SOCIAL JUSTICE & The U.S. As Land Of Opportunity

Social Justice — the conditions allowing each individual to participate in the market society, regardless of their social status — provides true freedom and growth to a nation’s citizenry.

For the US, it is the foundation to making the “American Dream” a reality. How are we doing?

The United States ranks near the bottom of 31 developed countries, according the recent yearly report from Bertelsmann Foundation.

Living in a market economy where everyone has the same opportunity for success is quite different from that society where opportunity for fortune favors the fortunate. When it comes to “equal opportunities for self-realization,” the U.S. ranks 27th out of 31 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member states — well behind not just advanced Northern European countries like Norway and Denmark, but even countries like Hungary, Poland, Italy and France.

The only countries whose citizens fare even worse than US citizens are Greece, Chile, Mexico and Turkey.

Coincidentally, the new report arrived just a day after the Congressional Budget Office validated another key precept of “Occupy” protesters: The income gap between the rich and poor in the U.S. grew from 1979 to 2007, the report found, with the top 1 percent of earners seeing their incomes spike by 275 percent.

The new survey of developed countries also echoes the findings of OECD’s 2010 report on Social Mobility, which found that — contrary to America’s reputation as the “land of opportunity” — it is now much harder to climb the socio-economic ladder between generations in the U.S. than in most other developed countries.

The Social Justice Index just released measures six indicators of “socially responsible” capitalism. In all of them, the U.S. was ranked in the lowest half of the countries examined, faring extremely poorly in four.

  • The U.S. was third to last in poverty prevention, trailed only by Chile and Mexico, due to its “alarming” poverty levels.
  • In Denmark, only 1 in 27 children lives in poverty; in the United States that rate is above 1 in 5.
  • As the report puts it: “Under conditions of poverty, social participation and a self-determined life are possible only with great difficulty.”
  • On the health index, the U.S. was ranked 23 out of 31 countries
  • Most other countries did much better than the US providing access to quality health care not simply based on socioeconomic status.
  • And the U.S. infant mortality rate is unusually higher than other developed nations, the report found.
  • When it comes to “intergenerational justice” — a measure of how well or poorly the current generation is doing at passing along problems to the next generation — the U.S. ranked 20 out of 31.
  • Nineteen of the 31 countries were also ranked higher than the U.S. when it comes to equal access to good-quality education — “another essential factor in providing equitable capabilities and opportunities for advancement,” the report said.
  • The U.S ranked slightly higher on indicators of “social cohesion” and “labor participation.”

All in all, the U.S. ranked near Mexico in several indicators. By contrast, Canada was the top performer among the non-European OECD states. “Its high ranking can be attributed to strong results in the areas of education, labor market justice and social cohesion,” the report concluded.

Northern European countries led the study in overall rankings, with the report concluding that the “universalist” welfare states there are “most capable of providing equal opportunities for self-realization within their respective societies.”


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