Monday, January 17, 2011

An Assassination’s Long Shadow

Patrice Lumumba, independence leader of the Congo was assassinated 50 years ago. Adam Hochschild writes in the New York Times of the profound, long-term consequences of the western-backed assassination and the subsequent dictatorship and civil war.
Lumumba’s violent end foreshadowed today’s American practice of “extraordinary rendition.”

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Rise of the New Global Elite

Chrystia Freeland writes in January's Atlantic that The Rise of the New Global Elite [print] is a consequence of technology and globalization and is resulting in growing income inequality in developing and established economies.

The new elites are different in some ways from the aristocrats of the last gilded age. They are more global and more likely to be hard working careerists than inheritors of great wealth.

...a defining quality of the current crop of plutocrats is that they are the “working rich.” ... They are not aristocrats, by and large, but rather economic meritocrats, preoccupied not merely with consuming wealth but with creating it. ... another defining characteristic of today’s plutocrats: they are forming a global community, and their ties to one another are increasingly closer than their ties to hoi polloi back home.

In America, many in the elite hold the opinion that the hollowing-out of the American middle class doesn't really matter. “...if the transformation of the world economy lifts four people in China and India out of poverty and into the middle class, and meanwhile means one American drops out of the middle class, that’s not such a bad trade,”

America’s business elites appear so removed from the continuing travails of the U.S. workforce and economy because the global “nation” in which they increasingly live and work is doing fine.

This isolation may end up their undoing. Instead of being grateful for the hundreds of billions in bailouts and hundreds of billions more in hidden subsidies by the Fed, the elites fret about the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and complain of Obama's anti-business attitude.

In America, the traditional remedy to class warfare has been social mobility. But, as mobility breaks down, the safety valve no longer works.

The real threat facing the super-elite [is] the possibility that inchoate public rage could cohere into a more concrete populist agenda.

...which pretty much describes what happened in Venezuela in the 90's.

The lesson of history is that, in the long run, super-elites have two ways to survive: by suppressing dissent or by sharing their wealth. It is obvious which of these would be the better outcome for America, and the world. Let us hope the plutocrats aren’t already too isolated to recognize this.

On the other hand, Felix Salmon responds...

The inchoate anger of the masses shows no sign of cohering into anything at all... The Tea Party, which is the closest thing we have to a populist revolt, is bought and paid for by plutocrats.


A political economy

A recent piece in the Economist ( A new anthology of essays reconsiders Thomas Piketty’s “Capital” , May 20, 2107) ends with these words: &q...