview Theme #203A: Hierarchical Rigidity                 Worldview Theme #203B: Egalitarian Progressive

for a summary read these 5 entries in order: conservatism, social status, patriarchy /patriarchal society, chain of command, wage and wealth inequality  

for a summary read these 5 entries in order: social justice, wealth inequality & capitalism, wealth redistribution of,
affirmative action, progressive taxation

affirmative actionin decision-making related to offering jobs or extending other opportunities to individual applicants, preferentially favoring members of some minority group to make up for this group’s past, unjust exclusion from the chance to have certain employment, educational or other opportunities.    

androcentrism–a male-centered, male-oriented viewpoint in which human history and culture are seen and interpreted from a masculine point of view.  Ecofeminists have linked this to anthropocentrism

attentuate--to decrease in value, size, force; to diminish or weaken

authoritarianism– a form of social control that requires individuals relinquish certain rights and strictly obey the dictates of whomever is making these demands (and enforcing them): a national government, political party, dogmatic religious organization, etc.  The authoritarian regimes are typically undemocratic and often oppressive

authoritarianism and collectivism–are alike in that in both the individual gives up certain rights and aspirations and conforms to the beliefs, goals, and expectations of the larger whole (nation, political party, religious group, working group. etc.) that he or she is part of.  They typically differ though in the manner in which members submit to such authority: authoritarian institutions are undemocratic and affected individuals have no real choice, whereas many collectives operate with voluntary participation and leadership seeks consensus agreement of members.   

authoritarian personality–describes one who rigidly conforms, is intolerant,  prefers living in an authoritarian system, and seeks servile acceptance of that authority and obedience.  Note that those actually in the positions of authority may not possess this type of personality

bureaucracy—refers to the (typically non-elected) administrative staff of a government or large organization who make sure that laws/ rules are followed,  policies are carried out per higher level agreement, paperwork is completed, etc..  Bureaucracies are often organized in hierarchical fashion to promote efficiency. Critics charge they are part of a “machine” in which those who value individual freedom are trapped like “cogs.”  Anarchists and others prefer less centralized /less hierarchical structures. 

caste--hereditary social class; see also caste system

caste system–a system of social stratification prevalent in Asia (especially India) where one's status is dictated by religion / your parents' status, etc.  UNICEF estimates that related discrimination affects 250 million people

centralized vs. decentralized ways to govern, meet needs or provide services–to draw this contrast, consider energy installations.  Centralized energy installations are characterized by huge facilities for producing energy, require large capital investment, are owned by the government or large corporations, and depend on a complex distribution system to deliver energy to the point of end use.  Examples include large 1000 megawatt electric power plants and big oil refineries.  Contrast these with decentralized energy installations–characterized by small units for producing energy, owned by individuals, small businesses or communities, relatively little capital investment is required, and they are located where the demand for the energy is.  Examples include rooftop solar collectors, and basement natural gas powered cogeneration units for producing electricity, space heat and hot water. 

Chain of Being–the historically important idea that life on Earth is organized in hierarchical or ladder fashion, with the lowest, most insignificant creature at the bottom and the highest, most perfect at the top.  According to such progressive creationism as shaped by the book of Genesis, God's ultimate goal was the creation of Man, whose place in this scheme is at the top of the chain or ladder.  This idea influenced Western science as late as the middle of the 19th century, but ultimately gave way as the modern theory of biological evolution developed.  Its history can be traced back 2500 years to Aristotle. It was later added to by religious scholars to include belief that God's ultimate goal in His creation was Man.  Linnaeus (1707-1789) sought to reveal God's plan by classifying plants and animals—in his 1737 book Systema Naturae  Even after Darwin published his theory of evolution in 1859, many persisted in depicting evolution as culminating in Man.

chain of command / command hierarchy—within an organizational power structure this represents the order in which commands are issued and executed. For example, in a military chain of command leaders give orders only to those directly below them and receive orders only from those directly above them.         

