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No the rich aren’t like you

2010 October 20
by Ian Welsh

It’s quite noticeable that the conservative rich massively outspend their more liberal brethren when it comes to influencing politics.  I’ve seen estimates as high as a 9/1 difference in outside spending for Republicans vs. Democrats.  Part of this is because Obama isn’t a liberal (and so, Soros, for example, is refusing to help this election) but this is an issue that transcends elections.  Conservative rich like the Koch have spent billions building conservative institutions and message machinery (Fox, Heritage, talk radio, much much more).

The argument I have heard is that liberal rich should be concerned, because they may lose the rule of law.  The rich use law much more than the poor or middle class, or even the upper class. They sue all the time, their corporations are creatures of law, and so on.  so they should want to maintain the rule of law.  What benefits everyone, benefits them too.

All true, except that they don’t think they’re losing the rule of law.  They think that the law will protect their interests, and not those of others.

Since that is already mostly their experience (the law is a bludgeon for them rather than against them more often than not, in part because only they can really afford to use it to its full extent) they don’t see any reason why they can’t tilt the field even further.

In terms of equitable law (including legislation) benefiting everyone: yes and no.  The era of lessened responsibility and of legislative and judicial capture has made them filthy rich.  Arguably they would have been as rich or nearly as rich in a functioning society which produced more equitable incomes and better GDP growth because demand wouldn’t have been strangled (income for the rich rose just fine during the 45 to 75 period) BUT in relative terms they wouldn’t be as rich or powerful, because other people would be richer.  Comparative power is what it’s about.  If America becomes a third world country and the rich live in massive compounds, flying from one to the other (like they, er, do now) and the courts rule in their favor and the legislatures write bills for thm what is the negative?  It’s only a real problem if they lose control, or the lower orders become uppity enough to go all Bastille day on them, which they don’t think Americans will do.

I’m not saying they’re necessarily right, but this is the way they think.

It is not clear to me that liberal rich see nearly as much benefit to them personally.  They half buy the conservative argument, because that is their lived experience–they don’t have to deal with ordinary people, they don’t fly on the same planes, they don’t take the subway or buses or even ordinary taxis most of the time, they live in a bubble in which the problems of normal people effect them only remotely.  They have hotels rooms or whole hotels which cost so much you and I will never enter them (we don’t even know their names, by and large) with private garages to private elevators to private lobbies to private rooms, from which they are conveyed in helicopters or limousines to private jets.  They never see someone who isn’t part of their class or a servant or retainer.  All this assuming they don’t have a private residence in every city they spend any significant amount of time in.

This is not an exaggeration. Most people have no idea how the rich really live.

They aren’t like us, there is a point where wealth becomes so huge that it lifts you out of ordinary existence and the global rich (including the American rich) are past that event horizon.

41 Responses
  1. cathyx permalink
    October 20, 2010

    When I saw dreadfully poor people in dreadfully poor countries smiling or laughing, I used to be amazed that they could have anything to smile or laugh at. Look at their circumstances, after all. Nothing to be in a good mood about there. But then I realized that that is exactly what the ultra rich people would think about me in my life, and I smile and laugh all of the time. Life is about so much more than how much money you have. That’s what they will never understand.

  2. October 20, 2010

    There is a class divide between the filthy rich and the filthy stinking rich. If you look at election returns of Great Falls, Virginia, where the filthy rich live, you will see it has gotten steadily more Democratic over the years, Obama carried Great Falls.

    If you look at the election returns of Middleburg, Virginia, where the filthy stinking rich live, you will see it rock solid Republican.

    The filthy rich still understand they need the protection of the law, they don’t understand how precarious it has gotten. The filthy stinking rich really do think that they are above the law.

  3. Ian Welsh permalink*
    October 20, 2010

    The second tier rich are being left behind by the really rich, and they are beginning to understand it. Aye.

    The US will decide not to bailout a financial crisis when one faction of the rich blocks the other faction.

  4. Tom permalink
    October 20, 2010

    Actually, dcblogger, the median household income in Middleburg, VA is about 60k a year. The wealthy live outside town, and many vote Democratic; about two years ago I attended a pro-abortion rights get-together at a large estate between Upperville and Middleburg, and most of the attendees – most either wealthy or aspirants to wealth – supported the Democratic candidates. About eight miles away and across the Shenandoah River, Clarke County, where I grew up “filthy rich” but not “filthy stinking rich”, went about 48-52.

    As long as incomes and net worths of the affluent are protected, the majority of those making low six figures per year and/or owning net worths of low seven figures will continue to vote Republican. Those who choose to vote Democratic generally do so out of a genuine desire to do the right thing, however misplaced.

    Very few care about how wealthy the very rich are. There is merely the desire to improve one’s family’s lot. Once that goes – and it hasn’t gone yet, but it’s getting there – things might change.

  5. Tom permalink
    October 20, 2010

    The biggest problem, of course, is campaign financing. Without public financing, the “filthy rich” get more votes than the remainder, and the “filthy stinking rich” get even more; there is no democracy without public financing.

  6. Pepe permalink
    October 20, 2010

    Fortunately for the rich, the American public tends to be servile.

  7. jcapan permalink
    October 20, 2010

    “This is not an exaggeration. Most people have no idea how the rich really live.”

    Actually, I don’t think it’s such a mystery. Especially in a media age that puts the lifestyles of the R&F on the telly every night. I think the problem is too many who are not rich worship those who are, and as with lottery-odds they dream of rising. They probably know the Koch bros’ interests are not their own, but why would they want to punish the class to which they aspire?

