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April 18, 2006


Charlie Whitaker

Well spotted. I'd like to follow up on this: I've noticed that many people believe that social mobility is not only a substitute for social equality but is also a morally superior arrangement. My feeling is that this is wrong, and that the reason has something to do with the unhappiness produced by the constant grinding of the mill that high social mobility entails, but I can't yet claim to have a coherent argument.

Of course, if low social mobility and high income inequality go hand in hand, as this paper suggests they might, then the argument is moot. But I think it's still an interesting argument.

Charlie Whitaker

And I forgot to add: the New York Times had a good feature on social mobility in the US a few months ago: http://www.nytimes.com/pages/national/class/index.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1145397971-CuzZqtkfS+dn3aC5CkZb0A


Charlie - I agree that social mobility/meritocracy is a bad thing.
Many of the reasons why were described by Michael Young in the Rise of the Meritocracy (he coined the word) - it leads to a breakdown of social solidarity, smugness among the elite and despair among the poor, as they believe they deserve their fates.
I'd add (as someone who has been upwardly mobile) that upward mobility merely produces isolation, as you'll never fit in to the middle class if you come from a poor background.
What's more, you can never fully escape one disadvantage of a lower class background - you die earlier than the rich even if you escape your class:


Stumbling and Mumbling's recent post on social mobility and equality draws

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