Monday, April 30, 2018

The Wealth Cult

Dan Leger writes that, for quite awhile, we have been worshipping at the Altar of Wealth. That worship has been misplaced:

I do admire wealthy people who get there from personal brilliance, creativity and hard work. Kudos to them. But as to envying their bank accounts, what’s the point? The rich and famous get more than enough from society already. They don’t need my admiration, too.
However, the rich do seem to expect admiration as part of their overall entitlement package. It’s how they cement their status as rulers, supported by layers of tax-paying underclasses.
The wealthiest Canadians have been steadily increasing their share of the national wealth since the 1990s and now control much more than ever before. As the rich got vastly richer, the wealth of middle-class and lower-class Canadians barely increased in real terms and the poverty rate remained static.
This is no accident. The fortunate few prosper by influencing public policy to their advantage.

The wealthy have captured our political system. And the story of what has happened south of the border should serve as a cautionary tale:

That is precisely what is happening now. The Donald Trump phenomenon in the U.S. demonstrates both the causes and the effects of this persistent trend. The predatory classes, people like Trump, enrich themselves at cost to literally everyone else.
The lobbyist-laden Trump administration is deregulating consumer protections, downgrading environmental safeguards and undermining labour standards. Then Trump tells gullible Americans it’s good for them.
The result, as the OECD predicted, has been resentment, race-based populism and protectionism, or as Trump calls it, “America First.”

In the end, there is no communicating across the divide. And, when that happens, a nation becomes self destructive.

Image: Quora


The Mound of Sound said...

As I read Leger's piece I noticed a copy of James Galbraith's "The Predator State" on a corner of my desk. I strongly recommend it but that's not my point. What the book reminds me of is that there is plenty of analysis and prescriptive wisdom readily available but how many of us are bothering to read it? Of those who do read it, how many are willing to see the apple cart upset?

I've tried to come to grips with neoliberalism, the failed yet stubbornly prevailing political/economic ideology that facilitated the rise of the predator state and the displacement of democracy by plutocracy. It's a malignant process that seems destined to evolve into a truly corporate state led by Trump or people less flamboyantly like him.

I've paralleled that with an exploration of progressivism which, to me, is more of a philosophy of governance than an ideology. It's no coincidence that progressivism has declined along with the waning of liberal democracy. The first is likely symptomatic of the second.

At the Liberal Party convention, the unwashed pleaded for a reintroduction of progressive principles in their party's platform but the government of the day eschewed the idea. The Liberal Party is now a B-strain of the progress-crushing Conservative Virus.

From everything I've read and from the course of history, I'm left convinced that nothing save a progressive renaissance can remedy this inevitable decline and transformation of liberal democracy.

Liberals imagine themselves progressives without the faintest idea what that means. They think being ever so slightly to the left of the Conservatives entitles them to the laurels of progressivism. Assuming that it still exists almost ensures it will never be restored.

Chris Hedges argues that America is in a "pre-revolutionary" state. I see no sign of it. What I see is public indifference, apathy.

Owen Gray said...

I've just finished reading an article by Frank Rich in New York Magazine, Mound. He documents how elites in both the Republican and Democratic Parties -- and the lawyerly advice of Roy Cohn -- empowered Donald Trump. Trump could have been stopped long ago by so called "progressives." They chose to look the other way.

The article is a really good read.