How inequality destroys the future by focusing on the past | Timothy Snyder

So starting with the objective part, with
the facts, the United States is a country which is among the least equal in the world. According to Credit Suisse, which is a Swiss
bank and not some kind of crazy left wing organization, we are second in the world in
wealth inequality after the Russian Federation. In the United States since the 1980s basically
90 percent of the American population has seen no improvement in either wealth or income. Almost all the improvement in wealth and income
has been in the top ten percent, and most of that has been in the top one percent, and
most of that has been in the top .1 percent, and most of that has been in the top .01 percent,
which means that not only are people not moving forward objectively, but the way they experience
the world—and this is very powerful—is that other people are on top. So if you and I have the same thing over the
course of 30 years, but we watch as our neighbor suddenly has 20 times as much, we’re not
going to say “Everything’s fine because we have the same,” we’re going to say
“Gosh, our neighbor has more than we do, and has so much more than we do he could probably
reach in and take everything we have away,” which is, of course, true—and that’s the
condition that people call oligarchy. So the politics of inevitability says “the
market has to lead to democracy, and therefore there’s no reason to correct for what the
market does.” If you don’t correct what the market does,
if you don’t support trade unions, if you don’t build up some kind of a welfare state,
if you don’t support public education and so on, then you’re going to have a situation
where citizens spread apart in wealth and spread apart in income, which is what’s
happening. And that in turn may be the most powerful
way that the politics of inevitability breaks into the politics of eternity. Because if there is massive inequality of
wealth and income, individuals and families no longer think “I’ve got a bright future,”
they no longer believe—and this is something Mr. Trump got right even if he has no solution
and he’s making things worse on purpose—they no longer believe in the American dream, and
they’re correct not to do so. If you were born in 1940 your chances of doing
better than your parents were about 90 percent. If you were born in 1980 your chances were
about one in two, and it keeps going down. So wealth inequality means the lack of social
events, it means a totally different horizon, it means that you see life in a completely
different way. You stop thinking time is an arrow which is
moving forward to something better and you start thinking, “Maybe the good old days
were better. Maybe we have to ‘make America great again,’”and
you get caught in these nostalgic loops. You start thinking “it can’t be my fault
that I’m not doing better, so who’s fault is it?” And then the clever politicians instead of
providing policy for you provide enemies for you, they provide language for you with which
you can explain why you’re not doing so well. They blame the Other, whether it’s the Chinese
or the Muslims or the Jews or the blacks or the immigrants, and that allows you to think
“Okay time is a cycle, things used to be better, but other people have come and they’ve
taken things away from me.” And that’s how the politics of inevitability
becomes the politics of eternity: wealth inequality, income inequality are one of the major channels
by which that happens. So one of the fundamental problems with our
American right wing “politics of inevitability” is that it generates income-and wealth-inequality
and it explains away income and wealth inequality. And so you get this cycle where objectively
people are less and less well-off and subjectively we keep telling ourselves this is somehow
okay, because in the grand scheme of things this is somehow “necessary,” when it’s

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. We all know this problem. We just don't have a solution.

    I believe the right way to go is implementing public services that are good enough for anyone to start climbing the socioeconomoc ladder, if they choose to. In other words, add a small dash of socialism to capitalism to make it just a little bit sweeter, but not too sweet. After all, communism never works.

  2. ppl fluctuate between wealth classes due to age, employment, and experience. Ppl are not static, wages are rising, interventionism is simply strangulation caused by bureaucracy. The reason being that those in government wish to expand their wealth and power, via multinational corporations, and vague legalism in our modern laws.

  3. Key & Peele: “I started AGRICULTURE….!!!!! And THEN!!! I got trampled by a herd of rich people. Con-se-quences!!!!”

    “Where’s my plow? Where’s my plow? Ohhhhhhhhhh!!!!! Consequences!”

  4. Stop paying income taxes, everybody. The abuse of human rights via fraud, negligence, incompetence, and sheer greed that corrupts our government is propagated by your funds. YOU earned that money. If YOU want to donate it to social welfare, then do so. But I will NEVER allow this corrupt government to STEAL my hard-earned meager funds that I need for basic necessities in order to simply survive in juxtaposition to the government who takes to do whatever they want with it which is mainly sit on their ass with their thumb up it pretending to be servicing the people. FUCK THE USA FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

  5. I just care how many units of flourishing I have under the current economic system compared to how many units I would have under another system. It's less important to me how many units I have compared to my neighbor.

