Inequality Smackdown

I always love it when David Brooks and Paul Krugman tussle on the pages of the New York Times. On Monday, Brooks wrote a column called The Wrong Inequality, arguing that the Occupy Movement was wrong to target the 1% and that the real inequality problem was between the people who didn’t have a college degree and those who did. This is what I call the feeble attempt on the right to change the subject.

So this morning Krugman weighs in with Oligarchy, American Style and without ever mentioning Brooks by name, performs an epic smackdown.

Pundits try to put a more benign face on the phenomenon, claiming that it’s not really the wealthy few versus the rest, it’s the educated versus the less educated.

So what you need to know is that all of these claims are basically attempts to obscure the stark reality: We have a society in which money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people, and in which that concentration of income and wealth threatens to make us a democracy in name only.

He then goes on to point out that the biggest gains are really going to the top .01%, whose incomes have risen more than 400% since Ronald Reagan first started cutting taxes for the wealthy. Of course the rationale for Republican supply side economics from 1980 on has been that cutting taxes on the wealthy encourages investment in the productive industries which in turn fuels employment for all, leading to higher consumption of products in a virtuous circle. But that obviously is not working out to be true and so the Republicans now contend that the investment of all this surplus wealth from both corporate and billionaire balance sheets is not happening because they are “uncertain about the future” under the Obama administration.

This is nonsense. What has happened in the last 30 years is very clear. Because all of the income gains have gone to a very small number of people, the purchasing power of the average household has fallen dramatically. For a while (1989-2006) this was masked by the explosion of consumer credit as people used their home equity like an ATM to keep up with the aspirational lifestyles of the rich and famous. As for the rich and famous, they were not investing in new productive enterprises, they were speculating in the casino we call Wall Street. Investment bankers worked long hours to invent new instruments of speculation as the explosion of derivatives masked the sad truth that the traditional role of finance as the engine of new enterprise faded into the background noise on the trading floor.

As for the one real area of Innovation in our society, the Internet Industries, it has become increasingly obvious that the capital needs of these businesses are relatively low compared to the last boom of industrialization that fueled the post war growth of steel, autos, chemicals and oil. Why else would Microsoft, Apple, Google and IBM each have over $50 Billion in cash sitting in the bank?

We are not going to get out of this stagnation until the gains of our economy are spread a little bit more evenly. The Koch Brothers and their mouthpiece Herman Cain (with Rick Perry in the Green Room) are trying to cut their taxes even further by floating flat tax proposals. I think an election fought on the lines of “Whose side are you on?”–forcing the Republicans to defend their “Oligarchy, America Style”–will be good for our fading democracy.

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31 Responses to Inequality Smackdown

  1. len says:

    Why else would Microsoft, Apple, Google and IBM each have over $50 Billion in cash sitting in the bank?

    Apparently to war on each other. So the question is will they use it to employ people to soldier on for them? Apple employs Chinese to bring us the round edged toys and the reports are they are not altogether enlightened employers. What are the stories of the rest of the Why Should We Care? We Own The Web companies vis a vis helping us out?

    Most of the comments these days are from those of us in the 99. Fine but Jon, thee and thy friends are in the upper part of the curve. So what DO the limousine liberals think the way forward is? We promise not to bite … much.

  2. Fentex says:

    One hears people marking the beginning of the current increase in concentration of wealth since the beginning of Reagans Presidency, but I notice that charts mapping productivity increases and wealth distribution in the U.S begin to diverge around 1974.

    I cannot find a clear example to link to now but I was recently looking at some charts plotted along time of economic productivity and median wealth in the U.S that had steadily tracked upwards for some decades at a similar rate until around 1974 when productivity continued to increase but median wealths rate of increase began to fall off.

    And the rate at which it fell off did not appear to increase much during Reagans Presidency.

    I wonder if the calls for de-regulation in his time were more symptomatic of something that had begun earlier than causative of what was already a trend.

