16 votes

The decade we ate the rich

34 comments

  1. [30]
    JXM
    Link
    We don't need billionaires. To me, their a net negative on society. Bill Gates has done some amazing charity work, but it doesn't make up for the horrible things done by all of the other...

    We don't need billionaires. To me, their a net negative on society. Bill Gates has done some amazing charity work, but it doesn't make up for the horrible things done by all of the other billionaires of the world. No one needs that much money.

    I lean more towards the side of the argument that every billionaire is a policy failure

    That's how I view it. The billions of dollars has to come from somewhere. Most often it comes at the cost of the people who work for a billionaire.

    24 votes
    1. [27]
      Grawlix
      Link Parent
      Yep, it's the problem of surplus value. An employer only makes money if they pay a worker less than the value they generate, and keep the rest. If you generate value for your company, that means...

      Yep, it's the problem of surplus value. An employer only makes money if they pay a worker less than the value they generate, and keep the rest. If you generate value for your company, that means your company is profiting by paying you less than you're worth.

      16 votes
      1. [26]
        papasquat
        Link Parent
        What's the solution other than centrally planned, state owned economies with all the inefficiencies that come with that though? If you mandate that all organizations must be equally owned by all...

        What's the solution other than centrally planned, state owned economies with all the inefficiencies that come with that though?
        If you mandate that all organizations must be equally owned by all of the workers at those organizations which I've heard as suggestions from democratic socialist types, you heavily disincentivize entrepreneurship, leading to stagnation and decay.

        Aggressive income and capital gain taxes with higher and steeper brackets seem like the best option to me, but of course, there would still be billionaires under such a policy, just fewer of them. Many of those rich folks will shelter their incomes overseas or expatriate entirely, but you would at least capture most of them. That doesn't seem to jive with most leftists though, who view the very idea of rich people as the epitome of injustice. I don't think that's a realistic and practical viewpoint by which to run a society though.

        4 votes
        1. [9]
          MimicSquid
          Link Parent
          Looking at the success of co-op companies, equal ownership does not prevent entrepreneurship.

          Looking at the success of co-op companies, equal ownership does not prevent entrepreneurship.

          16 votes
          1. [8]
            papasquat
            Link Parent
            Note the rarity of successful co-ops vs privately owned businesses though. There are a handful people who are willing to start a company and completely share all of the profits of that company...

            Note the rarity of successful co-ops vs privately owned businesses though. There are a handful people who are willing to start a company and completely share all of the profits of that company despite being the ones taking on the initial risk and the hard work of making the business profitable, and who are talented and hardworking enough to make that company succeed, but there aren't that many.

            2 votes
            1. [7]
              MimicSquid
              Link Parent
              There are a number of institutional roadblocks to forming co-ops. Among them: There is lesser access to the capital needed to start a business in part because banks are less likely to provide a...

              There are a number of institutional roadblocks to forming co-ops. Among them:

              • There is lesser access to the capital needed to start a business in part because banks are less likely to provide a loan to a new business in a situation where there isn't a single person willing to provide a personal guarantee.
              • Absent the general knowledge or educational support regarding the legal structures and customs common to a co-op, it's harder to start one as compared to a business where it's easier to get advice and wisdom from friends and professionals.

              You can't just say that they're rarer and thus less efficient/successful. There are many factors that go into how and why people start businesses.

              12 votes
              1. [6]
                papasquat
                Link Parent
                I'm not saying they're rarer because they're less efficient or less successful. I'm saying they're rarer because most people take on the risk of starting a business because of the promise of a...

                I'm not saying they're rarer because they're less efficient or less successful. I'm saying they're rarer because most people take on the risk of starting a business because of the promise of a potential huge monetary reward for doing so.

                1 vote
                1. [5]
                  MimicSquid
                  Link Parent
                  That's not my experience at all. In my job where I directly work with the people who found and run small businesses as my primary clients, they generally founded their business because they wanted...

                  That's not my experience at all. In my job where I directly work with the people who found and run small businesses as my primary clients, they generally founded their business because they wanted more control over their work. Basically no one outside of the tech industry dreams that they'll be rich because they started a business; it's generally a money losing endeavor for years. But it's their money-losing endeavor.

