Monday, June 1, 2009

Trickle Down

Trickle down economics. The theory of making the rich richer as the means to bettering society as a whole was always a bit flimsy idea to me. Why exactly do the wealthiest and most powerful people need any more special treatment than they already get? The pictures in this post sum up my feelings on the subject.

Rich and powerful people are in a position of power, and who doesn't want to be in a better position than everyone else? It's only natural. It does become problematic when the already rich and powerful want to become yet more rich and powerful just for the sake of having more. They might generate wealth that does "trickle down," but at what cost? Overall wealth goes up, but proportionally more goes to the people upstream while the people downstream get the trickles. According to one statistic, 40% of growth in GDP ends up in the hands of the richest 1% of the people. That's just absurd.

The funny thing is that people are amazingly adaptable, especially when it comes to matters of material wealth. We can adjust to our level of financial riches. Once we get past our basic needs, what makes us most happier is not our absolute level of wealth. Rather, it's how well we're doing relative to our peers. Most people would rather be making a moderate salary that's better than their peers than a fortune that's smaller than their peers. It's petty, but the proverbial "keeping up with the Joneses" is firmly ingrained in our psyches.

Which brings me back to trickle down. If the rich get a whole lot richer, while the poor do just a little bit better, then are we really better off?  The people getting a smaller slice of the pie aren't completely clueless.  They can see they're getting shafted.  Even dogs have a sense of fairness.  Humans live longer and, with supposedly more brain power, can devote more neurons to resentment against getting the table scraps with the feast in plain view.  Trickle down economics is merely a way the haves to make themselves feel good about being greedy and taking advantage of the have-nots.

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