Class, not party

Ray Fisman, a Boston University economist, and Daniel Markovits from Yale Law School write in Slate about “The distributional preferences of an elite”, a study they recently published in Science magazine. In the final paragraphs they say:

Elites’ preferences matter. The American elite overwhelmingly dominates both campaign finance and political lobbying, and American policymakers themselves come overwhelmingly from elite circles—the powerbroker Yale Law alumni mentioned above represent just the tip of a vast iceberg.

Our results thus shine a revealing light on American politics and policy. They suggest that the policy response to rising economic inequality lags so far behind the preferences of ordinary Americans for the simple reason that the elites who make policy—regardless of political party—just don’t care much about equality. Hemingway’s illusory but widely shared view that the only thing that separates the rich from the rest is their money thus disguises a central pathology of American public life. When American government undemocratically underdelivers economic equality, the cause is less party than caste.

Democracy gives the mass of citizens a path for protest when the gap between ordinary views and a closed rank of elite opinion grows too great. The populist insurgencies that increasingly dominate the contests to select both the Republican and Democratic candidates in the upcoming presidential election show the protest path in action. Elites—in both parties—remain baffled by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders’ appeal; and they prayerfully insist that both campaigns will soon fade away. Our study suggests a different interpretation, however. These bipartisan disruptions of elite political control are no flash in the pan, or flings born of summer silliness. They are early skirmishes in a coming class war.

5 Responses

  1. and of course, “democracy” means voting for Sanders or Trump.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. They do realize that electoralism is inherently elitist. But yes, they provide no solutions.


  3. Interesting how the liberal cliche of “efficiency vs. equality” becomes the main story of this study, while the straightforward story of the elite being self serving is elided.

    For example:

    The findings indicate that they’re [the elite] more likely to make economic choices based on increasing the overall wealth of the nation rather than on increasing income equality within a nation. Thus, there’s a chance we’re selecting policymakers who are unlikely to address this issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Occupy protest movement was the early skirmish in the new precariat’s class struggle or “class war.”


  5. […] Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. This fact was observed in a relatively well-noticed academic paper in Science journal by Fisman and Markovits about the way class affects policy choices. The authors […]


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