In my prior post, I highlighted a passage from the 19th century British journal The Christian Socialist about the inadequacy of economic mobility and opportunity. Here is the exact same sentiment expressed in the B.o.B. song “Both of Us” featuring Taylor Swift:
Cause if life is an up hill battle
We all tryna climb with the same ol’ ladder
In the same boat, with the same ol’ paddle
Why so shallow? I’m just asking
What’s the pattern to the madness
Everybody ain’t a number one draft pick
Most of us ain’t Hollywood actors
But if it’s all for one, and one for all
Then maybe one day, we all can ball
If there are a limited number of well-compensated social positions (here represented by “number one draft pick” and “Hollywood actors”), then somebody has to lose out. Mobility cannot fix that. Opportunity cannot fix that. If the contours of the unequal economic structure remains the same, all opportunity and mobility can do is change who winds up on the impoverished bottom, not eliminate it.
Encouragingly, B.o.B. finishes this flourish with a call for solidarity as a way to ensure everyone lives well, not just those who win one of the scarce well-remunerated positions in the very unequal pyramid that our system generates.