The following reflections were inspired by recent meditations from Bill Gates (‘Good guys like me should not be taxed, because we are so good), Vlad Putin (‘I will not say I will be president for life, because I may not want it, when the time comes’). Paul Krugman will be spared today, as he just declared: “Just to be clear, I’m not calling the Obama-era economy a success story.”
Light is finally reaching the long winter which has been Krugman’s mind.
And the good professor to explain: “We needed faster job growth this time around than under Mr. Bush, because the recession was deeper, and unemployment stayed far too high for far too long. But we can now say with confidence that the recovery’s weakness had nothing to do with Mr. Obama’s (falsely) alleged anti-business slant. What it reflected, instead, was the damage done by government paralysis – paralysis that has, alas, richly rewarded the very politicians who caused it.”
And first among those were, with all due respect, Mr. Obama, Pelosi, and company. They were actually consulted, and decided, upon the measures to be taken, even before Obama became president (Bush had washed his hands of the whole thing: although the crash happened below his watch, the real decisions which had led to it, were taken under Clinton, thanks to massive deregulation).
So the economy may be improving, but for whom?
Having more slaves employed makes a better economy for plutocrats, but not necessarily for common folks. Similarly, greater riches, if they only go to the .1%, may boost GDP, but not the average family.
Actually, the more powerful the plutocrats, the worse the society. Thus one has to look not just to the employment rate, but also to how much common folks earn. The employment rate stays deeply depressed, and so does median income.
Economics without the correct social indicators, is only ruin of the soul.
Bill Gates believes he uses power better than others. In: Wealth and Capital. Why Inequality Matters, Bill explains why he should be taxed less:
“But rather than move to a progressive tax on capital, as Piketty would like, I think we’d be best off with a progressive tax on consumption. Think about the three wealthy people I described earlier: One investing in companies, one in philanthropy, and one in a lavish lifestyle. There’s nothing wrong with the last guy, but I think he should pay more taxes than the others.”
I propose, instead, a more general sort of tax. And a much more powerful one:
Tax power directly, and absolutely.
Bill Gates has much power than his wealth simply suggest. By heading a giant foundation, the Bill and Melinda, Gates doubles what the money he controls can buy. Plus, he gets to meet with whichever leader he wants to meet. If he wants to meet with Obama, Xi, or Putin, he just can hit Skype any time he wants.
Money buys power. Even political power.
When asked whether the president’s chair was with him “forever,” Putin told TASS: “No,” adding: “This is not good and detrimental for the country and I do not need it as well.” Apparently, too much criticism causes even Putin to melt.
Yet, even after Putin steps down, will his wealth (at least 40 billion), and his network of plutocrats and secret service types step down? Not a chance.
And what about Bill Gates’ control of immense wealth and networks? Will they step down, those wealth, networks, and power structures? Not a chance. Here is Bill again, deploying his stem argument:
“I fully agree that we don’t want to live in an aristocratic society in which already-wealthy families get richer simply by sitting on their laurels and collecting what Piketty calls “rentier income”-that is, the returns people earn when they let others use their money, land, or other property. But I don’t think America is anything close to that.
Take a look at the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans. About half the people on the list are entrepreneurs whose companies did very well (thanks to hard work as well as a lot of luck). Contrary to Piketty’s rentier hypothesis, I don’t see anyone on the list whose ancestors bought a great parcel of land in 1780 and have been accumulating family wealth by collecting rents ever since. In America, that old money is long gone-through instability, inflation, taxes, philanthropy, and spending.”
Bill is (deliberately?) naïve. Or even downright silly. Look at the Congress of the USA. Many among the richest inherited their wealth. Actually the richest Senator is Jay Rockefeller, and he is an heir of the oil tycoon by the same name. If one added all the wealth and influence of the Rockefellers heirs, one would get astonishing numbers: there are lots of heirs.
The Roman Republic had an absolute cap on the wealth a family could own. It also had varied caps on absolute power. So it lasted 5 centuries, the absolute record for a Republic, so far.
What we have to limit is power. Gates has too much power, Putin has too much power. He seems to understand this. Power sucks in, it’s a disease of the soul. In general, plutocrats are too much power.
Even Paul Krugman has too much power. He talks, he talks, and then the New York Times makes readers believe comments have been allowed. But actually all my comments are severely inspected, many are censored (be it only because they don’t fit the mood that the New York Times wants to impart; say, a few years ago, that Obamacare was perfect). Most are delayed until noon the next day (so nobody reads them).
Krugman and the New York Times are just a tiny part of a gigantic problem: if we want truth to be blossom, the right of answer has to be systematic against any authority whatsoever. The enormous computing power we have at our disposal would allow to classify objections by categories and dimensions, bringing forth the most substantive critiques. Then those ought to be debated.
Elect ideas, not people. And use the right of answer to do so. That right of answer, by any citizen, was viewed as fundamental for Athenian democracy, in the National Assemblies. It even had its own name.
That was 25 centuries ago. Some progress is in order. The Christian Apostle Luke sniffed with disapproval that “the Athenians spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.“(So Luke hated novelty, thus secularism, no surprise there.)
Well, we are heading in an ever newer world every day, we need to debate it ever more, and in novel ways. And a few minds, be they Bill, Paul, or Vladimir Vladimirovich, are just not smart enough to replace the massive debates which are needed.
The most important product is not oil, or money, but truth. We cannot get to it, without limiting individuals’ power, when it extends beyond truth.
We have to limit power, and that means to limit how much power a single mind, physical or moral, can express without democratic challenge.
Even Vladimir Vladimirovich seems to come to realize that he has been collapsing under his own enthusiastic self-admiration, and metastatic power: he would have cut at the last moment some blistering criticism of the Ukrainian Republic, in a recent speech.