America’s New Class Structure

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America’s New Class Structure

As the United States approaches the 2016 Presidential election, the country is split into warring factions, where the traditional definitions don’t seem to apply. This 21st century Civil War isn’t a battle between North and South. It isn’t a division between white people and black people, between blue states and red states, or between conservative voters and liberal voters.

On the surface, it appears to be a conflict between the classes—those who have wealth and want to keep it, and those who fear they’ll never have it. But if you look deeper, the reality is more complex because even those classes are not made up of identical people who think, earn, live, and vote like their peers.

The division is actually between those who are still profiting from the industries still embedded in the Mass Production economy and those who have profited from the transition to the Digital Revolution that began in 1971. Just as in the four previous Techno-Economic Revolutions, a clash between these competing interests is inevitable during the Transition Phase.

Consider the upper class. As Joel Kotkin, Executive Director at points out, within this class are two groups: the “techies” and the “tangibles.”1

The billionaires who amassed their wealth under the Mass Production paradigm focused on building tangible assets—like factories, real estate, and oil. They oppose the endless regulations that make running their businesses more complicated and more expensive. For this reason, they are increasingly supporting Republican candidates for Congress and the Presidency.

According to Kotkin, as recently as 26 years ago, energy companies donated roughly equally to both parties. But by 2014, they were contributing more than three times more money to Republicans than to Democrats.

Meanwhile, the tech titans are gaining in power. In 2014, they included half of the ten richest people in America, according to Forbes, as well as nearly every self-made billionaire below the age of forty.2

Just like the “tangibles,” the “techies” used to donate equally to both parties. In 2000, campaign contributions from the communications and electronics sector were essentially balanced between Republican and Democratic candidates. Yet only twelve years later, Democrats were receiving more than two-thirds of donations from this sector...

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