  3. len says:

    It begins with the collapse of Bretton Woods. It accelerates under Reagan.

  4. len says:

    On innovation and culture:

    In New York City, the city took the generators away from the occupiers just as the snow storm rolled in. The occupiers are using exercise bikes to keep fit and charge batteries to run their heaters. Wow.

    On Facebook, they are changing minds and sharing information about the social injustice of the imbalance of wealth. On Google++ they are trying to convince each other that if a world average salary is $1700 a year, the rest of us are rich and should quit whining. Wow.

  5. Amber in Albuquerque says:

    So, with the new gig and all, I’m paying a little more attention to the “tax reform” discussion. Here’s a little tidbit that doesn’t seem to be getting much, if any, airplay: “On business taxes, Romney, Perry, and Cain would cut the corporate tax rate…Both [Romney and Perry] would switch to a territorial tax system so that only income earned with U.S. borders would be subject ot U.S. income tax, instead of the current system, which taxes income worldwide.”

    So, global multi-nationals based in the U.S. would only pay taxes here on what they earn HERE. At a minimum, this seems to invite one more round of gaming the system (should it come to pass obviously and that is not a given). It also would appear to provide more benefits to corporate personhood while further eroding our country’s tax base.

    I haven’t had enough coffee to consider this more fully, anyone else got any thoughts on why this sucks?

  6. Infidel753 says:

    This is what I call the feeble attempt on the right to change the subject.

    Which it certainly is, but also to change the division. 99% vs. 1% is pretty scary to the 1%. They’ll float any idea they can think of to get the 99% divided against each other. Degreed vs. non-degreed, or tax-paying vs. non-tax-paying (even if the statistics about non-tax-paying that were being thrown around are bogus, as we know).

    “Which side are you on” indeed. If the Democrats get the message across halfway effectively as the election gets closer and people start paying attention, next year should be a bigger re-alignment than 2008.

  7. len says:

    Just one Amber: in a world of currency trading being able to move the pots of money increases the value particularly if they avoid taxes on the increase. That is the engine of inequality. That’s why transnationalism has become a kind of cancer for everyone else. What we do about that, I’ve not a clue although I believe corporations are a) not people and b) if they avoid taxes in the country where they claim to be citizens, they are not. I’m sure the more economically educated have a more complicated explanation that make it alright but I’m not looking at the rules, just the results. This many people can’t be in this much hurt and the economic system be alright. Globalism as it currently exists is a recipe for the rich to get richer and the rest to suffer. It’s Guy Fawkes Day. Time for real change.

  8. John Papola says:

    Funny, I thought total incomes have gone up across the board since 1980. I don’t see the mechanism for blaming tax rates on changes in pre-tax income differences. Weird. Add in that inflation calculations seriously underestimate product improvements (see the work of Bruce Meyers) and the data on key consumer goods ownership at all income levels and this narrative about “stagnant” standards of living falls apart.

    And what about the Clinton era? Lower government spending as a share of GDP. Increasing free trade. Welfare reform. Growth and full employment. And yes, they got to take more of it in taxes, but that, again, is AFTER the income creation and growth.

    We can all stand united in opposition to Wall Street becoming 30% of all corporate earnings due to easy money from the Fed, the assumption of bailouts for creditors, regulatory monoculture and arbitrage, etc. There’s plenty of REAL change to be done in the name of fairness there. But the broader attacks ring hollow.

    Also, it’s pretty bizarre to treat tech innovation as if it’s an isolated sector. Computers and communications permeate just about all businesses and have revolutionized all manner of productivity and creativity. We’d surely have even more innovation if our most vital sectors (health, education and energy) were as lightly “regulated” as silicon valley. Sadly, as Peter Thiel has pointed out repeatedly, the agents of stasis and corporatism have turns large segments of our economy into broken cartels in league with the state.