    For example, let's say the rich have a thousand units the middle class have 50 units and the poor have 10. Under another system we might bring these numbers close together: 100, 60 & 30… under this other system if I fall into one of the last two classes I would support the change for sure if I thought it was sustainable . But if it ends up closer to 15, 10 & 5 units of flourishing then that would suck for me.

    I don't necessarily think economic equality means better… but yeah, this big wealth gap accompanied by chronic wage stagnation is definitely demoralizing. Especially with how freaking much healthcare costs in the U.S.

  6. A lot of what he said is reasonable, and maybe even preferable. However, what kind of entitled, childish, brainlet thinks "hurrdurr my neighbor has more money than me therefore I no longer have a bright future." Education ought to be free, but it isn't. So, get a job, work long hours, earn what you need to pay for it. Just like generations of hard working Americans before you. You are not entitled to success, you earn it, and you do not deserve it if the success of others upsets you enough that you campaign to take it away from them.

    Also, just an observation, but the right and left are just as bad. The right place blame on "the others", whilst the left blame everyone who doesn't agree with their half baked, often destructive policies. Both are cancer, but who is the least cancerous?

  7. Answer to this is socialism lol. We have this czechoslovakia for 2 decades and it was fine. All was equal, except everyone has the same car, furniture and so on . T shirt. Then usa economy will go down to russian style lol

  8. It's important to not look at inequality as inherently bad. Let's use the example in this video claiming the US has one of the highest income inequalities in the world, and compare that to the lowest inequality in the world, Ukraine. Comparing GDP, the US has 44 times the total amount of Ukraine, 14 times the GDP per capita, and an over 10% less poverty rate. While the inequality rates are vastly different, I would choose to live in the unequal economy of the US every time.

    Don't let people like this fool you into believing that income inequality should be the sole reason for major economic change. Look into the larger picture of how well the entire economy is doing vs one statistic.

  9. Inequality is necessary to encourage merit and effort. I do not want Equality.

    Noone ever asks ''Who are we all going to be equal To?''

  10. It is encouraging to hear class differences offered up as an explanation It is saddening to see all the knee jerk right wing objections. And my gut tells me that the quickest to react with a "commie" or "socialist" spout, intended as criticism, are the worst off among us.

    The non class causes are rooted so strongly that during WW II the U.S. almost failed to ramp up the economy to a war footing, rather than accept blacks and women into the work force. As people moved to the industrial areas for work, they found no housing available. Housing built to accommodate them in the wide open spaces of California was well out on the edges of communities. Look at demographic maps of greater L.A. or S.F. for example and you'll see the results. "They" want our minds off of class/income differences.

  11. Fact: In the entire history of the Roman Republic there was never a single instance where a candidate favored by the Plebes and not by the Patricians was elected to office. The candidate that the Patricians favored always won, whether or not the Plebes favored and voted for him. Opinion: The system is rigged and it always has been.

  12. 1900's: "OK society, there's 100 of us in this town, but only 30 chickens, how do we decide who gets chicken?"

    1980's: "OK society, thanks to advancements in the fields of chicken-fucking, there's 1,000,000 of us in this city, but only 30,000,000 chickens, how do we decide who gets chicken?"

    2020's: "OK society, there's 10,000,000 of us in this metropolis and the chickens have contaminated the entire poultry supply by shitting into each other's beaks, that said, we now have an unlimited supply of lab-grown poultry, how do we decide who gets the faux-poultry?"


  13. I agree that relative poverty is a problem for the United States because it causes dramatic increases in violent crimes, the correlation is clear. But Snyder did a poor job in that he conveniently left out absolute poverty, compared to the rest of the world the countries of the West have some of the best living conditions. It's estimated that still half of the world does not have internet communications but in the West we take this for granted. Snyder also compares modern times to 1940, the average life expectancy was around 60 years old then whereas today it is around 80, I think it is safe to say that we have made some progress in improving the human condition in the 21st century. We should try and have a little bit more gratitude.

