The capacity of the Americans for social cooperation declined together with growing inequality over the last 3-4 decades.
The experiment by Cronin and co-authors suggests the following explanation of this trend.
Increasing inequality of wealth gave rich people disproportionate power to influence politics in our democratic societies:
- public policy in the US reflects only the desires of the richest segment of the population
- the top 10% and most likely the top 1%
- when it comes to dividing the pot, the 99% have no say anymore
Should it then surprise us that several measures of social trust and cooperation have been declining?
Increasing inequality leads not only to the growth of top fortunes; it also results in greater numbers of wealth-holders
- The “1%” becomes “2%” Or even more. …
- from 1983 to 2010 the number of American households worth at least $10 million grew to 350,000 from 66,000
- Rich Americans tend to be more politically active than the rest of the population
- In technical terms, such a situation is known as “elite overproduction”
- Elite overproduction generally leads to more intra-elite competition
- that gradually undermines the spirit of cooperation
- which is followed by ideological polarization & fragmentation of the political class
- This happens because the more contenders there are, the more of them end up on the losing side
- A large class of disgruntled elite-wannabes, often well-educated & highly capable, has been denied access to the RULING elite positions