civil liberties–are individual rights typically guaranteed by democratic and sometimes by other governments in constitutions or similar legally binding documents.  Their existence can be traced to efforts to limit the potential for government abuse of power and interference in the lives of individuals.  Examples of particular civil liberties are freedoms of assembly, speech, and religion, and the rights to a fair trial, privacy, and to bear arms.    

civil rights–its meaning is very similar to civil liberties', but with different connotations.  In the United States, in the last 140 years, it has often referred to the rights granted African Americans (by the 13th and 14th Amendments) and negated by Jim Crow laws in the south.  A highlight of the civil rights movement was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Other minorities have faced similar battles with mixed results. Women (hardly a minority in numbers!) saw efforts to enact the Equal Rights Amendment fail, while activity on behalf of the handicapped bore fruit in 1990 with passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Efforts on behalf of gays and lesbians recognizing same sex marriages continue

collective–a typically democratic and egalitarian-minded  group of people, brought together by a common issue, interest, project or goal,  often after realizing that their political, social, or economic clout greatly increases after joining together.  Cooperatives represent a type of collective, one generally formed around some economic endeavor, with perceived economic benefit in mind.         

common good, the–can be defined in various ways depending on one's perspective.  Some define it narrowly as that which is good for every member of the community; others broaden the community here to include all human beings.  While libertarians argue it is a meaningless concept, utilitarians equate it with "the greatest good for the greatest  number of individuals."

conservative--a tendency to being resistant to change; see also conservatism

conservatism–believing that social and political traditions should be valued and maintained, and continuing to think as you were brought up to think.  

corporate executive pay issues–according to many observers of top U.S. companies, the ratio of top corporate executive compensation to that of an ordinary private sector worker is outrageously large.  Based on figures compiled by the Institute for Policy Studies, in 2019, a typical worker at one of the top 50 (in terms of pay gaps) publicly traded American companies would have to work at least 1000 years to earn what the company’s CEO earned in one year.  Average annual pay at these firms was $15.9 million,  whereas that same year median worker pay was $10,027.  While some feel all such high corporate executive compensation is unjustified, many single out the outrageously high salaries, bonuses, and severance pay packages of executives who led companies which performed poorly for special ridicule.       

democracy–government by the people, controlled by majority vote of the people as a whole, as opposed to government controlled by a particular class, group, or individual.  Democracies can be direct–where citizens' votes directly make decisions–or representative–where citizens elect individuals to politically lead and cast votes on their behalf in a legislature.  Direct democracy was practiced in Athens, Greece nearly 2500 years ago.  It is perhaps better suited for governing smaller institutions (communes, workplaces, communities, cities)–although ballot issues decided in recent California referendum elections provide an example of its large scale application.  Use of referendums also illustrates that representative democracies sometimes allow the people to directly decide certain matters.  A democratic government where a constitution guarantees individual rights and civil liberties, along with providing a legal framework, is known as a liberal democracy.

discrimination– prejudicial treatment of people based on their being different (in race, religion, appearance, ability, etc.)  In some jurisdictions certain forms of discrimination are outlawed; elsewhere they can lead to policies and practices that harm particular groups

distributive justice–is concerned with right or just ways to allocate the goods, benefits and burdens of economic activity to members of society.  Plans for doing this vary according to 1) what is distributed: wealth, income, utility, opportunity, welfare, etc.,        2) over what group the distribution is to be made, and 3) how is the distribution to be made.    

ecofeminism—roughly speaking this is about the relationship of women to the Earth / nature, typically concerned with issues at  the intersection of feminism, environmentalism, and patriarchy. Within the field some are more centered on egalitarianism, some with issues of respect, some Earth-centered spirituality, etc

economic democracy–conceptions of it vary, but generally refers to a socioeconomic system doing some or all of the following: 1) transfers economic decision-making from the (corporate elite) few to the majority through worker management / ownership of productive enterprises, 2) generally promotes democratic local / regional control over corporate state central planning, 3) charges central government with levying taxes that allow social control of investment carried out locally/regionally, and 4) while retaining the market system, abolishes private ownership of productive resources, and wage labor. As to the latter, in worker run enterprises there are no labor costs: workers are compensated by dividing up what is left after other costs have been subtracted from sales  revenues.  With 3) and 4) in this conception, economic democracy looks like a form of socialism.    

