NO DEMOCRATIC AND MERITOCRATIC HOPE
The drawing above is seen from a historical perspective view of the Pax Americana that was the USA a long time ago, when I was just a kid. The oligarchs ruling the country at that time were believed to be benevolent as each laboring and conforming family had what it needed to survive so that country as a whole would thrive.
There were several stages in the cycle of this Arcadian economy. Members of those laboring and conforming families were first given a unit, here shown as a coin, of wealth. We loved it unquestioningly and began to see ourselves as a reflection of it. We were then called upon the spend it all for the greater good and we were sometimes sad afterward, as losing something that defines you does that, but, not to worry, as soon enough there appeared another coin. The good life was ours to enjoy!
This age is no more, if it ever was. Stepping back, we see that our Arcadia was not a pastoral Eden but a debtors’ prison, a work house. Worse, it was was simply a toy for the oligarchs, a spinning top for their amusement. We were there to make the coin stay put for varying lengths of time, to make the game more interesting, nothing else.
Khufu needed conscripts for his pyramid, Henry Ford needed farm boys for his factories and these days Uber and other “disruptors” need contractors for their “sharing” economies. In spite of their different currencies, these oligarchs have one thing in common, they all needed labor to materialize their greed.
But the times, they are a changing. New technologies are making labor redundant. A second illustration would show machines griping the coins on their circuit not humans But from the oligarchs’ point of view, the game remains the same. The Pax Americana is no longer profitable, so it is let go. And so are we.
There is this from Thomas Piketty in his book Capital in the 21st Century, “[T]here is no natural, spontaneous process to prevent destabilizing, inegalitarian forces from prevailing permanently.” The oligarchs (neo-cons, neo-liberals plutocrats, free marketeers, whatever you care to call them) like to spout, “To the victor go the spoils.” But the rest of the aphorism “Vae Victus” (woe to the vanquished) is more to the point. The story there is that a barbarian sacking Rome demanded a large sum of gold to back off. The Romans capitulated, but complained that the balance weights measuring the booty were inaccurate. The barbarian leader added his sword to the weights with the cry “Vae Victus!”
Capitalism is the sword of the barbarian oligarchs. It‘s the weapon that “balances” the scales in their favor, ever increasing inequality. And as Piketty pointed out this is a feature—not a bug—of capitalism, “Economic growth is quite simply incapable of satisfying this democratic and meritocratic hope, which must create specific institutions for the purpose and not rely solely on market forces or technological progress.”
The donor class—another term for oligarch—has its own “specific institutions.” They are lobbyists, marketeers, media outlets, and some say even the politician themselves to satisfy their hopes which is the legislation and the [lack of] regulation they need for profitable business as usual. Sad this, even former president Jimmy Carter, a victor in the biggest zero-sum game around, when he admits that he believes the United States is “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.” and therefore “incapable of satisfying this democratic and meritocratic hope” for us non-oligarchs.
And this is unlikely to change no matter [which of our limited choices we pretend we had a say in] who is elected.
Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, via Wikipedia