A fine, fine piece written by Amia Srinivasan for The Stone about how Americans loathe state dependance; that some people are dependent on the state’s actions to survive. After analysing what it means for poor people, Srinivasan realises:
But if the poor are dependent on the state, so, too, are America’s rich. The extraordinary accumulation of wealth enjoyed by the socioeconomic elite — in 2007, the richest 1 percent of Americans accounted for about 24 percent of all income — simply wouldn’t be possible if the United States weren’t organized as it is. Just about every aspect of America’s economic and legal infrastructure — the laissez-faire governance of the markets; a convoluted tax structure that has hedge fund managers paying less than their office cleaners; the promise of state intervention when banks go belly-up; the legal protections afforded to corporations as if they were people; the enormous subsidies given to corporations (in total, about 50 percent more than social services spending); electoral funding practices that allow the wealthy to buy influence in government — allows the rich to stay rich and get richer. In primitive societies, people can accumulate only as much stuff as they can physically gather and hold on to. It’s only in “advanced” societies that the state provides the means to socioeconomic domination by a tiny minority. “The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other,” the writer John Berger said about the 20th century, though he might equally have said it of this one: “It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich.”
The irony isn’t only that the poor are condemned for being dependent on the state while the rich are not. It’s also that the rich get so much more out of their dependence on the state than the poor. Without the support of the state, poor people’s quality of life would certainly drop, but only by degrees: their lives would go from bad to worse. Take the state’s assistance away from the rich, however, and their lives would take a serious plunge in comfort. No wonder rich people are on the whole conservative: the most ferocious defenders of the status quo are usually those who are most dependent on the system.
So, the question should not be why Americans loathe and fear dependence on the state, but rather: why do Americans loathe and fear some forms of state dependence but not others? Why is state dependence condemned when evinced by the poor, but tolerated, even unrecognized, when enjoyed by the rich? What justifies this double standard?
This analysis of American society is absolutely spot-on.