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기회의 균등과 경제적 불평등
10/23/2011 16:10 댓글(0)   |  추천(2)

기회의 균등과 경제적 불평등


현재 미국은 상위 1%의 부유층이 국민소득의 20%를 차지하고 있어 부의 분배가 매우 불공평한 상태이다. 이와 관련하여 부유층의 부에 대한 정당성과 도덕성, 사회적 의무를 둘러싸고 정치, 사회적인 논란이 가열되고 있다.


뉴욕의 금융가에는 다양한 인파가 운집하여 99% 일반국민의 경제적 어려움을 호소하고 있으며, 정부의 금융기관에 대한 공적자금 지원과 금융인들의 정직하지 못한 이윤추구 행위에 대해 격렬하게 성토하고 있다. 그 기세는 전국적으로 확산될 전망이다. 반면 공화당 대통령후보 예선전에서 흑인 후보 허만 케인은 기존의 누진과세제도를 폐지하고 소득계층 구별 없이 9%의 세금을 부과하자는 안을 제시하며 부유층을 대변하기도 한다.


미국은 기회균등이 어느 국가 못지않게 보장된 국가이며, 근현대사를 통해 결과의 평등이 아닌 기회의 균등을 보장하기 위해 정치사회적인 시스템을 정착시키는 데 끊임없이 노력해 왔다. 그러나 현재는 기회의 균등으로 인해 소득과 빈부의 격차가 심각한 수준에 이르러 국가의 정치적 안정성을 해칠 정도의 위기상황에 봉착하게 되었다.


미국의 기회균등과 결과의 평등 사이의 상관관계에서 몇 가지 중요한 점을 발견할 수 있다.


 1) 과거 상류층은 주로 백인들이었으나, 균등한 기회를 보장하는 시스템에  의해 능력이 있는 다양한 집단과 계층이 상류층에 진입하여 상류층의 구성이 다양화 되었다.

 2) 계층 간의 지위와 신분의 이동이 자유롭지 못하고 보다 경직화되었다. 상류층의 자녀는 더 나은 환경과 교육에 의해 다음 세대로 부의 지위가 세습되는 현상을 보이고 있다. 더 이상 개천에서 용이 난다는 이야기를 들을 수 없게 된 것이다.

 3) 미국의 정치적 영향은 경제적 계층보다는 흑인, 여성, 히스패닉, 동성연애자, 노령인구 등 특수 이익집단에 의해 강력하게 발휘된다. 따라서 중산층으로 사는 백인집단의 이익은 상대적으로 무시되는 경향이 높다.

 4) 어느 국가나 견뎌낼 수 있는 부의 불공평한 분배의 임계수준이 있다. 미국은 현재 그와 같은 임계수준으로 다가가고 있다. 부의 분배가 극도로 불공평할 경우 사회적 혼란과 함께 혁명도 일어날 수 있는 것이다.

 5) 미국의 부유층은 그들의 부가 기회의 균등에 따른 창의와 근면한 노력의 결과이므로 부유층에 대한 역차별은 있을 수 없다고 주장한다. 최근 극보수파에 속하는 글렌 벡의 “나에겐 꿈이 있다(I have a Dream)"라는 워싱턴에서의 연설은 이와 관련되는 것이다. ‘티 파티’를 주도하는 페일린의 주장도 유사하다.


미국은 누구나 ‘아메리칸 드림’을 이룰 수 있었던 매력 있는 나라였다. 그러나 수준 높은 교육을 받지 못해 기술과 능력을 갖추지 못했을 경우 그러한 꿈은 이제 환상에 불과하다.


기회의 균등이라는 미명 아래 ‘만인의 만인과의 투쟁’의 결과 빈곤한 대다수의 중산층과 극도로 부유한 소수 층의 첨예한 대립이 2012년의 대선까지 계속 이어질 것으로 전망된다. 한국에도 유사한 상황이 벌어지는 것은 아닌지?



The Paradox of the New Elite

By ALEXANDER STILLE

Published: October 22, 2011(New York Times)


 IT’S a puzzle: one dispossessed group after another — blacks, women, Hispanics and gays — has been gradually accepted in the United States, granted equal rights and brought into the mainstream.

