History, Politics, Spotlight

The Elites and Inequality: The Rise and Fall of the Managerial Class

In analysing the political upheavals across Europe and America in the past several years, it has become customary to talk about ‘the elites’ and about ‘inequality’. This article will explore both concepts in political and socio-economic analysis, and posits that certain elites in the West need narratives of inequality to maintain their stranglehold on power. It concludes by suggesting that we are witnessing the passing of an old and increasingly irrelevant class of elites, whose wild attempts to cling onto the old order will see them lash out in unpredictable directions.

When the political left talk about elites, they typically refer to ‘the haves’ (as opposed to the ‘have nots’), that is the top 1% of income earners, a concern which has a legacy in outmoded and demonstrably incorrect Marxist analysis. Thus, here in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn’s far left Labour party routinely trot out the old line that ‘the rich keep getting richer while the poor are getting poorer’. However, even The Guardian – albeit through gritted teeth – pointed out in 2017 that the UK was at a thirty-year low for income inequality. The BBC also fact-checked Corbyn’s repeated claim and found it to be false. As did the tabloid paper The Sun, drawing data from a study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. Given these facts, why are we repeatedly told that inequality is the most pressing issue facing us in Britain and America today?

At the Institute of Economic Affairs, Kate Andrews and Stephen Davies have found that while the gap between the top 10% of the income distribution and the rest of income distribution has not increased, the gap between the top 1% and the next 9% has increased. In other words, concerns about inequality in the media are, in fact, most often the concerns of the top 10%. Hence, witness the heart-breaking tale told by Alissa Quart in The Guardian of a couple who live in the Bay Area, San Francisco, earning $150,000 a year who – shock and horror – have to commute to work and cannot afford a ‘cleaning lady’.

Viewed in this light, many concerns about ‘rising inequality’ and ‘relative poverty’ are glorified linguistic inversions of upper-middle-class ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’. Why should the concerns of these people over index so dramatically in the public consciousness? It is because these are exactly the people – that is, those who are in the top 10% but not in the top 1% of earners – who write our newspapers, run the civil service, occupy professorships at our universities, and ultimately those who go into politics. Their intuition – no more than a gut feeling, cchanneled by a mixture of confirmation bias and hubris – is post-hoc rationalised into an ‘urgent’ issue that must be addressed by ‘society’.

This concern with general inequality is frequently, of course, coupled with a concern for income disparities between particular groups of people categorised by gender, race or whatever other measure. It is fashionable to attribute gaps to ‘discrimination’, even if such discrimination is statistically impossible.

This was the case, for example, when Uber published data on 1.8 million drivers over 740 million trips which revealed a 7% gender earnings gap despite the fact its algorithms are ‘gender blind’. It turns out male and female Uber drivers make different choices, down to how fast they drive, how long they drive for, and where they drive. As Thomas Sowell has shown in his recent book, Discrimination and Disparities, claims of discrimination seldom stand up to the scrutiny of multifactorial analysis. This was much the same point that Jordan Peterson was making in his now infamous interview with a flailing Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News, which has been viewed at the current time by over 9.4 million people.

Yet, despite the persistence of these facts, the confirmation bias and hubris of a top 10% obsessed with the idea that inequality is the most pressing issue facing us today will not be suppressed. As I have argued elsewhere, the incentives of groupthink are such that facts and evidence literally do not matter if such a group holds certain narratives to be sacred.

Italian engineer, sociologist, economist, political scientist and philosopher, Vilfredo Pareto

When those who typically oppose the left talk about elites, they most often refer exactly to these chattering classes: the political class, the media, the civil service, and those in academia. In classical elite theory, Vilfredo Pareto drew on Niccolò Machiavelli to distinguish between two types of elites: lions, who emphasise their prowess, and the strength of their character, and foxes, who rely mostly on their cunning. Pareto argued that in Western liberal democracies, foxes have come to predominate. Hugo Drachon, writing in the left-leaning publication, The New Statesman, has argued that we are currently witnessing the return of the lions. Evidence comes in the form of Donald Trump, who is, uncharacteristically for a modern Western leader, more in the mould of the lion than the fox.