                  12 votes
                  1. [4]
                    chkiss
                    Link Parent
                    52% of all American employees work for small businesses. Do you have any articles saying that most of those companies are unprofitable? I would definitely want to see data to back that up.

                    52% of all American employees work for small businesses. Do you have any articles saying that most of those companies are unprofitable? I would definitely want to see data to back that up.

                    2 votes
                    1. [3]
                      MimicSquid
                      Link Parent
                      Let me clarify: even for small businesses, for the the first 3-5 years the owner is not likely to be making as much money as they did as an employee. They'll be working harder for less pay. I'm...

                      Let me clarify: even for small businesses, for the the first 3-5 years the owner is not likely to be making as much money as they did as an employee. They'll be working harder for less pay. I'm not saying that all small businesses lose money (setting aside the fact that in the US a "small business" is up to 500 employees and $7.5 million in annual revenues ), but certainly new businesses are mostly money losing enterprises. Only 50% of businesses last 5 years. That wouldn't be the case if they were all making plenty of money right out of the gate.

                      11 votes
                      1. [2]
                        chkiss
                        Link Parent
                        Thanks for replying! I definitely agree that most aren't making easy money out of the gate. Could you explain some of the data in that BLS link for me? How are there more surviving establishments...

                        Thanks for replying! I definitely agree that most aren't making easy money out of the gate.

                        Could you explain some of the data in that BLS link for me? How are there more surviving establishments form 1994 than any year since then? It doesn't look like that data is representing a sample of businesses that have been tracked since their opening that year, but I can't figure out what else that second column could be representing, intuitively. "Survival rates since birth" really makes no sense to me.

                        1. MimicSquid
                          Link Parent
                          Ok, so the first grid is for businesses that were founded between Q2 1993 and Q1 1994. Within that grid, the first column is for the year, the second column is the total number of businesses that...

                          Ok, so the first grid is for businesses that were founded between Q2 1993 and Q1 1994. Within that grid, the first column is for the year, the second column is the total number of businesses that survived until that year, so as of March 2019, there were only 94,391 businesses left that had been founded in 1993/94.

                          The Survival Rates since birth shows the percentage of businesses that were founded in 1993/94 that were still in existence in the year indicated in the first column. So of businesses founded in 1993/94, 60.6% were left 4 years later in 1997, 30.3% were left 12 years later in 2006, and only 16.6% were left 25 years later in 2019.

                          Does that help? If you have more questions on how to read the data I'm glad to answer more.

                          3 votes
        2. [7]
          PapaNachos
          Link Parent
          The question is what do business owners and entrepreneurs actually do. If you're talking about actually managing a company, that's a job that they should be appropriately* paid for. They're...

          The question is what do business owners and entrepreneurs actually do. If you're talking about actually managing a company, that's a job that they should be appropriately* paid for. They're working.

          But if you're talking about them making money because they spent a bunch of money so now they own the company forever, that needs to end. Having money isn't some irreplaceable skill that only business geniuses have. It's literally something you can just be born with if you're lucky enough. So it's something that we as a society can replace.

          *Appropriate pay for managing a business is highly debatable. But if management are solely responsible for deciding how all workers are compensated, don't be surprised if management decides they should get paid the most.

          12 votes
          1. [6]
            papasquat
            Link Parent
            It's easy to say that without having to come up with a replacement. People own those companies because they started or bought them. If you remove the ability for the people who start or buy...

            But if you're talking about them making money because they spent a bunch of money so now they own the company forever, that needs to end

            It's easy to say that without having to come up with a replacement. People own those companies because they started or bought them. If you remove the ability for the people who start or buy companies to own those companies, the incentive for starting/buying companies mostly disappears. Why spend a ton of money and time busting your ass to make a successful business when you can just work for someone else and collect a paycheck instead?
            There would be some people starting businesses for the challenge and out of the goodness of their hearts, but that's not enough for most people; they start businesses in the hopes that eventually they will reap the fruits of their labor. Without new businesses being formed, innovation and actual solutions to very real problems cease to be found. There needs to be a way to address that.

            1. [5]
              PapaNachos
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              The problem isn't that they're reaping the fruits of their own labor. The problem is that the way business hierarchies work allows whoever is making decisions to reap the benefits of everyone...