    PS… The rhetoric of “distribution of income” and “national income” sucks. Real incomes aren’t distributed, they’re CREATED through effective production of what other people value. The money is a veil. We barter with each other’s product. That is the source of our income. It is not some national “distribution”. Such top-down views exist only the minds of economists, and specifically, the glorified accountants claiming to be economists that stare at thee ex-post aggregates all day long.

  9. len says:

    Computers and communications permeate just about all businesses and have revolutionized all manner of productivity and creativity.

    Are you sure about that? Where I sit watching first hand, the communications/information era has resulted in the concentration of wealth and products in a hand full of companies who war with each other over standards. Jon touts Apple but Apple has the highest walls to interchange of information in the industry. Microsoft offers good support but in such a fashion as the only means of achieving office integration is to buy most of the tech from Microsoft. Google? They give you the product if you will store your information in their cloud and then your security warranties are effectively none. There companies wage war both subtle and overt on open standards that could contribute to innovation.

    Meanwhile let’s take the simple example of XML. It is a simple technology and easily applied to these problems where industry applies them. What happens? US universities are the world’s worst at teaching this at the skill levels required. So what happens? The tech pubs groups particularly in the MIC are populated by Microsoft stylesheet experts who force the groups to labor for months and years to produce a perfectly styled manual that is then thrown away because the government requires XML deliverables. How do they solve this? Employ ‘Taggers’ who are given a list of tags they neither understand nor can debug. It is a huge drain on productivity and the employment it creates is data entry, not a well-paid career choice.

    And the 475 to one diference in CEO to floor worked pay difference (highest in the world by several orders of magnitude) puts the lie to the notion that we barter with each other’s product. Over the last forty years we have voted for people who serve only the wealthiest and they in turn have altered the tax structures and laws to perpetuate a steady increase in their own incomes and ownership. This is obvious to anyone who looks and only denied by those who are served by that inequality.

    You’re a smart guy Pap, but you are an ideologue committed to the destruction of values because either you can conceive of nothing better and lack the imagination or compassion to affect change, or you are too selfish to care. It really is time to pick a side and be careful because being on the wrong side of history has consequences.

  10. len says:

    And BTW, the music industry announced it is getting out of CD production and pushing all of its products into the cloud thus, the Apple handcuffs on the music industry recreates the same conditions and worse as before the web.

    So now the indies will have to make war on the established creators who have no recourse given their sources of income. Not really a bright outcome for T-Bone and his class of producers who cannot go indy and might want to look at those CDs sitting in Starbucks as losses. Remember, all of us know how to make what the innovation lab made for Jon’s book. It’s really rather easy. Hypermedia is just a link catalog and a set of handlers. So all you have to keep the kids at home is a promise of more income and that requires big hits. Google pays a YouTube partner a dollar per thousand downloads. Not much so they have to tour or work a day job. So at the end of the day, Aretha will have to hump it across the country and any new act will look at what the labels are offering and unless they are really dumb, go elsewhere because better deals can be found in smaller local producers. Market capture only works when as in the case of the office desktops and.or large server farms costs are so great as to preclude other options. Plantations.

  11. John Papola says:

    “You’re a smart guy Pap, but you are an ideologue committed to the destruction of values because either you can conceive of nothing better and lack the imagination or compassion to affect change, or you are too selfish to care. It really is time to pick a side and be careful because being on the wrong side of history has consequences.”

    If you knew a damn thing about me or had a conversation with ANYONE whose ever worked with me or known me for more than a day, you would feel like the biggest asshole on earth for this ad homonym attack.

    I pick the side of voluntary association precisely because I DON’T KNOW what all the solutions are to all the world’s problems and have the humility and respect for others to admit it. The top down liars and crooks who claim otherwise and wish to impose their ideas on all of us are the ones who have replaced imagination with hubris. Of course, the record shows that their actual actions, be it Obama or Bush or their various crony interests, are craven selfishness paid for by the rest of us.