The famous ‘Pareto principle’, or 80-20 rule, is often invoked to explain wealth distribution (i.e. that 20% of the people will hold 80% of the wealth). But in many cases, it is more useful to describe another phenomenon that can be predicted by this rule — productivity. For example, in most work settings, 20% of the staff will do 80% of the work. Often, and somewhat ironically, this most productive 20% will likely come to be resented rather than cherished by the less productive 80%. However, for our purposes, in defining ‘the elite’, Pareto argued that there will always be an elite 20% of the population to rule over the remaining 80%. This elite 20%, in turn, is subdivided into a governing elite who hold official positions of power, and a non-governing elite who wield disproportionate cultural influence.

Pareto’s idea was adapted by Gaetano Mosca in The Ruling Class who accounted for the persistent rule of the minority over the majority by the fact of their organization:

The dominion of an organized minority, obeying a single impulse, over the unorganized majority is inevitable. The power of any minority is irresistible as against each single individual in the majority, who stands alone before the totality of the organized majority. At the same time, the minority is organized for the very reason that it is a minority. … members of a ruling minority regularly have some attribute, real or apparent, which is highly esteemed and very influential in the society in which they live. (pp. 50, 53)

The empirical data seems to support Mosca’s claims. For example, in his classic The Logic of Collective Action, Mancur Olson showed that contrary to traditional concerns that democracy would tend towards the tyranny of the majority, in practice organized special interest groups are likely to press their concerns onto everyone else. Olson shows that not only is collective action by large groups difficult to achieve, even when they have interests in common, but situations could occur where the minority, bound together by concentrated selective incentives, can dominate the majority. In such circumstances, a ‘foxy’ elite might be able to string along public support for their special interests by fuelling grievance narratives, even if their time in power serves to exacerbate rather than solve the problems of said public.

This has been some aspect of the arguments that Candace Owens has put forward, now, of course, enhanced by an endorsement from Kanye West. According to this argument, the Democrats in the USA have cynically exploited black voters to push their own special interests. Let us not forget Kayne West campaigned to improve conditions of inner-city life in Chicago, which is currently – like Detroit before it – experiencing sharp decline under Democrat rule. Chicago’s authorities seem to be driving away business, jobs, and therefore people: it has posted a net loss of population for three years running. Yet the voting public in Detroit and Chicago keep electing the elites who oversaw such dismal changes in fortune. And, with Kanye West in the past couple of weeks, we have witnessed what happens if anyone tries to speak out against this. He was hounded, mocked, slandered, and criticized relentlessly for doing so.

Yet perhaps it is a marker of the declining ability of the elites to influence outcomes that when he sent his tweet supporting Candace Owens, Kanye had 13.4 million followers on Twitter, and at the time of writing – just over a week later – he currently has 28.2 million followers. I suppose that’s ‘dragon energy’ for you.

Perhaps Los Angeles will be the next city to go into terminal decline under the rule of their Democrat elites. California has seen surges in crime recently. It has also experienced capital flight: total disinvestment events between 2008 and 2015 were 1,687 while in the same period it ranked 48th out of 50 states for new investments. Meanwhile, rather than actually addressing these problems, its ruling elites are pushing almost absurdly Orwellian public policies. We can see parallels in Sadiq Khan’s London, in which the mayor responds to soaring crime rates with diversity panels, pledges to ‘fight hate crime’ online and by virtue-signaling about Donald Trump – if people were not being killed every day, such self-parodic behaviour would almost be funny.

According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, California is one of the top three most staunchly Democrat states, but it ranked bottom for fifty states in the recent quality of living index. Like the Labour Party in the UK, the Democrats have constantly maintained the importance of narrowing inequality. Yet, despite running California since 1992, the state’s income inequality is second only to that other great Democrat stronghold, New York. When you consider that these two states also have by far the highest per capita welfare spends in the US, and have also pursued open-border policies to encourage people from poorer countries to join them, such statistics are scarcely surprising. The incentives are such that medium-sized firms and middle-class families are driven out to more business-friendly places like Texas, leaving only the mega-rich and people on welfare benefits who receive fixed low incomes.

Despite these facts, elites from these areas perpetuate the idea that they provide a utopian blueprint for the rest of the United States – nay, the world – to follow. And people in those areas – some might say the victims of their policies – continue to vote for them.

