I read an article by Ezra Klein the other day, in the liberal American Prospect magazine (Yes, I do try to read both sides) called, "The Argument Over Inequality, The myth of individual exceptionalism may undermine society on the whole."
The title grabbed my attention, after all, I always believed that individual exceptionalism was a real thing. Since I was a child, I was sure that there were people in my family and in society who were exceptional in one way or another. Not only that, I have often thought that perhaps I was exceptional in one way or another, that I had something special to add to society. Yet Mr. Klein was here to tell me that actually, everything I thought about exceptionalism and personal achievement is wrong, and might actually be BAD for "society on the whole." Surprising.
Klein starts by using CBO numbers dishonestly to establish that our current system of capitalism is unfair:
"2006 is now the most unequal year on record. The number to remember is 5,800 percent. That's how much the incomes of the bottom 20 percent would have increased since 1979 if they had been given the same $863,000 pay increase as the average member of the top 1 percent.
That didn't happen, of course. Instead, the number was 11 percent, or $1,600. That was the raise given to the bottom quintile during the past 30 years. Altogether, it could almost buy you a Macbook Air. Almost."
Never mind that the "poor" is a fluid definition in America, as opposed to most other countries in the history of man where the class you were born into was most likely the class you'd die in. Never mind that people who are poor in America today often move up tommorrow if they work at it, and sometimes those who are rich today, aren't always so rich tommorrow, all thanks to our "unequal" system of capitalism.
Using Bell's invention of the telephone and Darwin's evolution research as examples, Klein goes on to suggests that it's simply not fair for a select few to reap rewards for various inventions. After all, every invention builds on the technology that comes before it, and often times there are "parallel inventions." Someone, sooner or later, would have invented the magic doohicky:
"That is often the dull reality of progress: It follows a comma rather than a paragraph break. A field of research achieves a critical mass of ideas and underlying concepts and the next step becomes clear to a number of experts. A mixture of timing, PR savvy, and aggressive legal representation decides the name that gets etched into the history books. But the credit, properly distributed, should really accrue to the collective knowledge and expertise of society."
Think about that for a second. "The credit, properly distributed, should really accrue to the collective..." But society didn't invent the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell did. And he didn't do it for the collective. He did it for his own selfish reasons and thank god for that. Bell gets the credit, and society gets to use the telephone.