  14. Inequality is built into life. This might be neither good nor fair, but one thing is certain: it cannot justly be blamed on capitalism, patriarchy or the west.

  15. Inequality is not inherently bad as it is good that different people's choices result in different outcomes.

    What's bad is when inequality is severe and especially when it is insurmountable or incredibly difficult to surmount. This is the key distinction that we need to be talking about.

  16. Immigration keeps the wages down for the lower class. Womens entry top the job market keeps the wages down for the middle class.

  17. So he is arguing that wealth inequality leads to jealousy? That politicians take advantage of that to foster hate and then get elected? Other people might be richer than I am, but my life hasn't gotten worse. Just because I have the same standard of living as my parents doesn't I'm worthless or am being taken advantage of. We all just need to take a step back and realize the good things in our own lives and not be jealous of others. There, racism, hate, sexism, and violence solved. If only it would be that easy.

  18. Yah my ancestors had access to plenty of cheap housing on a single blue-collar wage but they dont get to enjoy all the diversity we have today.

  19. The only thing wrong about what he said is that we see "our neighbors" doing better. When it comes to the 0.01%… you (we) do not know these people. These people do not talk to you. They do not shop where you shop, eat where you eat, or go to your schools. They live in a separate society. They are the pond scum, living over the murky depths of the pond, never delving into the unclean depths.

    And there is no easy solution to this. Inequality is fundamental to human nature, we will never get rid of it. Nor should we. Efforts should be focused on keeping inequality to manageable, reasonable levels. Yes, those are weasel words. I don't have, or want to pin down hard numbers. But everyone knows that the guy literally breaking his back 40/40 (40 hours a week for 40 years) for poverty-line living does not deserve one million times less than the guy whose job involves putting in the back 9 of a golf course on one of the two days he shows up at the office in a typical week.

  20. So class is more inportent then race and political manipulation is turning the lower classes agents each other in order to tack contorl or maintain control. So ya what i have be saying for like 10 yaers thanks do bad you did not do anything useful with this information

  21. It's so funny, he talks about people blaming others for inequality as a instrument of goverment propaganda, but he himself is doing the exact same thing!! In his eyes, blaming China etc. is a pretence, but blaming rich people is right thing to do. Double standards, as always with this dreamers. You should work hard and don't look into your rich neighbour pockets.

  22. sees controversial tittle
    scrolls to comments immediately
    first comment is a vaguely related/conflated argument/statement that missed the point of the video without me even having to watch it
    Never disappointed

  23. The biggest problem is Citizen's United. It essentially gave outsized political voice and power to the rich, who used fear, rhetoric, ideology, culture-war to convince poor conservatives to vote for their candidates, which was against the poor's own self-interests but made the rich even richer. Really? tax-breaks for the rich? Sure, because Reagan's trickle down economics really works and the rich won't just get a bigger cup and keep it off-shore to avoid paying their share of taxes.

  24. "Trump was right he just didn't provide a solution."
    Whether you're right or wrong, you also didn't provide a solution. The problem with this video is that it focuses on wealth inequality as if that is the cause of any problems, whereas wealth inequality is the result of the problem. Another problem is how this video advises to give up on the past, whereas the past is where we look to make it better future and should not be ignored or else mistakes will be repeated.

    So, wealth inequality is the focus of this video as if our problems stem from it. The flaw in this mentality is that there are more efforts in equalizing well nowadays than there were in the past. All these efforts have done, despite their intentions, was to further divide equality of wealth. There were in the past. All these efforts have done, despite there intentions, was to further divided equality of wealth. Decisions such as to continue to raise minimum wage so that the ones who worked hard to get promotions and earn more cash are now earning just as much as the laziest of the lowest income families, which also raises the cost of living so now not only do lower class citizens have a hard time making ends meet, with a middle-class or drag you down along with them.

    Pure wealth economy is a myth and not everyone will be able to live in a mansion, and running after these ideas is only going to divide the wealth statuses even further.