Writing after Pareto and Mosca, Robert Michels crystallised the analysis of elites into the ‘iron law of oligarchy’. In this reading, democracy itself is a sham because the incentives of bureaucracy are such that they tend towards corruption. In other words, although the elites may claim to be acting in the common interest, in fact they seek only to maintain their own power. Michels also pointed out that, as such, the form of government does not change this principle – as one might see if we compare Russian leaders from different historical periods: Tsar Nicholas II, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Putin. In each case, all that took place is what Pareto called ‘the circulation of the elites’: the swapping of one set of elites for another. Since, in this view, such elites are structurally inevitable, the best-case scenario – as Joseph Schumpeter outlined – is for a choice between competing elites.

However, James Burnham, who synthesised the leading exponents of classical elite theory in The Machiavellians, came to see liberal democracy as being fatally compromised by the rise of the bureaucratic managerial class. George Orwell captures the thrust of his analysis in a famous essay:

[The managerial class] are not managers in the narrow sense, but scientists, technicians, teachers, journalists, broadcasters, bureaucrats, professional politicians: in general, middling people who feel themselves cramped by a system that is still partly aristocratic, and are hungry for more power and more prestige. These people look towards the USSR and see in it, or think they see, a system which eliminates the upper class, keeps the working class in its place, and hands unlimited power to people very similar to themselves. It was only after the Soviet régime became unmistakably totalitarian that English intellectuals, in large numbers, began to show an interest in it.

While Burnham’s predictions may have taken time to come to fruition, I posit that a ‘Managerial Revolution’ did take place in Britain and America sometime after the Second World War, and became most marked during the era of Tony Blair here in the UK and Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in the United States. In The Abolition of Britain, Peter Hitchens mourns the England he knew as a boy after witnessing it go through something like the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which went into accelerated overdrive, enforced from the top down, with the election of Blair in 1997.

It seems to me that by this point ‘the managerial class’ had become ‘the elites’ in the West. The middling sort will naturally try to create a social order that puts their own interests on top. Hence, as David Goodhart documents in The Road to Somewhere, the paths to ‘achievement’ and ‘success’ have become increasingly narrow and academic, while traditional trades and vocational pursuits have been widely disparaged. The only road sold to the young is the one that follows from state schools to universities and then into city jobs. In ‘The Lonely Robot’, a documentary from 2007, Adam Curtis, shows how managerial thinking dominated the Clinton, Bush, and Blair years across all aspects of society. This period embedded the egalitarian political correctness that has recently turned toxic into every institution of the public sector and most major corporations.

In this article, I have suggested that, in the 90s and 2000s, we saw the near-complete capture of cultural and political power by the managerial class, who became a new elite – in the truest sense of the word. One key strategy for maintaining power throughout this time has been to highlight ‘inequality’ in order to manufacture outrage and therefore majority consent to their minority rule. Because these people conquered every institution, including the political parties (including those nominally against utopian visions of social leveling) and judiciary, democracy itself started to break down and made people wonder if elections had become meaningless.

What is currently being decried as outbreaks of ‘populism’ by those very elites is simply the majority signaling that the managerial class have had their time. Every day in the media and in our universities, we are seeing the spasms of an old and increasingly irrelevant regime whose power is being challenged for the first time in maybe thirty years, if not longer. They will not go without a struggle – and, as history has shown, they always fight dirty while facts have practically no bearing on their conclusions. The attacks will become wilder, the voices more shrill, the erratic behaviour ever more unpredictable – but in the end, as with every set of elites, they will be replaced.

 

Neema Parvini is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Surrey. He is the author of five books, the most recent being Shakespeare and New Historicism Theory (2017) and Shakespeare’s Moral Compass (forthcoming 2018). He also presents a popular podcast series called Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory.

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36 Comments

  1. TarsTarkas says

    Hopefully it will be a Glorious Revolution instead of a Puritan Revolution. Beheadings are so messy and final.