              The problem isn't that they're reaping the fruits of their own labor. The problem is that the way business hierarchies work allows whoever is making decisions to reap the benefits of everyone else's labor.

              Under our current structure most people can only found a business if they already have the ability to work without a paycheck, at least until things get off the ground. That means anyone working paycheck to paycheck is basically disqualified, before they even get started.

              If you want to start thinking of replacements, just imagine what a more just society could look like and then think about how we might get there. What if the standard way a business operated was based on a loan from a bank or government. Once the loan was paid off, that initial lender is 100% out and the business is completely controlled (though not necessarily equally) by the workers. Newly hired workers will get a share in the company based on their skill, the difficulty of the tasks they're performing and whatever other factors the workers decide are important. That seems like a great solution to me. And I see no reason it couldn't be how our society works aside from the fact that 1)There's a ton of inertia in how we do things now and 2)Greed.

              I'm sure this example could be improved, I just used my imagination for a few minutes to think about how our world could be better. What would a more just society look like to you? And are there any technical obstacles stopping it from being a reality? Or are all the obstacles simply the result of choices we as a society have made. If so, those choices can be changed, if we, as a society, choose to.

              Right now those choices mean that whoever starts a company for the most part gets to call 'dibs' and make all the important decisions and reap nearly all the benefits. If a company has a great quarter, the boss gains the benefits. If new tools increase production 3x, the boss gains the benefits. If I automate my own job and my boss finds out, I get fired and my boss benefits unless I get extremely lucky. And if the company has financial trouble, you bet your ass it's the worker's that get fired. Why is any of that a good thing?

              And do you really think workers wouldn't want to benefit directly from their own hard work and innovation? I would bet that innovation, engagement, productivity, and morale would all dramatically improve if workers saw the fruits of their labor directly.

              If given the choice between drawing a salary and getting paid proportionally to the value I generate I would take the proportional pay in a heart beat. But I don't have that choice without starting my own company. Which gets back to the original question of why workers can't just get paid proportionally to the value they generate? Many people see that as a radical idea, but IMO it absolutely shouldn't be.

              16 votes
              1. [4]
                papasquat
                Link Parent
                I think funding for entrepreneurs should be somewhat subsidized by the government, but the example you gave doesn't make much sense. Why would anyone start a business, even if funding is provided...

                I think funding for entrepreneurs should be somewhat subsidized by the government, but the example you gave doesn't make much sense. Why would anyone start a business, even if funding is provided to them, if once they were successful, it was taken away from them?

                Speaking as someone who has started businesses, it sucks. It's hard, hard work, grueling, thankless hours, and no time off because being your own boss means that you don't have to give yourself breaks, and if you slack off, the thing won't work. I don't think most people would sign up for that if it meant that as soon as they saw the light at the end of that tunnel, and the business is running smoothly, it's taken away from them. What would be the point? Just get a job working 9-5 like everyone else.

                It's nice to think about alternative economic systems, but so many of these ideas take fairness and morality into account, while completely ignoring real people's motives. Generally, people will take the easier of two choices unless the harder one promises some reward, because why wouldn't you?
                This stuff can't work unless people's profit motives are taken into consideration. There are exceptions, but people by and large want to do the least work possible with the most reward and the least risk. Saying "everyone should make the same amount of money" is not a realistic idea unless you take into account those profit motives.

                As for your last point, people generally are paid proportionally to the value they generate. A lead software developer on a billion dollar project will get paid a lot more than a janitor who fills 10 trash bags on a shift. A salesman who makes millions per year in sales will make a lot more than a guy who washes 40 windows on a shift. If you're talking about your compensation being pegged directly to a company's performance, that also exists in a lot of professional careers in the form of stock options and bonuses.

                5 votes
                1. [2]
                  PapaNachos
                  Link Parent
                  I very clearly said that actually doing work should be rewarded. Getting a business started is work. Managing employees is work. "Grueling, thankless hours" are work. Owning something is not work....

                  I very clearly said that actually doing work should be rewarded. Getting a business started is work. Managing employees is work. "Grueling, thankless hours" are work. Owning something is not work.

