Share of national wealth held by America's 1% hits 50-year high


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/12/08/euthanize-rentiers.html


#2

I also think wealth inequality is bad, but maybe mass murder is not the greatest solution the left has ever come up with?


#3

I’m guessing the line drawing of a guillotine bothers you more than the looting of commons.


#4

No, the line drawing is fine. The implications of including the drawing in this post and setting the URL of the post to “euthanize-rentiers” bothers me more than the looting of commons, though. Consider reading up on the history of the French revolution (or the Bolshevik revolution, or Mao’s revolution, or Pol Pot’s revolution…). One can be a very principled egalitarian and anti-capitalist without supporting those specific means of achieving egalitarianism and anti-capitalism (come to think of it, none of those revolutions really achieved either of those things very effectively anyway).

Looting the commons is a reversible mistake – it may be possible to find a way to get the money or resources back from the looters and restore them to the commons. Mass murder is pretty irreversible.


#5

It’s not a solution, it’s an emergent property of extreme wealth inequality.


#6

Assuming mass murder is inevitable (which doesn’t really seem the case to me – the incidence of violent leftist revolutions seems culturally conditioned based on the historical record), I would rather oppose it than cheerlead it. YMMV I guess.


#7

Can you supply an example from history where massive wealth inequality was peacefully resolved?

I don’t have the stomach for mass murder either, and I decry the excesses of all of the revolutions you named.

But it’s pretty easy for me, a white, male, college degree holding, fully employed person to be quite selective in the remedial methodology.

It might not be so easy for someone who has to choose between paying the gas bill and buying groceries this month…


#8

I wouldn’t say “resolved” but certainly “reduced”. There are dozens of incidents of a middle class forming where there was none before in various societies from ancient Sumer to 20th century USA. Usually it seems to have involved technological advancements (specifically, unlocking new sources of energy that increase labor productivity – increases in labor productivity seem to correlate with better fortunes for labor; in 20th century USA, this was oil – in ancient Sumer, it was irrigation).

Can you supply an example where mass murder actually resolved massive wealth inequality instead of leading to a “meet the new boss – same as the old boss” situation?

It doesn’t seem like a large proportion of poor people are actually in favor of murdering wealthy people, but maybe I’m looking at the wrong polls.


#9

So, let me get this right: the 1%ers now control/own 90% of the worlds wealth? Wow. That’s not sustainable.


#10

After revolution buying groceries can become even more problematic:



#11

Why is it that some people in this site are so fond of the death penalty? I don’t get it. I am all for gallows humor, but some people here sound pretty serious about it.


#12

I think it’s more about how they and their ancestors have been working the system and protesting peacefully for generations and it’s looking like their kids are gonna be doing the same, for the same results, just like the pre-revolution french.

Back then, the guillotines came out, those standing on the backs of the poor lost their heads and soon after France entered a golden age that resisted corruption until a few decades or so ago.


#13

Yyyyyyyeah, I think you’d find a little more support for your noble “I’m against mass murder but that’s just me” stance if you hadn’t used a term that can be applied to both the frothiest Hébertist ever to see the blade come down on his neck and the guy reading Piketty on the subway and thinking “Hmm, that makes sense” but still doesn’t mean those two people are remotely similar.

Maybe this wasn’t your intent, but that’s the same rhetorical flourish you see people using in Facebook flame wars. “How can blacks vote Dumbocrat? They were the party of slavery!” Good thought, guy, you’re really making me wonder if I should have cast those votes for Obama, given him being for the pro-slavery party and all.


#14

Did you miss the /s at the end of your post?


#15

Past incidents of mass murders of the wealthy that emerged from extreme wealth inequality were not desirable, but they are useful pour encourager les autres (i.e. future wealthy people)

That is why smart and educated wealthy people (like the evil librul Coastal Elites) support politicians who aren’t constantly promoting more wealth inequality (see the current GOP tax bill). You get guillotines and gulags and such (and not just from the bad ol’ populist left) when greedpig leaders have their way for too long and the masses get tired of it.


#16

Perhaps if you hadn’t cut my quote so short it would be more clear than I did intend to include both types but did not intend to draw a moral equivalence between them. I said:

I was saying the Piketty guy is coming up with the better solutions than the Herbetist.

See, I myself am a leftist (i.e. I agree with the values of liberty, brotherhood, and equality), and I’m saying that we as a group should not support mass murder but we should support other solutions.

So yes, I intended to talk about the left as a whole, saying that we have better options than mass murder.

Don’t know where you’re getting the accusation that the whole left is mass murderers…certainly not from the words I actually typed.

As I already mentioned:

  1. I don’t think it’s inevitable – human beings do seem to be able to make choices even if from another perspective they seem like meet robots.
  2. Even if humans are meat robots, the incidence of violent revolutions seems culturally conditioned – so a different culture can make a violent revolution more or less likely.
  3. Even if mass murder is inevitable, I will argue forever against people cheerleading it or making it sound cool or hip or desirable like the OP does.

#17

Violence and chaos are inevitable if no-one does anything to stop that trend. That’s why the good governance and progressive economic policy that’s been absent from the U.S. for the past 35 years is needed now, and why having the opposite is so dangerous.

