Wednesday, July 04, 2018

PBS News Hour: "How a New Aristocracy's Segregation Puts Stress on Society", with Matthew Stewart

A recent PBS Newshour with Julie Woodruff (June 29) reatures an interview by Paul Solman with writer Matthew Stewart.  The segment is called “How a New Aristocracy’s Segregation Puts Stress on Society”.

The theory is that it isn’t the top 0.1% or even top 1% that matters; it’s more the top 10%, below the top 0.1 –  families and individuals with net assets of at least $1.2 million.  That probably includes assets managed in inherited trusts (which is my situation).

Such persons or families tend to live in gated communities (which are slowly becoming armed and gated) or relatively secure modern urban high-rises. They tend to be able to send their kids to better public schools, or private schools.  All of this is familiar. But what’s a little more provocative is that Stewart points out that people still tend to marry within their economic class (even if more often across racial lines). He covers how this is a carryover of the way royal families have behaved in Europe for centuries, and quotes a PBS comedy about someone not marrying within his class.  That sounds like the musical “My Fair Lady”.

Stewart notes that people in the 90-99%-ile feel they have a lot to lose because of one mistake, so they tend to become retentive and defensive, often not sharing in the risks that lower income people face -- and this sounds like Nassim Nicholas Taleb's "Skin in the Game" book. So, by behaving "responsibly" as an individual and making measured choices and "doing no wrong", you are actually contributing to the pressure of people less well off than you. 
It even affects social behavior and dating.  In gay discos today, I find myself being approached by minority women when I am “watching”.  Some people believe that “body fascism,” especially in the white male gay community and apparent on various YouTube videos, could contribute to a political climate that eventually facilitates real political fascism (Umair Haque implied that recently).
Stewart also notes that poorer education and cognitive skill development below the top 10% leads to lower literacy, and more vulnerability to fake news campaigns spawning political divisions.

Stewart’s June 1, 2018 article is “When the Poor Turn Against the Poor” and is available here

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