Real vs. Imagined Wealth Distribution in the US
The chart above is from a study examining the actual wealth distribution in the US versus what people thought it was and what they believe would be the ideal. The top line in the chart depicts the actual wealth distribution which shows that the richest 20% own over 80% of the wealth while the bottom 80% own 20%. The bottom 40% ( 4th 20% and bottom 20%) own such a small percentage of the nation’s wealth that they don’t even show up on the chart. The remaining lines captioned as “Estimated” and “Ideal” represent what people think it is and what it should be, respectively, broken down by income, sex and voter. Across demographics, the estimated and ideal wealth distribution is consistent and dramatically different than the actual. Basically, most people have no idea of what the actual wealth distribution in the nation is and one wonders what the reaction would be if they had to reconcile the actual with their ideal. Would the general public would turn into wealth redistributionists?
It’s strange that wealth redistribution is a topic that’s discussed more than the skewed distribution of wealth itself. Stranger still is the fact that most of those concerned about someone taking something from them are in the bottom quintiles that barely show up on the chart. Even stranger is their role in the front lines in the fight against their very economic interests.
Wealth is power and a part of that power is the ability to finance and control the conversation through the media. This results in shaping the public debate towards a predetermined synthesis that never addresses the real issues, but serves to prevent them from ever entering the public debate to begin with.
Vast concentrations of wealth are a risky proposition for any nation mainly because its economic fortunes are tied to a small group. So if they decide to take their ball elsewhere, the game is over, not to mention the undue influence exerted over the rules while it’s still on.
This is yet another elephant in the room that goes unacknowledged.