Income Inequality

We don’t see what we most need to notice

Take note America: the public is angry, Moisés Naím, Financial Times, October 26, 2011

“Over a century ago Alexis De Tocqueville wrote that Americans’ higher tolerance for inequality relative to Europe’s was the result of more social mobility in the US.

“This is over; at least for now. The long, peaceful coexistence with income and wealth inequality is ending. Americans are now infuriated by the fact that chief executives at some of the nation’s largest companies earned around 340 times more than a typical American worker…”

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Wilful blindness – why we ignore the obvious at our peril, Margaret Heffernan, New Statesman, August 8, 2011

“…If there is knowledge that you could have had and should have had but chose not to have, you are still responsible.

“…The narratives nearly always follow the same trajectory: years of abuse involving a large number of participants, plenty of warning signs, and, when the problem finally explodes, howls of pain – how could we have been so blind?

“Chief among culprits is power. When Richard Fuld was chief executive of Lehman Brothers, he perfected the seamless commute: a limo drove him to a helicopter, which flew him to Manhattan, where another limo whisked him to the bank’s offices. Front and lift doors were timed so that Fuld could ascend to his office without encountering a single employee. Most leaders of organisations inhabit a bubble of power, of which Fuld’s commute is a magnificent physical representation. They are isolated, or surrounded by those desperate to please.

“…F A Hayek wrote that “without a theory, the facts are silent” – but with a theory or ideology, inconvenient facts can become invisible…”

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Categories: Income Inequality, USA

2 replies »

  1. Superb piece Norm.

    I listened to CBC Radio morning shows the other day, both Rick Cluff in Vancouver and Gregor Craigy on the Island, talking about the most recent Scouts Canada pedophilia scandal.

    Cluff and Craigy interviewed different lawyers from Ontario, each interviewer asking the same question: “How could such abuse go undetected for so long?!?”

    My question back at them was “How can Cluff and Craigy be so stupid?”

    You'd think the mainstream news media would, by now, understand full well that such secrecy is aided and abetted – even assured – when the media refuses to cover stories that might compromise certain people's power, be it the real BC Rail Scandal, or police brutality, or old people being drugged in dreadful nursing homes.

    The media may operate in a bubble of power as Margaret Heffernan states in your piece above, and I've no doubt they do. However, I also think most of them know damn well that they are not acting as a responsible check and balance against abuse of power.

    Yes, sometimes the media does seem to come close to the role media used to play in Canadian society, but all too often, those efforts are directed towards selected targets, and used “for show”, so that the public will be mislead for a little while longer, thinking that the media is really playing a responsible role.

    Norm, you've got a very good sense for rooting out precisely the things that we as citizens need to ponder, and then to decide – as individuals – what we are going to do about the rot that has settled in around our province and our country.

    That's the job of all of us, not just those who wield official positions of authority.


  2. Thank you. Yours is an example of thoughtful consideration that I hope to encourage here.

    You raise a good point about the Scouts. More than anything, their senior executives stopped caring about the very ethical principles the organization claimed to value. Protecting themselves and the remaining hierarchy of scouting became more important than protecting children.

    Ironically, scout leaders found time to abuse and discriminate against ethical gays and those who openly supported LGBT causes, chasing from their midst excellent people who did nothing but good for scouting.


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