Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Monday, January 24, 2011

Moving beyond disaster capitalism

I've been doing a little thinking about the disturbing grab of power and resources, throughout the globe, by plutocrats and their managerial elites. Maybe calling attention to the contrast between obscene wealth and abject poverty isn't the most effective way to reverse this trend. There might be an argument that doesn't require appealing to any sense of human decency and compassion.

Think of the global economy as a pool of water. On one end is attached a spout that constantly drains off into a smaller pool. This smaller pool is what the plutocrats care about the most: it represents their personal wealth. As the water evaporates, it must be replaced. So far, the plutocrats have used their economic power to bully those who live nearby to exhaust their local water supplies to keep the pool replenished. The plutocrats laugh as these unfortunates struggle with each other to capture the small amount of water they allow to trickle down from their own pool of personal wealth. Eventually, disease, war and poverty makes the nearby inhabitants too weak to carry a sufficient amount of water. The plutocrats are forced to use some of the water from their pool to fund military adventures that will coerce more distant people to carry water to the pool. The plutocrats must live with the constant worry that the much larger number of those they oppress will unite against them. They are forced to bribe politicians, media and professional elites to keep the masses in line. Yet at this point an intelligent plutocrat might ask: "Is there an easier way?"

There is an easier way. Agree to let people keep more of the water they bring to the pool. Point out to them that if they can collaborate to construct a much larger pool, all can share in the benefits of the larger pool, even if the plutocrats still enjoy a large surplus. Unleashing human potential to produce a dignified life for all, and even extravagant riches for some, is what a humane and rational capitalist system should do. A system that fosters open competition, and rewards innovation and hard work is fine. That is not what we have in the 21st century. George W. Bush received a M.B.A., yes, but he lost millions of dollars in the private sector. Meritocracy didn't propel him to power in our capitalist world. He, like many other successful kleptocrats, made up for a lack of creative power with a strong urge to abuse power, for the purpose of squeezing the world's wealth into the bank accounts of a favored few. If President Obama wants to save capitalism, he cannot merely help those who already have too much get even more. By helping working people worldwide to prosper, he'll begin to set our world on a course to a sustainable future.

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