  25. Inequality is created when people are allowed to succeed. Those who are allowed to succeed give jobs to those less fortunate. It's a cycle that only increases the standard of living for everybody

  26. The biggest problem is that people don't even understand what inequality and the SUPER RICH are because they do a very good job of staying un-noticed. People phrase the inequality equation like, "if doctors didn't make lots of money nobody would want to be a doctor, so inequality is good"! or "People should get paid for working hard or being smart" Yes that kind of inequality is good. We don't have that. We have the bad kind.

    When we talk about Inequality, we are not talking about people that have the big house on the street. We are talking about people that have several houses you have never seen because you can't see the house from the front gate.
    We are not talking about the family with the maid service, We are talking about the family that has a full staff of maids, cooks, and butlers…..for their yacht.
    We are not talking about the sports star that gets a $100 million dollar contract. We are talking about the guy that signs that hundred million paycheck and smiles about it.
    These are not people that make money by working hard. They make money by existing.

    These are people that make more money than you, your parents and your children ever will, in your entire lives, Every. Single. Day. (not even hyperbole, Jeff Bezos averaged $107 MILLION dollars every single day in 2017. He makes the median yearly Amazon employee salary every 9 seconds).
    But that is just one highly public example. There are hundreds more that stay under the radar. Over 540 BILLIONAIRES exist in the united states alone.

    At some point it stops becoming a question of deserving the fortune they have made, and starts to become a question of universal morality. Does a person have the moral right to amass wealth beyond a human capacity of understanding* while basic human necessities and social and economic infrastructure of the people that allowed them to amass such a fortune are unmet.
    * (Most people cannot physically comprehend 1 billion of anything. A stack of 1 billion dollars would reach 67.9 miles high)

  27. Complete double-talk. So you are in favor of equality of opportunities, are you? Congratulations on agreeing with every human on the planet. But that's not exactly what you're in favor of, is it?

  28. This channel has become dogshit, the inequality is a natural result of any system, It's called the Pareto ratio, yet this imbeciles implies only his idiotic solutions are the fix. Socialist bullshit

  29. What causes inequality is few people are a lot better at something than majority of people. For example sports , only a small few become successful in pro-sports and make millions. Only a few is good enough to talk a butch of nonsense like Timothy Snyder and make money.

  30. Instead of proposing a solution, Timothy Snyder just decided to give me an enemy in the form of Donald Trump, just the same way he alleges Donald Trump gave me an enemy instead of a solution. Fucking hypocrite. Get out of here with your manipulative shit.

  31. 106 people still have faith in trickle down economics and good old fashioned bigotry.

    Get thee to fuck and try and learn something during your fallacious vacuous lives. You are taking America back to the fucking dark ages! And yes there were gays and people had different coloured skin back then too! Even though you tell yourself that everything was just peachy.


    Stop defunding education. The country can’t afford to keep paying for your stupidity.

  32. Obviously, the speaker lied. Here are the actual facts for anyone that cares about such trivial things:

    What happened to the middle class anyway over the last 40 years? It shrank a lot. Average people got a lot more rich.

    So how about that wage stagnation that we keep hearing about?

    Ok, so most things got ridiculously cheaper and everyone has higher standard of living today than at any point in the history of the whole human race.

    So what did get more expensive? Government run or subsidized things like housing, education and health. Isn't that a funny coincidence? So to fix that, we need the government to run more things and subsidize even more still? What could possibly go wrong?

    I guess the only solution is to import mass of low skilled workers that depend on the welfare state, that know nothing about economy and will vote to "fix" things by doing the one thing we have undeniable empirical evidence that does not work- increase government meddling.

  33. This is literally the dumbest thing I have ever seen on YouTube, and it’s a shame that it’s coming from this channel that I genually have a lot respect for…

  34. Don't forget the "lefts" preferred others: Christians, males, whites, and cis-gendered. While one may blame the minorities and the other the majorities the mindset is the same, and while one may argue the minorities are less likely to gain enough power to be dangerous, history is full of examples of exactly that happening. So while the "right" may be more likely to be able to victimize their targets, the "left" tend to have more targets to victimize when they are able

    Note: the use of the terms left and right in my post is just a matter of short hand feel free to substitute them for what you believe are more appropriate labels

  35. "You can always hire one half of the poor to kill the other half." — Mr. Schermerhorn, Gangs of New York (2002)

    said at about 2:21:22 on the BluRay version, anyway.