I’m not a cultural relativist, but if you think that the U.S. is somehow immune to violent revolution you haven’t studied much about the late 19th and early 20th century in this country (spoiler: the problem was resolved over 25 years in part by two rich cousins who understood how dangerous it was to take a laissez faire approach to growing inequality, but there was violence).

I highly doubt that @doctorow is reserving a space for himself in the tumbrils. He may not be in the 1%, but I’m pretty sure he’s in the top 20% at least. Cory, myself, and others like us cite the guillotine as a cautionary tale rather than as a desired outcome.

If I say “if we keep burning fossil fuels like we did 15 years ago we’re headed for a Mad Max dystopia,” that’s not me rooting for Immortan Joe.

There are plenty of poor Americans right now who, while they may not want to murder wealthy people, do want to make the lives of the “wrong” type of wealthy person as miserable as possible. You might know that group as the conservative base, and a smaller number of them would indeed like to see those “unAmerican” wealthy people dead.


#18

This is just my uninformed and probably biased opinion:
In Denmark, we never had a revolution like the French and I believe it’s because the elites at the time took a look a what was happening down south and thought “Hmm, I don’t fancy getting my head cut off, maybe we should give the common folk some rights?” which then let to the social welfare state we have today.
Of course, that welfare state is now being rapidly dismantled, because memories are short, hence the need for revolution once in a while. It doesn’t need to be global, just big enough to be noticed by the elite elsewhere.


#19

For the third time, I disagree with the inevitability part. People get to choose whether or not they engage in mass murder, and all else being equal I’d like to discourage it. Moreover, cultural attitudes that make mass murder less likely can be fostered, and I think fostering those kinds of cultures would be better than fostering ones that promote mass murder.

I agree that good governance is good (how could I do otherwise?) and nowhere argued against it.

I didn’t say it or even imply it. I said that murder is wrong and I don’t support it, or anyone who does support it even in a tongue-in-cheek semi-ironic hipster style.

I also heavily implied that some cultures are more prone than others. The fact that some late 19th and early 20th century US cultures were prone to violent revolution does not imply that any significant early 21st century cultures are likewise prone – or at least you should make an argument for such a claim.

If that’s the case, then he’s a shitty writer…and I know he’s not a shitty writer.

There’s a difference between saying “euthanize rentiers” – phrased as a command or at least advice, and is accompanied by a picture of a guillotine – and “if we keep burning fossil fuels yada yada” – clearly phrased as a conditional.

If OP had been framed like your “if we keep burning fossil fuels” I wouldn’t have objected.

Even if it’s a joke, it’s:

  1. not necessarily clear to all possible readers that it’s a joke and
  2. WILL be used in the inevitable “all leftists are wannabe mass murderer” arguments from people who object to the sort of reasonable regulations and economic interventions we should be encouraging instead

The left has enough of a public image problem with all the actual genocidal dictators – we don’t really need to voluntarily wear those uniforms, do we?

Edited to add:

Also, if we assume you’re saying “it’s inevitable that poor people will rise up in violent revolution if governance is not improved” to “if we keep burning fossil fuels yada yada” that’s sort of implying that poor people are a force of nature without any volition, will or agency of their own – really paternalistic, condescending, and actually pretty damned classist.

If you’re worried that a large group of poor-ish people may want to kill you, then maybe the guillotine is the wrong iconography for you. That’s basically been my argument throughout this thread. I guess you’re violently agreeing with me?


#20

I do, too, as long as something is done to stop the trend. If nothing is done, though, it is inevitable. And nothing is being done in the U.S., including from the Democratic establishment which is keeping to its neoliberalism-lite course.

It’s not a co-incidence that right-wing populism is crawling up from under the paving stones all over the globe, including in cultures that were directly affected by the rise of fascism (which took an anti-capitalist stance to match that of its cousin, Soviet Communism).

Which culture isn’t currently prone toward resentment by an ever-growing group of have-nots toward an ever-shrinking group of plutocrats?

Part of his writing style is the use of obvious hyperbole. He trusts his readers to recognise that along with things like figurative terms. I doubt that most people who read BoingBoing think Cory is actually advocating murder or care about the bad-faith opinions of right-wingers and Libertarians (including the handful of regular trolls here). Cory may have inherited some of his folks’ Trotskyite views, but he and most left-leaning readers here are not Stalinists or Maoists.

When the right has an even larger public image problem when it comes to actual genocidal dictators and literally wear those uniforms voluntarily and in public meatspace, Cory’s figurative stuff here seems relatively mild. But if that’s what you want to wring your hands over…

Oh, there’s volition involved in poor people getting fed up with governance that constantly shafts them. It’s called self-interest (sometimes enlightened, sometimes not).

My point about fossil fuels was to distinguish between warning about a negative outcome and rooting for it. But you knew that already.

The guillotine is a fine icon for the unpleasant outcome of populism run amok, assuming that the ballot box is no longer operative (if it ever was). It’s well understood shorthand by anyone who’s politically aware of class conflict, which includes smart and educated affluent and wealthy people.