The limit of plutocracy as (the number of the wealthiest divided by the number of the poorest) approaches zero equals totalitarianism.
There are no “inalienable rights”; the success of a society may be judged by the level of human rights its government can guarantee. Three goods that the USA should hope to provide as rights are access to:
Housing -- Education -- Health care
I've seen Habitat for Humanity described as “a cruel housing lottery”. In education as in housing and health care the USA is approaching a two-tiered system, with the tiers connected by a series of lotteries rather than by true opportunity.
The public won't pay to give every child the level of education that each child deserves. Selective admission to elite schools from the pre-kindergarten level (!) upwards, programs for ‘gifted' students, and Advanced Placement courses in high school all produce the illusion that our society is providing adequate education. In fact only a minuscule proportion of the population is so served.
I see the increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor as one of the USA's greatest problems, and as a major threat to global stability.
That this country is moving from an upwardly mobile society to a highly stratified one is not news. But as the gap between privileged and not privileged increases, the former must expend more resources to protect themselves against an uprising by the latter. We in the USA are not only expending resources: we are sacrificing our young people and giving up the our right of privacy to protect ourselves from the significant portion of the global population that hates us.
Reagan won the cold war by forcing the USSR to expend more of its resources on the arms race than its economy could support. As we expend lives, rights, and resources to protect our position of privilege (and the positions of the privileged among us), we creep towards totalitarianism.
Technology in general and EdLab in particular offer a glimmer of hope in combatting these and other huge social and economic problems.
“In the United States, inequalities in opportunities to learn high-level curricular content are stark reminders that equality of educational opportunity has yet to be achieved.” From the Joshua Klugman article in TCR, The Advanced Placement Arms Race and the Reproduction of Educational Inequality.
The associated Vialogue is interview
with the French economist and author of “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” Thomas Piketty.
“It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness”– attributed to Confucius
“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” – Derek Bok
In 2013, the wealth of the worlds 85 richest people equalled that of the poorest one-half of the global population. (Oxfam)
In 2014, the wealth of the world's 67 richest people equalled that of the poorest one-half of the global population. (Forbes)