Revolution or a Police State?

 

The future is now

The future is now

– I’ve been saying for some time that the way things are going, the U.S. is going to end up either having a revolution or coalescing into a police state.  

– The major factor that contributes to my prognosis is the widening wealth gap.  

– Mr. Joe Six-Pack in the U.S. can still buy his six-pack and has a car and a big screen T.V. but he probably hasn’t noticed yet that he’s actually getting poorer year by year.

– The nation’s wealth, thanks to Neo-Liberalism, is inexorably moving up towards the 1%’ers.

– Here are two stories from other writers who have independently come to the same conclusion.  

– I’m sure that there are many more writers and pundits who see these futures; some of them published and others aware – but silent.  

– They know, as George Orwell once famously said: 

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”  

– It also will become, in this writer’s opinion, a dangerous act that the privileged among us will want to suppress violently as the pressure rises.

– dennis

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STORY ONE:

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us, Plutocrats

From Nick Hanauer
To: My Fellow Zillionaires

You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I’m no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about. In 1992, I was selling pillows made by my family’s business, Pacific Coast Feather Co., to retail stores across the country, and the Internet was a clunky novelty to which one hooked up with a loud squawk at 300 baud. But I saw pretty quickly, even back then, that many of my customers, the big department store chains, were already doomed. I knew that as soon as the Internet became fast and trustworthy enough—and that time wasn’t far off—people were going to shop online like crazy. Goodbye, Caldor. And Filene’s. And Borders. And on and on.

Realizing that, seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success. The lucky part was that I had two friends, both immensely talented, who also saw a lot of potential in the web. One was a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Jeff Tauber, and the other was a fellow named Jeff Bezos. I was so excited by the potential of the web that I told both Jeffs that I wanted to invest in whatever they launched, big time. It just happened that the second Jeff—Bezos—called me back first to take up my investment offer. So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller. The other Jeff started a web department store called Cybershop, but at a time when trust in Internet sales was still low, it was too early for his high-end online idea; people just weren’t yet ready to buy expensive goods without personally checking them out (unlike a basic commodity like books, which don’t vary in quality—Bezos’ great insight). Cybershop didn’t make it, just another dot-com bust. Amazon did somewhat better. Now I own a very large yacht.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

Many of us think we’re special because “this is America.” We think we’re immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring—or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter. I know you fellow .01%ers tend to dismiss this kind of argument; I’ve had many of you tell me to my face I’m completely bonkers. And yes, I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.

Here’s what I say to you: You’re living in a dream world. What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That’s the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us

***

The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer.

Nick Hanauer is a Seattle-based entrepreneur.

– to the original:

 

STORY TWO:

– The second story is quite long and it is written in three parts.  You can catch the drift of what it is about by reading the titles of the three sections, just below.

– Clicking on any of the three titles will take you to that section of the overall article.   And, these three sections are, themselves, excerpts from the book that David DeGraw is writing called, The Economics of Revolution.

1. Peak Inequality: The .o1% And The Impoverishment Of Society

2. Conditioned Consciousness: How The .01% Gets Away With Trillions

3. The Coming Revolution: Evolutionary Leap or Descent Into Chaos and Violence

– research thanks to Kathy G.

 

 

2 Responses to “Revolution or a Police State?”

  1. Charles Freddie Stewart says:

    I’m less worried. Americans, uniquely, don’t vote our interests — we vote our aspirations.

    So we don’t want you to over-tax that rich guy cuz we expect to be rich ourselves one day and want to enjoy the same protections of privilege in the future that he enjoys now.

    We don’t object to the super-rich’s excess of resources — we admire it, envy it, fantasize duplicating it — but don’t trust the government to re-distribute it.

    Most of the world’s wealthy nations imitated the U.S. and got rid of “death duties” after the 1960s, not replacing it at all or doing so with capital gains taxes which only tax the increase in value actually reported by the heirs if they sell at a profit. In fact, in the U.S. it’s estimated that capital gains taxes are paid on less than 50% of inherited assets, because of the many ways to get around the law.

    So the notion that you are entitled to the wealth you earn — minus taxes — during your lifetime, but that your heirs, not having earned it, should only get some fraction of it after your death (based on the size of your estate and the degree of kinship — widows & kids get more than cousins) — has largely fallen into desuetude.

    Thus Western capitalist nations have enshrined in law that the super-rich are entitled to accumulate and pass on wealth as they wish — their argument being that, because for them it is excess value, they don’t need it to live on and will therefore invest it in enterprises that will yield them and their heirs the maximum return — thereby ensuring the availability of capital to expand the economy, to fund business growth, to provide venture capital, etc — in other words, they will invest money so much more wisely than we would were it in our hands that a fraction of their excess profits trickle down to the rest of us, enabling us to live the middle-class lives that we would be unable to afford if there were no super-rich around to manure our economy and make it bloom.

    America will be the last society to take “pitch forks” to a system that we have been taught to believe will benefit us as soon as we get off our lazy asses and become as productive as are the super-rich. Look at the rapid demise of unions in the U.S. if you want to see where our economy is trending…

    And of course, when we all do become super-rich, we will be as wise, generous and innovative in the world as Bill Gates has become — after protecting Microsoft’s monopoly (and his King Midas fortune) from the likes of Netscape, Apple, etc. Gates is America’s living model/icon who proved it is possible for “anyone” to become super-rich — and to deserve to be.

  2. Dennis says:

    Sweet irony, my friend. Layered and subtle, as always. Often missed by yours truly with his blunt straight-ahead Irish break-the-walls-down with his head approach.