                  In my example I never suggested that you take everything from someone who founds a company. I suggested that everyone who works at a company should have stake in it. If me and my friend form a company and a month later hire 3 people. If those 3 people put in as many hours as me. If those 3 people are as smart as me and work as hard as me. If those 3 people stick with it for as long as I do. It's hard for me to argue I should get paid 10x (far, far more for bigger companies) as much as them just because I'm the boss. They should get a proportional share.

                  You keep talking about people needing a profit motive. But then only applying it to founders and investors. Why shouldn't workers (people doing work, see first paragraph) be the beneficiaries of that profit motive? What makes the owner of something uniquely able to be motivated by money in a way that us mere workers can't possibly understand? I'm literally suggesting giving a profit motive to everyone and your argument is that won't work because it doesn't give people a profit motive.

                  I also never suggested all work should be paid equally. In fact, I literally suggested the opposite. I have repeatedly said that workers (again, see first paragraph) should be rewarded proportionally to the work they do and the value they create. And I also said that management has all the leverage in those payment decisions.

                  Regarding stock options and bonuses, those are a good thing. Most workers don't get access to those. Or if they do, they're not even close to making up the difference between what said workers make and what they 'should' make

                  14 votes
                  1. papasquat
                    Link Parent
                    Focusing on founders is necessary because new companies are necessary. Everyone can't be a worker, because then new companies would never exist, and we would just stagnate until the eventual...

                    Focusing on founders is necessary because new companies are necessary. Everyone can't be a worker, because then new companies would never exist, and we would just stagnate until the eventual consumption of all natural resources. The profit motives of workers are almost always taken into consideration in the proposition of new economic systems: you work because you either need money to feed yourself in a market driven system, or because luxury goods are more directly pegged to work in some way in a centrally planned system (or not working is punished in some way).

                    The profit motives that need to be considered are those of entrepreneurs. Why take on additional risk and work? That's the question that needs to be answered in any economic system. In a capitalist, largely market run economy, the answer to that question is direct control of your own working situation and monetary reward. In some alternate system, the question needs to be answered.

                    4 votes
                2. Greg
                  (edited )
                  Link Parent
                  My general understanding is that people are paid what the market will bear, which is subtly but importantly different from being paid in proportion to their value. This graph is the one that's...

                  As for your last point, people generally are paid proportionally to the value they generate. A lead software developer on a billion dollar project will get paid a lot more than a janitor who fills 10 trash bags on a shift. A salesman who makes millions per year in sales will make a lot more than a guy who washes 40 windows on a shift. If you're talking about your compensation being pegged directly to a company's performance, that also exists in a lot of professional careers in the form of stock options and bonuses.

                  My general understanding is that people are paid what the market will bear, which is subtly but importantly different from being paid in proportion to their value. This graph is the one that's always hit home for me.

                  If a large number of people are willing and able to do your job then your pay will be low, it doesn't matter how much value you create. Between different jobs it's hard to tease out how much something is down to value creation and how much is down to supply & demand.

                  There are a few special cases: commission-based sales, for example, but generally there's a direct disincentive to being too productive within a given job. If a manual worker demonstrates the ability to work as much as three other crew members combined, then the most likely outcome is that two of the other crew members are fired. If an office worker automates their job and tells the boss about it, they're highly likely to be made redundant.

                  Even these examples are comparatively rare because they exist in situations where the value created by an individual is clear; far more often it's a complex web of interdependent tasks with a heavy sprinkling of guesswork as to how instrumental any individual was, and an even heavier sprinkling of social politics in who is/isn't rewarded.

                  Employee stock options do go some way to closing that gap, although they'd need to be universally available (especially to those in lower paid jobs) in order to make a more systematic difference. The problem of fair allocation within a given job would still exist, but it's a step in the right direction.

                  4 votes
        3. [6]
          tlalexander
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          I disagree about aggressive taxes being the primary solution. As others have said, worker owned cooperatives can do a lot of good for this issue. The problem with aggressive taxes is the...

          I disagree about aggressive taxes being the primary solution. As others have said, worker owned cooperatives can do a lot of good for this issue. The problem with aggressive taxes is the centralization you described. Aggressive taxes may be a necessary part of a solution, but direct worker ownership must be an important part. If we let the top down model of corporate governance to persist, then the actions of corporations will continue to reflect the needs of the few. But cooperatively run businesses can balance the needs of the business with the needs of the workers without ever being filtered by a small elite board of directors. That direct democracy in the workplace will create a fairer PRE-distribution of wealth such that less taxation is required to fill in for missing needs.

