So What’s Wrong With Inequality?: the Case for Elites

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This website has from the outset seemed dedicated to the proposition that after a conservative interregnum of almost 50 years (1980-2008) the country was returning and would Inevitably return to a more Progressive-New Deal- Great Society mentality, updated for the decades 2 through 5 of the Twenty First Century. And this is certainly true.

 

But we will be less interesting, and just one of dozens of blogging talk-athons about the evils of socio-economic inequality and the selfishness of the rich, if all we did was present thought-clips promoting progressive ideas and agendas. Progressives cannot prevail, their progress will be sluggish—mark or words—if we cannot get inside the heads of the following: conservative Republicans (are their any other kind), Tea Party “Republicans,” Independents wary of too much Obama and Clinton (Hillary And Bill) kinds of changes, and last—but not least—the great 40-50% of adults who do Not regularly vote.

So we offer the following “contrarian” thought bullets using the voice of someone who is making a good case for “enlightened” or realistic elites—elites of wealth and accomplishment and the desire that government and academia not try to tamper with this existing order:

 

  • Item- Historically, from Egyptian, Mesopotamian and early Chinese times, an elite class has governed: this has been the natural order of things; they have held a vastly disproportionate share of their societies’ wealth, they were true one per-centers in every sense of the word

 

  • This elite class has been responsible for much of what we study in history: the building of great temples and public buildings, the forging of ever larger states and empires, the development of agriculture, irrigation, ever larger urban areas, learning and especially writing, making their territories safe for the religions and social practices of their choice…i.e. Pyramids, jungle and desert Temples, fortified towns, cathedrals and castles, great chateaux and manor houses: all of these are elite, one percent undertakings and accomplishments
  • Eventually something that would be called universities and physical infrastructure: roads, bridges, harbors, and facilities to foster trade and exploration would be promoted by this elite class, as would, of course, the arts of warfare: defensive and offensive
  • Many of the wealthiest “elite” Americans, and more so than Europeans or other population “zones—are only a few generations, perhaps only one—away from humble, even poor origins. Yet the Henry Fords and Andrew Carnegies, with no silver spoon-feeding, built great industrial empires and spread wealth and ingenuity+- around in different but impressive ways
  • It can be argued that to a degree outstanding talent and drive have fueled social mobility in America, the “Horatio Alger” phenomenon, though it is more accurate to say that these exceptional cases nourish a kind of cultural narrative that Americans seem to Need to believe in because there are many outstanding examples, and also many examples in which poverty, race, gender, and importantly bad luck or timing Prevented or impeded social mobility in spite of themselves
  • There is a plausible argument that concentrations of capital, from the Pyramids to cathedrals to railroads to Silicon Valley have made possible critical masses of construction, urbanization, exploration, invention and technology, economies of scale – to offer a somewhat random sample of wealth generated social “goods;” and of course it can be argued in all of these cases that the wealth concentrations have been abused, wasteful in many conspicuous consumption (read T. Veblen) cases
  • The flaws in the Iron Law of Oligarchy (Michels) and the tendency of wealth—not always fairly earned—to perpetuate itself, will be teased out in future posts, but we emphasize that the wealthy, the Social Darwinist’s, the “aristocrats or plutocrats” depending on your point of view have some compelling points to make, and these points must be taken seriously… Marx himself stood in awe of  “just pre-Gilded Age capitalism” as the most powerful social force of history to that time (the 1840’s to 1870’s) and then went on to critique it in devastating fashion, focusing partly on the cost to the working classes, who did not rise up—at least in the way he predicted… So we end with recognition of the considerable accomplishments of elites and then capitalist elites, and we will want to fast forward to the 21st Century and examine both the rationale for concentrations of wealth, for “neo-laissez faire”, and the considerable costs to the poor and middle classes and the unique Dysfunctions of many forms of inequality

ALSO SEE “THE RICH SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH” Atlantic Monthly, June 2014

p 36    ATLANTIC HOW THE RICH SHALL

 

 

PREDICTIONS FOR AMERICAN POLITICS 2030

2030logoPREDICTIONS FOR AMERICAN POLITICS 2030

 

It is dangerous to make predictions about American politics a few years in advance, about American society and economy and culture, as well. It is doubly dangerous to do it 15 years in advance. Yet, we will attempt to picture in bullet form, some broad trends we see coming by 2030 (note that one of the blog’s major projects is to construct a book which forecasts a gradual but inevitable return to progressive politics in America: 2013-2040, or, if you like, starting with the Clinton period, 1990-2040.

