Of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Except that that’s not how it’s working out these days. It’s working out to be a government for the rich and for corporations.
A recent study found…
that in policy-making, views of ordinary citizens essentially don’t matter. They examined 1,779 policy issues and found that attitudes of wealthy people and of business groups mattered a great deal to the final outcome — but that preferences of average citizens were almost irrelevant.
“In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule,” they concluded. “Majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.”
One reason is that our political system is increasingly driven by money: Tycoons can’t quite buy politicians, but they can lease them. Elected officials are hamsters on a wheel, always desperately raising money for the next election. And the donors who matter most are a small group; just 158 families and the companies they control donated almost half the money for the early stages of the presidential campaign.
America the Unfair? http://nyti.ms/1UdlP9G
The conversation doesn’t have to be rich vs. poor, capitalism or communism, equality over freedom.
E.A.: Extreme wealth inequality also leads to the de facto control of government by the rich (plutocracy), and so is incompatible with democracy. For this reason we need to disperse concentrated wealth through property and inheritance taxes, or even better, revise rules that allow excessive concentrations of wealth to build up in the first place. For example, stronger anti-trust regulations, particularly for banks, are probably worth investigating.
G.G.: Granting that equality is important, it would seem that freedom is at least as important. But aren’t the two in tension, since maintaining equality requires taking from those who have more and giving to those who have less? What do you say to those who think this way?
E.A.: Of course, taxes on income and wealth limit the freedom of those who would otherwise acquire huge shares. Still, that is only one side of the coin. The objection is like opposing stoplights on the grounds that they limit the freedom of movement of people in cars at red lights. Sure, but what about the people on the cross-streets, who can move more freely because cars have to stop? If we’re worried about how limiting wealth will affect freedom, we have to take account of how the freedom of people generally, across all social positions, will be affected by the limitations. More egalitarian distributions of wealth spread opportunity and hence freedom more widely and fully than systems in which wealth is concentrated in a tiny self-perpetuating class.
G.G.: Does this mean that you favor eliminating the capitalist economic system, which seems to be a main source of economic inequalities?
E.A.: No, I take for granted that private property and extensive markets will play indispensable roles in any modern free society of equals. This will generate some distributive inequality. Complete equality would require a command economy, which is incompatible not just with freedom, but also with equality. State Communism, for example, is a social hierarchy of domination and subordination based on party membership.
What’s Wrong With Inequality? http://nyti.ms/1JwZBKj
This article is a must read. Its filled with incisive statements about whats wrong in food, agriculture, economics, politics, and lobbying.
American food policy has long been rife with head-scratching illogic.
We spend billions every year on farm subsidies, many of which help wealthy commercial operations to plant more crops than we need. The glut depresses world crop prices, harming farmers in developing countries. Meanwhile, millions of Americans live tenuously close to hunger, which is barely kept at bay by a food stamp program that gives most beneficiaries just a little more than $4 a day.
As small numbers of Americans have grown extremely wealthy, their political power has also ballooned to a disproportionate size. Small, powerful interests — in this case, wealthy commercial farmers — help create market-skewing public policies that benefit only themselves, appropriating a larger slice of the nation’s economic pie. Their larger slice means everyone else gets a smaller one — the pie doesn’t get any bigger — though the rent-seekers are usually adept at taking little enough from individual Americans that they are hardly aware of the loss. While the money that they’ve picked from each individual American’s pocket is small, the aggregate is huge for the rent-seeker. And this in turn deepens inequality.
It takes real money, money that is necessary for bare survival, from the poorest Americans, and gives it to a small group of the undeserving rich, in return for their campaign contributions and political support.
NYTimes: The Insanity of Our Food Policy
Big surprise. The middle and lower classes were the losers in the housing bubble/recession and the upper class were the winners.
Foreclosures disproportionally affected the middle and lower income/wealth tiers, and once the foreclosed homes were back on the market the wealthy bought them cheap and flipped them for a handsome gain.
The rules of the game favor the rich and average folks get left further behind.
A glance at the system that keeps class structure the way it is.
You can’t fault people for wanting to marry someone who is just like they are. You can’t fault them for wanting friends who are just like them. You can’t fault parents for wanting to give their kids the same privilege and lifestyle (or better). You CAN realize that its not just social and educational ways (as discussed in this article) in which the deck is stacked to keep the rich rich and the poor poor.
This opinion piece does help you realize that the elite go to extraordinarily lengths to stay elite. Having realized that, it becomes apparent that they also trick the rest of us into enacting laws and public policies which do the same. They convince people to support rules by preying on their aspirational hope of one day joining the elite.
We easily forget that there is very little class mobility in our society. We tend to think that we will be among the lucky few to be tapped on the shoulder and handed the keys to the executive washroom.
NYTimes: The Secrets of Princeton http://nyti.ms/Zl6GvG