There was a time in 2005 when we were practically besieged by well-known and well-intentioned celebrities who were urging us to help eliminate poverty. There they were, all clad in white, in TV spots that were at least riveting by the simplicity of the message: “Make poverty a history. ” It was an aberrant theme in time slots that were reserved for physical beauty, home products, vacations and other modern preoccupations.
It was not that we didn’t know – or didn’t care – about poverty, it was just something we read about (we have a different reality, us with our mobile phones, designer clothes, TV dinners and gas-guzzling cars). U2’s Bono was the Pied Piper of the group and led the holding simultaneous worldwide concerts to raise awareness (and raise funds too) on the horrific plight of people in Africa. The message was not only addressed to us, but to the leaders of G8 Summit who were scheduled to hold a meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland.
Now I know why at that time, the very suggestion that poverty could be eliminated (isn’t alleviated the more politically-correct word? ) suddenly burst forth into our consciousness and intruded into our relatively-affluent lives (was it to stoke our guilt? ): it was that article of Lester Thurow entitled “The Rich: Why Their World Might Crumble” for The New York Times in November 19, 1995 that gives us a glimpse of what will happen if inequality continues to rise and our families experience falling incomes.
Because of that Thurow is in an urgent need to organize America and orient it on the repercussions of what will happen in case there is rise in the disparity on the distribution of wealth. Thurow makes several points in his article here as he points out the sharp increase in inequality in terms of the distribution of wealth. He directs our sights to figures that have big implications such as the share of wealth held by the top 1 percent of the population which doubled what it had been in the mid-1970s and in the 1920s before the introduction of progressive taxation.
Of course Thurow does not want to threaten us unnecessarily but his statistics do not lie. He says it succinctly “The middle class is scared, and it should be. The supports for its economic security are being kicked out from under it. The remedy must include a huge program of re-educating and retraining the bottom 60 percent of the work force, investments in research and high-tech infrastructure and a willingness to run the economy with tight labor markets so that labor shortages push wages upward.
But it takes organization to do that, and it’s not clear that America has the will to get organized to solve its problems. ” The article is an interesting read but something’s lacking. The author does not provide concrete solutions to the problems, leaving the issue saying that one solution to this diverse distribution of power is to drive out the economically weak saying that it was the duty of the economically strong to drive the economically weak into extinction; that drive was in fact the secret of capitalism’s strength.
I do not know why Thurow can say this but he must have a reason, even to put it in a sarcastic manner. At the time that his article came out (1995), it generated some buzz, both positive and negative. Those of the latter scoffed at how simplistic Thurow seemed to look at the problem. Personally, I stand in the middle ground, both accepting some of his explanations while I must say there are things I found disconcerting (given the level of my understanding on the dynamics of economics, nuances of development and the true nature of man).