Even the Republican Bush interlude at least began with and featured fairly progressive (my recent republican standards) programs in some areas: an expensive prescription entitlement for Medicare, extensive foreign aid increases to combat AIDS, etc. “Compassionate Conservatism.” The theme came undone almost as soon as Bush took office, in no small part because of the 9/11 Catastrophe, but it is true that no Far Right Conservative has been or is likely to be elected President of the United States. Even a relatively moderate conservative Republican like Romney was soundly beaten in 2012, as had a Relative moderate, McCain, been trounced in 2008.

 

On the risks of prediction: Anyone who in 1965—the midst of the Civil Rights and Great Society movements, Medicare etc.– had predicted that in 15 years, a doctrinaire far right (for that time!, not by today’s standards), Ronald Reagan, would be elected would have been seriously questioned. That such a movement to the right would be seismic, and Lasting (at least until Clinton in 1993), would have been even more remarkable. The closest serious writer predicting such a movement, or at least the best known one, would have been Kevin Phillips, with his Emerging Republican Majority. But this book was not actually published until 1969, after the Democrats were defeated, in effect, by a conservative 1968 presidential vote that gave Richard Nixon a narrow victory, but a Truly conservative third party candidate, George Wallace, over 12% of the vote.

First we will lay out some landmark changes that will have occurred in American politics and society, by 2030, with only a brief, and mostly undocumented rationale fore these changes. (one of the nice things about ‘forecasting the future” is that you do not have to cite and footnote as meticulously!). In the following predictions, which we will expand and enlarge in subsequent articles, the basic “reform” is italicized in the first sentence, and developed a bit further after that.

 

PREDICTION ONE:  Healthcare will have been folded in the national political psyche for long enough (15+ years) that people will wonder what the controversy was about. Costs will have been brought down and benefits enjoyed by Democrats and Republicans alike. The still and always potent conservative money machines will have moved on to other issues, (slightly) less immediate ones, such as climate change. Odds are even that a single payer system will have been introduced or that a form of Medicare will be extended to the entire population. A certain segment of the population will be able to pay for healthcare out of pocket, but a small segment indeed. These will be catered to by boutique physicians with excellent, personalized and overpriced care, not unlike today. A valid question is: where will the money come from (?) for care expanded not only for more medical services, and more people, but more people because a larger percentage of the population will be “gray”—in the 65 yr. and older bracket. Some of the potential “dis”-economies discussed, e.g., in the Time Magazine March 12, 2013 issue (e.g. vastly overpriced in-hospital items like simple bandages and aspirin) will be modified and preventative medicine will begin to foster a healthier population through a variety of incentives. Economies in national defense will yield more funds, even if the U.S. “world mission” has not been substantially reduced. Energy and food waste costs will also begin to drop.

 

PREDICTION TWOStemming from the above, foreign policy doctrines like American exceptionalism and humanitarian in intervention are hard to predict, but it is safe to assume that in the next 15 years the fraying national infrastructure, urban decay, especially affecting the quality of public schools, income in equality leading to a “dual economy”, will be modified by incremental measures to produce a leaner, “meaner” military. As with prediction number one, this will only represent and acceleration of trends now in their infancy but underway.

 

PREDICTION THREETaxation will never reach 1950s-1960s levels, but taxes will cease to be a dirty word, the American tradition of pay as you go will come back in to style, modestly at first, and the Grover Norquists and Americans for Tax Reform will be less influential, more marginalized.  This simply equals moderately higher taxes. The simple and often asked poll question variants of “would you be willing to pay a small amount more in taxes for certain improved public services?” will be answered more in the affirmative.

 

PREDICTION FOUR: Supreme Court-  The morbid reality is that Justices Scalia and Kennedy will be 92 in 2030. If they have not died or retired, and our predictions about presidential and national more progressive politics come true, they will be very close to leaving the scene. They will be replaced by more liberal (especially in the case of Scalia) people more on the model of Sotomajor than some others. The equally important downside is that Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, moderates, will be 95 and 90, respectively, and will probably be replaced by people of similar views. Summing up, the court should move modestly to the left, all told, but this depends on a one or two term Conservative NOT being elected president in 2016, 2020, and 2024. Trends point in that direction.