Monday, December 19, 2016
Civilization's bad deals
Looking around the world I see some serious class inequalities. Take a place like Dubai. The people at the top live like kings. Underneath them is a small class of people who do okay, but only as long as they don't make waves. Below them is a vast army of guest workers with no rights.
China has an ultra rich elite but they too sit on top of a vast horde of worker drones. There is a middle class who's numbers are large, but not in relationship to the the country's vast population.
India is two countries. The rich technological one firmly in the 21st century and a huge number of peasants with few assets and no future.
Of course, much of the world runs with a tiny Kleptocracy at the top and horrible poverty at the bottom. We used to make fun of those poor countries, but that was when we had a prosperous middle class. Middle class in the US of A isn't what it used to be.
We've seen what happens to civilizations with a vast gap between the top and bottom. Eventually the bottom gives up on supporting the top. That's why Central and South America is full of abandoned cities and temples in the jungles.
One of the big indicators of things going south is when the rich start to wall themselves off from the common people. They also tend to accelerate their gathering in of all wealth. At one time their material success was somewhat tempered by their ability to add value to the society at large. There reaches a tipping point where that is no longer the case. Is the work value of a CEO really worth 3000 times the value of the company's average worker? Probably not.
Hundreds and thousands of years ago big discrepancies between the elite and poor could be maintained by military power, tradition and the myth of the divinity of kings. In today's information age the king as god myth probably won't fly. Tradition has some value yet in some places. (I can't understand why England keeps pet royalty, but that's just me)
In today's world the elite eventually can only maintain their wealth and power by force alone. That my friends, is the beginning of the end. All the secret police in the world could not keep the USSR going. US police riding around in military vehicles isn't going to work here either.
Fortunately, it doesn't have to end that way. Societies can become more egalitarian. Spreading the wealth around creates more wealth. Everyone benefits, including the elite who no longer have to cower in gated communities in fear for their life.
The United States is in a unique position right now. We have the wealthiest President and administration ever. They could easily take the badly trodden historical trail to ever increasing wealth concentration, or they could focus on making the system work for everyone.
If they don't the masses have an unusual opportunity to make their voices heard. If they can't exercise their power as citizens, they can exercise their power as consumers. The businesses of the elite are vulnerable to boycotts, job actions, bad reviews, protests and other actions. Nothing hurts a crook like taking their money away. Just a little something to keep in mind