WHO STOLE THE CHEESE?

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Think of yourself as a lab rat, you know, running in a maze all day for a piece of cheese. You can be lulled into complacency as the maze and the cheese stay pretty much the same day to day, but do so at your own risk.

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I just read an article about the Piketty book (“Capital in the Twenty-First Century”) by a Nobel Prize winner (who, by the way hates footnotes at the end of the book as much as I do, thank you Dr. Solow for bring in this important topic to light) there talking of capital v. wealth, he calls capital the productive subset of wealth. He doesn’t include “works of art, hoards of precious metals, and so forth” in that subset but he does include stock market valuations. He call those “the financial counterpart of corporate productive capital” if these days art and so forth is not that, what is?

Solow goes on explain the theory behind the book, and late morning—post coffee, pre-nap—I think I get it, then not. Oh well, read it yourself. He talks about the ratio of income from labor v. income from wealth, tossing in the thought that as productivity increases and production becomes more “capital-intensive” (via automation and A.I. which devalues labor) the capital share of the economy has gotta increase.

Wealth (capital) is more concentrated in a small number of “citizens” than is labor. Solow says, ignoring the tautology, “it is always the case that wealth is more highly concentrated among the rich than income from labor.” The rich do get richer, it seems.

So some predictions: Inherited wealth will become bigger share of the pie and the nouveau riche, both the justifiably well compensated true innovators and the opportunistic lucky celebrities, will be less likely to join the .1% club. Not to mention the middle class “moving on up” even a bit. Solow says, “…the outlook is pretty bleak unless you have a taste for oligarchy.”

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Then there are the “super managers.” “Uberexecutives” seems a better term though, as super implies some good and executive, being similar to execute, seem to better describe these guys (and gals) go-to gesture. They are in the above-mentioned club, and there is research to show they earn perhaps 70% of the income in it. This income is, in theory, performance-based and therefor justified, but these “leaders” who according to Piketty are “in a position to set their own salaries have a natural incentive to treat themselves generously” whether deserved or not. And Joseph Stiglitz, another Nobel prizer, is right to say “There is clearly a disconnect between what executives are doing and how they are getting rewarded.”

Simply put, they have stolen the cheese.

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What can you do about all this? Vote? Sure, by all means vote, but don’t get your hopes up, while the pols all are talking to the base, the voter class, especially for the next 18 months, they have no intention—even if they have the power—to do what they say they will, if it in any way runs contrary to the will of the donor class. Which, by the way, is not you. It is rather either the leftish or rightish wing above-mentioned .1% club.

What else can you do? You have several options, as is shown from left to right in the futile maze above. You can protest; where you might get your “15 minutes” but surely nothing more, it ain’t ’68 anymore, if it ever was. You can try to join them, but if you don’t check your empathy at the door, they will find it and take it. But probably you will just try to get by, not complain where it might have an effect, do what you are told, and justify this by saying, “at least I have a job.” Or, if all else fails, you could embrace alternatives; either drown yourself in chemicals or lose yourself in [the society of] the spectacle of it all, as long as they will allow.

Sources:

The Solow article: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117429/capital-twenty-first-century-thomas-piketty-reviewed

The article about supermanagers: http://blogs.reuters.com/financial-regulatory-forum/2014/05/08/super-managers-governance-spotlighted-in-economist-pikettys-blockbuster-capitalism-critique/

A slide show about Debord’s “society of the spectacle”: http://www.slideshare.net/wesleytang/society-of-thespectacle3?related=1

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