economic development– the process of improving the quality of human life, especially in poor countries.  Besides targeting raising people’s standard of living, increasing their freedom (in terms of choices available to them) and creating conditions allowing for the growth of their self esteem are major development goals.    

egalitarian--one who believes in egalitarianism (see next entry)

egalitarianism–the belief in equality for all: that all human beings should have the same rights, opportunities and privileges. 

equal opportunity—in a narrow sense it refers to “leveling the playing field” so that all applicants for a particular job are treated similarly without prejudice or barriers that have nothing to do with ability to perform the job. In a bigger sense it can refer to all members of a society having an opportunity to prosper based solely on their ability, motivation, hard work, etc without prejudice or insurmountable hurdles put there by entrenched “powers that be”.

exclusive–excluding others from participating. American writer, poet and populist Carl Sandburg, whose works included a 1936 book entitled The People, Yes!, when asked what word he most detested, replied, "exclusive."

fascism–a centralized authoritarian system of government that exalts law and order, national pride, race, economic and social regimentation, and the survival of the fittest, while suppressing dissent, and trampling individual freedom. Promoting conformity by instilling fear, Playing on prejudice in using propaganda and scapegoating minorities are among tactics used by fascists

feedback loop inherent in democracy: Elections provide citizens with a mechanism to  change government policies or legislators, ideally functioning as follows: a) citizens provide input which shapes legislator actions/government policies, b) an election provides each citizen with a chance to answer the question: “Do you like your legislator’s actions / policies enacted? c) election results provide feedback from citizen voters leading to removal / replacement / reinforcement related to legislators / policies d) this feedback from voters—and additional input from citizens directed to new legislators—serves as input, and steps in this loop are repeated, ideally until voters are satisfied.

feminism–associated with believing in the equal treatment of men and women, and supporting activities conducted to further the cause of women’s rights.  Beginning with (successful) efforts to win women the right to vote (suffrage) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, decades later a second wave of feminism linked long perceived political inequalities with cultural inequalities.  A big part of this was the women's liberation movement of the late 1960s and 1970s–which encouraged women to see how aspects of the male dominated societal power structure played out in their personal lives.  Feminists critique gender roles in socio-cultural fashion.

feudal society–the dominant social order of the Middle Ages in Europe (and perhaps elsewhere) in which power was decentralized: resting in an aristocratic, land-owning elite.  They provided peasants with protection and land to till, in exchange for labor and part of what the land produced.  The Catholic Church was heavily invested in this system: its moral authority counter-balancing the civil / military authority and associated injustice.    

health-wealth gap, the—itself the title of a November 2018 Scientific American article in an issue with a special report on “The Science of Inequality,” the gap between rich and poor it refers to is both a wealth one and a health one—and that this is a problem for everyone. Research shows a direct linear proportional relationship between the income disparity in a country and an index of national health and social problems that includes: life expectancy, teen birth rate, prevalence of obesity, mental health,  homicides, imprisonment, infant mortality, and social mobility. Meaning the higher the income disparity between the top 20% of wage earners and the lowest 20%, the generally higher were all of these things that contribute to health and social problems. The article’s author, Stanford University professor Robert Sapolsky, describes in detail how the gap between rich and poor creates “ongoing social and psychological stresses” that “grind down the body in a host of unhealthy ways affecting our brains, our immune systems, our  DNA.” While things like increases in blood pressure with stress have long been documented, more surprising is what it does to the ends of the chromosomes housing DNA: telomeres get shorter, a type of “molecular aging.”  The poverty, overcrowding, lack of places to buy healthy food (“food deserts”), lack of access to health care, stress, etc all translate into shorter average life expectancies. That figure in one Houston, TX USA area poverty-stricken neighborhood was a full twenty years lower than that in an affluent neighborhood just a few miles away.

