Our Opportunity Society Has Completely Broken Down

We have witnessed a complete breakdown of our society as it was envisioned as an opportunity society.

When you look at the United States at the moment and you think about our future one of the things that you might ask is what are we good at?  We used to be good at creating jobs, but we’re not so good at creating jobs.  We used to be good at building bridges or highways or infrastructure.  We’re clearly not doing that.  We haven’t done that for 50 years.  We used to lead the world in innovation, but the innovation is coming from other places.  


In that past 10 years what have we led the world in?  And the one thing we’ve really led the world in is creating inequality.  We have become accidentally and unfortunately a world leader in this and we’re coming out of a decade in which the results have been kind of horrifying.  For the first time in US history we’ve had a decade in which we’ve had a net loss of jobs, but we’ve also seen social mobility decrease and inequality continue to increase so much so that last year, which was a year of recovery for the United States 93% of the benefits of the recovery went to the top 1% of the population and the rest of us were left fighting over sort of table scraps and there are countless examples of this.

The 150 richest Americans have net worth equivalent—or the 450 richest Americans have a net worth equivalent to the 150 million poorest Americans.  That’s not just an interesting cocktail party statistic.  That’s a complete breakdown of our society as it was envisioned as an opportunity society.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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