Inequality, Individualized Risk, and Insecurity

Source: Michael J. Zimmer, Wisconsin Law Review, Volume 2013, No. 1

Three facts are clear: economic inequality is extreme in this country, our social and legal policies dealing with employment impose a broad set of risks on individuals, and individuals have much more difficulty coping with these risks in this era of business volatility leading to employment uncertainty. As a result, general insecurity increases. The thesis of this Lecture is that our extreme inequality in part results from government policy, that much government policy is the result of the undue influence of money in politics, and that, before any reform is likely, the dominance of money in politics must be substantially reduced. An important question is how that dominance can be reduced; however, the answer to that question is far from clear.

Recent events—such as the emergence of the Tea Party Movement, the dispute over public sector unionism here in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and the Occupy Movement—reveal an increasing public awareness of the e extent of our economic inequality and a reaction against it. This Lecture will in Part I describe the present state of economic equality in the United States. Part II describes how the present state of economic volatility heightens the employment risks that workers in the United States face. Four different areas of labor and employment law will be examples of that heightened risk. Part III attempts to explain how the United States got into the situation where workers suffer the heightened insecurity resulting from the risks they carry. Part IV begins the discussion of what it will take to begin to re-establish balance in our society, with the first step aimed at reducing the amount of money in politics followed by a discussion of the need for a new social movement framed around economic equality…