          Now all of the above comes from Richard Wolf’s book Democracy at Work. And I believe in that stuff.

          But there is more to it than that. Marx focused on workers, and he was criticized for this by his contemporary Milhail Bakunin. Marx believed in a workers revolution but Bakunin wanted to include the peasants too - everyone. And I’m with Bakunin here. Society includes many people who are not labeled as “workers”, and Marx was kind of a technocrat. So as a white male, I know I need to listed to more than just other white males (Wolff and Marx).

          So for example Silvia Federici, who I’ve just started to pick up on, deeply covers the need of women - who in most places in the world are not seen as “workers” at all because they work from home. What they need in many cases is collective child care.

          Or if you listen to Angela Davis or Michelle Alexander then you know we need prison abolition and significant legal reforms.

          So worker owned cooperatives will be a big part of a better world, but they aren’t the only thing we need. If there’s one thing I’ve learned the deeper I explore anarchism for myself, it’s that there is no one solution to the problems we care about. There are many vital and important solutions we must implement.

          8 votes
          1. [5]
            papasquat
            Link Parent
            We have worker run cooperatives. There's nothing stopping everyone who currently works at a company from quitting and starting a coop. Most people don't, because if they're quitting their job and...

            We have worker run cooperatives. There's nothing stopping everyone who currently works at a company from quitting and starting a coop. Most people don't, because if they're quitting their job and taking the risk of starting a business, they want to be able to personally profit and direct that business. Worker run coops aren't a policy solution, unless you propose somehow encouraging them or making private businesses illegal. Doing the latter causes the issues I outlined earlier, dis-incentivizing entrepreneurship and innovation. There may be some balance with giving favorable incentives to forming a co-op over a private business, but without extremely heavy subsidies, the profit motive will always favor private companies.

            1 vote
            1. tlalexander
              Link Parent
              Of course we already have worked cooperatives. Obviously, I know this already. My point is exactly what you suggest as a balanced approach, which is increasing incentives for coops. But we can...

              Of course we already have worked cooperatives. Obviously, I know this already. My point is exactly what you suggest as a balanced approach, which is increasing incentives for coops. But we can also increase education for how to start and succeed in a coop. We need to talk with each other and learn why coops can solve some of our problems and we need to provide more resources for people to engage with them. That seems like a clear winning idea to me.

              I completely disagree with you that it would decrease innovation. Coops have advantages on their own outside of any opportunity to get rich. Coops are way better for workers and in a world where workers get shafted by their capitalist bosses, there is a huge incentive to become your own manager of sorts. My friend was telling me just last weekend that she wants to start a computer security coop because she doesn’t like the top down structure of most businesses. She never talked about money.

              Starting a coop can be hard, and workers aren’t trained for it, but that just means we need to develop more destroyers for coops and make it easier for them to start. And people are already doing it. But please, stop thinking it would decrease innovation. I’m an open source innovator and I give all of my intellectual property away for free. I’m not doing it for money, I’m doing it to help others. We have a profit centered narrative in the world today, but lots and lots of people would rather get a fair wage and help people like themselves than try to get rich pushing others down.

              7 votes
            2. [3]
              Micycle_the_Bichael
              Link Parent
              I highly disagree with your logic for why people don't quit their job. I'd argue the reason people don't quit their jobs and start their own business is most people literally can't. You need the...

              I highly disagree with your logic for why people don't quit their job. I'd argue the reason people don't quit their jobs and start their own business is most people literally can't. You need the saved capital to start a company, and most Americans don't have that. When you quit your job you are giving up your employer health care, so good luck starting a company if you or a loved one have chronic medical conditions (and knowing you're one medical emergency from losing everything. Not that employer healthcare is guaranteed to be better). And you do this knowing, as @MimicSquid pointed out, most small businesses don't make it.

              TL;DR: Maybe I'm misreading your message, but my understanding of your post is "people don't start companies because it is risky, and so if they do they want to profit." and I disagree and think the reason people don't start companies is because for most people it is economically impossible for most people to do. I don't think the tying of profit and entrepreneurship and innovation is correct beyond needing the profitability to pay bills.