    I lack the imagination to affect change? Are you kidding? I’ve produced two Econ rap videos that are in colleges all over the world. They’ve moved the debate in substantial ways. I’ve done more with that work that my silly vote could ever do. I’m working for my beliefs. If you disagree with them, fine, but saying I lacks compassion or imagination is just bafflingly ignorant in the extreme.

    Don’t call me selfish. Don’t call me anything. You don’t know me. But I know that your position is as childish as this attack on my character. Go on believing in political Santa Claus if you like. Wait by the chimney for his gifts to arrive. Some of us have grown up.

  12. John Papola says:

    ps… could you please define the “sides”, because I don’t even really know what defines you notion of “wrong side of history”. Who/what are these sides?

  13. len says:

    There are many sides. There are those who have access to expensive video production equipment, actors, production costs and so on and those who have access to stripies and cardboard. Today, the latter side is winning the battle of history. Casual observation: emotions about injustice are more powerful than economic polemics when choices are made about outcomes. Sometimes access is not the determinant of affective reach. Sometimes the determinant is the affective style in the context of the times in which those so affected live. Zeitgeist appropriate: the critical meaning of the Outlaw Blues and a historical criticism of popular culture. You can be intensional and devote a life to values and you may even be remembered for that and affect culture long past your own life. Or you can just get lucky and if you act on that, you can make a lot of money for a few people and even create opportunities for a lot of people serendipitously. Woody Guthrie was intensional. Dylan and the Band were lucky.

    Hominen. Homonym is a word that has the same sound and spelling spelling but a different meaning. Your typo almost illustrates the concept. College courses, eh?

  14. John Papola says:

    I have no idea what you’re saying. I have no idea idea how you arrive at your notion of “winning”. What do you mean by it? How? Who is it?

    I see more of the same. More cronyism and bailouts and debt and duplicity.

    Sounds like you’re not really willing to define your so-called “values” nor “side”. That makes it very easy to be a demagogue and pander to tribal sentiments. I don’t find that honorable. I don’t think it presents the values of a good society.

    I think it’s just lazy. If you’re gonna throw down about picking a “side” and calling me out, you sure as hell better be able define what the darn sides actually are.

  15. len says:

    I have no idea what you’re saying.

    I’ll bet you say that to all the protestors. 😉

    As said earlier in another thread, upwards of 70% of America at some point has said they agree with the OWS movement. At the same time, pundits across the dials said the same thing as you are quoted above. Who are the dumb people in the room?

  16. Jon Taplin says:

    John Papola-no one here is proposing top down solutions. All I am saying is that it’s obvious the Supply side economic solutions that Reagan and Bush proposed to eliminate the stagnation of the 1970’s clearly did not work. You can talk all you want about “voluntary association”, but it doesn’t have much to do with the real world of most people’s lives. Tell the kid coming out of college with $50,000 of debt and no job prospects about your “voluntary association”. He will think you are on crack.

  17. len says:

    For a moment, John Papola is angry and confused. He feels he is under attack by forces he doesn’t like or understand. The debate is with a refusal to accept his terms, his values and his formulas. That makes him emotional.

    And in that moment, unwittingly perhaps but without refutation, he gets it. He joins the protest. “It’s the wanting makes the party go on.” Mischief made.

  18. JTMcPhee says:

    “Reefer Madness” got a lot of video play in its day, and it “moved the world,” too. To fire up the “war on drugs,” and related silliness. And brought us, eventually, Voluntary Associations like Corrections Corporation of America, convicts doing slave labor, corporatists lobbying ToughOnCrime ™ legislatures to add felonies to the books, increase the penalties for the minor drug possession crimes, anything to “fill the beds.” And lots more. The Koch Brothers and ALEC are a voluntary association.

