class warfare

The Problem With Neoliberal “It’s Never Been Better” Triumphalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/07/2019 - 6:00pm in

Saying that humanity is currently the best off it has ever been (a dubious proposition in any case) is like saying “I’ve never been warmer” as you burn down your house.

Globe on FirePeople like Pinker have been trotting out stats to claim that we’ve never been better off. Those stats are questionable, based on a definition of  poverty that is beyond questionable. Meanwhile, in India, people eat less calories than they did 30 years ago. (I traveled in India and lived in Bangladesh 30 years or so ago. Eating less calories is unimaginably bad. That a small middle class and a new wealthy class has been created means little to those eating… less.)

But let’s wave that all aside. Let’s posit that human life is the best it’s ever been.

Meanwhile, in India, people are dying in 50 degree C weather. France had a massive heatwave. Indian farmers are committing suicide in droves, in large part because of issues with ground water.

Extreme weather is getting worse, the permafrost is melting 70 years ahead of the consensus forecast and so on. Ecologically fish stocks are collapsing, the Amazon is being chopped down at a ferocious rate, more than one study has found collapses of insect populations of 80% or so, and others have noticed that without insects  you don’t have birds and so on and so forth.

Blah, blah, blah.

Not only is no human an island, but humanity lives among other species and they make our lives possible in ways we are barely aware of. Most oxygen in the world, for example, is produced by small ocean organisms, organisms which could have a mass die off.

Sigh.

So let us say that this is the bestest of best worlds, a Panglossian paradise.

Present prosperity is being paid for with future poverty; future mass death, and a non-trivial risk of human extinction. As for non-human species, they are already dying at a rate which will show up as the fastest mass extinction in Earth’s existence.

This is only a good bet if you are sure that  you’re going to die before the bill came due. That was a good bet for the GI Generation. A decent bet for the Silents and not a bad bet for about the first half of the Boomers. It’s a bad bet for everyone afterwards who expects to live to 70 or 80 or so (a normal human lifespan in most developed countries.)

And, of course, it’s a bad bet if you actually, y’know, care about your children, or other people’s children or the future of humanity when you’re gone. (Gonna be a shitty place to reincarnate too, if reincarnation exists.)

Now let’s bring this back to neoliberal “greatest time to be alive” triumphalism.

The sub voce message there is “we don’t need to change, everything’s fine and getting better.”

But, if we’re living not just unsustainably, but in a way that will call Biblical level catastrophe within the lives of most people now alive and their children, perhaps we do need to change, and radically.

So this sort of triumphalism, even if it were true, would be a disservice to not just humanity, but life on Earth.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

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Why the Economy Is Bad for Most People and How To Make It Better

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 11/06/2019 - 2:57am in

This is the second collation of articles on why our world is what it is, and how we can change it. Some of these articles are old, as I don’t write as much as I used to about economics because the decision points for avoiding a completely lousy economy are now in the past. The last decision points were passed by when Barack Obama announced his economics team and refused to try and get rid of or bypass Bernanke to enforce decent policy on the Federal Reserve.

However, this economy was decades in the making, and if we do not understand how it happened we will only wind up in a good economy through accident, and, having obtained a good economy, will not be able to keep it. These articles aren’t exhaustive; a better list would include almost five centuries of economic history, at least in summary, and certainly deal with the 19th century and early 20th centuries.

I was heartened that hundreds of people read the articles linked in my compendium on ideology and character so I dare hope that you will, again, read these pieces. If you do, you will walk away vastly better informed than almost anyone you know, including most formal economists, about why the economy is as it is.

The Decline and Fall of Post-War Liberalism

Pundits today natter on and on about income inequality, but the fundamental cause of income inequality is almost always determined by how society distributes power. As power goes, so goes income–and wealth. The last period of broad-based equality was the “Liberal Period,” which started with the Great Depression. You can locate the end of that era at various points from 1968 to 1980, but 1980 was the point where turning back became vastly difficult. This was the moment when a new political order was born: An order conceived to crush those who were willing and able to fight effectively for their share of income and money.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing and want more of it, please consider donating.)

Why Elites Have Pushed “Free Trade”

Those who are middle-aged or beyond remember the relentless march of free trade agreements, the creation of the WTO, and the endless drumbeat of propaganda about how FREE trade was wonderful, inevitable, and going to make us all rich. It didn’t, and it was never intended to. Understanding fully why it only enriched a few requires understanding the circumstances required for free trade to work, the incentives for free trade, and the power dynamics which make free trade perfect for elites who want to become rich (often by destroying the prosperity of their own countries). Free trade is about power, and power is about who gets how much.

The Isolation of Elites and the Madness of the Crowd

All societies change and face new challenges. What matters is how they deal with new circumstances. The US, in specific, and most of the developed world, in general, is in decline because of simple broken feedback loops. Put simply, ordinary people live in a world of propaganda and lies, while the rich and the powerful live in a bubble, isolated from the consequences their decisions have on the majority of the population, or on the future.

The Bailouts Caused the Lousy “Recovery”

This may be the hardest thing to explain to anyone with a connection to power or money: The bailouts are WHY the world has a lousy economy, not why it isn’t even worse. If people cannot understand why this is so, if they cannot understand that other options were, and are, available, other than making the people who destroyed the world economy even richer and more powerful, we will never see a good economy, ever again.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing and want more of it, please consider donating.)

The Rapid Destruction of Countries

You may have noticed, you probably have noticed, that most countries are becoming basketcases faster and faster. Some are destroyed by war and revolution, others by forced austerity. However it happens, the end of anything resembling a good economy through austerity in places like Greece, the Ukraine, Italy, or Ireland, or through war, in places like Lybia and Syria, is sure. Understand this: What is done to those countries, is being done to yours if you live in the developed world, just at a slower pace–and one day, you, too, will be more valuable dead than alive.

Why Countries Can’t Resist Austerity

Many of you will realize that much of the answer to this is related to the article on free trade. Weakness, national weakness, is built into the world economic system, and done so deliberately. The austerity of the past six years is simply the deliberate impoverishment of ordinary people, for the profit of elites, on steroids. But it is worth examining, in detail, why countries can’t or won’t stop it, and what is required for a country to be able to do so.

Why Public Opinion Doesn’t Matter

We live in the remnants of a mass society, but we aren’t in one any more (though we think we are). In a mass-mobilization society with relatively evenly distributed wealth and income, and something approaching competitive markets, public opinion mattered. If it was not King, well, it was at least a Duke. Today it matters only at the margins, on decisions where the elites do not have consensus. Understand this, and understand why, or all your efforts to resist will be for nothing.

The Golden Rule

Money, my friends, is Permission, as Stirling Newberry once explained to me. It is how we determine who gets to do what. He who can create money, rules. This is more subtle than it seems, so read and weep.

It’s Not How Much Money, It’s Who We Give It to and Why

We have almost no significant problems in the world today which we could either not have fixed had we acted soon enough, or that we could not fix or mitigate today, were we to act. We don’t act because we misallocate, on a scale which would put Pyramid-building Pharoahs to shame, our social efforts.

Higher Profits Produce a Worse Society

No one ever told you that, I’m sure. Read and learn.

The Fall of the USSR

The USSR fell in large part because of constant and radical misallocation of resources. This misallocation occurred because those running the economy did not receive accurate feedback. Despite the triumphal cries of the West and the managerial class who pretend to be capitalists, a version of this exact problem is at the root of our current decline, and it would serve us well to understand how and why the USSR fell.

What Privatization Does

Of all the ideological bugaboos of our current age, one of the strongest is the idea that private enterprise is always more efficient and better. It’s not, but that belief is a very profitable to our elites, and understanding how the engine of privatization works is essential to understanding both our current economic collapse and how the fakely-bright economies of the neoliberal era–especially the early neoliberal period of Thatcher and Reagan–were generated.

What Prosperity Is and Isn’t

It is, perhaps, odd to put this article so far down the list, but it’s wonky and important and not very dramatic. Simply enough, what we define as prosperity is not prosperity, which is why we are sick, fat, and unhappy with rates of depression and mental illness and chronic disease which dwarf those of our forbears despite having so much more stuff. Fix everything else, but if we insist on continuing to produce that which makes us sick and unhappy, what we have will not be what we need or want, nor will it be, truly, prosperity worth having.

The Four Principles of Prosperity

Prosperity, at its heart, is an ethical phenomenon, as much as it is anything else. Without the right ethics, the right spirit, it will not last, nor be widespread. If we want a lasting prosperity, which is actually good for us, we will start by reforming our public ethics.

How to Create a Good Internet Economy

The internet is wonderful, but despite all the cries of “Progress, progress!” it has mostly made a few people rich, created a prosperous class of software engineers who often lose their jobs in their 50s, and simultaneously overseen the decline of the prosperity for most people in the developed world. It has not produced the prosperity we hoped it would. Here’s why and how to fix it.

Concluding Remarks

The above is so far from comprehensive as to make me cry, but it’s a start. I do hope that you will read it and come away with a far better idea of why the economy sucks for most people, and a clearer understanding of the fact that it is intended to suck, why it is intended to suck, and how the old, better economy was lost.

(Author’s Note: This was originally published October 6, 2014. I’m putting it back up top, as I have gained many new readers since then.)

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It Is Impossible to Control Corporations Without 90%+ Progressive Tax Rates

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 11/05/2019 - 8:24am in

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class warfare

Probably 95 percent on any income over about a million, 90 percent on anything over 500K, honestly.

Dick Fuld earned about $69.5 million in 2007, the year before Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in Sept. 2008. From 2000 to 2007, he was awarded about $889.5 million and cashed out about $529 million of that before the company went bankrupt.”

Why would Fuld, or any other executive earning millions of dollars a year care if their company went bankrupt?

The man walked away with 529 million dollars for seven years. It’s irrelevant to him that Lehman went bankrupt.

You cannot have a good economy, where executives plan for the future, unless they need their companies to continue to do well.

That means high, progressive tax rates on income, on capital gains, AND on unrealized capital and wealth, with no loops.

Taxes on unrealized capital gains and wealth are necessary because, without them, rich types don’t cash out capital; instead, they use loans to pay their bills. When you’re worth 500 million or even just a 100 million, banks are happy to lend, at under 2 percent.

Now, obviously this doesn’t apply to people who have all their securities in one company, but most rich diversify.

The larger point, however, is just that the rich are too rich, and that people who can get rich in a few years don’t care much if everything crashes after they’re rich.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

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Happiness, Love, and Terrorism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/05/2019 - 7:02am in

So, we’re seeing more attacks by motorists. (edited since the Japanese attack turned out to not be an attack. Woops.)

Many years ago, decades ago, I used to wonder why people didn’t use cars and trucks directly in terrorist attacks, not just as vehicles for bombs. Automobiles are one of the only things government can’t take away from people, because our entire society is set up to require them.

John Taylor Gatto, amusingly, used the fact that everyone had cars and almost never deliberately hit anyone as proof that people could, basically, be trusted.

That’s breaking down.

Look, this is simple enough. Our lives suck ass. Despite Abe’s manipulated stats, living in Japan is hellish, even if you are in the system. If you aren’t in the system, it’s beyond hellish.

As for most of the West, most people haven’t had a raise in 40 years, and while inflation stats say, “Hey, that’s okay, because wages have slightly exceeded inflation,” that’s BS, especially in the US, where prices for everything you MUST have, like food, medicine, and housing have increased far faster than wages.

The culture has also moved increasingly to a surveillance culture. This isn’t just about government (cameras everywhere) or private companies who try to track everything we do and are pretty successful; it’s about us–with parents, for example, turning into helicopter parents who basically never let their children have unsupervised time without adults around.

And if you do try, well the cops and children’s services will take your children away from you.

In workplaces more and more electronic devices track what workers do minute by minute and in some cases, like Amazon warehouses, by seconds.

Meanwhile, we have an ideology which says that if you have money you deserve to have it, and if you don’t, you don’t deserve to have it. So not only do you get to be poor, you get to feel bad because you weren’t enough of a psychopath to climb the corporate ladder. (Yes, yes, a few people get rich without engaging in psychopathic behaviour. Maybe you’re one of them. You are an exception.)

Back in the 70s and even 80s, which I remember well, there were no security guards in most buildings. Most governments did not have blast barriers. You could just walk into legislatures. This is not an exaggeration.

We have created a hell world, then we wonder why people eventually freak out and do hellish things.

Why they take what little power they have and kill.

Oh yes, they shouldn’t, blah, blah, blah. Why you are in just as bad a place as they are and you haven’t, so they shouldn’t, because you are the measure of all things.

But human nature resides on bell curves. There are always going to be some people at the ends of the curves. Move the center 10 percent over and you get a lot more than a 10 percent increase in violence.

Who doesn’t commit violence?

Happy people who love the people around them and are looking forward to their future. Those people only commit violence when they or their loved ones are attacked, or if their government tells them to (the last one is rarely to their credit).

It isn’t more complicated than that. If you create a dystopian surveillance society, raise prices on things people need faster than wages will provide for and tell people they are bad people for not being successful when your society makes it harder and harder to be successful and worse and worse for those who fail, some of them are going to flip out.

Eventually, enough may lose patience and stop believing they are the ones who suck, and cause a revolution instead.

I just hope they kill the right people when the time comes. Because don’t think they won’t kill.

A reminder to any members of the elite reading this: Those who have more power have more responsibility. Your subjects are largely what you made them. You will eventually reap as you have sowed.

Indeed you are already, but so far most of this violence hasn’t hit you.

Don’t expect that to continue. More flip-outs are going to target people with power as time goes on.

Bank on it.

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

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Disney Explains that the Reason Poor Working People Are Poor Is Executives

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/04/2019 - 8:18pm in

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class warfare

One of the most extraordinary threads I’ve read recently is Abigail Disney doing the math on how the Disney corporation could raise the income of its bottom tier workers.

The poor are poor because the rich are rich.

Disney was interviewed a while back, and these two questions and answers are germane to this conversation.

In what ways did your dad change, other than having a jet?Actually, having a jet is a really big deal. If I were queen of the world, I would pass a law against private jets, because they enable you to get around a certain reality. You don’t have to go through an airport terminal, you don’t have to interact, you don’t have to be patient, you don’t have to be uncomfortable. These are the things that remind us we’re human…

How did the jet change your dad? It wasn’t just the plane, but it’s not a small thing when you don’t have to be patient or be around other people. It creates this notion that you’re a little bit better than they are. And for the past 40 years, everything in American culture has been reinforcing that belief. We say, ‘Job creators, entrepreneurs, these are the people who make America great.’ So there are people walking around with substantial wealth who think that they have it because they’re better. It’s fundamental to remember that you’re just a member of the human race, like everybody else, and there’s nothing about your money that makes you better than anyone else. If you don’t know that and you have money, it’s the road to hell, no matter how much stuff you have around you…

See, here’s the thing, as I’ve pointed out in the past. Airport security is awful for one simple reason: No one who matters goes through it. They fly on private jets. On the rare occasion those people go first class, well, first class security is far less unpleasant than what the peons go through.

Any problem that does not affect elites, they do not act on, unless they can make money on it. (In which case, their solution is likely to make things worse.)

This is exacerbated by the fact that elites effectively live in bubbles: They don’t have ordinary people as friends. They don’t identify with the middle class or the poor, and if you don’t identify with someone, their pain doesn’t bother you. (This is why, in wartime, the enemy is demonized. It is also why slave owners mostly believed that blacks were were inferior, and subhuman.)

Iger is a bad, even evil man, for the same reason most high-level American executives are. He could easily make his employees lives better and give up nothing that matters (see Disney on what executives would sacrifice) but they don’t do it, because they don’t care about the pain of their “lessers.”

This is a matter of the structure of modern capitalist society, but it is also an affirmative choice by the executive class. In the 50s and 60s these sorts of executive excesses were both illegal and frowned on ethically. It was felt that earning so much more than regular people was actually immoral.

Later generations of executives didn’t see it that way. They felt that “greed was good,” that they “earned it” and that anyone who didn’t earn that much was a loser who was getting what they deserved. If they deserved more, the market would give it to them!

So they worked very hard to change corporate culture, buy government and change laws. For example, stock buy-backs, which are very good for executives with stock-option bonuses, used to be illegal. Then there’s the reduction in top marginal tax rates, the refusal to enforce antitrust laws and on and on.

It took a lot of work, by a couple generations of US executives and other rich people, to get here.

And now they’re rich, and  a lot of Americans are poor. And the reason other Americans are poor is that the rich are so rich. (Yeah, this isn’t the full argument, but the argument is easy enough: Buy the government and have it represent your class interests and everything else follows easily.)

And Bob Iger is evil, though I’m sure he thinks he’s a good person. But a lot of people are poor so he can be rich, and he and his executives could make their employees’ lives a lot better and give up nothing that matters to their own lives. When the situation is “I can help and I won’t even notice it” and you choose not to, well…

The results of the work I do, like this article, are free, but food isn’t, so if you value my work, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

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Even Ordinary People Pay Bribes to Get Their Kids Into College

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/04/2019 - 4:38pm in

Celebrities like actor Felicity Huffman are in trouble for paying bribes to get their children into college with fake athletic skills and higher test scores than they earned. But class warfare in college admissions is simply a matter of degrees.