    • EK says

      If you’re up to speed on the events of the 1640s, then think of it this way:

      The Presbyterians in the Petition of Right Parliament ultimately won the civil wars in England in1688 and became our ubiquitous upper class trans-Atlantic Whigs. But the Independents in the Long Parliament who had sponsored the Massachusetts Bay Colony ultimately won the same civil wars in 1783 in the US and became our beloved working class Democratic-Republicans who will emerge whenever upper-class whiggism degenerates, as it must, into a tyrannical oligarchy.

  2. The author disses Marxist class analysis as demonstrably incorrect then spends the rest of the article doing exactly that, analyzing the managerial class, its grip on power, its resentment of the ultra rich, its politically correct propaganda. Call it a neo-Marxist analysis featuring the lumpen-oligarchy vs the oligarchy.

    • Kris says

      I think the statement that says Marx was incorrect, is correct. This is another analysis and that is what we have to judge as being correct or incorrect. The author may be incorrect, I will have to read more to determine if that is the case, but as it stands, Marx’s analysis was wrong/incorrect or at the least, flawed.

      • dirk says

        @Kris: alle philosophers with new views, insights or perspectives are flawed or lopsided, even Aristoteles , Kant and Hegel (especially that last one, but, for that very rason, gives a lot to think about).

      • Marrow says

        He’s using the somewhere vs anywhere split from David Goodhart.

    • Haxan says

      It’s not a neo-Marxist analysis. He uses explicitly anti-Marxist thinkers like Pareto and Mosca whose analysis is rooted in looking at political or cultural power rather than who has the most wealth. Chicago school Public Choice Theory does a similar thing, they aren’t Marxists either.

      These thinkers may have had some influence on Antonio Gramsci but the analysis is not Marxist.

    • KD says

      No, the author is relying on James Burnham’s Marxian analysis, which he reached after he rejected Trotskyite Marxism. Burnham saw the Soviet Revolution as representing not “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” but the replacement of an old elite with a new elite, alongside a centralization of the economy and the government under the wings of “Managers”.

      “Capitalists” in the Marxist sense represent those who “own” the means of production. “Managers” are the ones who “control” the means of production that someone else or no one else may own. The Soviets eliminated capitalist ownership, but concentrated control into the hands of the nomenklatura.

      However, it is unclear if the “managerial revolution” has in fact taken place, or whether neoliberalism is “capitalism strikes back” (e.g. the shift from the New Deal to “Progressivism/Neoliberalism” represents a return of power to owners away from managers). Perhaps the globalist/nationalist battle is really between capitalists (employing foxes) and those seeking a full-blown managerial society (employing lions).

      • KD says

        For example, China appears to be closer to Burnham’s model of a managerial state than the current United States. Its certainly more important in China for an industry who is in the government with authority over the industry than who owns a particular set of assets in the industry.

  3. ga gamba says

    The chattering-class left is stuck in a state of permanent cognitive dissonance. It wants to decrease the level of wealth (or income) inequality domestically yet it also wants to decrease the level of wealth (or income) inequality internationally.

    The opening of markets and expansion of trade between the developed and developing world undoubtedly increased in the post-war era, and really gained steam after the collapse of communism and the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – birthed from GATT. The result of this has been a transfer of manufacturing and, more recently, service industries, such as accountancy, software coding, design, and legal research, to the developing world. Where once the US manufactured almost all its steel, aluminium, cars, and shoes domestically, today imports are 30% of steel, 90% of aluminium, 55% of vehicles (cars and light trucks), and more than 98% of footwear.

    Undoubtedly US consumers benefit from lower costs, but Americans also have to pick up the financial and social costs of lost jobs, economic deprivation, substance and domestic abuse, increased policing, etc. You don’t see see these on the TV’s price tag, do you? There are also national security concerns; fighter jets require high-quality aluminium, but only one US smelter of its five (down from thirteen) produces it, and it’s a struggling business. The only other producers are China and the UAE. But it’s not all grim, for example many of the most polluting industries such as aluminium smelting are offshored, so the US has cleaner air. Imports have also kept US inflation very low, which is a benefit to all, but those with wealth benefit most.