    But Pappy, seems to me the folks you play your tunes to, who resonate to the Hayek beat (as reinterpreted by your artistry) and sneer at your dysrepresentation of Keynes, are what are called, well, who actually call themselves, “winners,” the ones with the vast majority of the wealth, people who “make” money, by scams like securities fraud, casino “market” wagering, derivatives, and the activities of the central bank I thought you used to scorn, as opposed to people who “earn” money by, oh, teaching school, or fixing cars, or growing stuff, or digging ore out of murderous mines, or instructing in Yoga, or washing dishes, or my personal favorite since I am one, nursing those who need it without respect to wealth, meaningless shit like that, the stuff that generates the real wealth that all the rest of the froth and bubbles are leveraged off off, the people who have to fill up the economic gas tank again and again after the “voluntary associations” drain it all out for their megayachts and private jets and $300,000 “timepieces.”

    There’s change, for the better, and change, for the worse. Your “voluntary associations” do not, far as I can see, give a shit what “the solutions” are — they are all about maximizing their take, their personal well-being, and they force “solutions” on the rest of us, along with enormous externalities. And they know that their lives will be ones of ease and comfort and enjoyment of that perfect cigar, and they will live them out without fear of consequences or any retribution, because they get to define things (what you do, to win arguments, on the smaller “libertarian” scale) so that what they do is “not illegal,” taking advantage of and cover behind the belief we all need to have that there’s a rule of law that protects all of us, even though that is a patent, transparent fraud, right up there with CDOs and CDSs and all the stuff that Matt Taibbi and a few others have highlighted so trenchantly. Spare us the high dudgeon and sense of affront. It ain’t like this is new ground.

    Speaking of winners, and more of the same stupid same, how about Voluntary Associationalist Dave Brooks, who thinks Mother-fracking is just a gas: Now THERE’s a “solution” for you.

    What else do you do in the back of the limo?

  19. len says:

    In the same month as Steve Jobs died, Dennis Ritchie died. Without Steve Jobs the world would not have iProds and overpriced laptops. Jobs was a hipster who stole ideas and put his names on patents. He brutalized employees. The list goes on but the Mobster Media lionized him. Without Dennis Ritchie, we would not have C, Unix, Windows, text based computing, and a long line of achievements few here would appreciate but without which, few here would have as much, such as that “innovative book” that only plays on one platform. The media ignored the death of Dennis Ritchie who really was an innovator, an inventor and a kind and giving teacher of the art and craft.

    And that is only one of a lot of other reasons people are on the streets stuffing potatoes in the tail pipes. This is one.

  20. John Papola says:


    Len, I was angry about your unreasonable reply, NOT Jon’s post.

  21. John Papola says:

    @Jon Taplin

    “Tell the kid coming out of college with $50,000 of debt and no job prospects about your “voluntary association”. He will think you are on crack.”

    Nobody put a gun to his head on that loan. He should have studied computer science instead of psychology. 😉

    That’s half-joking because, while it’s true, it’s not taking account of the structure problems and policy disasters that are keeping unemployment high. Still, we have a mess of an education situation in the US. K-12 public school sucks. College is being inflated by easy credit. And too many kids are wasting their future money on nonsense meanwhile there are actually many sectors of the economy STARVED for employees.

    I don’t see how driving up marginal tax rates gets at anything in these problems at all. None… unless, of course, you believe that the government is a better allocator of resources. That is where those tax dollars go, Jon. They go to the war machine crony state where they’ll be doled back out to cronies and spent on killing brown people in distant lands with robots.

    There is this nostalgia for the 1950s and 60s from Krugman and, by virtue of your post, yourself, which is truly romanticism over reality. Again, address my core question. How do increased tax rates change pre-tax income levels other than through incentive effects which I presume you wouldm’t accept? And if they DON’T, if today’s income levels are the result of many other factors, which they most certainly are, are you not implicitly expecting government policy changes to move us back toward income levels akin the 50s and 60s?

    Your talk of “purchasing power” and it’s impact on the economy isn’t even something Krugman believes. So what exactly are you talking about?

