Let’s Talk Opinion in continuation of Social Mobility
Britain and the US have always shared a special relationship. This relationship is due to more than a shared history and language, more than a predominantly liberal outlook on what society and politics ought to be, more even than a commitment to democracy and certain commonalities at the level of culture, norms and values.
In economic terms, the American dream has turned nightmare for the majority of hard-working Americans, whilst Britain’s fair society is stark in its iniquity. The gap between the haves and have-nots has been increasing at alarming rates over the past three decades, so that “the land of the free” and the birthplace of “fair play” are today twin beacons of inequality.
How should wealth be distributed in a fair society? How do we think it is distributed? How is it actually distributed?
The answers to these three questions showcase how far behind reality our perception truly is. The gap between the ideal – believed real – and actual wealth distribution is astounding.
Great Britain: Inequality: How Wealth is Distributed in the UK
Brits perceive the UK to be a rather unequal society when it comes to the distribution of wealth. Most Brits think that the bottom 20% have 9% of the wealth, whilst the top 20 have 40% of the wealth. Even this imagined reality does not seem particularly fair, but it would be a vast improvement to how things stand today.
This is the real distribution of wealth in the UK. In a nutshell, the richest 20% have 60% of the total wealth, twice as much as the rest of the population combined, and 100 times more than the bottom 20%. This is 20% more of the wealth than most Brits are aware of, and 35% more than what British people would consider an ideal or fair distribution of wealth in a liberal democracy.
When it comes to the top 1% the iniquity of wealth goes through the roof: they have as much wealth as 60% of Britain’s population combined. Fair?
Remember the richest 20% of Brits, having 100 times the wealth of the bottom 20%? Most Americans think that this is also the case for the US. Alas, it is not so. For the US things get even worse.
The ideal world for the majority of Brits and Americans is a far cry for the socialist ideal where wealth would be equally distributed amongst all. Both understand that the system is already skewed, and following a liberal logic, they accept that inequalities in wealth are a part of the system; it is how our capitalist societies function. But what Brits and Americans think is the reality of inequality in their respective countries, and what that reality is, are two very different kettles of fish.
How can we hope to build a just society when we are not even aware of the injustices we are faced with? We need to readjust our passivity. Learn. Think. Act. Active citizen participation in politics is more often than not discouraged. Some politicians have even been brazen enough to call protests undemocratic. What can be more democratic than people claiming back their voice and demanding a share in the power that lies rightfully with them in the first place?
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