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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