    Also, are you rejecting the economy of the late nineties? Focusing on unemployment today as if it’s a product of some changes 40 years ago is odd given that we’ve mostly had low unemployment until this giant housing boom and bust and all of the terrible monetary policy and craziness of the past 3 years.

    It just seems like ideological grasping to me, Jon.

  22. len says:

    I know that, Pap. For a moment, you experienced what is actually going on.

  23. Jon Taplin says:

    @John Papola-You try to mask the fact that you are a partisan, but it sneaks out when you blame our current crisis on the policies of “the last three years”. The current revolt of the middle class would have come a lot earlier if it had not been for the Hayek/Friedman acolyte named Alan Greenspan who kept interest rates so low he blew up the housing bubble. Once the average Joe couldn’t use his home as an ATM he suddenly realized that since 1980 he had stood in place while the 1% got a 400% raise. Now reality is staring him in the face and he’s not going to the mall.

    Why can’t you see that your policies are redistributionist–a massive redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the 1%. It’s that simple.

  24. John Papola says:

    @Jon Taplin
    Jon, did you seriously just call Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Fed, a follower of Hayek, author of “the debationalization of money”, enemy of easy money and central banking. Jeez, talk about a muddle.

    Yes, there are bad politicies of the past 30 years from the fed That produced our bubble and thus are the roots of the unemployment due to misallocation of resources. The “Greenspan put” was NOT a Friedman/Hayek creation. It was a bailout culture.

    When I talk about the past 3 years, I’m referring to the massive bailouts of the richest people on earth and the deep, deserved animosity that has produced. This is the bush/Obama bailout and re-inflate wall street nightmare. Obama’s policies have made everything worse. No question. But the bubble at the root of this is not his fault. It’s the fed and the gse’s and the banksters that made billions from thier Ponzi scheme.

    I’ve been talking about the easy money roots of this thing for years, Jon. You’ve come to my side on that point now. I’m glad. So don’t pretend that you don’t remember that. You know that I’m a broader critic of our system than just Obama. Obama is a disaster, but he’s just an extension of the bush bug government scam state.

    None of this is “partisan”. Calling Greenspan a free marketeer is pulled from the partisan rhetoric-over-reality playbill though. Friedman was asked what he’d do if he was nominated to run the Fed. He said he’d quit. That’s the right answer.

    Love ya man. Even when you’re misrepresenting my views.

  25. John Papola says:

    Jon and the group,

    I would really, honest like to hear you response to this article by Sheldon Richman which is as clear and thoughtful a counter to some of what’s in this post as any.

    Sheldon is a tremendous person and strong critic of the current corporatist capitalism. He’s a “left-libertarian”, like myself, not a randoid. I can’t do better in my reply than Sheldon has done here.

  26. JTMcPhee says:

    Rand-om clips from the link to “,” giving us The Facts About Income Inequality:

    “Today low-income people have things the middle class didn’t dream of 40 years ago—and even some things the rich couldn’t have had at any price because they hadn’t been invented yet. And this is not primarily due to consumer debt…” So, the Income Gap is illusory, right? It’s all about relative position… which all the Ben Dovers of the world understand only too well.

    “But here is what we should not do: We should not react as though an actual growing income gap today would indicate a moral flaw in the libertarian desideratum: a social system based on mutuality, consent, and free exchange. Too many market advocates react defensively to the inequality charge—as if someone just insulted their mothers. They seem to be saying, ‘Don’t you dare talk about my beloved economic system that way!'”

    Friend, your gospel according to the ironically named Richman is no counter to what’s being said, and felt, and thought, by the folks who seem to be starting to perceive, rightly in my view, that the species has been suckered into, or willingly embarked on, a journey into a wasteland. With no Jordan River and milk and honey and unblessed tribes to steal land from and enslave on the other side.

