Tag Archives: Think

Wealth Distribution in America: It’s Not What Americans Think or Want

There were some interesting enlightening findings published last year from two well-respected researchers (Norton and Ariely) on the topic of wealth distribution. I remember seeing it last year when it came out and it being rather startling. I came across it again a couple of weeks ago and had it bookmarked to see if I could glean any other insights from it. I stumbled across the bookmark this morning and thought I’d post it here, in case any of you had any thoughts you wanted to offer on the research findings.

Specifically, I’m referring to a chart that came from the article the two researchers published and was reproduced by Mother Jones (political magazine). Here’s the chart from Mother Jones (note: the chart from the published journal article is the same in content):

Average Income by Family, distributed by income group.

A bit startling, huh? I find it fascinating that Americans want the top 20% to have ~32% and that they actually have almost triple that much!

Some important things to think about from the authors [emphasis added]:

Given the consensus among disparate groups on the gap between an ideal distribution of wealth and the actual level of wealth inequality, why are more Americans, especially those with low income, not advocating for greater redistribution of wealth? First, our results demonstrate that Americans appear to drastically underestimate the current level of wealth inequality, suggesting they may simply be unaware of the gap. Second, just as people have erroneous beliefs about the actual level of wealth inequality, they may also hold overly optimistic beliefs about opportunities for social mobility in the United States, beliefs which in turn may drive support for unequal distributions of wealth. Third, despite the fact that conservatives and liberals in our sample agree that the current level of inequality is far from ideal, public disagreements about the causes of that inequality may drown out this consensus. Finally, and more broadly, Americans exhibit a general disconnect between their attitudes toward economic inequality and their self-interest and public policy preferences, suggesting that even given increased awareness of the gap between ideal and actual wealth distributions, Americans may remain unlikely to advocate for policies that would narrow this gap.

The ironic piece to this entire discussion is that conservatives and liberals agree that the level of inequality is ideal. However, as with just about everything in politics these days, these two ideologically different groups of people disagree about the best way to resolve it.

Quotes: Pensiveness, Presaging, and Perception

As I a couple of weeks ago, I started tagging posts where I used quotes with the tag “,” so it’s easier for you to find other posts with quotes in them. I also decided (a couple of weeks ago), to every once and awhile, do a post with just quotes. The first post of quotes contained famous words in passion, produce, and production. Today’s post of quotes covers the topics of pensiveness, presaging, and perception. (I don’t have some sort of preoccupation or propensity for the letter ‘P,’ it just happened this way.) The first, from :

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”

I first saw/heard this quote on an episode of The West Wing (or so I thought — in trying to find the episode it was in, I’m at a loss). I could see saying something like this given his character (no pun intended). This seems to be a poignant quote, especially for politics, with regard to debating ideas and bills. I’ve seen a number of articles explaining the and I think it’s true. Dissent is a way of preventing  from taking hold. More than this, dissent allows for a diversity of opinion and thus, a diversity of ideas. When there is more than one opinion bandied about, it would seem (and is) more likely that new ideas can emerge.

An important piece that comes to mind is or what I was explained to me as dialectics. I’ve been reading the wiki article, so that I could more accurately describe the concept that was explained to me and I now see that maybe what I was told was dialectics is not actually dialectics (or maybe is a form of dialectics). Anyway, the exercise that was explained to me was for when two people have differing opinions (and want to settle an argument or come to a resolution of ideas). They begin to have a discussion, but instead of arguing for their own points of view, they argue against their point of view. So, in effect, they find support for their compatriot’s point of view. It can be a very different experience. The next quote we have is from :

“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” – Wayne Gretzky

Personally, I haven’t been a very big “fan” of Wayne Gretzky, but that’s more because I grew up watching the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1990s and Wayne Gretzky played for the rival Los Angeles Kings. Nonetheless, it’s hard to debate the ‘‘ without including Gretzky in the argument. This quote above is one I’ve found in some of the unlikeliest of places (business, for one). It’s a different way of re-focusing one’s attention on what’s to come rather than what is. It seems especially important when talking about . I wouldn’t advocate living “in the future,” but in most instances, it’s important to have foresight. And the last quote we have is from :

“I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received.” – Antonio Porchia

This is a great “” quote that can almost come across as arrogant or condescending, depending upon how you receive it (ha!) It kind of lends credence to the idea that “we only hear what we want to hear.” It’s probably not reasonable for everyone to engage in “” all the time, but I bet there’d be a whole let less misunderstandings in the world. really are just a sophisticated set of symbols that help us communicate with one another. It is but a means to an end. It’s like telephones. It’s not that we like/need/want telephones, but we want the ability to communicate with people who are not nearby. The next time you’re talking with someone, think about how much of what you’re saying is actually being received. Better yet, the next time you’re listening to someone, think about how much of what they’re saying to you is actually being received.

The Next Facebook: We’re Asking The Wrong Question

I wonder what it is about humans that make us so eager to find the next something. Awhile after eBay made it big with their online auction site, there were articles that popped up in newspapers, magazines, and other writing outlets, positing what would be the next eBay. Even though eBay has been around for nearly 15 years, there are still articles written about what will be the next eBay (a sampling: , , and ). The confusing thing for me is, why are we looking for the next eBay, shouldn’t we be looking for the next big thing — in general?

The same question that was asked when eBay made it big is being asked about Facebook now that it has gotten so big. “What’s going to be the next Facebook?” (Again, a sampling: , , and .) I can even remember an article about how one of the original investors in Facebook, , thinks that . How, or maybe more accurately, why are these people trying to figure out what the next Facebook is going to be? I wonder if it’s more a stature thing. They are asking about what is going to be the next big thing rather than what will bump these internet companies from atop the food chain.

Some of the articles I’ve read about this area really trying to figure out what is going to usurp eBay or Facebook from their status as an online auction site (or social networking site, in Facebook’s case). To my mind, there really won’t ever be a next eBay or a next Facebook. The technology that knocks Facebook off of its pedestal will not be seen coming as the next Facebook. It might even be something totally different. It could be something more scientific, really, that garners support and slowly starts to grow across a few industries. I think it’s ludicrous to think that there will be a next anything with regard to the kinds of technology and organizations that we have today.

Facebook is too smart (and beginning to be too powerful) to let a start-up come up with an idea that is slightly off-center of Facebook, but that could siphon off Facebook’s users. They have more than enough money to dedicate to R & D that will have the company expanding upon itself for quite some time.

Companies like Facebook and eBay succeed because they have found a ‘sweet spot.’ In the Venn diagram to the right, the ‘sweet spot’ would be characterized by the triple intersection of A, B, and C, in either the top left portion, highlighted by a bright green color, or in the bottom portion, highlighted by a mix of red, green, and blue. This triple intersection can vary from (revolution) to (revolution). I think one of the main reasons for the success of eBay was in part due to the Western world’s undeniable urge to shop. As the internet started to grow, people began seeing the internet as a legitimate place to buy things. As eBay was a place to buy things, naturally, people flocked to the site. As they learned they could also sell things to, well, then it just took off.

For eBay, and more importantly in the case of Facebook, the development of their company (or product) filled a desire in the population that the population didn’t otherwise know existed. People didn’t really know (before Facebook came) that they wanted to spend countless hours on the computer interacting with their friends. I think that articles that try to pinpoint what the next anything is going to be are a little near-sighted. If these people were really curious as to what the next big thing was going to be, they should be trying to identify desires of the population that haven’t already been satisfied. I suppose if they could do that, they’d probably not be writing articles about it.