              6 votes
              1. [2]
                papasquat
                Link Parent
                Most people in the US could quit their job and put their home up as collateral for a business loan to start a company if they wanted to. Most people who start businesses don't do it with capital...

                Most people in the US could quit their job and put their home up as collateral for a business loan to start a company if they wanted to.

                Most people who start businesses don't do it with capital they've saved up, they do it with financing. It's a ridiculously risky thing to do, so to do it when there's no chance you'll even be making more than you do at your current day job would be ludicrous.

                Even if you gave guaranteed financing for $100k to anyone who wanted to start a business, most people still wouldn't do it if it meant at the end of it, they didn't own the business. Why take on $100k of debt and all that risk and work, if you could just keep your current job instead?

                1. Micycle_the_Bichael
                  Link Parent
                  If "putting your home up as collateral" is the way to start a business then entrepreneurship has a lot bigger problems on the horizon seeing how home ownership is increasingly becoming a pipe dream.

                  If "putting your home up as collateral" is the way to start a business then entrepreneurship has a lot bigger problems on the horizon seeing how home ownership is increasingly becoming a pipe dream.

                  5 votes
        4. Grawlix
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Honestly, I don't think creativity and passion just go away when you remove or drastically reduce the profit motive, and the profit motive doesn't push people mostly towards entrepreneurship. In...

          Honestly, I don't think creativity and passion just go away when you remove or drastically reduce the profit motive, and the profit motive doesn't push people mostly towards entrepreneurship.

          In my last comment, I wasn't even necessarily saying to abolish capitalism (though I am somewhat sympathetic to that view). I was pointing out an inherent feature and unavoidable problem with it; even if we maintain capitalism, it's something that must be addressed.

          So, in your example, capital gains taxes and progressive taxation are partial solutions, and ones that I would at least tune more aggressively, with that money going towards robust socialized services. Other laws and regulations supporting worker's rights and keeping industries in control can also help.

          As for rich people being "the epitome of injustice," it's a problem that scales significantly. A small business owner is more likely to maintain a good relationship with, and work alongside, their employees, while also making for themselves a comfortable but not extravagant life. Honestly, their position wouldn't change much if at all under cooperative ownership. That's way different from a billionaire, far removed from the labor that keeps their business going, that earns money even if they don't do anything but a bare minimum of delegation.

          I do think each and every billionaire is a policy failure, because a billion is such an absurdly large number. It's inconceivable that any one human being produces that much more value than their peers. You don't get a billion dollars, much less tens of billions of dollars, by working for it. You get it through vast exploitation.

          9 votes
        5. Loire
          Link Parent
          Thats because they are the best option. There is no reason everyone should make the same amount of money. Some jobs deserve more than others. But when you are making more than, say, a couple...

          Aggressive income and capital gain taxes with higher and steeper brackets seem like the best option to me,

          Thats because they are the best option. There is no reason everyone should make the same amount of money. Some jobs deserve more than others. But when you are making more than, say, a couple million a year, you have far exceeded the extra value you could provide in absolutely any role. Progressively tax it into the ground. Right up to 90-95% if necessary. Tax capital gains. Tax capital fleeing the country. Tax corporations that do business in the country, regardless of their headquarters location.

          3 votes
        6. mrbig
          Link Parent
          I do think "the very idea of rich people is the epitome of injustice", but I agree that any kind of centralized economy is doom to failure for the reasons you pointed out. A deregulated market -...

          I do think "the very idea of rich people is the epitome of injustice", but I agree that any kind of centralized economy is doom to failure for the reasons you pointed out. A deregulated market - in the way some American capitalists defend - is also doom to failure. There must be strict regulations to make it work for the people and keep capitalism open to new entrepreneurs. Corporatism is not identical to capitalism.

          I think this article about Finland's own version of capitalism might be of interest.

          1 vote
    2. [2]
      retiredrugger
      Link Parent
      You should read Matt Stoller's blog posts on Bill Gates. They demonstrate the ruthless tenacity Gates' had in building his empire and paint him as the Rockefeller of tech.

      You should read Matt Stoller's blog posts on Bill Gates. They demonstrate the ruthless tenacity Gates' had in building his empire and paint him as the Rockefeller of tech.