    Seems to me that Richman’s assertion is just another apologia for a jiggered system of “voluntary association” that inevitably, apparently, is in the nature of the human beast, when commonwealth is overridden by whatever it is that demands MORE of everything for oneself, delighting in taking life away from others. That article is a nice congeries of all the talking points that talking heads have been able to come up with to justify The Way Things Are, and the acceleration of wealth transfer to the very few.

    I do like the closing bit: “Finally, a word to the OWS protesters: Don’t base your complaint against the current corporatist system on false grounds. There are plenty of legitimate grievances. A straw man will only give observers reason to dismiss you.” This from a guy who says that since the less rich can afford TVs and refrigerators thanks to the current wealth-extraction system, there is no cognizable income inequality from a normative standpoint. Libertarians and their forms of argumentation and obfuscantism know all about straw men, now don’t they? And every other trick in the debate club closet? There is no such thing as a “freed market,” and no salvation in “voluntary association.” There’s a truckload of “empirical evidence” on that point.

    Good luck trying to align yourself with, and draw power from, the People Who Are Finally Occupying. Or with planning to “correct” their “facts” and thinking.

  27. Fentex says:

    That was a very misleading article about being misleading.

    Explaining that statistics is a diffilcult and treacherous topic does not mean that the answer to questions agrees with the explainers position.

    Take that articles reference to income mobility and facts such as many young people move from a lower grouping of earning to a higher grouping. Movement across groups is often used to illustrate arguments about statistics but is fraught with danger.

    Most movement across boundaries of groupings is small movements by people just below, or just above, the thresholds. That the bubbling of ups and downs causes measures to switch in and out of groups often becomes, when lumped into a simple aggregation, an apparently much more impressive motion of groups. When it may very well not be.

    Statistics was the most boring subject I took at University but it’s one every person ought be compelled to study because it’s the topic we are most incapable of naturally comprehending and that plays, along with probability, the greatest part in our world that we must make decisions regarding.

    Distracting arguments aside (and picking on details about how the bottom 80% fluctuates when the topic is the orders of magnitude wealthier 1% is just a distraction) inequality of wealth is a bad thing, and trivial arguments over the exact degree of it are of little import.

    Money is influence and power and an imbalance of power is a bad thing in and of itself as it gives control over to the self interest of the powerful. This has, is and always will be the case.

    I think the general feeling that unites the OWS movement is not one particular opinion about what is wrong in the world. We see a diverse group of people covering a lot of interests standing together. I think what binds them together is the feeling that the game is rigged and decisions of national (and international) import are not being made in good faith but are being made to support the interests of the influential.

    A major purpose of democratic principle is to put all people on a (more, rather than the past inequitable) equal footing regarding their influence of public policy. Giving each of us an equal share in policy rather than having to purchase influence. I think the argument that this ideal has been corrupted in the U.S is the motivator of the OWS protests and is likely true and only to be expected with wealth inequality.

    I think it’s foolish to so unbalance policy as to kill the golden goose that created the tremendous wealth but what do I know about the thinking of billionaires or the unseen pressures their wealth may exert on them? Economics is a force we don’t really understand, it’s not neccessarily true that the destructive self interest leveraged by the wealthiest is entirely under their control.

  28. John Papola says:


    I guess it’s better to have the state centrally plan vital commodities, eh? THAT works… right? Just ask the millions harmed by central food planners in asia:

    Oops. It turns out that people don’t stop acting in their own interests when they work for the government.

  29. len says:

    Graham Nash and David Crosby sang at Liberty Square today in NYC.

    Thank you!!!

    @pap: John, it takes years and years of abuse to provoke a surge of protest as big as what we are seeing. It isn’t coming “out of the earth”. It isn’t Soros. It isn’t keynes or hayek. This is the people speaking loud and clear. This is democracy. This is why we live in America. This is IT. It’s really time to put down the academic economics and get a clue as to what this is about. The change it had to come…. and it has.