 At the same time, in economic terms, the United States has gone from being a comparatively egalitarian society to one of the most unequal democracies in the world.

 The two shifts are each huge and hugely important: one shows a steady march toward democratic inclusion, the other toward a tolerance of economic stratification that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.

 The United States prides itself on the belief that “anyone can be president,” and what better example than Barack Obama, son of a black Kenyan immigrant and a white American mother — neither of them rich.

 And yet more than half the presidents over the past 110 years attended Harvard, Yale or Princeton and graduates of Harvard and Yale have had a lock on the White House for the last 23 years, across four presidencies. Thus we have become both more inclusive and more elitist.

 It’s a surprising contradiction. Is the confluence of these two movements a mere historical accident? Or are the two trends related?

 Other nations seem to face the same challenge: either inclusive, or economically just. Europe has maintained much more economic equality but is struggling greatly with inclusiveness and discrimination, and is far less open to minorities than is the United States.

 European countries have done a better job of protecting workers’ salaries and rights but have been reluctant to extend the benefits of their generous welfare state to new immigrants who look and act differently from them. Could America’s lost enthusiasm for income redistribution and progressive taxation be in part a reaction to sharing resources with traditionally excluded groups?

 “I do think there is a trade-off between inclusion and equality,” said Gary Becker, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and a Nobel laureate. “I think if you are a German worker you are better off than your American equivalent, but if you are an immigrant, you are better off in the U.S.”

 PROFESSOR Becker, a celebrated free-market conservative, wrote his Ph.D. dissertation (and first book, “The Economics of Discrimination”) to demonstrate that racial discrimination was economically inefficient. American business leaders seem to have learned that there is no money to be made in exclusion: bringing in each new group has simply created new consumers to court. If you can capture nearly three-quarters of the economy’s growth — as the top 1 percent did between 2002 and 2006 — it may not be worth worrying about gay marriage or skin color.

 “I think we have become more meritocratic — educational attainment has become increasingly predictive of economic success,” Professor Becker said. But with educational attainment going increasingly to the children of the affluent and educated, we appear to be developing a self-perpetuating elite that reaps a greater and greater share of financial rewards. It is a hard-working elite, and more diverse than the old white male Anglo-Saxon establishment — but nonetheless claims a larger share of the national income than was the case 50 years ago, when blacks, Jews and women were largely shut out of powerful institutions.

 Inequality and inclusion are both as American as apple pie, says Jerome Karabel, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of “The Chosen,” about the history of admission to Harvard, Yale and Princeton. “I don’t think any advanced democracy is as obsessed with equality of opportunity or as relatively unconcerned with equality of condition,” he says. “As long as everyone has a chance to compete, we shouldn’t worry about equality. Equality of condition is seen as undesirable, even un-American.”

 The long history of racial discrimination represented an embarrassing contradiction — and a serious threat — to our national story of equal opportunity. With Jim Crow laws firmly in place it was hard to seriously argue that everyone had an equal chance. Civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were able to use this tradition to draw support to their causes. “Given our culture of equality of opportunity, these kinds of rights-based arguments are almost impossible to refute,” Professor Karabel said. “Even in today’s conservative political climate, opponents of gay rights are losing ground.”

 The removal of traditional barriers opened up the American system. In 1951 blacks made up less than 1 percent of the students at America’s Ivy League colleges. Today they make up about 8 percent. At the same time, America’s elite universities are increasingly the provinces of the well-to-do. “Looking at the data, you see that the freshman class of our top colleges are more and more made up of the children of upper- and upper-middle-class families,” said Thomas J. Espenshade of Princeton, a sociologist.

 Even the minority students are more affluent, he noted; many of them are of mixed race, or the children of immigrants or those who benefited from affirmative action.

 Shamus Khan, a sociologist at Columbia and the author of “Privilege,” a book about St. Paul’s, the prep school, agreed that there had been a change in the composition of the elite. “Who is at elite schools seems to have shifted,” he said. “But the elite seem to have a firmer and firmer hold on our nation’s wealth and power.”

