Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Doug Henwood interviews Brooke Harrington about the role of offshoring in hiding and concentrating wealth:
(W)hat does it say about the state of capitalism that these immense fortunes are sequestered; not so much engaged with expansion of the system but are being kept from the prying eyes of government or relatives?

People who claim to love capitalism and care about capitalism thriving should be very worried about this, because what this concentration of capital in an increasingly small group of people’s hands means is that the economic system is ossifying. It’s going backwards towards feudalism, where wealth was tied up generation after generation among a very small group of families. That’s exactly what we see happening now.

You may have seen that every year, Oxfam produces a study in which they count the number of people whose wealth exceeds that of the poorest 50 percent of humanity. In 2010, that number was above three hundred. In 2017, as of January, it was eight. The number of people who could fit into an extra-large golf cart now own wealth equivalent to the bottom 50 percent of humanity. That’s neo-feudalism, and we’re already seeing the consequences in the extreme decline of upward mobility in the US.

Now when you get an inheritance in the US, that doesn’t just benefit children or grandchildren of the original rich people. It has a knock on effect to the fifth or sixth generation. Meanwhile, most Americans, especially African Americans, have nothing; nothing but debt when they die. Whereas a very tiny group of people at the very top of the socioeconomic scale have billions to distribute to their heirs when they die. We’ve essentially re-feudalized ourselves.
- Meanwhile, Max de Haldevang points out how hidden wealth makes it difficult to trust publicly-available data about our economy.

- John Bargh writes about the connection between personal security and political orientation - with people living in fear representing easy targets for conservative themes.

- But Luke Savage notes that we can't afford to let complacency about existing institutions form the basis for left-wing politics. And Danny Westneat comments on the corporatization of political decision-making - epitomized by the appalling offers being made to Amazon to house its new headquarters - as an imminent threat to popular governance.

- Finally, Joe Romm reports on a new study showing that renewable energy is not only more affordable to build new than dirtier power sources, but becoming cheaper than continuing to operate existing coal and nuclear facilities.

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