  30. JTMcPhee says:

    JP, I guess my experience with the actual ruleoflaw, retail business and government and now the medical business is a lot different than the one you have accumulated – or maybe not, it’s hard to tell. I will go to your “side” to the extent a partial acknowledgment of your definitionally hedged nod to the idea that people often, even usually, maybe even tautologically, act in their own interest. It just seems to me that I knew a lot of people in government, several agencies actually, both state, federal and local, who had this strange notion of “service,” and “governance,” and of the actual utility of thoughtful regulation in keeping “business people,” who way too often pursue THEIR interests along a very different vector, from screwing over large numbers of their fellow humans.

    I prosecuted consumer fraud cases for the State of Illinois, various kinds of enforcement actions including criminal cases under several environmental laws and “regulations” for the US EPA, and a bunch of other silly efforts to rein in greed and force externalities back down the throats of the charming, well-dressed people who sought via their “voluntary associations” to force-feed to the rest of us. I worked the private side for almost eight years, getting a good flavor of how the “business approach” works, and helped manage several retail stores for a national chain. Your little koan, I guess that is what it was supposed to be, sure seems to me to illuminate nothing whatsoever about the relative merits of “government” versus “private interest” behavior, other than that there is missing, from the human spiritual tool set, the fundamental notion of and skills to leverage off the interdependence and cooperation that would be needed for the species to survive much longer.

    We as a species do not carry out on the macro (not economics, but biology) scale the kinds of homeostatic processes and negative-feedback structures and systems that it takes to keep us alive as individuals. Your constant apology and obvious affection for “self-interest” (which as I recall is kind a core tenet of Randianism) is tenacious — one can’t help but wonder, though, if like a lot of libertarians of various flavors I have talked and blabbed with, that affection is more about the kind of self-interest that brings us stuff like the military- and prison-industrial “things,” if you have a definitional problem with “complexes,” and now the rush to dump huge amounts of wealth into stuff like “drill, baby, drill” hyperconsumption, supported by the “voluntary associations” pushing for fracking everywhere and pipelines from the tar sands and all the rest of the extractively profitable and marvelously externalized “mutuality, consent and free exchange,” the way that childish formulation, however dressed up in “adult” suits, always works out.

    I guess leaving it to ADM and such “voluntary associations” to plan the wasting of Midwest topsoil and depletion of aquifers and filling of streams and rivers with silt and “agricultural chemicals,” in “market” ordering and managing of the planting and consumption of food crops and McBurger meat is “better” than having those Asian governments do whatever sins you imply they did, sins which sure do not seem to me to be the gravamen of the actual podcast. Did you bother to read the comments, most of which pretty clearly refute your premise?

    Most folks know that in the end, we are all dead. Many folks take that to give them the green light to fire up the greed machine and maximize their personal pleasure, pretty much free, if they are “successful” enough, from the notion or fear of consequences and retribution. Others have that soft, fruity, easy-to-take-advantage-of notion of silliness like “paying it forward” and working toward the Golden Rule. What’s needed is the Golden Mean, but Mean People are not even a little bit inclined to move toward the middle.

    Nice jump-switch in the bidding, though — always good to flash shiny objects or bright lights in people’s eyes, when pulling off a feat of legerdemain…

  31. len says:

    The kids aren’t fooled.

    A) A coordinated action by the mayors and police across multiple cities against a peaceful lawful assembly.

    B) Refusal to heed a judge’s orders until the judge could be persuaded to ammend those orders.

    C) Coming in force, in the dead of night and forcibly dragging people from their beds (they were sleeping at 1AM)

    D) Willful destruction and confiscation of private property including seizing and destroying books.

    How much more do you need to know to understand this is a police state? Is that what you voted for? Is that what you expect when you give donations to the police brotherhood fund? If so, then kiss the constitution good bye and wake up: you are enslaved, possibly comfortably, but no less by your own consent.

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