hierarchy--an organizational scheme where people or other things are ordered / ranked according to some criterion –often social, economic, professional

human rights struggles–what a particular minority or group discriminated against has to go through to finally win rights or be granted concessions / accommodations by the majority. In this regard in American history we can note struggles for 1) an end to slavery, 2) native American tribal survival, 3) immigrants' rights, 4) women's rights, 5) worker's rights, 6) child labor laws,            7) rights for the mentally ill, 8) an end to segregation, 9) civil rights, 10) affirmative action, 11) farm worker rights, 12) rights for handicapped people, 13) gay and lesbian rights, etc.

integrating vs. reducing–in studying organized wholes where a hierarchical multi-level structure exists, consider two contrasting strategies:  integrating or synthesizing and moving from lower level to higher level vs. reducing as part of an analysis and moving from higher level to lower level.  The first of these approaches takes a more "wholistic" view, the second a more "reductionistic" one.

left vs. right vs. individual freedom diagram, placing groups on--this is an oversimplified representation but has value as a starting point for understanding / discussion. Note the meaning of the term "liberal" has changed:  "classical liberals" of the  laissez faire / mid 18th century era in Europe are to definitely to be distinguished from those of the USA New Deal era and decades following and related pro social welfare thinkers in Western Europe. Perhaps the "liberals (left)" in the diagram most closely refer to these as they exist today; whereas the people called "libertarians" today are more like the "classical liberals."   Similarly the "conservatives (right)" in the diagram refers to folks today--who are not necessarily those wanting to preserve the status quo / rigid hierarchy. Those are to be contrasted with progressives (not shown).  The wide variety of socialists are not shown--they would typically fall within the "statism" group.

integrating vs. reducing–in studying organized wholes where a hierarchical multi-level structure exists, consider two contrasting strategies:  integrating or synthesizing and moving from lower level to higher level vs. reducing as part of an analysis and moving from higher level to lower level.  The first of these approaches takes a more "wholistic" view, the second a more "reductionistic" one

justice–implementing what is just, defined in various ways as being reasonable, proper, lawful, right, fair, deserved, merited, etc. For some, justice is intimately connected with fairness, a connection with three dimensions: equal treatment, the degree to which exercising freedom and liberty is to be allowed, and reward for contributing to the common good.      



labor union–an organization of workers whose purpose is to promote and advance its members’ interests with respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions.  The power of organized labor in America peaked in the mid 1950s when 31% of the work force belonged to either a craft or industrial labor union.  By 2019 it had declined in America such that only 10.3 % belonged to unions, although in Canada (30%) and some Western European countries it was relatively stronger.  

law, rule of– a fundamental component of democratic society, defined broadly as the principle that all members of society are bound by a set of clearly defined, universally accepted laws.

leveling mechanisms–customs and social policies that serve to reduce differences in wealth between members of a society 

levels of organization–a term that many connect with systems theory, but in general refers to an organized whole (natural or man-made) being understood and studied by focusing on its parts, which are organized in hierarchical fashion.  Two examples: 1) the Earth's living things can be studied by biologists who focus attention on one of these levels: biosphere, ecosystem, community, habitat, population, organism, organ, tissue, cell, molecule, and 2) if an American citizen is having a problem and seeks government help, he or she might make an appeal to elected officials at different levels: city councilor, county commissioner, state     assemblyman, congressman, President–these being representatives at various levels of government

liberalism–a rational, tolerant, generous, hopeful orientation that emphasizes individual freedom from restraint. Liberalism is often associated with progressive social change.     A July 2020 oped in The Economist summarized it as follows: “Liberalism thrives on a marketplace of ideas, so diversity has a vital role. Liberalism does not fight power with power, which risks replacing one abusive regime with another. Instead it uses facts and evidence, tested in debate, to help the weak take on the strong. Liberalism is all about progress, including putting right its mistakes—and there have been many, especially over race , including finding reasons to accommodate imperialism and slavery. That is one reason why, in the 250 years in which it has been influential, humanity has seen unprecedented material, scientific, and political gains, as well as extension of social and political rights.”