    If the WTO had been founded on the Ricardian principle of comparative advantage, markets in both developed and developing nations would’ve liberalised simultaneously. Brazilian steel and Chinese aluminium would be exported to the US and American-made cars would return. Displaced US steelworkers would shift to higher value-added manufacturers such as automakers. However, the WTO doesn’t embrace genuine-free trade principles; developing states are allowed to maintain tariff and non-tariff barriers in order to “catch up” in industries where they don’t have an advantage (presently). Not only are they allowed to maximise their comparative advantages, developing states are allowed to deny developed states their comparative advantages whilst using the decades to acquire new technologies and know how thereby attaining new advantages to be used against the (formerly) developed world. To bypass developing markets’ tariff and non-tariff barriers, developed nations’ manufactures must relocate production to developing states, and often they also must partner with local competitors, who by hook or crook use this to their advantage.

    I mentioned cars and steel, but this has occurred in all industries from silicone chips to pharmaceuticals, telecommunications to robotics. It is undeniable that this has helped reduce inequality between nations whilst increasing it within developed states.

    Though US consumers have benefitted from lower prices (and a cleaner environment), one group has benefitted more than anyone else. It is those who are largely protected from the consequences of the global trading system: lawyers, doctors, financiers, bureaucrats, academics, and others of the chattering class. Those who also control their own professional credentials, such as the licences to practice law and medicine, are especially insulated from globalisation’s turbulence. Yet it is this class who negotiate the trade deals and champion increased immigration, presumably to have more people pick their fruit, change their children’s nappies, attend their schools, and increase the demand for state-provided social services and benefits.

    “Oh look, income inequality is increasing!” they exclaim in disbelief to each other at the charity gala. Well, when you: establish a trade framework that rewards export-oriented hyper development and mercantilism thereby throwing millions into unemployment and lower-wage work and decimate one-industry cities and regions; indoctrinate people that the only way to get ahead is by going into enormous debt to earn a uni degree in nonsense subjects; create a welfare state that financially supports millions of poorly educated and barely employable women to have many children and who reliably vote for your candidates; and import millions more semi- and unskilled workers, many of whom work off the books, to join an ever tougher work environment… what did you expect to happen?

    “But we’re the intelligent and compassionate ones.” Good grief.

    Here’s something I think few people know. Johns Hopkins University reported nonprofit employment represented 10.1 percent of total employment in the United States in 2010, with total employees numbering 10.7 million. The average annual growth rate for employment was higher for nonprofits during the 2000-2010 period at 2.1% whereas the for-profit sector shrank by -0.6%. The nonprofit workforce is the third largest of all US industries behind retail trade and manufacturing. Are these workers creating new technologies and industries, the employment generators of the near future? No. Many are grifters and chuggers, who are paid by tax-deductible contributions – that divert money from the state – and also government grants, the activists who appeal for redistribution to fight inequality. A nation will not create wealth when the charity-industrial complex is one of the few growth sectors in the economy. They are not entrepreneurial creators; they are shifters typically hostile to capitalism who, by their obstructionism, increase costs and barriers impeding development. Monetising social ills is their business, and the more ills the better.

    • Rachel says

      Ga gamba… always on point. Excellent ??????

    • Robert Paulson says

      Thanks for your excellent comment.

    • Robert Paulson says

      Ga Gamba: do you know if any good primers on the effects of globalization along the lines you are discussing for those who have a good grasp of economic principles but are interested in learning more about the economic history of the globalization of the last 30-40 years?

      • ga gamba says

        Trade policy and agreements aren’t the most riveting reads. Start by reading the Bretton Woods Agreement. Steil’s The Battle of Bretton Woods is a very good history and contemporary analysis, and even it features some thrills because the key US negotiator, Harry White, was a Soviet spy. Reading some earlier history of it, say from the ’60s or ’70s, is worth the effort because you learn how it evolved. Of the trade rounds, the Kennedy Round, which was prefaced by the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, was one the most important. Kennedy was given the authority to slash tariffs, and if you read Congressional testimony by industry leaders from the late ’60s and early ’70s you can get man-under-fire understanding of how quickly the market changed in footwear, textiles, garments, etc. The Uruguay Round, which started before the collapse of communism and concluded after it, was a pivotal round too. The current round is the Doha Round, and it’s long been stalled. Many countries have abandoned the multilateral approach preferring bilateral agreements because they think they can better protect sensitive sectors.

