Every so often, a dichotomy slips through the cracks. When that happens, The Troubler catches it, for a segment we call “perverting the dialectic.”

Kenneth asks:

Is the yawning chasm between rich and poor in the US a result of the unchecked estrangement created by division of labor? Or is it just a ploy by Barack Hussein Obama to spark a race war?

Thanks for the dichotomy, Kenneth. It seems that every day we are reminded of widening economic disparities in the United States. But whether the subject is income inequality, the wage gap, or campaign finance reform, politicians rely on one of the world’s oldest false dichotomies to make their points: rich/poor.

Concepts of rich and poor have existed nearly as long as that of property itself. Whether master and slave, lord and serf, or bourgeoisie and proletariat, we have always found it convenient to divide ourselves according to economic stereotypes. But while sociologists disagree as to the usefulness of this distinction through the ages, there is a growing consensus among economists that its utility today is approaching nil. This is because as banks, markets, and even national economies migrate to digital systems, with financial information stored, accessed, and transferred electronically, the ability to precisely locate money at a given moment becomes exceedingly problematic.

As an emergent phenomenon of electron activity, electronic information is, of course, subject to the observer effect, whereby observing a phenomenon irreversibly alters the phenomenon.* In this case, to become observable, an electron must interact with a photon; however, this interaction inevitably disturbs the path of the electron, thus thwarting any attempt at precise measurement. Because these errors, as well as those from quantum entanglement and the uncertainty principle, are compounded exponentially at the macro level, large-scale electronic data (and, by extension, financial data) are useless, at best. At worst, they are dangerously misleading.

Moreover, by constantly scrutinizing the distribution of wealth, we unwittingly alter wealth’s trajectory. This makes it impossible to determine whether the “rich” are actively sucking up unprecedented sums of money or if money is simply being batted in their directions by our voyeurism. The only solution, then, is to stop looking at all — don’t even check your account balance, lest you send the world reeling into economic chaos. Of course, we will not be able to tell whether things are changing or not, as we won’t be watching, but by ignoring the distribution of wealth, we can focus instead on fortifying ourselves for Thunderdome, where there is but one law: two men enter, one man leaves.


* Whether the phenomenon is also objectified by this gaze is, at present, impossible to tell.

If you have a dichotomy in need of troubling, don’t hesitate to ask.


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  • Joey Jones

    This is nonsense. Just because the location of financial data can be difficult to pin point doesn’t mean there isn’t a gulf between the rich and the poor. If one small part of the populace owns the vast amount of property and manufacturing power, has the means to lobby politicians, has a much greater spending power, and everyone else does not then there is a gulf. One small group is very rich and everyone else is comparatively poor. Scrutinising the distribution of wealth isn’t going to change numbers in bank accounts or transfer property deeds or withdraw tacit collusions.

    • Thanks for the comment, Joey. You can expect a rigorous troubling of the sense/nonsense dichotomy at soon.

      In the meantime, I leave you with a quote from Leon Festinger, best known for his theory of cognitive dissonance:

      “Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong; what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before. Indeed, he may even show a new fervour about convincing and converting other people to his view.”

  • Sarcasmic9

    This has got to be satire.