Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Revelation


You can always learn something new.

I was so stunned by the pie graphs Paul Solman showed on the PBS News Hour (shown in pretty poor reproduction to the left)

I showed them around the office.

The top pie shows how wealth is distributed in Sweden, and the bottom pie shows the United States, with the yellow slice showing the proportion of all national wealth owned by the top 20% in the nation, the wealthiest 1/5 of the country; the blue slice is what the next most wealthy 20% owns; the magenta slice shows the next 20%'s slice of the pie and so on, down to the lowest 40%, which owns less than 1% of all the wealth in the USA, but in Sweden the poorest 40% owns roughly 25% of all the weath.

So I did what Paul Solman did on the News Hour: I asked people in my office which country they would rather live in, Sweden where the wealth is distributed more evenly or the USA where they wealth is so uneven, where 84% of all the wealth is owned by just 20% of the people.

Of the three coworkers I asked, two said, immediately, they like the Swedish distribution, although not speaking Swedish they would not want to live there.

But one of my coworkers looked at it and said, "Well, to get that distribution, the Swedes had to tax their wealthy. It's a socialist system. I'd rather live here."

When I pressed her she said, she did not make enough money to pay taxes and she had a lot of relatives who don't want to work for a living and she doesn't want to pay taxes to support them.

Floored me.

But it does finally reveal why some people support the Tea Party, and the Republican Party.

There really are people who are offended by the idea of supporting their neighbors, even their relatives. They'd rather have less themselves, just to be sure the undeserving do not get a bigger share. The idea that the richest 1/5 of Americans own over 80% of all the wealth does not disturb these people. Even if the rich do not deserve their wealth, in the sense of not having earned it, that does not disturb my co worker.. What bothered her was not that the rich may not deserve their wealth; what bothered this lady is that someone who does not deserve a hand out may get that support.

One interesting thing about this woman: She is a devout Christian.


Where do you begin with this?


  1. Although it may be informative and educational for you, it is generally best to keep politics out of the work place. Same goes for religion.

  2. Certainly agree one has to be wary of which topics you explore at work with co workers, especially if you work on a ship at sea.

    On the other hand, in specific cases, if you know the co workers well, have already established relationships built on trust, shared values, and experiences, you can deepen those relationships by exploring further.

    Rather than the phony "bonding" with coworkers by trips to Dave and Busters to play games, you can actually take about things which matter, as long as you are careful to avoid rancor.

    The principal of my mother's school said he always tried to get a chair at my mother's lunch table because that's where the most interesting, lively and meaningful discussions occured, all without a shred of rancor or animus.

    Real cohesion among people at work depends on this sort of real discussion; the phony "bonding" exercises have the opposite effect.