        Negotiation Dynamics of the WTO: An Insider’s Account by Mohan Kumar offers a comprehensive and rare behind the scenes report.

        Some of the best books about trade were written in ’80s because the Japan-US trade dispute was really hotting up – the difference between the US public’s reaction to trade issues then to that today is 180 degrees opposite. Karel van Wolferen’s The Enigma of Japanese Power is excellent – Wolferen is a Dutch journalist who spent many years in Japan and had a deep insider’s knowledge of the country, culture, and institutions. Though Japan is not Korea and Taiwan, and neither of those are China, Japan’s development and trade models were very influential.

        Brian Reading’s Japan: The Coming Collapse is remarkable in that it was published right at the start of Japan’s lost decade, which means he was researching and writing it prior to the event, at a time when everyone else was predicting Japanese economic dominance, so his book was the odd man out, but proved correct. The Asian Mind Game by Chin-Ning Chu is a tremendous yet overlooked book. Not about trade deals and their history per se, but how Asians view economic relationships, trade, etc.

        After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy by Robert Keohane is more academic. It’s a foundational text of neoliberalism, which gets a lot of criticism by both the alt-right and the ctrl-left. It’s about international relations, of which trade is a part.

        I think a “must read” for anyone is Paul Johnson’s The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830. His Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the 1980s is not quite as brilliant, but still a fine book.

        Understanding game theory is helpful.There are some very good lectures by William Spaniel on YouTube called Game Theory 101, www(dot)youtube(dot)com/playlist?list=PLKI1h_nAkaQoDzI4xDIXzx6U2ergFmedo.

        Thinking Strategically by Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff. Prisoner’s Dilemma by William Poundstone, which includes a history of game theory and the Rand Institute.

        Magazines and online blogs such as The Economist and industry specifics ones such as the Hollywood Reporter provide very good reporting of trade and barriers. For example, if you wanted to learn about the screen quotas of a country, say China or Canada, a simple google search will turn up a lot of info. A study of the film industry and trade is quite fascinating because several countries have done many cunning things to impede trade and also use imported films as a way to financially subsidise the domestic film industry. And just like ‘diversity’ is advocated by the pomos, you’ll find countries’s trade officials using the same arguments of behalf of ‘cultural diversity’ to restrict imports. The textile industry of Saipan is an excellent case study of import quotas, preferential trade policies, how countries try to get around them, and the consequences such as imported workers abandoned once quotas end and the factories close.

    • Softclocks says

      Ga gamba’s comments are on point as always, best way to start the day.

      I, for one, was not aware of the possible impact of npo’s.

  4. KD says

    Realtalk from Quillette!

    . . .And mention of some sociologists who weren’t Marxists and whose theoretical positions have empirical confirmation–nice touch.

    And no pomo globo gobblygook!

  5. KD says

    Not related to this article, and he was a Commie, but understanding Piero Sraffa’s views on the labor markets and his debate with Samuelson is key to understanding the structural changes in the economy.

    The class struggle of capital consists in relocating industry to low-wage, low-regulation countries to exploit labor and regulatory arbitrage, and mass immigration at home to glut labor markets in industries that can’t be offshored.

    Combined with an economic focus from producing goods and services (production) to money lending and financial speculation (redistribution), and you have seen a profound decline in the working classes in the “developed world”–perhaps should be renamed “undeveloping world”.

  6. cacambo says

    Hmmm…. Donald Trump as the embodiment of “prowess and strength of character.” I had not noticed that. Maybe you’re seeing something I missed.

  7. AC Harper says

    “Given these facts, why are we repeatedly told that inequality is the most pressing issue facing us in Britain and America today?”

    Because it is deceptively easy to assert and deceptively easy to provide “THE Answer”? Neither of which successfully reflect reality. Stories for grown-ups really.

  8. larry says

    I did some cursory research. In America the top 10% own about 80% of the wealth.

    The author does not deal with this fact. Totally ignores it.

    • ga gamba says

      The dollar cut-off point of the top 10% was $1,182,390.36 in 2016, so likely a bit higher presently.

      I think this article will help you better understand who owns the wealth. It may surprise you.

