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?


Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)

Social Mobility


Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with through the looking glass

“We might imagine the mobility of ‘social mobility’ as simply a matter of moving about. But we all know politicians who use this phrase are talking about moving up. Moreover, they mean moving ‘up’ some concept of a class ladder or economic pyramid or their metaphorical ilk.” The words ‘social mobility’

I am grateful to Alice for bringing the topic of social mobility to my attention. It is a very pertinent one in view of the increasing gap between rich and poor in the UK, an inequality greater today than it was in 1997 when New Labour took the reins of power. Disbelief was my first reaction when I first became aware of this fact, but it served to reinforce my view that in many ways Tony Blair was much more of a Thatcherite than a keeper of leftist ideals.

In a speech in Norfolk on Friday, Sir John Major expressed shock at the domination by a private school-educated elite and well-heeled middle class of every sphere of modern public life. The former prime minister blamed Britain’s stunted social mobility on Labour policies, including the abolition of grammar schools.

In many respects, Major’s views support the concerns expressed by my fellow blogger. He does appear to take it for granted that social mobility, “moving ‘up’ some concept of a class ladder or economic pyramid” is inherently good and desirable.

After some consideration I think I’ve come to an understanding as to the source of this divergence. Both the former PM and Alice speak of social mobility, but the context in which they discuss it differs. It is a matter of “is” versus “ought” and this is the crux of the matter. I’ve discussed this difference between politics in the now versus what politics ought to be in “men are always wicked, unless you give them no alternative, but to be good” – and this applies to social arrangements too.

At a theoretical level, I share Alice’s concerns. I agree with her assertion that the idea of social mobility “perpetuates the idea that hierarchies are both natural and something to aspire to.” In a truly democratic – that is egalitarian – society, the existence of such a term and everything it implies would be obsolete. So much for life as it ought to be.

As for life and society as it currently stands, I have to admit that the possibility of fashioning a better life for oneself continues to hold great power. I do trust that even in our hierarchical society, it is not absolutely necessary for social mobility to rely “on the existence of people staying below to be superior to.” 

Back in the USSR there were many a poster proclaiming that good old Soviets were fighting wealth. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. Why should we fight wealth? Surely it would be better by far if we were all wealthy. The gap between the rich and poor does not require necessarily for a decrease of the wealth of the upper half, it could mean an upward mobility, an increase in the standard of life of the lower half instead. Of course, I do not include in this the obscenely rich top five per cent – a decent human life can hardly need that extent of greedy accumulation of material goods.

Silver linings.


Let’sTalk Opinion posts engage with issues that are important to other bloggers, connecting with others on matters close to their heart. If you like a topic and would like to contribute, please feel free to add to the comment box, reblog, share, email or message me on Twitter @shardsofsilence.

Or if you happen to be a fellow Hogwartsian send me a letter by owl. ;)