Why Can’t America Be Sweden?
This approach would amount to formal government recognition of a two-class society, the innovators living under one set of policies that allows them to practice by cutthroat rules, the rest of America consigned to the relatively meager support of a safety net.
Looked at in this light, the 2012 presidential campaign was a louder version of the same argument. Mitt Romney’s total contempt for the 47 percent - “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them” - reflected the conservative vision of this two-tier society.
Conversely, Barack Obama described an America where
“the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and their investments — wealthier than ever before. But everybody else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t — and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up”
Despite its egalitarian tradition, America may have already become a two-class society, with an elite benefiting from advantages in background, wealth, access to higher education and skill sets passed from generation to generation (whether through inheritance or cultural transmission). If that is the case, and there is some evidence that it is, the question is whether our rhetorical obeisance to egalitarian tradition will prevent us from openly recognizing what we have become - thus sapping our ability to do something about it.