A Letter to the Powerless and the Mystified

by rsbakker

 

Just a note to any Americans visiting the site. For some reason the Republicans have forgotten that Firing Line was one of the socio-cultural catalysts that led to their resurgence in the Eighties. Remember to call your congressmen, and tell them that PBS and NPR is worth more than TWO F-22 Raptors.

You want to know why you have debt crisis? Look at your military spending (decades after the ‘Soviet threat’). Download Why We Fight… If every airforce in the world banded together, you guys would still whup their ass. So what are you preparing for? An alien invasion?

Otherwise, when debating with your buddies, just ask them questions: Why has the middle-class stagnated since Reagan was swept into office (and don’t let the ‘household income’ trick fool you (I’ve actually come across right wing arguments for reinstituting child labour!)), even as the economy as a whole more than doubled in size? Where has all that wealth gone? Why are Western Europeans born in poverty almost twice as likely to realize the ‘American Dream’ than Americans? Why didn’t the Bush era tax cuts generate the magical revenue needed to balance the budget? If ‘aristocracy’ refers to the inheritance of power, and money is power, doesn’t the repeal of inheritance taxes mean that power in America is becoming a matter of inheritance? For that matter, why is social mobility evaporating in the country that claims it as its birthright?

Why are the people who have nothing save their labour, being asked to shoulder the budget balancing burden?

Could it because the people who own all the bullhorns have confused their self-interests with the Universal Good? But humans don’t do that… do they?

Creeping normalcy is your enemy. It all comes down to bargaining power in markets. The less bargaining power you possess, the worse the deal is for you, the better it is for those with bargaining power. Whenever somebody says, “You’re lucky to have a job,” what they are literally saying is “You’re economically powerless – be thankful!”

Whenever somebody says, “Why should the taxpayers fund elections?” what they are literally saying is, “Make government more transparent to market bargaining power!”

Government is ugly, sure, but it’s the only institution that can force those with all the bargaining power to yield to the interests of those without. Most all arguments for ‘shrinking government,’ are arguments for giving more power to the powerful. If you need to compromise overall ‘market efficiency’ to prosecute your interests, then so be it – within limits of course.

Here’s a possible scenario: Since inequities in markets tend to generate greater inequities (as the power bargainers, confusing their conceits for truth, leverage their power into more and more power), the American middle-class will progressively command less and less economic power, and the amorphous sense of communal discontent will slowly simmer and simmer until it reaches a boil. The power bargainers will marshal their resources (the labour of the powerless) in various attempts to redirect this discontent away from themselves and toward internal (ie, the ‘Government’) or external (ie, ‘radical Islam’) threats, which is to say, in ways that happily, coincidentally, maximize their bargaining power.

This, I think, has been the status quo. The million dollar sociological question, for me, is one of how long it can be sustained. Is there enough in the way of bread and circuses to keep siphoning the bulk of economic growth to the powerful in perpetuity?

I don’t think so. The concentration of power typically seems to lead to abuses. Markets require a plurality of competitors to function efficiently. The problem is that competition is expensive, which means that the powerful face an inexorable statistical tendency to collude, to minimize competition(and so render their power independent of the vagaries of consumption), and thus to short circuit the markets that were the original basis of their power. Market economies, in other words, are all threatened by the tendency to congeal into multiple industry-specific centrally-planned subeconomies. Ordinarily this would lead to gross inefficiencies and to crisis, and to some kind of mobilization of the powerless to fascistic or revolutionary ends.

But information technology could very well be a game changer.

What do you guys think?

In the meantime, UNIONIZE – especially if you’re in the service industry. You can’t offshore many services. This is the only way I can see to return economic bargaining power to the masses, and so right the listing economic ship. Unions may be ugly as all hell close up, but the further you step back, the better looking they become.

What other options are there?