libertarian–one who supports individual freedom and government policies which promote it, limiting the power of government so that individual liberty is maximized, having complete control over and accepting personal responsibility for how one's body or personal property is used, and the non-aggression principle.

means testing—an approach  to determining eligibility for some benefit, often a payment from a welfare state. It can also help gauge level of assistance offered.  Means refers to income, wealth, resources, support available, and other factors that inform answering the question, “Does this person (or family) need the assistance being considered?”

merit system & meritocracya system in which people are promoted based on their merit, which generally refers to their education, expertise, qualifications, demonstrated ability to do the job, experience, etc.–rather than who they know, their membership in some favored group, etc.  The term meritocracy can refer to either a society, government, or both.  For some a meritocracy is a society in which each person’s status (in occupational, civic influence, social terms) is based on individual merit rather than political, economic, family or other factors.  Others would carry the merit system way of doing things to logical extreme and put a meritorious elite in charge of running a government or managing a society.    

military conduct and discipline–fundamentally involves obeying orders and consequences for not doing so.  While it includes military courtesy (formal address, salutes, standing at attention, etc), ultimately military training seeks to instill unquestioned obedience, reinforce discipline and respect for the chain of command. 

nepotism–preferential treatment or favoritism given to a relative with respect to hiring decisions or filling appointed positions

nonconformist–a person who doesn't think or behave in generally accepted fashion like others. 

oral tradition–a way of transmitting history, customs, laws, etc from one generation to the next without writing down anything. This is done through stories, songs, poems–that is using spoken words.  As time passes–and generations of story tellers put their own stamp on an ancient story– what is passed on can slowly change.  In his book, The Day Before America, author William MacLeish, notes, "...The oral way can be far more flexible than the written...Literates, it seems, must break with their past to change their worldview.  Mnemonists simply bend it."    

paternalism–a system in which adults are treated in a fatherly way like children, with their conduct regulated and their needs met. Typically in exchange for this care, the authority expects loyalty and that those receiving the care will accept their relinquishing personal control

paternalism and dogs–in general, paternalism is a system in which adults are treated in a fatherly way like children, with their conduct regulated and their needs met.  Typically in exchange for this care, the authority expects loyalty and that those receiving the care will accept their relinquishing of personal control.  Replacing "adults" in the above description with "dogs",  you have the system that governs the relationship between people and  the beloved canine family pet!     

patriarchy /  patriarchal societysocial system dominated by men in positions of power, decision-making, leadership and moral authority. In some cases it can extend to include the domination, exploitation and oppression of women. Some use traditional male / female attributes to include environmental destruction as part of a negative critique of a patriarchal society; some lament male domination of human society has led to “the rape of the Earth. ”

plutocracy–government by, or conducted in the interest of, the rich.  Generally in societies governed like this, the level of economic inequality–measured by the gap between rich and poor–is high, and social mobility–measured by the % of once poor who escape their poverty and become rich–is low. "  By 2000, the United States could be said to have a plutocracy" argues Kevin Phillips in his book Wealth and Democracy.    

police—a government department established to maintain order, enforce the law, and prevent and detect crime. The image of USA police department work and those doing it ranges the whole gamut, from smiling easy-going  male and female, racially diverse shirt-sleeved and shorts dressed cops on bicycles joking peacefully with relaxed members of the community, to military style operations (some even are equipped with tanks) and SWAT teams lead by older males in riot gear confronting suspected criminals in tense, often violent situations. Opinions of cops held by those in the communities they operate in span the whole range from mostly good, honest guys, even unselfish public servants, doing what can be a difficult job, to corrupt, inherently violent, trigger happy, bigoted  people—many of whom might otherwise have found themselves on the wrong side of the law but, wanting a sense of power over others, they decided to become cops.  Hopeful—perhaps wishful thinking oriented—people lacking in cynicism felt most cops fit into the first category with only a very few “bad apples”; cynics feared more cops belonged in the second category than the first.  By mid 2020, after a series of highly publicized police operations unfairly and tragically targeted African Americans, USA calls for police reform had never been louder.