      Of ultra high-net worth people, those worth $30+ million, take a look at this chart. In the US and UK, about 12.5% of them inherited their money. Yet in every leftist’s dreamland Sweden almost 44% inherited their wealth.

      • ccscientist says

        If your figures are for net worth, that is not a useful measure of the rich because that might be someone’s entire retirement package (IRA plus house). Income is better. In the US in 2017 $280,000 put you in the top 1% for individuals. $110,000 put you in the top 10%. Many people have a very exaggerated view of what others make.

  9. If there were truth to this article, wouldn’t the chattering classes have done more to redistribute the 1%’s wealth to the top 10%? If they hold all the power, why are they allowing such extreme concentration at the top? Living in misery among the oligarchs must be preventable if you wield all the power, no?

  10. Chris says

    The Guardian links I checked did not seem to work (including the first link to the 2017 article in the Guardian).

    • Link says

      Lots of the links don’t work. Please fix them!

      The problem is a trailing period ‘.’ at the end of them. Click on the link and then delete the period if you want to access the articles.

  11. Ginger Hayes says

    Teachers and Professors are not in the top 10% of earners, except those at the very top of their professions (big district Superintendents, Harvard endowed Chairs). The same goes for journalists. We don’t have to be so ”foxy” to recognize the elite, they are the ones with power and money. Trump is an elite. So is Oprah. As are CEOs of big corporations. And Kanye West.

  12. ccscientist says

    Thomas Sowell in “Economic Facts and Fallacies” points out that “the rich” are not the same people over time. It is not like the old days of land-owning royalty where the same families held land and wealth for generations. Fully 40% of the 1% are only in the 1% for a couple of years, often due to cashing in stock options, selling a business, a good investment, or an inheritance. Most people move up in life so that someone in the bottom 10% at 20 has a good chance of being in the top 20% sometime in their life. Some of the 1% go on to lose most of their fortune before their death.
    Much of the wailing about the “rich” is pure jealousy. Furthermore, most of the truly rich in America got rich by making everyone better off (like Bill Gates or Sam Walton).

  13. dirk says

    There are two types of elites: the income elites (Oprah, West, football players, business men, top figures in entertainment and food) and the real elite (artists, philosophers, scientists, writers). Most of that last category makes less, to much less than an average income. Nevertheless, 90% of all famous names in an encyclopedia are those poor ones, the rich of once do not even appear in those books.

  14. hithere says

    People consider “elites” the people they feel are “lording it” over them.

    So there is a cultural elite, which many non-elite people feel is lording it over them by telling them what they should think and how they should live, depicting them with contempt in their articles, films, books, etc., having power over them as teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc. Those cultural elites have high social status and better incomes than average, and social and cultural power to set social standards, that the average person does not have. Many people resent them for this.

    Then there is the economic elite, which the cultural elite feels is lording over everyone else including them, because they have economic and political power, and an income and lifestyle the cultural elite actually envies and feels is undeserved. They are resentful because the feel their merit, i.e. superior intelligence and years of education, should entitle them to a higher income than those vulgar people who got it through commerce or inheritance.

    • dirk says

      That’s quite a coincidence hh, both of us at the same time reflecting on elites, but one of us must be wrong, or , at least, partly wrong, seen the different views.
      About that envy, I doubt so, has that sociologically ever been investigated? Intellectual and artistic elite knows that money income and capital has very little to do with succes and human value. For myself (having worked in a large company with top earners), it seems even: the more those colleagues earn, the less sensible and creative talk, or interesting, entertaining discussion partners). But that does not mean, of course, that they do not deserve that position and income, nohow!

  15. Anon says

    A compound error often occurs when comments concern economics or questions of calculation or comparison.

    For instance, one recent comment suggests imports reduce inflation but wealthy benefit most.

    Generally speaking inflation means central bank (CB) action that increases the supply of money (deflation the decrease of the supply of money).

    The popular misconception is that inflation is the rise in prices, which is only the effect of CB action. Thus, the cause of higher prices was the CB increase in the money supply.

    The cause of lower prices is CB action that reigns in money supply, in addition to all other trade factors such as cheaper imports that result in lower prices.

    But why say those with wealth benefit more. This is simply not true.it is stale communist propaganda. It is a lie. It never was true. The benefit is the same.

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