One of the key psychological sources of growing inequality seems to lie in the differences between the culture and norms of the middle class, which are institutionalized in American society, and those of the working class, which are not.
Our society is deeply conflicted about the source of excellence. On one hand, we are fascinated with child prodigies, portraying them as wonders of nature. On the other hand, we love a good “overcoming adversity” story, as it inspires us all to greatness.
As children, we’re taught the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. Growing up, we internalize these values and hopefully learn how we should behave in situations that challenge our moral values. At first, these lessons seem black and white, but over time we also learn that the world is full of grays: good people sometimes break the rules. Behaving dishonestly has its rewards.