Thu Aug 22nd, 2013 at 09:25:27 AM EST
A familiar idea here on ET is that the 1% crowd is pushing for the creation of a neo-feudal order, waging a class war of the very richest versus everyone else in which they progressively destroy every ounce of economic and social security and independence held by those outside their circle, and neuter the ability of the state to step in and protect individuals from economic exploitation. This is simply the end result of a push to maximize relative status.
front-paged by afew
The plan of attack seems to be something like this.
1 - Ensure that access to the basics of human sustenance is entirely contingent upon the possession of money. Food, shelter, health, and education must all be paid for by the individual, with no outside help available.
2 - Ensure that money can only be obtained by signing up for short-term, at-will employment contracts.
3 - Strategically manage levels of investment and capital availability so that labor is never scarce.
3 - Offer debt bondage as a way to cover the gaps.
4 - Enjoy the race to the bottom.
Gradual reformism and consensus politics has its time and place, but the present moment is neither that time nor that place. With the forces of capital going all-in on neo-feudalism, it's only appropriate that they be opposed with a similar level of total commitment, and that the left adopt a maximal agenda that aims to break their power in every sphere, forever.
The complete destruction of the political and social power of the reigning elites would, of course, be a revolutionary moment, and should it be completed through the democratic process and without civil war, it would be unprecedented. However, one might as well dream big.
The way I see it, such an agenda would need to have three major prongs.
1 - Break the political power of the wealthy elite, so that other reforms can take place. The system of electoral democracy is incredibly potent, as it grants the masses the formal power to control the laws and the government. As it works at the moment, the ability of the elite to control information and to control discourse has allowed them to control elections somewhat reliably. This needs to change before anything else becomes possible. As I see it, the first key steps here is to end modern bribery, in the forms of the public/private revolving door, the wingnut welfare network, and the private funding of political campaigns. The second step would be to end the current domination of the media by a handful of rightwing millionaires and their pet media conglomerates. While I have absolutely no clue how one could effectively stop bribery, media reform is at least conceptually simple. Strict ownership caps, a reform of the airwave allocation process, strong rules on network neutrality and network openness, and funding for locally-operated media outlets oughta take care of most of it.
2 - Break the power of capital to use its economic power to punish states and individuals who do not play by its preferred rules. In the current system, organized capital can bully states by threatening a capital strike - withdrawal of jobs and investments. Capital can bully workers with the threat of mass unemployment. Here on ET, we spend a lot of time discussing ways that the state could make this impossible. First off, government can create money via the treasury, and allocate it via fiscal policy to directly counteract any such capital strikes. Second, it can use regulation to more or less destroy the financial sector, as it exists today. One of the reasons Capital can wield the power it does is its ability to counterfeit money via fraudulent derivatives, and to then multiply the economic power of this counterfeit money via leverage. This has allowed for the wholesale enslavement of the productive sectors of the economy, and whole nation states, via debt. End this, and the natural action of the numerous and energetic peoples of the world will spread the wealth around via the fairly ordinary processes of small-scale capitalism. Finally, a comprehensive social safety net, paired with the active creation of jobs by the government, can break the power of Capital to degrade and exploit ordinary citizens. Basic access to services, the ready availability of basic employment, and the public provision and management of savings and retirement, will allow the ordinary individual freedom from the forces that wish to enslave them.
3 - Break the corporate form and the generational transfer of large estates. Large corporations are both immensely rich, sociopathic in behavior, and immortal. They engage in incredibly destructive activities, protect their investors and managers from any effective prosecution or loss, and keep their accumulated gains forever. Why is this a good thing? Obviously, some modern industries need certain economies of scale to operate properly. I'm not really arguing against size, so much, as I am against the complete freedom from any sort of responsibility that the modern corporate form allows. I am also against its immortality, and against the immortality of any grouping of accumulated wealth and assets. Inherited wealth breeds destructive mediocrity, and any activity that truly demands inter-generational continuity should be managed and controlled via the democratic process anyway. Return to owner management and owner liability, force a transfer of ownership or a breakup of assets upon the owner's death, and prohibit the inter-generational transfer of wealth. A proper social safety net means that individuals who start with nothing will still have a reasonable chance of making the most of their talents and abilities in the world, and the absence of generous inheritances will force those lucky children of the successful to make their own way in the world, rather than coasting on the wealth of the past. Nobody should be entitled to a life of idle leisure.
Pie in the sky dreaming, obviously, but dreaming is free.