Excerpts

“Some inequality in inevitable. If people are going to have the proper incentives to be productive, to work hard, to be inventive… that’s the essence of capitalism and capitalism does generate a lot of good things. Look, the question is not inequality per se. The question is, when does inequality become a problem? How much inequality can we tolerate and still have an economy that’s working for everyone and still have a democracy that’s functioning? Of all developed nations today, the United States has the most unequal distribution of income and wealth by far. And we’re surging towards even greater inequality. One way to look at inequality is to look at the earnings of the people at the top versus the earnings of the typical worker in the middle. The typical male worker in 1978 was making around $48,000, adjusted for inflation, while the average person in the top 1% earned $390,000. Now fast forward, by 2010, the typical male worker earned less than he did then, but the person at the top got twice as much as before. Today, the richest 400 Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together. Now think about it, 400 people together have more wealth that half the population of the United States.” Robert Reich, Inequality for All

An Except from: Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas:

<< There are many ways to make sense of all of this elite concern and predation. One is that elites are doing the best they can. The world is what it is; the system is what it is; the forces of the age are bigger than anyone can resist; the most fortunate are helping. This view may allow that this helpfulness is just a drop in the bucket, but it is something. The slightly more critical view is that this elite-led change is well-meaning but inadequate. It treats symptoms, not root causes; it does not change the fundamentals of what ails us. According to this view, elites are shirking the duty of more meaningful reform.

But there is still another, darker way of judging what goes on when elites put themselves in the vanguard of social change: that it only fails to make things better, but also serves to keep things as they are. After all, it takes the edge off of some of the public’s anger at being excluded from progress. It improves the image of the winners. With its private and voluntary half-measures, it crowds out public solutions that would solve problems for everyone, and do so with or without elite’s blessing. There is no question that the outpouring of elite-led social change in our era does great good and soothes the pain and saves lives. But we should also recall Oscar Wilde’s words about such elite helpfulness being “not a solution” but “an aggravation of the difficulty”. More than a century ago, in an age of churn like our own, he wrote, “Just the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do the most harm are the people who try to do the most good.”

Wilde’s formulation may sound extreme to modern ears. How can there be anything wrong with trying to do good? The answer may be: when the good is an accomplice to even greater, if more invisible, harm. In our era that harm is the concentration of money and power among a small few, who reap from that concentration a near monopoly on the benefits of change. And do-gooding pursued by elites tends not only to leave this concentration untouched, bit actually to shore it up. For when elites assume leadership of social change, they are able to reshape what social change is – above all, to present it as something that should never threaten winners. In an age defined by a chasm between those who have power and those who don’t, elites have spread the idea that people must be helped , but only in market-friendly ways that do not upset fundamental power equations. The society should be changed in ways that do not change the underlying economic system that has allowed the winners to win and fostered many of the problems they seek to solve. The broad fidelity to this law helps make sense of what we observe all around: the powerful fighting to “change the world” in ways that essentially keep it the same, and “giving back” in ways that sustain indefensible distribution of influence, resources, and tools. Is there a better way?…Elites, Gurria writes, have found myriad ways to “change things on the surface so that in practice nothing changes at all.” The people with the most to lose from genuine social change have placed themselves in charge of social change, often with the passive assent of those most in need of it.” >>

Below are some illustrations from Mona Chalabi that are just fucking amazing. Source: Coronavirus is revealing how broken America’s economy really is

American Exceptionalism:

 

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