One of my favorite definitions of our class structure is that the children of the members of the upper class will not be allowed to fail. Paul Krugman appears to be surprised that the upper crust continue to prosper when we won’t allow them to fail:
A few days ago, The Times published a report on a society that is being undermined by extreme inequality. This society claims to reward the best and brightest regardless of family background. In practice, however, the children of the wealthy benefit from opportunities and connections unavailable to children of the middle and working classes. And it was clear from the article that the gap between the society’s meritocratic ideology and its increasingly oligarchic reality is having a deeply demoralizing effect.
The report illustrated in a nutshell why extreme inequality is destructive, why claims ring hollow that inequality of outcomes doesn’t matter as long as there is equality of opportunity. If the rich are so much richer than the rest that they live in a different social and material universe, that fact in itself makes nonsense of any notion of equal opportunity.
He continues with what seems to me to be a non sequitur but which ties in with my earlier post this morning about education, Bill Blasio’s proposal for universal pre-kindergarten education in New York City. The evidence of efficacy for that is mixed but here’s a good defense.
In the final analysis, so long as we won’t allow those at the top of the heap to fail and won’t (or can’t) ensure that those of us in the lower orders will succeed, anything we do to promote egalitarianism is moot. And that, indeed, is the history of the last six years. Regardless of manifest failures of governance, the big banks have not been allowed to fail and those responsible for the bad governance, up to and including criminal malfeasance, remain in charge. Their confederates both in business and in government won’t allow them to fail.