Inequality: What Can Be Done?
Inequality Part 3
This is a direct continuation of my past two posts on wealth inequality (in America). I discussed why it’s important to be skeptical of the data out there on wealth inequality, mainly due to the omission of data or the lack of detail when it’s presented.
Let’s jump right back into it.
4. The Media’s Perspective is not the Individual’s
My fourth point was that data on inequality allows people to ignore what is going on in front of their own eyes in their own lives instead of looking at what the media propagates. Mainstream narratives surrounding data that people don’t fully understand deliver up a universal truth for everyone to agree on. I do not believe that others are always intentionally lying, but perceptions color reality. Why should my conclusions be the same as someone else’s?
Moving away from statistical analyses but continuing on the idea that data is used to make people see the world as unfair, categorizing people into groups ignores the complexity of the world. It implies that individuals have all their group’s characteristics even though there are differences within any group right down to the individual. Experiences differ. The data talks about groups, but people generally use it to inform their personal world when interacting with individuals.
Since my immigrant and socioeconomic status put me at the pinnacle of intersectional “victimhood,” I was so skeptical of much of what I was hearing because I never came to the conclusions other people came to. I never saw myself as a victim, and I never got that feedback from my experience. I didn’t even think about it until other people started telling me that that was how things were. I think if what I was hearing were true, then I would have been able to suss out many things. For example, I would have felt discriminated against when I came to the United States compared to the environment I was coming from, particularly because I found myself in a predominantly white and thus supposedly oppressive community. But I didn’t find that to be true. People were just too nice to me. And I’m sure that I walked among prejudiced people, but if I didn’t want to be around those people, then I would simply have to go and live by myself because I think prejudiced people exist everywhere, including where I’m from. It wasn’t until everyone started telling me how things were that I was like, “Okay, I’m not going to just believe it; I’m going to go read about it and find out about it.” Then, I still wasn’t convinced of the way things were being portrayed. I think that society on a whole should foster cohesion and persuade people to be nice towards other human beings, but that’s not necessary for many of the issues that people say they want to change.
The media constantly tells people not to have their own sense of agency and personal responsibility. Instead, they tell the masses to focus on blaming others or what others are doing. This wears down a person’s moral compass by promoting envy and jealousy. At the same time, the result of this blame game may also ignore the presence of real pain of wanting to succeed in life and not being able to, or living and growing up in broken families. And still further, the mainstream media presents a case of futility and then incites rage against people who are doing better off. Envy, jealousy, or wanting status that others have can be motivators, although I’m not necessarily advocating for those things. But when those motivators turn into hatred, this hatred is then justified by allowing people to believe that it is righteous retaliation, promoting mental and other kinds of attacks on people who may be innocent. It also promotes the attachment of negative traits to people who may not be deserving of them because they don’t actually possess those characteristics. Worst of all is ignoring that bias, discrimination, and prejudice exist in the very groups who are righteously claimed to be victimized. Even if specific groups are targeted by discriminatory practices (despite the lack of proof other than questionable “data,” which is manipulated in its presentation, as detailed in Part 2), discriminatory targeting does not matter in terms of advancement. Groups have succeeded in the past in spite of these things. It does not stop people from focusing on their own problems instead of shouting at others to be more fair. If society did not care about these groups, they would not have a voice at all. If society did not care, it would be nonsensical to go and ask people in society for help. And in the long term, always helping deprives a group from developing competence on their own terms. This leads to my biggest point.
5/∞. My Biggest Point: What Can Be Done About Wealth Inequality in America?
What can be done?
Stop Sowing Resentment
Focusing on inequality in terms of oppression ignores the avenues that others have taken to move up the income ladder. The path to less inequality is not through politics, at least not historically. The path to less inequality is the development of the same skills within different groups, meaning the same level of competence to provide value to others in the market, not necessarily the same skills for the same industry. There are also common skills, regardless of industry, such as work ethic. This is something that often comes from personal incentive, if not learned through the family or socialization. I did mention this before: economic prosperity often comes before the lessening of discrimination. And I don’t think anyone should count on the lessening of discrimination ever happening. One can go from an international perspective and look at empirical studies of multi-ethnic societies. In those societies, there are groups who do well even in the face of discrimination. Those groups do well no matter where they go in the world because they have particular academic backgrounds or provide desirable services to the public and have a certain culture.
