Social Inequality Within the Economy Leading to the Evolution of an American Caste System
The country as a whole enjoys a standard of living previously unknown, and the unemployment rate is shockingly low. Yet many believe there is an immense gap between the upper and lower class that, due to technology and education, is widening every day. This has led to the evolution of what is being called the "new economy" while is technologically based and leaves little room for traditional, blue-collared workers to advance.
The primary reason as to why the lower class in any economy does not fare as well is because they lack some of the necessary skill sets for a certain economy. There are twenty skill sets in today's society, and some of them are not as attainable for the lower class. For instance, to stay viable in today's economy, an individual must continue learning and often obtain numerous certifications. Those in the lower class may not be able to afford or have outside time for this training, which places them at a continual disadvantage.
As Alan Greenspan admitted by declaring that the inequality within the current economic system poses a substantial threat, the idea that there is a worsening disparity between wealth and poverty is upheld. Structural inequality, which serves to continually create a poor class, is often attributed by many in our society to the rise of the computer in the workplace. The computer has created another outlet for obtaining wealth; but, as a result, cut down on some of the lower paying jobs. However, whatever jobs computer use has eliminated have been replaced by higher paying jobs. The truth is that this form of inequality will appear in almost any economy - be it socialist, communist, or capitalist.
Social inequality, though it is not nearly as recognized, is most likely to be the cause behind the disparity between classes. This refers primarily to the difficult problem within capitalist economies that does not allow for an equitable distribution of wealth, thereby closing opportunities to the lower class. Certainly, this is present when 40 percent of a country's wealth is concentrated among one percent of the citizens. This power elite, which help to control major political and economic decisions within the government through military, legislative, and economic means, used to be reserved to what could be referred to as the American aristocracy (well-established families who have had wealth for a number of generations). They lived in a culture of wealth, where their children would go to exclusive schools and obtain high profile positions so that the social status could be maintained for the next generation.
Their ranks are now being filled with computer and technology magnates such as Bill Gates, who are of the new class of self-made wealthy. Their massive wealth and success within their business ventures lead them to take their companies overseas, and this eliminates some of the lower class' jobs. This practice of "going global", not the advent of high technology, is at fault for the continual depletion of the lower classes' status.
Another manifestation of social inequality is the vast disparity of salaries between certain fields of work. As cited in the article by Lardner in US News and World Report, entry level lawyers are paid four times over the salary of an entry level teacher. This indicates that our society does not value the social institution that is needed to relay the skill sets needed to survive in a particular economy. Eventually, this will be detrimental when the most talented people will not work in a certain field because of a lack of pay. Again, the power elite will receive the best from this dilemma: since they can pay higher rates for educators, their children will receive a sufficient education for today's economy, whereas the lower class' children will suffer educationally.
This "polarization" of educational advantage and work opportunity is leading to an American form of the caste system. Though this form includes exceptions, it will be highly difficult for those without a decent education to achieve the higher paying jobs, which would increase the chance of economic success for the next generation. Therefore, Greenspan has a right to be concerned, as the instability within the economic system will not benefit anyone. As pointed out by Lardner, someone has to "keep buying stuff at Walmart or amazon.com" in order for the economy to be successful.