  36. Forced equality wreaks havoc on everyone who is improperly labeled by said force. We are individuals not tribes. Tribalism destroys societies and is a step backward. The only way to change the equality of outcome is to destroy cultural diversity. America was actually on the brink of this re-birthing destruction but social politics stepped in and fucked it all up. Big think, this is small think.

  37. Not sure I buy what you are selling. This 'lack of growth' I would call BS. The standard of living has changed DRASTICALLY every decade. What we call impoverished is someone who doesn't have internet. Furthermore, each generation seems to be more and more obsessed with living beyond their wages, due to pop culture and media. If everyone on TV drives a $70-100K car, we feel unsuccessful by driving a perfectly good $40K Toyota Camary.

    I do agree with the political brainwashing part.

  38. Timothy Snyder doesn't explain 1:00 where he states his neighbor with 20x more wealth (unlikely scenario) can take all of his wealth away from him and his equal friend. He never provides an explanation is to why people are poor in the first place and also why the middle class has been suffering in the last few decades, all of which is being addressed by Trumps actions. I'm not saying Trump is smart in every part of his being, but I am saying he's a good businessman. I don't understand why Timothy brought Trump into this, wealth inequality is obviously a good topic of discussion but Timothy is speaking in absolutes which is by far a great way to lose the debate.

  39. Even if you were to level the playing field inequality would come back. Why? Just look at the world. So many failed societies with bad governments and/or belief systems. You put capitalism and entrepreneurs like Jobs and Gates in there and money will print itself turning developing countries into first world nations. Within any nation you have a spectrum of intellect and innovation that can thrive if government just gets out of the way. The smart people will do the best in any peaceful nation and those good decisions compound if they have smart children. The 1% were not always so. They built up to that level over generations that didn't screw up a good idea. Poor people spend so much time squandering opportunities that pass by while the rich are looking to benefit from opportunity. But the rich have money to capitalize on those moments. Actually we all do but many, myself certainly included, spend foolishly. You didn't waste money? Look at your shoes, order out receipts, rims, jewelry or whatever you spent too much on and didn't need. Look at the time you spend not working because you went to college for a useless major and can't find a job that pays what you think you are worth. Money comes from productivity so produce less hot air and be an employee. Not everyone can be a business owner or management. You don't have to like your job but action builds momentum and when combined with better decision making you will start to notice opportunity and be in a position to utilize it.

  40. This guy's says America is second in inequality to Russia. Apart Western Europe and other Western style countries almost everyone is poor! How is wealth inequality doing in Africa? North Korea? Brazil? South Africa? I think this is a case of cherry picking. Surely wealth inequality is greater in those countries. He should go to Brazil sometime. I've been there. Mansions on side of the street and literal slums on the other side. "Houses" with corrugated steel roofs, no plaster on the walls, concrete or don't floors. Sometimes just a one room shack maybe two rooms. Sometimes no electricity.

    On the other sode what's interesting is that the people he describes as being negatively affected by inequality in America and looking for someone else to blame are usually on the Right. They are also the same people fighting hardest against equality measures. Their leaders are telling them that this is the slippery road down to the Communist Gulag. So it seems like a catch 22. They don't want a new America it seems. They want the fantasy America of the good ol' days.

  41. It's the government policies colluding with certain corporations. Any economic system mixing with a power structure of violence creates inequality.

  42. This is one of the best videos Big Think has ever published. Timothy Snyder is so urgent and insightful here and explains so much of the chaos and erosion of our political fabric.

  43. Least equal in the world? Are you kidding me? Have you hear of India, or Indonesia? Or the entire continent of Africa? 99% of the people are superpoor, while 1% is extremely rich. Uncomparable to the US. Sure, among western countries, the US is high, if not the highest in inequality, but the whole world, that is bs

  44. The problem to the oligargy problem is that people keep playing the "no I'm richer" game, while there is no point to do so. A smart businessman invests as lot of money back into the company, so the company grows and can provide better quality for a lower price, and there are more jobs.