      8 votes
      1. UniquelyGeneric
        Link Parent
        I’m unfortunately passing up an opportunity to see Stoller give a talk about his new book Goliath this Wednesday, but I’m very aligned with his take on modern capitalism and I’d really like to...

        I’m unfortunately passing up an opportunity to see Stoller give a talk about his new book Goliath this Wednesday, but I’m very aligned with his take on modern capitalism and I’d really like to hear his perspective on how to get out of the hole we collectively dug ourselves into.

        We seem to have entered another Gilded Age and yet it’s not nearly as reviled in the media as the robber barons of yesteryear. I think the co-opting of modern media along with prior monopolies (AT&T / Warner Media; Comcast / NBCU) has helped control the message, and it’s painfully obvious when watching programs on those networks with blatant product placement (the last season of Silicon Valley was rife with it).

        I think technology has both helped enable the billionaires to air their political stance, while simultaneously commodifying journalism to the extent that morals and ethics have to be thrown out the window in exchange for a paycheck. It’s a dangerous path, and I hope that it can be disrupted by democratizing the platforms that currently seem to dominate the Internet.

        4 votes
  2. [4]
    bilbodwyer
    Link
    I'll be interested to see how (if it's used) this rhetoric plays out in the US election. There was a lot of anti-billionaire sentiment from the left in the UK's election campaign, and to be honest...

    I'll be interested to see how (if it's used) this rhetoric plays out in the US election. There was a lot of anti-billionaire sentiment from the left in the UK's election campaign, and to be honest outside of the Internet echo chambers it was hardly a talking point. And, anecdotally, for a lot of people (even those that don't lean right, nor even the particularly wealthy) there's an idea that if someone has become a billionaire, then why shouldn't they be allowed to keep the money that they've earned?
    I lean more towards the side of the argument that every billionaire is a policy failure, but that view barely got a look in during this election, despite being one of the core points that the Labour party were pinning their pledges on. Admittedly, Brexit and the NHS took up the majority of the bandwidth, but I don't think there's as much appetite for "eating the rich" as some of us on the left hope there would be.

    7 votes
    1. [3]
      Grawlix
      Link Parent
      I wonder if it might play out a little differently in the US because we have an example of a billionaire (or at least a self-professed billionaire) as POTUS, and the likes of Michael Bloomberg and...

      I wonder if it might play out a little differently in the US because we have an example of a billionaire (or at least a self-professed billionaire) as POTUS, and the likes of Michael Bloomberg and Howard Schultz who are, or previously have, thrown their hat in the ring. (Apologies if I'm missing similar examples from UK politics, but none come to mind.)

      Maybe I'm being optimistic for once, but I hope these examples show that billionaires feel entitled to political power in addition to economic power, that wealth doesn't come as a result of hard work and talent, and that their existence just seems grotesque when so many of Americans are struggling with a declining quality of life.

      Basically, fingers crossed because the problem might be more grotesque and obvious in the US. :p

      (Again, saying this as an ignorant American with only a very surface-level understanding of UK politics.)

      7 votes
      1. [2]
        bilbodwyer
        Link Parent
        I would say I'm your opposite number in the UK then: an ignorant Brit with a superficial understanding of American politics! You could be onto something there - Trump is a concrete example that...

        I would say I'm your opposite number in the UK then: an ignorant Brit with a superficial understanding of American politics!

        You could be onto something there - Trump is a concrete example that the Democrats can hold up and point to. For us it was a regular refrain that the Conservative party are bankrolled by billionaires, and that the billionaire-owned press didn't want the Labour party to win. The billionaires themselves were never named or in the spotlight, only the instruments of their influence (ie. Tory politicians and the tabloid press) were.

        5 votes
        1. Grawlix
          Link Parent
          Yeah, I really do hope that America's glorification of billionaires becomes a double-edged sword for those billionaires. Aside from Trump, I'm just imagining what Sanders would have to say to...

          Yeah, I really do hope that America's glorification of billionaires becomes a double-edged sword for those billionaires. Aside from Trump, I'm just imagining what Sanders would have to say to Bloomberg or Schultz on the debate stage.

          Granted, a part of that is also the circles I run in, which in both our countries can lead to some pretty nasty surprises come election day. I hope that tide turns, especially with younger demographics voting significantly to the left of older ones.

          4 votes