The Land of Inequality: UK or USA?

Let’s Talk Opinion in continuation of Social Mobility

America and Britian Special RelationshipBritain 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.

InequalityThis 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?

USA: Wealth Inequality in America

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.

99 per cent

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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29 thoughts on “The Land of Inequality: UK or USA?

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  7. I agree with the issue of capitalism and its flaws, there has to be a better way to distribute some of the wealth, particularly for those hard working citizens that do a good job but receive very little. MM 🍀

    • To think only that this has gotten so much worse in the last three decades. We are supposed to be striving towards a better more equitable world, and instead the system works against it.
      Thank you for your comment MM, appreciated.

      • You’d have to say that if this trend continues then surely at some point the masses will have enough and rise up. Can it really continue like this? One of the troubles is th empower of branding and advertising, telling people what they should aspire to. Keep it real please…MM 🍀

      • Great point, MM. That is the power of the system: it has persuaded the masses that they have a stake in keeping it running. And the media has a lot to answer for. That is certainly so.

  8. “The five marks of the Roman decaying culture:

    Concern with displaying affluence instead of building wealth;

    Obsession with sex and perversions of sex;

    Art becomes freakish and sensationalistic instead of creative and original;

    Widening disparity between very rich and very poor;

    Increased demand to live off the state.”

    (Eddie van Gibbons, famous rock guitarist of the Enlightenment. I think.)

      • Indeed they do. I intend to provide a coherent explanation as to why in the sequel to my current book. As Yogi Berra said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” The subtitle for my Book Two is “Harbinger of a Dark Age.” Christopher Lasch meets Edward Gibbons.

      • You may read at your leisure, dear Vic. I am not going anywhere. Unless it is to jail, after the judges read what I have written about them.

        I wonder if Beth Byrnes has a recipe for a cake with a saw baked into it.

      • I thought America still valued freedom of speech, or has it vanished to the same dark place equality seems to have gone?
        Will ask Beth. I’m sure she’ll come up with something 😉

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  10. We have too many in the U.S. who are working at low wages, and they struggle working only 30 hours a week so their employer won’t have to pay benefits. This forces the employee to find another 30 hour job to make enough to eat and still no benefits. Do you want to go talk with them? You’ll find some of them in any county hospital camped out in the emergency room for 12, 16 or 20 hours to have some non emergency problem taken care of. If they went anywhere else they wouldn’t be accepted because they have no insurance. All this occurs while the top 1% get richer and richer.

    There will be a revolution. I just hope it’s not a bloody one.

    • Thank you, Bradley, it is truly terrible that this should be the case in one of the richest countries in the world. I included two links in this post – one by the BBC about wealth distribution in the UK, and the other has a similar study of wealth distribution in the US.
      I was shocked by the disparity between rich and poor in the US. The poor by that account comprise 40% of the population, and even the middle classes – the next 40% up don’t seem to do much better. If the trend continues, America will have 80% of its population struggling to survive.
      Regarding medical care, do you think Obamacare would be able to solve this at least in part? I was surprised to see how much opposition there is to the scheme from those who would actually benefit from it. I can only assume that they’ve been indoctrinated into believing that any public involvement in healthcare is a bad thing. The fact is that America’s pharmaceutical companies fleece people alive. It is daytime robbery. Your prices for some basic drugs are up to 100 times higher than in most European countries. Regulating those prices would be one way to make healthcare affordable, but I’m not sure where US law stands on that.
      Great comment and very thought provoking. Thank you.

      • I think for now that Obamacare is our one really bad, but, only option that we have. Once that is put in place and people start receiving care that they didn’t have before there will be no turning back. After that, I hope it will morph into something more similar to the Canadian or UK plans. I know they are not perfect, but they are light years ahead of where we are today.

        Our biggest hurdle is what to do about the undocumented immigrants coming across our border. I firmly believe that if someone is sick or injured while in our country then they should get care. However, that comes down to all the legal citizens paying more into the health care system. I just don’t think we have the infrastructureto handle that.

      • Thank you for getting back to me on this issue, Bradley. I’ve been doing my best to follow developments closely, but getting to know how this change is regarded by people “on the ground” as it were is very helpful. Really appreciate you sharing your perspective on this.
        – The issue of healthcare for undocumented immigrants is very important. We are debating something very similar in the UK at the moment.
        Thank you!

  11. Great read! I have to say that it’s ironic being from such a “powerful” country and yet I can’t afford health insurance because I chose a profession that I love yet rarely offers benefits to its employees. It makes you wonder what really is the “American way”.

    • Thank you for your comment, Roger.
      Bradley also mentioned the healthcare issue. It has been all over the news here as well. The coalition seems determined to privatise healthcare in the UK, but I do hope they won’t do it, as we’ll end up with the same type of problems the US is facing today.
      Yes… I do wonder what the American way is supposed to stand for, because it doesn’t seem to stand for most Americans.

      • “I do wonder what the American way is supposed to stand for, because it doesn’t seem to stand for most Americans”

        Wow. That quote sent chills down my spine. Truer words were never spoken.

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