    Greed is the problem, not an inherent fact about the universe

  45. We believe in capitalism, so we must be completely delusional thinking that foreigners take all our money instead of rich people, because all conservatists are stupid and racist

    That is his argument, but without nuance.

    Nice reasoning there man, nice reasoning

  46. So he's arguing that extreme inequality is bad because people will "feel" that they won't have a bright future… He also mentioned that people are afraid their rich neighbor will take everything away from them, "which is of course true", and therefore extreme inequality is bad… Anyone sees any issues with these?

  47. These statistics are crap! probably the countries that are worse off income distribution wise dont want any other country to know so they hide it. Coming from a country with the most sever income distributions i can vouch for that. For example if both man and woman have the same certificate and do the same job, the men get paid 40% more than women if he is single and up to 70% more if he is married whilst the women doesnt. A foreigner depending on his nationality not certificate gets paid either 70% less or 20% less. This is an Arab state btw.

  48. All of the factors he suggested actually promote mediocrity and stagnate the middle class. Trade unions and public education are tools to keep the middle class from achieving higher status. They don't let individuals in those groups achieve higher than the rest of the group. The only way up is to do something better than everyone else. People don't mind seeing deserving people achieve. It's the worthless people who don't do anything except bullshit their way to the top of compulsory systems oppressing everyone else that irritate the populus. These are government, Unions, public education.

  49. This guy is a fucking asshole. Making all you brainwashed, anti-free market leftists think the rest of the world, with less income inequality is better than the USA. The rest of the world has less income inequality because much of the world is equally poor

  50. America media and educational system keep Americans dumbed down. Global information bounces off it's borders except for certain propaganda. Globalization has made many poor. This will change quick and violently. It's America's destiny. Crisis is required to change things. The country is built that way. America has always had socialism. Sometimes for the masses and sometimes just for corporations. It's about to go back to the masses……or a big war.

  51. Now who believes the Republican Party when they say they are working for you?
    When they say they are lowering taxes for you?
    Nope, it's for the rich.
    The GOP loves the rich, ignores the middle class and hates the poor.
    Who do you vote for?

  52. We are do, as a species on this rock, to have a catastrophic event that will equalize everything.
    But he who dies with the most toys, wins.

  53. His fallacy is, grwoth isn't eternal. It will stop or slow at some point. Most Americans have reached a point of wealth that's not easy to top.

  54. Oh so since 1980? Hmmm were there any economic policy shifts after that year? Maybe trickle down and killing off the unions wasn't such a great idea? Maybe the right isn't so great with economics? Maybe they should grow up and admit that they were wrong? Go back to having the HW Bush type mindset that trickle down, as he said, is "Voodoo Economics". Tax the rich at an even scale and not incur so much debt?
    But nah, they aren't going to do that, they want to push that debt right on up until they retire, make the next generation pay it off. Thanks baby boomers and Gen Xers, why don't you complain some more about Millennials whining and acting entitled while we pay your tab.

  55. This man has retarded reasoning.

    Inequality is a GOOD thing. Those 1% are the people literally making the wealth by producing products, goods and services that everyday people derive unbetold benefits and value from every single day.

    Take the case of a teacher, if they teach a student and the student pays them in exchange, has inequality increased because the teachers bank account rose while the students bank account decreased?

    Of cause not! Because the student gained too! They received a highly valuable education which they will use to make themself more productive.

    What if the teacher teachs 1000 students? The teachers bank account rises 1000 fold and 1000 students bank accounts decrease. Has the teacher and students increased inequality here? Of cause not! For the same reasoning.

    If anything, one should be applauding the teacher for adding so much value to peoples lives and for making a massive profit. Hopefully the biggest profit they can. Doing so reflects the amount of value they have added to peoples lives!

    This same argument applies to every exchange between peopleacross every industry.

    Wealth inequality is a GOOD thing!

  56. I know war for America weakens our country more and more along with destroying societies. War destroys education systems, economy, morals and values, family values, war devalues human life. Etc. It stinks all around. I despise war.
    P.S. kills many at home as well as suicides and overseas.

  57. It's time the world learns about life. All human life is precious. Whether a person is black or white or red or yellow or tan. No matter what language they speak, how much money they have, what their sexual orientation is, etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment