…despite what conservatives may think, there is no “magical” force that creates shared prosperity and wealth in capitalist societies. Piketty goes on to warn that if we don’t address America’s wealth inequality epidemic quickly, America could end up with the most top-heavy society it’s ever seen. Even worse than the Gilded Age. Conservatives Are Scared Straight by a Frenchman ☀
When any large corporation wields this degree of political influence it drowns out the voices of the rest of us, including small businesses. The danger is greater when such power is wielded by media giants because they can potentially control the marketplace of ideas on which a democracy is based. Robert Reich: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age ☀
There’s nothing “normal” about having a middle class. Having a middle class is a choice that a society has to make, and it’s a choice we need to make again in this generation, if we want to stop the destruction of the remnants of the last generation’s middle class. Despite what you might read in the Wall Street Journal or see on Fox News, capitalism is not an economic system that produces a middle class. In fact, if left to its own devices, capitalism tends towards vast levels of inequality and monopoly. The natural and most stable state of capitalism actually looks a lot like the Victorian England depicted in Charles Dickens’ novels. The Middle Class Is Not ”Normal” ☀
Since practical ability differs from person to person, the majority of such abilities in nearly all societies, is gathered in a minority of men. The concentration of wealth is a natural result of this concentration of ability, and regularly recurs in history… In progressive societies the concentration may reach a point where the strength in number of the many poor rivals the strength of ability in the few rich; then the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealth or revolution redistributing poverty. Will Durant ☀
To many Americans, the U.S. economy of recent years has become a vast casino in which too many decks are stacked and too many dice are loaded. I hear it all the time: The titans of Wall Street made unfathomable amounts gambling with our money, and when their bets went bad in 2008 we had to bail them out. Yet although millions of Americans are still underwater and many remain unemployed, not a single top Wall Street banker has been indicted. In fact, they’re making more money now than ever before. Top hedge-fund managers pocketed more than a billion dollars each last year, and the stock market is higher than it was before the crash. But the typical American home is worth less than before, and most Americans can’t save a thing. CEOs are now earning more than 300 times the pay of the typical worker yet the most workers are earning less, and many are barely holding on. Robert Reich ☀
The evolution of inequality is not a natural process. The massive equalization in the United States between 1941 and 1945 was due to mobilization conducted under strict price controls alongside confiscatory top tax rates. The purpose was to double output without creating wartime millionaires. Conversely, the purpose of supply-side economics after 1980 was (mainly) to enrich the rich. In both cases, policy largely achieved the effect intended. Kapital for the Twenty-First Century? ☀
Now another Frenchman with a panoramic vista—and far more precise evidence—wants us to think anew about the progress of equality and democracy. Though an heir to Tocqueville’s tradition of analytic history, Thomas Piketty has a message that could not be more different: Unless we act, inequality will grow much worse, eventually making a mockery of our democratic institutions. With wealth more and more concentrated, countries racing to cut taxes on capital, and inheritance coming to rival entrepreneurship as a source of riches, a new patrimonial elite may prove as inevitable as Tocqueville once believed democratic equality was. This forecast is based not on speculation but on facts assembled through prodigious research. Piketty’s Triumph ☀
What’s so grim about the unequal past or present? Inequality is not a self-explanatory problem.
We have specific problems: deficient nutrition, deficient housing, deficient education, deficient infrastructure. Each of them is connected to the abstract notion of inequality, but they have obvious solutions. It’s fairly concrete to say that no one should be hungry, homeless, and uneducated.
Reducing the specific actions we should be taking as a society to some vague notion of inequality is a distraction. It’s typical overwrought academic horseshit from people accustomed to failure.
A rather ignorant and/or nihilistic take on inequality.
Contrary to plutocrat framing and a narrow cast focus on only haves and have-nots, inequality wreaks societal ills in much deeper ways. This is borne out by empirical measure.
More resources devoted to gates and guards.
The ignition of an “arms race” is launched, and everybody (in the aggregate) either is compelled to veer in the direction more mimetic desire, and an elevation of “positional goods” over “absolute goods”.
A GNT creation ©2007–2014