Two years ago when I started in on a series of blog posts dealing with this deteriorating economic system we live under, I found myself using the term “peak inequality” for the condition of our nation’s, and Wisconsin’s, political economy–economic and political systems. Checking to see if anyone else was using this term I turned to search scholarly literature and discovered that Oxford Professor Danny Dorling had written his book “Peak Inequality: Britain’s Ticking Time Bomb.” This was a pleasant discovery, and further searches on Dorling’s work uncovered many, many hours of video exposition on YouTube.
The companion question was, “why are the people themselves not engaged in changing the politics and economics of the USA, or its 50 states, to eliminate inequality altogether? Why does it seem impossible to get the Federal minimum wage raised to $15/hr? Why are Black Lives movements unable to bring urban police forces under control of the people in their cities? Why are youth climate groups unable to compel politicians to do something to get off fossil fuels?” The answer kept coming back to mind: Because we have complete inequality of political power. Why is this inequality so total, so complete? The answer: political power inequality derives from our nation’s total inequality of wealth and income. I reflected that this seems to point to a “peak” condition often used with resources, for instance, “peak oil.” We seemed to have hit “peak inequality” right at the point when the White House was touting low official unemployment and the highest stock market numbers ever, during 2018-2019. Digging a little further into Prof. Dorling’s ideas, I concluded that we can trace the start of the journey to the Peak back to the dawn of the Reagan-Thatcher era of neoliberalism, the early 1980s beginning with Reagan’s inauguration in 1981.
Here is Danny Dorling’s Interview by Project Twist-It.–well worth your 8-1/2 minutes of time.
“The US and the UK are remarkably similar when it comes to poverty and inequality. Amongst the richest nations in the world, these are the two largest countries which are the most economically unequal, that have the highest rates of poverty. They’re almost like a pair of twins.”
“If you look at the take of the best-off one percent, in the United States it’s about 20% of all income; in the UK, it’s about 15%. Nowhere else, of any size in the rich world, touches these two countries in terms of how much the very best-off take.
If you look at the incomes on which the very poorest people are living, compared to the average, these are the two countries where you’re really living a kind of parallel, separate life, if you’re in the bottom 20 or 30 percent. You’re not like average people, and average people are not like better-off people. And better-off people are not like the one percent.”
Here, Prof. Dorling gets at the mechanism for imparting the ideology of the top 1% to all of the people below them—in particular, the working classes in the USA and the UK.
“You’re talking in the sense that the U.S. and UK have a special relationship. And in a way, sadly, they do, but it’s over a particular set of philosophies which became the formant of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. These were philosophies that the state should be made as small as possible; that people should look after their own money; that we shouldn’t do things collectively; there’s only you and your family, and there’s no such thing as society. And both the U.S. and the UK have movements that propagated these ideas. And that’s what is so very different from almost every other affluent country in the world, where people still believe in the collective good and doing things together, and there is something bigger than you and your family,
“It’s found in a code of, if you have problems, they are your own fault. If you just worked hard enough, if you tried hard enough, if you studied hard enough at school, you could be really well off. Everybody could be rich, if they just work hard enough. Everybody could be rich, if they would just work hard enough, that’s the philosophy. And, there are many, many problems with it. You can’t all be rich, because part of being rich is, you can afford to make other people do things like clean your house.
“Unlike most countries, rich countries in the world, the narrative in the United States and the United Kingdom has been so dominant and so successful because a set of people have really driven it forward here, in a way that they haven’t in other affluent countries.
“The U.S. and UK have think-tanks, funded by extremely rich individuals, whose entire purpose is to spread the message that ‘everything is up to you and if things don’t go well, that’s your own fault.’
“Other countries don’t have the same kind of concentration of money being put into propaganda, to tell the population that they should believe this.”