private property, sanctity of–the belief that individual possession of private property gives people rights that help guarantee their freedom, and that government challenging those private property rights is tantamount to government trampling on their freedom. Americans who put private property on such a pedestal typically oppose government restrictions on how they use their land, and government employees trespassing on their property–perhaps citing the fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to bolster their legal standing. 

progressive taxation–a policy by which governments tax those with higher incomes at a greater percentage rate than those with lower incomes.  Ideally, this policy taxes those who can afford to pay proportionally more, benefiting those who can least afford it. It is to be distinguished from a flat tax rate, where all pay the same rate regardless of income, and from regressive taxation, where those who can least afford it pay more or are hit harder by the tax.    

ritualism vs. legalism–the contrast between these two orientations is highlighted by two societies: one in which  people are excessively devoted to ritual, versus another in which people are excessively devoted to conforming strictly to the law.  The contrast was of interest to Confucius in ancient China. Of people in the former type of society, he wrote, "Lead [them] with excellence...put them in their place through roles and ritual practices, and in addition to developing a sense of shame, they will order themselves harmoniously. In the latter type of society, he complained, "External authorities administer punishments after illegal actions–so people generally behave well without understanding why they should."    

social class–divisions among members of a society typically based on wealth, heredity, land owned, occupation, education, etc. that order a society in ladder fashion (lower, middle, and upper classes).  Extremes range from extraordinarily class conscious feudal society (remnants of which still remain in the United Kingdom) to ideally classless communistic societies.  In the USA, talk of social class and class struggle is "politically intolerable" says historian Howard Zinn

social justicerefers to 1) a relationship between individuals and society in which people have what is just, defined in various ways as being reasonable, proper, lawful, right, fair, deserved, merited, etc; 2) if the condition described above does not exist, then taking steps to make it so. In practice, in affluent Western societies, seeking social justice is concerned with seeking a fairer distribution of wealth and privilege, equal opportunity for all, ending unfair discrimination or exclusion, and providing a safety net for the especially vulnerable. It can also involve recognizing / rewarding those who contribute to the common good more than those who behave in more self-serving fashion.

social statusrelated to social class, it is a relative measure of social value—based on somewhat subjective things like respect accorded, love felt for, personality traits, interpersonal skills, value of work done, perceived competence, lifestyle choices, etc. and more concrete objective  things like physical size, appearance, health, family, friends, education, honors bestowed on,  income, possessions, human associates, etc. Anthropologists tell us all societies have status hierarchies.  Long ago—and even perhaps today in some very primitive patriarchal societies--such status was rather simply a matter of size/strength/ combat used to determine the “alpha male.”  Today, beyond social class factors,  beliefs and values are typically the determining factors even to the extent that some value money, possessions, education, family, health,  work in certain professions, etc.  more than others.  Psychological factors—critical in self-esteem—are also important, especially when a person’s possible insecurity / anxiety over rankings others assign is involved.  This is undoubtedly a factor in people needing to surround themselves with symbols,—of success, power, wealth, etc.—engaging in conspicuous consumption, being overly concerned with images associated with them in others’ eyes, etc. 

subsidiarity–principle stating that matters should be handled by the competent authority at the lowest level.  Some cite this to justify belief that the family and value shaping institutions of the community (schools, churches, etc.) ought to be strengthened.  Subsidiarity is compatible with philosophies promoting decentralized societies and local control.  