 Still the relatively painless movement toward greater diversity should not be dismissed as mere window dressing.

 “After the immigration reform of 1965, this country went from being the United States of Europe to being the United States of the World. All with virtually no violence and comparatively little trauma,” Professor Karabel said. This is no small thing, particularly when you compare it to the trauma experienced by many European societies in absorbing much lower percentages of foreign-born citizens, few of whom have penetrated their countries’ elites.

 Moreover, inequality has grown partly for reasons that have little or nothing to do with inclusion. Almost all advanced industrial societies — even Sweden — have become more unequal. But the United States has become considerably more unequal. In Europe, the rights of labor have remained more central, while the United States has seen the rise of identity politics.

 “There is much less class-based organization in the U.S,” said Professor Karabel. “Race, gender and sexual orientation became the salient cleavages of American political life. And if you look at it — blacks, Hispanics and women have gained somewhat relative to the population as a whole, but labor as a category has lost ground. The groups that mobilized — blacks, Hispanics, women — made gains. But white male workers, who demobilized politically, lost ground.”

 One of the groups to become mobilized in response to the protest movements of the 1960s and early 1970s was the rich. Think tanks dedicated to defending the free-enterprise system — such as the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation — were born in this period. And it is not an accident that the right-wing advocate Glenn Beck held a national rally on the anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Republicans now defend tax cuts for the richest 2 percent using arguments and language from the civil rights movements: insisting that excluding the richest earners is unfair.

 Removing the most blatant forms of discrimination, ironically, made it easier to justify keeping whatever rewards you could obtain through the new, supposedly more meritocratic system. “Greater inclusiveness was a precondition for greater economic stratification,” said Professor Karabel. “It strengthened the system, reinvigorated its ideology — it is much easier to defend gains that appear to be earned through merit. In a meritocracy, inequality becomes much more acceptable.”

 THE term “meritocracy” — now almost universally used as a term of praise — was actually coined as a pejorative term, appearing for the first time in 1958, in the title of a satirical dystopian novel, “The Rise of the Meritocracy,” by the British Labour Party leader Michael Young. He warned against the creation of a new technocratic elite in which the selection of the few would lead to the abandonment of the many, a new elite whose privileges were even more crushing and fiercely defended because they appeared to be entirely merited.

 Of the European countries, Britain’s politics of inequality and inclusion most resemble those of the United States. Even as inequality has grown considerably, the British sense of economic class has diminished. As recently as 1988, some 67 percent of British citizens proudly identified themselves as working class. Now only 24 percent do. Almost everybody below the Queen and above the poverty line considers himself or herself “middle class.”

 Germany still has robust protections for its workers and one of the healthiest economies in Europe. Children at age 10 are placed on different tracks, some leading to university and others to vocational school — a closing off of opportunity that Americans would find intolerable. But it is uncontroversial because those attending vocational school often earn as much as those who attend university.

 In France, it is illegal for the government to collect information on people on the basis of race. And yet millions of immigrants — and the children and grandchildren of immigrants — fester in slums.

 In the United States, the stratification of wealth followed several decades where economic equality was strong. The stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed underscored the excesses of the roaring ’20s and ushered in an era in which the political climate favored labor unions, progressive taxation and social programs aimed at reducing poverty.

 From the 1930s to the 1960s, the income of the less affluent Americans grew more quickly than that of their wealthier neighbors, and the richest 1 percent saw its share of the national income shrink to 8.9 percent in the mid-1970s, from 23.9 percent in 1928. That share is now back up to more than 20 percent, its level before the Depression.

 Inequality has traditionally been acceptable to Americans if accompanied by mobility. But most recent studies of economic mobility indicate that it is getting even harder for people to jump from one economic class to another in the United States, harder to join the elite. While Americans are used to considering equal opportunity and equality of condition as separate issues, they may need to reconsider. In an era in which money translates into political power, there is a growing feeling, on both left and right, that special interests have their way in Washington. There is growing anger, from the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street, that the current system is stacked against ordinary citizens. Suddenly, as in the 1930s, the issue of economic equality is back in play.


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