Thursday, May 2, 2019

The golden goose, social classes, and the breakdown of civilization

Bosch season five air date: 18 April. Ten episodes. Four days later, six of the transcripts were already available. A few days later, the rest of em.

Anyway, the "golden goose" thing from episode two, about 10 minutes in:
EDGAR: Esquivel filed a complaint about Garcia for overprescribing oxy. They opened a file. It's an active investigation.
BOSCH: State medical board. Maybe what Junior and Pops were arguing about.
EDGAR: Old man killing the golden goose that lays the eggs.
BOSCH: Eggs are golden, not the goose.
EDGAR: I thought it was the goose.
BOSCH: I sometimes forget English isn't your first language.
EDGAR: W'ap enpoze'm manje, M'ap enpoze'w kaka.
BOSCH: "Kaka" what I think it is?
EDGAR: Ancient proverb. You stop me from eating, I stop you from shitting. Same thing.
BOSCH: As what?
EDGAR: As killing the goose.
BOSCH: I'll take your word for it.
"Killing the goose that lays the golden eggs" is the same as "You stop me from eating, I stop you from shitting"? Well I guess I have to take Jerry Edgar's word for it, too.

My interpretation of the goose story is simple. It's a definition: The goose is wealth. The eggs are income produced by that wealth. It's just a definition of wealth, and a bit of folk wisdom about protecting wealth. (The folk wisdom is just as true for a normal goose as it is for the one that lays the golden eggs.)

From The Class Structure in the U.S., at Lumen: Boundless Sociology:
A commonly used model for thinking about social classes in the U.S. attributes the following general characteristics to each tier: the upper class has vast accumulated wealth and significant control over corporations and political institutions, and their privilege is usually inherited; the corporate elite consists of high-salaried stockholders, such as corporate CEOs, who did not necessarily inherit privilege but have achieved high status through their careers; the upper-middle class consists of highly educated salaried professionals whose occupations are held in high esteem, such as lawyers, engineers, and professors; the middle class (the most vaguely defined and largest social class) is generally thought to include people in mid-level managerial positions or relatively low status professional positions, such as high school teachers and small business owners; the working class generally refers to those without college degrees who do low level service work, such as working as a sales clerk or housekeeper, and includes most people whose incomes fall below the poverty line. In the above outline of social class, status clearly depends not only on income, but also occupational prestige and educational attainment.
Class structure can be described in terms of "privilege" and "status" and "esteem" or, as the paragraph concludes: "status clearly depends not only on income, but also occupational prestige and educational attainment."

Sure. But things like occupational prestige and educational attainment also relate back to the measures of wealth and income, the goose and the eggs. And I have no trouble saying that as a rule the greater the disparity of wealth, and of income, the greater the distance between social classes.

On page 365 in the Study, from Chapter V: The Disintegrations of Civilizations:
... we have found already that the ultimate criterion and the fundamental cause of the breakdowns which precede disintegrations is an outbreak of internal discords ...

The social schisms in which this discord partially reveals itself rend the broken-down society in two different dimensions simultaneously. There are vertical schisms between geographically separated communities and horizontal schisms between geographically intermingled but socially segregated classes.

... [T]he horizontal schism ["between geographically intermingled but socially segregated classes"] of a society along lines of class is not only peculiar to civilizations [as opposed to primitive societies] but is also a phenomenon which appears at the moment of their breakdowns and which is a distinctive mark of the periods of breakdown and disintegration, by contrast with its absence during the phases of genesis and growth.
This is huge.

Toynbee is saying there is a natural limit to the concentration of wealth and income, a limit beyond which civilization can no longer continue to advance, but will begin to decline.

Seems to me that we should stop the concentration of wealth before it creates the breakdown of civilization. In our case, since we didn't stop it in time, policy needs to emphasize dispersion of wealth, enough to make things right.

1 comment:

The Arthurian said...

Found an article on class and wealth: Nearly half of Americans earning $100,000 or more think they're middle class — and it shows that class in America isn't just about money

"Class in America isn't just about money". So, what do they say?

  • "Wealth is all relative, especially when it comes to class."
  • "Class and wealth aren't the same."
  • "However, there isn't a huge difference between class and financial behavior."

They also say: "While class and wealth are relative, a shrinking middle class, increased living costs, and debt contribute to their differences."

Not sure what they mean by "relative". I think they mean "related", "while class and wealth are related..."

And what do they say under this heading?
" These findings show that class and wealth aren't the same and both are relative — some can earn less and still feel rich, while others can earn more and feel that they're struggling financially.
There's also the fact that America's middle class is shrinking, according to the Pew Research Center, and that an increase in wages hasn't kept up with an exponential increase in the cost of living, according to research by Student Loan Hero.
Debt levels might also explain why some respondents' income levels seem off from the class they think they're in — if they're earning a lot of money, but putting it towards debt (or overspending, which can lead to some kinds of debt in the first place), they may not necessarily feel rich.

So how does "a shrinking middle class, increased living costs, and debt contribute to their differences" ??

Next heading: "Class and financial behavior don't differ as much".
Under this heading:
"While respondents' wealth levels don't always align with class, their overall mindset and financial behaviors do."

So, class is a mindset?

"Those who identify as middle class or higher are more likely to have a four-year college degree, own a car, and own a home... [T]he lower down the class ranks you get, the more likely it is that people don't expect to ever own a home. Nearly half of the poor and working class don't expect to own a home, compared to nearly 37% of the middle class and upper middle class and 9% of the affluent.
In other expectations, more of the poor expect to never retire, while more of the affluent expect to retire at a younger age — by 55. And the higher the class, the more likely they are to think they're financially faring better off than they thought they'd be 10 years ago.

Seems like they're saying that if you overestimate your class level, you're likely to "overspend" and become too much in debt. Sure, that could happen. But it could also happen that economic policy encourages people to go into debt; and this is something that could be changed by changing policy.

Meanwhile, class and wealth are definitely related.