Structural polarization

Costa Mesa                                                                                                              (c) Perypatetik Media
By structural polarization I mean a type of polarization that is built into the social and economy system we live in today.

Michael Rubinkam recently wrote an excellent article entitled "Income gap widens as American factories shut down." He cites the state of Pennsylvania as an example:

"It's not that there's a lack of jobs, but gains often come at either the highest end of the wage spectrum — or the lowest.
Globalization, automation and recession destroyed nearly 6 million manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2009. In Pennsylvania, between 2001 and 2011, 258,000 middle-income factory jobs were lost. At the same time, Pennsylvania added jobs at the lower end of the wage spectrum — in health care and social services — and at the highest end, in sectors like management and finance."

Newport Beach                                                               (c) Perypatetik Media
 Besides income, we see this in politics with the enormous gap between Democrats and Republicans and their difficulties communicating. 
We also see a bifurcation between regulators and the worshippers of laissez-faire capitalism.

Outside of politics and business, a sharp divergence is observed in the use of language where professionals speak intelligibly and calmly while the less educated speak emotionally (much like pundits on TV).

Socially, there is a strong tendency to view your own actions and those of your inner circle as unquestionably correct, while all the others are wrong (there are very funny statistics on how huge numbers of Americans have a dismal view of congress, but strongly support the congressperson in their own district).

Newport Beach                                                                                                               (c) Perypatetik Media
 In short, as we have been chronicling here:

America
              is
                  polarized


Costa Mesa                                                                                                                     (c) Perypatetik Media
One (of many) important question is the extent to which the structure of the system is responsible for this development. In part, comparison with other countries may also help, but let us consider some of the conditions of twenty-first-century America:

i. Expectations of children are encouraged to be extremely high

ii. Children are forced to be very active (extracurricular activities are considered heavily in the college admissions process)

iii. Economic growth (around the globe when adjusted for population) is slow

iv. Our perception of the past is very positive ("good old days")

v. The structure of the sentences we generally speak provides immediate gratification of essence.

And one potential universal:

i. Dreams are often not realized
London                                                               (c) Koen Dougterloigne
In my opinion, if you agree that these are the conditions that prevail in modern-day America and you agree with this potential universal, then I posit it is impossible for the country to not experience polarizaton.

Tomorrow or the day after we will look at this in more detail and compare the situation with countries such as Germany and Russia.

Henry Whittlesey
August 25, 2014


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