I’m as nonviolent as they come. So, too, I presume, Hamilton Nolan, who wrote this piece. But that’s why everyone who shares a desire for peace and civility — for working out our problems with reason and good will and a willingness to listen — should read it.
It leads with a photo of a blazing limousine.
Do you think that being asked to leave a restaurant, or having your meal interrupted, or being called by the public is bad? My fascism-enabling friends, this is only the beginning.
One thing that people who wield great power often fail to viscerally understand is what it feels like to have power wielded against you. This imbalance is the source of many of the most monstrous decisions that get made by powerful people and institutions. The people who start the wars do not have bombs dropped on their houses. The people who pass the laws that incarcerate others never have to face the full force of the prison system themselves. The people who design the economic system that inflicts poverty on millions are themselves rich. This sort of insulation from the real world consequences of political and economic decisions makes it very easy for powerful people to approve of things happening to the rest of us that they would never, ever tolerate themselves. No health insurance CEO would watch his child die due to their inability to afford quality health care. . . .
A well-designed political system would have a built-in feedback system to ensure that those making the decisions are also subject to the consequences of those decisions. Minor versions of this are floated every now and then: Put Congress on Obamacare! Pay elected officials what their average constituents earn! But in aggregate, of course, we have nothing like this feedback mechanism in America. The titans of money congregate on Wall Street and the titans of government congregate in DC and they all make decisions that often disenfranchise and impoverish and frustrate the dreams of people far away, and then they go to nice restaurants and go home to nice houses and have nice, well-paid careers for decades to come. That is our system. There is little incentive for those who work within that system to change it in a way that might create the sort of negative feedback that can be unpleasant. Therefore it is the job of the public to do just that. Doing so is, in fact, a public service. It promotes good government. . . .
My politics are a click to the center of Hamilton’s. I’m old. I’m a Harvard MBA. But read his argument.
It’s elicited death threats from the right. But what do you think?
And maybe this is a good time to re-link to to Nick Hanauer’s Beware, Fellow Plutocrats, The Pitchforks Are Coming.
You probably don’t know me, but I am one of those .01 percenters that you hear about and read about, and I am by any reasonable definition a plutocrat. And tonight, what I would like to do is speak directly to other plutocrats, to my people, because it feels like it’s time for us all to have a chat. Like most plutocrats, I too am a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, cofounded or funded over 30 companies across a range of industries. I was the first non-family investor in Amazon.com. I cofounded a company called aQuantive that we sold to Microsoft for 6.4 billion dollars. My friends and I, we own a bank.
I tell you this to show that my life is like most plutocrats. I have a broad perspective on capitalism and business, and I have been rewarded obscenely for that with a life that most of you all can’t even imagine: multiple homes, a yacht, my own plane, etc., etc., etc. But let’s be honest: I am not the smartest person you’ve ever met. I am certainly not the hardest working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all. I can’t write a word of code. Truly, my success is the consequence of spectacular luck, of birth, of circumstance and of timing. But I am actually pretty good at a couple of things. One, I have an unusually high tolerance for risk, and the other is I have a good sense, a good intuition about what will happen in the future, and I think that that intuition about the future is the essence of good entrepreneurship.
So what do I see in our future today, you ask? I see pitchforks, as in angry mobs with pitchforks, because while people like us plutocrats are living beyond the dreams of avarice, the other 99 percent of our fellow citizens are falling farther and farther behind. . . .
. . . So I have a message for my fellow plutocrats and zillionaires and for anyone who lives in a gated bubble world: Wake up. Wake up. It cannot last. Because if we do not do something to fix the glaring economic inequities in our society, the pitchforks will come for us, for no free and open society can long sustain this kind of rising economic inequality. It has never happened. There are no examples. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state or an uprising. The pitchforks will come for us if we do not address this. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. And it will be terrible when they come for everyone, but particularly for people like us plutocrats.
There’s more. Read it all. Knowing that he gave this TED talk long before Trump and Putin worked their magic. Long before the Republicans passed yet another massive tax cut for the rich and powerful.
And read Hamilton Nolan’s warning, as well. He’s no plutocrat, but he’s on the same page.
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Money often costs too much.~Ralph Waldo Emerson
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