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Why I'm Voting for Bernie Sanders
What would Thomas Jefferson say about the state of the U.S. in 2016? Well, we don't have to wonder as many of the current issues today are foreshadowed by warnings from our Founding Fathers:
"I do not believe that in the four administrations which have taken place, there has been a single instance of departure from good faith towards other nations. We may sometimes have mistaken our rights, or made an erroneous estimate of the actions of others, but no voluntary wrong can be imputed to us. In this respect England exhibits the most remarkable phaenomenon in the universe in the contrast between the profligacy of it’s government and the probity of it’s citizens. And accordingly it is now exhibiting an example of the truth of the maxim that virtue & interest are inseparable. It ends, as might have been expected, in the ruin of it’s people, but this ruin will fall heaviest, as it ought to fall on that hereditary aristocracy which has for generations been preparing the catastrophe. I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in it’s birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
-Letter to George Logan (12 November 1816). Published in The Works of Thomas Jefferson in Twelve Volumes, Federal Edition, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1904, Vol. 12, pp. 43-44
This, essentially, is the crux of Bernie Sanders platform. Income inequality and the flooding of monied interests into the political process. This has not only been a historical problem within the U.S., but around the world. Such examples range from "The Conflict of Orders" (494 BCE - 287 BCE), that would eventually become the Roman Empire to Bahrain in 2004, and a score of conflicts inbetween. Conflicts over economic inequality are well documented.
In the above graph, it is apparent that when the top 1% of the wealthy rig our economy, using lobbyists and special interests groups, it leads to major economic downturns. Notice the spike in income equality in 1929, or the beginning of the Great Depression. There is also a spike in 2008, or the beginning of the Great Recession. It is also important to note the years between these two dates, which include the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s; these decades have been come to be known in history as the Golden Age of America. Why? Perhaps because it was the time of greatest wealth gain in our country, by all citizens? In short, the Golden Age of America correlates directly with low income inequality. This means wealth was gained by all citizens during this time period, not just the top 1% of the wealthy.
Emile Durkheim is one of the first sociologists in history, and he is famous in his field for the concept of social solidarity. Durkheim described two types of social solidarity: mechanical and organic. Mechanical solidarity is analogous to smaller societies, like hunter/gatherers and organic solidarity is analogous to larger societies, like the United States. Mechanical solidarity is generally based on kinship within a small group. There is very little specialization or independence because all must work together to provide for the whole community. Organic solidarity is based on class structure, being more complex societies, and there is a need for specialization because of the interdependence of the component parts (division of labor). One may also think of this as cooperation being the key with mechanical solidarity, whereas, competition is the key to organic solidarity. And with competitive societies, crime becomes more prevalent as one component (business owners) gain political or economic power over another component (their workers). In short, mechanical solidarity is more stable and predictable than organic solidarity, since mechanical solidarity is founded on cooperation of all members of a society, whereas, organic solidarity is founded on competition between members of a society.
Morphological (structural) basis
Based on resemblances (predominant in less advanced societies) Segmental type (first clan-based, later territorial) Little interdependence (social bonds relatively weak) Relatively low volume of population Relatively low material and moral density
Based on division of labor (predominately in more advanced societies) Organized type (fusion of markets and growth of cities) Much interdependency (social bonds relatively strong) Relatively high volume of population Relatively high material and moral density
Types of norms (typified by law)
Rules with repressive sanctions Prevalence of penal law
Rules with restitutive sanctions Prevalence of cooperative law (civil, commercial, procedural, administrative and constitutional law)
Formal features of conscience collective
High volume High intensity High determinateness Collective authority absolute
Low volume Low intensity Low determinateness More room for individual initiative and reflection
Content of conscience collective
Highly religious Transcendental (superior to human interests and beyond discussion) Attaching supreme value to society and interests of society as a whole Concrete and specific
Increasingly secular Human-orientated (concerned with human interests and open to discussion) Attaching supreme value to individual dignity, equality of opportunity, work ethic and social justice Abstract and general
When social solidarity is threatened, or begins to become unraveled, the competitive nature of organic solidarity is evident in the result of that process. Namely, an "Us vs. Them" mentality takes root in individuals that make up the society. This bias can be based on religion, sex, age, race or class (to name the most popular). Can you think of any examples of these biases in the United States today? Do you think that more bias is being created now, than in the 50s, 60s and 70s? If so, that means the organic solidarity holding your society together is becoming more and more fractured. If left unchecked, this eventually will lead to a society's destruction through class, race or religious war; or a combination of them all. This would result in anarchy in America, until one side was victorious and solidarity was reestablished through new social systems (that are hopefully more fair) and can maintain social solidarity.
In conclusion, the affects of income inequality on social solidarity is paramount to understanding other aspects of a society. Crime rates, bias and discrimination, and the general functioning of our democracy correlate directly the fairness of our social systems. When social systems are not fair, crime, bias and discrimination go up...when social systems are fair, crime, bias and discrimination go down. This is why the issue of economic inequality is so very important to me, not only as a social scientist, but as a citizen of a society I have come to love, and do not wish to see destroyed through avarice.