What would your ideal distribution of wealth in the United States be? You may not realize it, but if this research by Dan Ariely is any indicator, you likely prefer wealth to be held much more evenly than is currently the case in our country.
The gap between people's perceptions versus the reality of wealth distribution was the topic of a WNHN "Political Chowder" interview with UFE’s Steve Schnapp. Ariely and Norton found that many in the US are not fully aware of how dramatically unequal our economy has become.
We may be unaware of wealth inequalities, but do we want a more equal society? Research suggests that the answer is an overwhelming 'YES!' The commanding majority of those polled expressed a strong preference for a society in which wealth was distributed far more equitably. Need more reason for optimism? Those responses transcend political boundaries, with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents represented among those who desire a more equal distribution of wealth.
In light of Ariely's findings, we have to begin asking why our public policies are reinforcing—and making worse—economic inequality. The basic values of fairness and hard work as a means to move up the economic ladder that we hold so dear appear absent as we continue to witness the accumulation of great fortunes among so few people, even as so many millions continue to struggle.
Steve takes aim at the dominant narrative of the wealthy achieved such financial enrichment simply by virtue and hard work, which is an incomplete and misleading picture of how wealth is created. (Learn more with UFE's book, The Self-Made Myth.)
Ariely's data presents a compelling case for a shift in public policy priorities, but he doesn't get into the how of moving from research to social change. Steve points to community education and organizing as necessary strategies to break that paradigm and to bring people together to fight for a people's economy.
The Occupy Movement also showed us that it is possible to unite around a common cause and to draw the world's attention to the root causes of inequality. Our economic system is tilted in favor of the wealthy and is dangerously unaccountable to the people. Wall Street and the big banks sent our country into the Great Recession. We the taxpayers bailed them out. Now they've more than bounced back, but too many of us in the real economy, not the casino economy, have not.
A powerful movement for social and economic justice has to start somewhere. Why not start by asking the people around us what they know. As with Ariely's study, Steve asks listeners to consider what kind of economy they want. He challenges them to think about whether their values are reflected in our current reality. If not, he urges them to join and support groups fighting to improve their communities, states, country, and, ultimately, their world.
Inequality is worse than you thought. What are you going to do about it?
Related post: Economic Inequality: What We Think vs. What's Real