My brain track: I'm reading James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds, which happens to cite this 2004 article, which finds (among other things) that inequality bugs rich folks in America more than it bugs poor folks and folks who lean Left politically (see p. 2026). Across the pond, European Lefties get much more bent out of shape over inequlity, while the Righties, dukes, and earls just shrug and pass the truffles.
The authors suggest this finding stems from a persistent American belief that we live in an economically mobile society, where wealth is a product of moxie and hustle, not birth and luck the way the sterotypical European view might hold. Of course, that interpretation suggest that rich Americans would be bothered by inequality only out of self-interest, fearing that they'll lose their shirts on Wall Street and end up falling back to the lower quartile.
What I'm trying to square with these findings this morning is the accusation we Lefties too frequently play the class warfare card. Statistically, cries of "Inequality!" should come from the wealthy classes, from the people whose income we're trying to redistribute, not the people who supposedly benefit most from that redistribution.
Weekend social scientists, bat that one around over your Saturday grilling, and tell me what you think!
Alberto Alesina, Rafael Di Tella, and Robert MacCulloch, "Inequality and Happiness: Are Europeans and Americans Different?" Journal of Public Economics v. 88, 2004, pp. 2009–2042.
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