There is a dearth of information on the composition of what I have called governing oligarchies in countries like the UK and the USA. This includes data on top income earners.
In his The Killing Fields of Inequality (Cambridge; Polity Press, 2014), however, Goran Therborn cites data from the US Congressional Budget Office (2011) on the composition of the top 1% of income earners in the USA.
In general terms, the top 1% of income earners in the USA more than doubled their appropriation of national disposable income, after transfers and federal taxes, between 1979 and 2007. The next richest 19% basically kept their share – about 36% – whereas all others, from the poor to the middle class, lost ground. No surprises there.
But, Therborn asks, who are the American 1%? Non-financial executives make up 31%; medical professionals (doctors: ‘the classical enemies of ‘socialised medicine’) constitute 16%; financial professionals 14% (a doubling since 1979); and lawyers 8%.
What about the top 0.1%, a question more relevant to the notion of a governing oligarchy?
‘Three-quarters are in business, non-financial executives comprise 41%, financial ones 18, other businessmen 14, professionals of law and medicine 11, computing and other technical professionals and scientists 4. Stars of the arts, media and sport add up to 3% only’ (see Hacker,J & Pierson,P Winner-Take-All Politics. New York; Simon & Schuster, 2010).
The concentration among business executives, outside as well as inside finance, is unsurprising; but more so is the extent of the representation of professionals from medicine and the law (one in four of the top 1%, and one in 10 of the top 0.1%),