April 23, 2011

Of the people, by the people, for the people… That’s from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysberg Address… He used it to describe the U.S., our new democracy. That phrase has a nice ring, doesn’t it? But it isn’t true. It’s more like “of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%.” That’s who runs this country because they have the money. And that’s the title of a marvelous – and very sad – article by economist Joseph Stiglitz.

We seem to cheer people protesting around the world…protesting against their lack of freedom and opportunity…brought on by lousy government and limited thinking by the wealthy. Well, take a look around the U.S. Our democracy is stumbling a bit. 1% of the people control 1/4 of the income. By the way, the U.S. lags behind all of Europe when it comes to income equality.

But what’s even worse, I think: too many Americans don’t care. Too many Americans think the rich deserve their income and to hell with society as a whole. Stiglitz comments that far too many Americans claim it isn’t “how the pie is divided but the size of the pie.” But Stiglitz says that argument is “fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year – an economy like America’s – is not likely to do well over the long haul.” And he explains why. Read the article and begin questioning.

Stiglitz ends with the following question to all of us: “As we watch the fervor across the Arab world – where a fraction of the population controls the lion’s share of the wealth – we must ask: when will it come to America?” When will the protests and revolution come to America?

Looking out for the other guy or gal is smart business and smart government and smart society. That’s how a society builds a society…and avoids a revolution.

“The top 1% have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99% live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1% eventually do learn. Too late.”

Read this article. It’s thought provoking and prescient.

Filed under: Social Commentary

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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