Entrenched privilege

by Rob Horning

28 February 2006


At first this TPMcafe post by Max Sawicky rejecting New Democrat dogma (esposused in this case by DLCer Ed Kilgore) about promoting an “education and skills” approach to levelling the sort of entrenched social inequities my post on elite colleges discussed yesterday may seem a bit cryptic. The discussion was prompted by Krugman’s NYT editorial pointing out just have much the 99.99th percentile saw their incomes increase, accompanied by his conclusion that financial power yields political power yields even more financial power. The argument within Democratic party is whether to attack entrenched privilege with a populist message, or to cater to business with a less-divisive, stay-the-course emphasis on skills and training to address the issue. I’m not sure if it matters when you are dealing with a poorly informed electorate and a gerrymandered system of representation that nullifies many votes. But for me the point Sawicky makes at the end of his post transcends this spat. Often critiques of inherited wealth are accused of being communistic and redistributive—you want to take away what someone has “earned”. But the point is, the injustices that privilege (and its handmaiden, corruption) creates means that that those advantages are not “earned” and that the playing field is not level and the game is rigged in the favor of those already rich (use whatever sports cliche you want). Writes Sawicky, “Of course, it is predatory power and privilege that are the real sources of redistribution, against merit and without regard to social justice. The secret of corruption is the talent for credibly accusing your victims of your crimes.”

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