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The Faux Hyper-Meritocracy that Threatens to Destroy Us

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The federal government should make sure that everyone who wants to go to college can do so:  28% (78%)"

The job and education policies that produced such enormous gaps demonstrate the extreme hostility of this sample of the wealthy to any governmental program that has a significant likelihood of causing a major change in class, particularly for younger Americans.  The wealthy did not want to increase substantially the number of rivals for their children in what they see as a zero-sum competition for wealth, status, and power.  Their responses evidence that they would prefer a substantially less productive and far more unequal Nation with substantially reduced class mobility -- because their children are more likely to be the "winners" under such a rigged system.

The support of the wealthy for austerity in response to the Great Recession demonstrates that the wealthy remained the problem even after their frauds drove the crisis.  They sought a policy that would have compounded the Great Recession (as it did in the Eurozone) and they succeeded in blocking any adequate stimulus program and in producing increasing austerity from 2011 to the present.  The wealthy's pro-austerity position was incoherent because a strong majority of them stated that the government should run a deficit in response to a recession.  In sum, the wealthy are far worse than the general public about the policy aspect (finance) where they would purportedly have the greatest advantage over the general public.

The study also found that the wealthy are less likely than the general public, even with the advantage of seeing the disaster caused by financial deregulation, to support increased regulation.  The wealthy diverge the most from the general public in the extent of their opposition to increased regulation of the finance and oil industries.  The wealthier the subject, the more likely they were to favor further, even more criminogenic, economic deregulation.

Climate Change and the Malign Neglect of the Wealthy

Table 3 of the article reporting the study of the wealthy's attitudes asked them to evaluate the importance of 11 "problems."  The wealthy ranked "climate change" dead last, with only 18% rating it a "very important."  The next lowest-ranked problem, "inflation," was rated "very important" by 26% of the wealthy.  Inflation was trivial at the time of the study and the markets were pricing the risk of future inflation as trivial.  Inflation has remained trivial.  The wealthy rated the budget deficit as their top problem with 86% of them rating it as "very significant."  The deficit was, if anything, too low and a substantial majority of the wealthy stated that the government should run a budget deficit in response to the Great Recession.

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The wealthy are the least likely group with substantial political power to act promptly and decisively to reduce global climate change given their denial of the problem.  If Cowen is correct that the power of the ultra-wealthy will grow substantially then the ultra-wealthy will become, if the climate scientists prove correct, an even graver threat to humanity and the ecosystem.  It is a strange use of the term "meritocracy" to apply it to plutocrats whose relentless dedication to their short-term accumulation of even greater wealth causes them to ignore science and endanger the world.

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William K Black , J.D., Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Bill Black has testified before the Senate Agricultural Committee on the regulation of financial derivatives and House (more...)

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