Gaining Work Experience and Skills to Compete
One might ask the question, how do people go about getting work experience and skills that would allow them to compete effectively in the market? I don’t think any kind of wealth distribution is the correct solution because it removes the incentive to gain the skills and work experience people need. The welfare state or government redistribution—or rather distribution—programs of wealth, remove the incentive for people to gain the skills and work experience that they need. Wealth distribution also seems to help destroy the family unit. I say “help” because I do think that individuals have a choice in this, although it is very hard to not respond to incentives. Successful people from two-parent households that value education somehow take that family structure for granted or fail to attribute their successes to that structure at all. Specific ways to help people gain the skills they need is to leave the economy alone. Remove minimum wage laws, especially, and maybe mandatory labor unions, because they stop people from getting the work that will help them get the skills that they need. These were avenues that were available to other groups, and these options have been reduced in terms of building human capital. In terms of people’s potential to achieve competence due to things such as IQ differences that we may be seeing play out in society, I think the only thing we can hope for is to assume potential and to create the environment for that potential to come out. But this has to be considered when talking about differences. These kinds of influences need to be considered if people are serious about understanding the problem and trying to solve it. It’s amazing to me that IQ and its relationship to success has been established but is not very often discussed when talking about group outcomes. I didn’t really know anything about this correlation until a few years ago. Whether or not IQ differences can change over time due to social environments such as culture or adapting to a new environment, it is an issue in the present, and it is crucial to the discussion at hand. I understand why people don’t want to bring it up because it can promote prejudice among those who don’t fully understand what it says. But when you start blaming groups and picking up for specific groups due to different outcomes, it becomes very relevant.
Looking at Groups through Data has Its Pros and Cons
Relatedly, those who use data on wealth inequality to push the narrative of oppression in the name of doing good need to realize that they are also opening the floodgates of evil. Let me explain. No one is accountable for the actions of others, but to insist that pointing out the differences between groups will then reduce inequality is a game that can be possibly played forever, often with blood being shed at the end. Like I said, inequality is how everything has come into being. By pointing out group differences as a way to help, people will start looking at the less flattering data as well. They are two sides of the same coin.
Politicians who bring up data will always position themselves as the ones to help others and so gain dependence and support for helping constituents do things that they could have probably helped themselves with anyway. Discrimination is a social and moral issue, but pitting groups against each other in the pursuit of a prejudice-free utopia does not help. Furthermore, sowing division allows people to have preformed ideas in their heads about who is doing well and who is not before they even interact with those people. This is true prejudice.
As far as IQ goes, I don’t know the answer. The best bet is to try and provide a better home environment. It may also be beneficial to focus on things like health that may be negatively impacting intelligence. Since IQ is something that is selected for, constantly removing incentives to compete in the marketplace through welfare does not help. Maladaptive traits will be passed down, through culture or otherwise. Removing incentives only ensures that people adapt to a state of dependency and lower expectations. I’ll say again that I think help should be given through charity but not forced by the state. People can focus on helping others in emergency situations, unforeseen circumstances, or to help others reach specific goals. These goals may include gaining job skills on their path towards a better future, which the welfare system does not discriminate for.
Long-Term Thinking and Entrepreneurship
Other useful strategies include a focus on savings even out of small incomes, long-term thinking, and entrepreneurship. These are tools that other groups have used to succeed all around the world. Home ownership is also important but involves long-term thinking. Even when people have the same income, they don’t do the same things with it. Some people think short term and some long term about the accumulation of wealth over time.
College education can also be a path, not a must, since entrepreneurship is another. But the kind of major that one chooses is important. The quality of education that one receives is important as well. Again, I believe we should stop trying to give people things without the foundation that brings the success they’re looking for. Underperforming citizens could focus on tools like building better credit; trying to mandate better access to housing does not help them in the long term. Affirmative action is also unhelpful for the same reason: considering the long term. It lowers expectations for helped groups and makes sure that disaffected groups work harder and get better in their competence. I also saw an article about a year ago about Section 8 vouchers. These vouchers enable people to choose between living in luxury apartments and working. What a cruel decision to have someone make.
So those are just several suggestions. Of course I don’t know everything, but I do think what I’m saying is sound. I think the most important suggestion is to stop sowing resentment between people in what I consider to be a place of abundant opportunity, having been very close to poverty myself. I wouldn’t say that I was objectively poor, but in American terms I was. This is a place of opportunity, and, in the name of equality and being against discrimination, many keep trying to take away things that made it so in the first place instead of focusing on paths that others have used.
Edited by Em Solis
You can find Part 1 of this series here:
You can find Part 2 of this series here:
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