Friday, November 04, 2011

Oligarchy, American Style

The latest from Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman:

But why does this growing concentration of income and wealth in a few hands matter? Part of the answer is that rising inequality has meant a nation in which most families don’t share fully in economic growth. Another part of the answer is that once you realize just how much richer the rich have become, the argument that higher taxes on high incomes should be part of any long-run budget deal becomes a lot more compelling.

The larger answer, however, is that extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy. Can anyone seriously deny that our political system is being warped by the influence of big money, and that the warping is getting worse as the wealth of a few grows ever larger?

Some pundits are still trying to dismiss concerns about rising inequality as somehow foolish. But the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake.

More here.

This is the central truth utterly ignored by conservatives and libertarians across the land: economic power and political power are ultimately indistinguishable; when a society allows a segment of itself to take the lion's share of wealth, it's essentially handing over the keys to the nation. And once that wealthy social segment, the plutocracy, has control of the mechanisms of state, it then necessarily begins to direct the state toward its own ends. That this has happened in the US has been obvious to me and many others since at least the 1990s--there is so much evidence of rule-by-wealth, much of which I've recounted here at Real Art over the years, that it is not really necessary to go into that again; suffice it to say that, even though we still go through the formal rituals of democracy, elections, campaigns, debate, when you look at political results, they almost always favor the super-wealthy over everybody else.

Call me crazy, but I still tend to believe much of that indoctrinational stuff about America I was taught back in elementary school: the greatness of America, if there is any, is that we are a democratic republic of free citizens, ruled by laws that we choose collectively as a people through our representatives, rather than by tyrants and despots. But the plutocracy, using its vast wealth, has done what amounts to an end-run around our republican governmental structure. There are still representatives, yes, but almost all of them are beholden to the wealthy campaign donors who make their election possible, rather than the free citizenry who they ostensibly represent.

So America, the nation I fell in love with when I was a boy, is now experiencing what may be its greatest crisis ever: democracy has failed. It is now the responsibility of every citizen in this nation to reestablish our once thriving democracy, or America is meaningless.

It is ironic, indeed, that the statement above could have been uttered by one of those Tea Party fools, but with a totally different meaning. That is, conservatives, with their love for business as an end to itself, have duped themselves into thinking that democracy and rule-by-wealth are the same thing. But they're wrong. In reality, they support the usurpers, despite their usage of words from the lexicon of freedom.

Meanwhile, the nation falls further into tyranny.