The Parallel Parliament

by Glen Pearson

Tag: income inequality

Who Says the Rich Create the Wealth?

Like many of you, I really get into TED talks – the series of brief videos that run the gamut of everything we find interesting in this world.  And more and more of these talks have been centering on the idea of income inequality and its effects on nations around the world.  It’s the old argument about the 1% and the rest, but with an increasing number of economists and researchers weighing in on how it destroys our capacity to grow and respond as citizens, companies, and nations.

Venture capitalist and millionaire entrepreneur, Nick Hanauer, wrote an op-ed for Bloomberg News that went hyper-viral.  It talked about how it’s not the wealthy that create jobs and prosperity but the delicate link between companies and their customers.  In other words, wealth is created through the symbiotic relationship between both these groups.  It created a sensation, and so the organizers of TED Talks asked him to make a presentation at one of their conferences.  He agreed and you can see the result by playing the video above. It’s only five minutes long but its impact has left a longer trail.

Hanauer’s presentation gained immediate popularity, bringing out the instinct, which millions share, that something is not right in our economic models.  But the video also brought on an increasing amount of detractors – primarily those of the 1% who didn’t like this exposure by one of their own.  The result?  TED Talks pulled the video.  Fortunately it’s still on YouTube.

Why was the video pulled?  Good question.  The official explanation was that it was too partisan, but some feel the elite put enough pressure on the organizers to get the video yanked.  Whatever the reason, it’s compelling stuff and belongs as part of the growing debate on income inequality and its steadily eroding effects on modern economies.  Hanauer’s belief that it’s actually the middle-class that creates wealth and jobs completely opposes the current paradigm, which maintains that it is the top-tier of wealth owners who make all the difference.  Regardless of whether you fully agree or not, it’s compelling stuff, well worth your attention and, hopefully, engagement.  It’s time to start fighting back, as only committed citizens in a free and democratic society can do.



The Next “Big” Word

We often attempt to define the world we live in by the use of a word or a phrase.  We had the Stone, Iron, Industrial, Information, and now Technological Ages.  When society is moving along without too many extremes, the requirement for words isn’t as essential, but when things get out-of-place or rocky we fall back on singular phrases or words to capture our predicament.

Aldous Huxley noted in his Brave New World, “Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly.  They’ll go through anything.  You read and you’re pierced.”  Thus we got the “Roaring Twenties,” the “Depression,” the “Era of Civil Rights,” or the universal “Globalization.”

Slowly, inexorably, a new term is consistently showing up in conversations and media venues that is remarkable for its ability to draw together, into a kind of rough consensus, voices that heretofore remained divided by ideological fences.  That next word is “Inequality,” and it’s about ready to become the caption of our era, our footstep in history’s timeline.

“Inequality” hardly requires much context anymore because we have been living it every day, not just in developing nations, but in what once seemed the endlessly prosperous Western countries, like our own.  The amount of commentary it has received in the United States and Britain has placed it front and centre in any coffee shop or policy discussion.  Canada is quickly catching up the longer it takes prosperity to return to our national life.

Perhaps it won’t.  Our hard-earned reputation, mostly established in previous times, appears to be eroding as the economic gap between the rich and the rest is opening up a tear in the Canadian fabric.  The real issue is not so much about how much wealth the top 1% has acquired in recent years but the amount not gained by the rest.  There is something wrong; we can sense it but look in vain for any serious political or economic leadership to shrink that chasm.

It is repeatedly said that this past recession is still leaving its fingerprints all over our present life.  Research by numerous groups, including the International Monetary Fund, point to the real possibility that growing income inequality actually delays any economic recovery and also shortens the periods of prosperity that follow downturns.  As we wait in vain for our economy to bounce back from a recession that supposedly ended a while ago, perhaps we would be better to ask why so little is happening, and if part of that reason is the economic inequality in this country, then the sooner we get at some kind of solution the better off we will all be.

We need to spend some time in these posts examining inequality and what its persistence presence means to our national life and the future of our children.  But for now watch the video at the beginning of this post – it is a revelation.  Yes, it tells the American picture, but Canada is following a similar course.  Should we persist on this path, the word “equality” will eventually be removed from our national lexicon.

The recently released move, Ender’s Game, has a character who makes an astute observation:  “There are times when the world is rearranging itself, and at times like that, the right words can change the world.”  The opposite is also true: the wrong words can diminish us –  “inequality” perhaps being the prime example.

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