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The rich will always be with us

13 May 2014

If I haven’t mentioned it on this website, I have talked about my sense that “class” (as in “middle-class” and “lower class” and “one percenters”) has as much to do with social assumptions and expectations as with income. I know I’ve said before that as a society, we’re better off with small independent shop-keepers than with chain stores, even if the workers in a chain store earn more money, because the shop-keepers … as entrepreneurs and “stakeholders” in their immediate community are fostering “middle class values,” whereas an OXXO employee has no stake in his immediate community (will he sweep the neighbors’ sidewalk in the morning, or stop at the property line?) and his “investment” in OXXO is only dependent on receiving a paycheck.

clases_okAt any rate, the Programa Nacional de Protección a los Derechos del Consumidor, via publication in the Diario Official de la Federation, has given an official definition to our social classes here.

For the most part, the classes are defined in economic terms: the “lower class” (35 percent of all Mexicans) being those without regular employment and who depend on public assistance. the “high lower class” are what perhaps would be the “working class” … people earning above the minimum wage, but doing, in the official definition “arduous work”. This includes both urban workers and small farmers.

The “middle class” is likewise divided between the “lower” and “upper” strata. The twenty percent of Mexicans who “don’t have much, but have stability” fit in here… office workers, tecnicians, supervisors… and… this being Mexico, artisans (potters, sign painters, etc.)

“Upper middle class” people (14%) are “businessmen” (Spanish is a sexist language at times) and … in a rather unclear term, “professionals who have triumphed”… supposedly meaning people like best-selling writers (as opposed to us working slobs) or even Carlos Slim.

It is in the upper class that we see the less economic definitions and the more social ones come in. The upper six percent of Mexicans are those of inherited wealth… the difference between the “lower upper” and the “upper upper” (the “one percenters… literally!) being how many generations their family has held wealth. The One Percenters are officially defined as those whose family wealth goes so far back they may not even know where it came from!

I suppose having been born into moderate wealth Carlos Slim could be considered lower upper class. As it is, his father — as an immigrant — should be considered lower class (I guess I should too, but then, I’m probably more “lower-middle”… an artisa of sorts, with not much money, but enough to get by). Slim himself, as a “professional who has triumphed”, is merely upper middle class. His children and grand-children certainly know where the loot came from, so even if they are richer than the one-percenters (heck, their richer than one percenters everywhere) they aren’t “techncially” one percenters.

I gather criminals and politicans (which some might say are the same thing) should be considered “professionals who have triumphed” … which doesn’t bode well for those of us who think “middle-class values” are what makes for a successful culture.


Animal Politica

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