top down vs. bottom up–contrasting approaches to bringing change, solving problems,  structuring interaction (compare centrally planned economies, market based ones), etc. The former typically involves a very small number of people (sometimes even just one person) at the top setting policy that works its way down through various levels of organization to ordinary people at the bottom. The latter approach typically involves ordinary people at the bottom finding that something works, a groundswell of enthusiasm develops--or in a more modern context something goes viral on the internet--and eventually word of this development reaches all the way to the top. 

traditionalist –adheres to the religious traditions of the Catholic church

utilitarianism–the belief that the moral value of actions and associated outcomes should be judged according to the degree to which they are useful and benefit those affected.  Utilitarians evaluate the moral rightness of actions by  the extent to which they produce the greatest benefit to all concerned.  Utilitarianism has two aspects: 1) it links evaluating consequences of actions to human welfare, and accordingly, 2) how it ranks values (value theory) and ties them to human welfare.  The latter involves all the complexities of arguments over what gives individuals pleasure or happiness, conflicts between individual choice and societal preference, what benefits society in the long run, etc.  And it recognizes that assigning value is not merely done by adding benefits, since what is beneficial to some may be detrimental to others, and both the benefits and risks of possible actions must be weighed

wage and wealth inequality --a gap in pay between the sexes or those of different ethnic groups exists in many parts of the world  For example, in the U.S., despite passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, which makes it illegal for employers to pay men more than women doing the same work, by the start of the 21st century, women made only 76% as much money as men.  The inequality is even worse when white and black income and wealth are considered. In 2020, USA black males on average earned only 51% of what white males were paid for the same work. And USA white family net wealth exceed that of  black families by 41 times!

wealth inequality and capitalismwhile history suggests the market-based capitalist economic system does a far better job at creating wealth than centralized socialist state non-market systems, it also suggests it promotes wealth inequality. In his 1867 book Capital, Karl Marx argued that in such a system capital would accumulate and wealth become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.  Analyzing whether this has occurred based on economic history and data is a key focus of Thomas Piketty’s nearly 700 page 2014 book Capital in the Twenty-First Century. There he concludes, 1) “the history of distribution of wealth has always been deeply political, and it cannot be reduced to purely economic mechanisms, and 2)  “there is no natural, spontaneous process to prevent destabilizing, inegalitarian forces from prevailing permanently.”

wealthiest,  the world’s and inequality—according to the annual Forbes list, in 2008 the number of  the world’s billionaires numbered 1125 with a total cumulative net worth of $4.4 trillion; by 2020 that number had grown to 2095 with total net worth of $8 trillion. In a report released in January 2020, Oxfam International counted 2153 billionaires and estimated they have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people--60% of the world's population-- at the bottom. Dividing these two numbers of people--4.6 billion by 2153-- reveals that each billionaire has over two million times the wealth of the average ordinary poorer person. 

wealth, redistribution ofthe transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor, typically through government taxation policy, in an effort to benefit the disadvantaged and reduce the income gap between the "haves" and "have nots."  Funding welfare assistance programs would be one way that governments could use this money

welfare assistance–government provided monetary or other assistance designed to provide an economic or social safety net for those disadvantaged members of society who are unable to support themselves.  Eligibility is determined by income below the poverty level and other "means tests."  Recipients are typically required to demonstrate that they are seeking employment or have enrolled in job training.     

white privilege—aspects of society that intentionally or unintentionally benefit those with white skin. Given past history, ingraining thinking, unconscious bias, etc many whites in affluent western societies who think of themselves as tolerant and not racist aren’t even aware of much that they benefit from based on their skin color.

Winner Take All Society–a phrase used to characterize what many see as a disturbing societal trend toward greater inequality.  The phrase is from the title of a 1995 book by Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook about income inequality in America and why, in the words of Molly Ivins,  "A few people get ungodly rich, and the rest of us fall behind!"  A simple-minded example of such a trend: imagine a hypothetical state lottery switches from awarding $ one million prizes to twenty people and instead decides that one lucky person should take all $ twenty million!    



Back to Choice #27