    In any event, I’d say the real problem with American class consciousness is that a significant portion of the left has no idea how the working class really lives. Avedon linked to a pretty good riff yesterday:

    “I have decided the Left is largely IN ABSENTIA because the American Left now comes from the elite class itself; their political convictions are basically a reflection of the warmed-over liberalism they obediently ingested while attending Good Colleges. They believe what they believe out of a sense of common decency, fairness and goodness. But not because most American Leftists have experienced classism themselves.”

    http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/2010/10/yes-boys-and-girls-thats-our-discussion.html

  8. Barry permalink
    October 20, 2010

    In addition to the socializing effect of the wealthy associating mostly with other wealthy, there are other effects.

    1. At some point if you have sufficient wealth your holdings just grow. Wealth can achieve a critical mass where making it shrink takes real work, or a global financial calamity.

    2. Having great wealth is rationalizing. Most economic actors are not rational, despite what neoliberal economists say. But when you have enough wealth that you hire people to manage your money, they start acting on your behalf, and they do so more rationally than you would yourself. That is, they seek to maximize your wealth, and think about your well-being in economic terms. The wealthy, through their proxies, act more like economists think everyone should act.

  9. October 20, 2010

    “It’s quite noticeable that the conservative rich massively outspend their more liberal brethren when it comes to influencing politics. ”

    Couldn’t this be because there are simply way, way more rich conservatives than rich liberals?

    Conservative beliefs–bowing to authority, hewing to tradition, seeking and valuing hierarchy, forsaking personal enjoyment for social status and endless hard work, seeing other people as competitors and/or resources to be exploited, etc.–are much more conducive to wanting and gaining a fortune.

  10. October 20, 2010

    Of course, if this was corrected for, my previous comment can be ignored.

  11. Tom Hickey permalink
    October 20, 2010

    Arguably they would have been as rich or nearly as rich in a functioning society which produced more equitable incomes and better GDP growth because demand wouldn’t have been strangled (income for the rich rose just fine during the 45 to 75 period) BUT in relative terms they wouldn’t be as rich or powerful, because other people would be richer.  Comparative power is what it’s about.  If America becomes a third world country and the rich live in massive compounds, flying from one to the other (like they, er, do now) and the courts rule in their favor and the legislatures write bills for thm what is the negative?  It’s only a real problem if they lose control, or the lower orders become uppity enough to go all Bastille day on them, which they don’t think Americans will do.
    I’m not saying they’re necessarily right, but this is the way they think.

    Yep.

  12. Ian Welsh permalink*
    October 20, 2010

    It’s not clear to me that conservative beliefs are more conducive to gaining a fortune. What is clear to me is that once people gain a fortune, they become more conservative for a variety of reasons. This is especially true of the later generations of inherited wealth.

    In terms of numbers of wealthy, I think it’s both: they have more and they give more. This is anecdotal, but there is no equivalent to the ideological and long term organizational giving that folks like the Kochs do, or Fox, on the left. The left’s money tends to go into technocratic stuff, it may be nominally liberal, but it is not long term and it is not hardcore ideological. The funding treadmill on the left is awful, you have to beg every year over and over and again, while the right rich make long term big money commitments to institutions. They also, as a rule, micromanage a lot less, though there are exceptions.

  13. guest permalink
    October 20, 2010

    Modern Americans doing a Bastille? LOL. We couldn’t even do a nice little general strike. Anybody strikes in this country, and they are absolutely vilified by the middle class. How dare mere grocery store cashiers demand continued health insurance! How dare useless government workers form unions! They have more than average job security, and they want to keep it? Outrageous! There is no way any change in this country is coming from the bottom up. The evil rich will find it easier and easier to find cheap thugs to do their bidding.

  14. Bubba permalink
    October 20, 2010

    The ultra rich liberal elite spend just as much as the Republicans. How do you think people like Pelosi and Boxer keep getting elected. Have you ever heard of George Soros? There are just as many rich liberals as conservatives but the media does not villify the Democrat billionaires.

    There are many, many NY and CA liberals who are incredibly rich. They are just as influential as those strung up by the liberal media.

  15. guest permalink
    October 21, 2010

    Speaking of servile…. poor Bubba has carpal tunnel from wringing his hands over the way Fox and CNBC and CNN are lynching or “stringing up” the banksters. Guess I shouldn’t feed the trolls. But Ian’s trolls looks seem so hungry and pathetic.

  16. tatere permalink
    October 21, 2010

    Without public financing, the “filthy rich” get more votes than the remainder, and the “filthy stinking rich” get even more…

    I take your point to be more about influence than elections, but really, let’s look at that. If people are able to win elections by spending more money – and they aren’t buying them by bribing the vote counters, which I know, it’s a whole separate issue and yes there are problems but honestly we really lose sometimes – then how is it that we end up at a point where all those individual voters decide, “Yeah, I’m gonna vote for that side with the cash”?

    I mean, I wouldn’t think it was as literal as that, but maybe it is? That they take big spending as a sign of “strength” or whatever? Some real data about why people vote the way they do – or don’t vote at all – would be good.

    I would imagine it comes down to “It was on the teevee”. If the TV is the primary source of political information, that’s difficult to overcome. We will never have as much money as they do because that’s who they are – the money. I don’t think public financing is an answer, either, one because there are 1st Amendment issues that would likely moot any scheme, and two, TV inherently belongs to them and their world. Most information comes from the “news” and public financing wouldn’t affect that a jot.

    Until we find an alternate means of influencing people, we are going to have a hard time winning. Which is why destroying unions was and is such a priority for them, among a host of other reasons.

  17. John permalink
    October 21, 2010

    Thorstein Veblen explained this in his Theory of the Leisure Class, written at the height of the robber baron era in 1899, where he coined the term conspicuous consumption.
    Several World Wars and a Depression in the first half of the 20th Century diminished this inclination in US society somewhat, but it never went away.
    There is a chain of aspiration in our consumer culture exemplified by the span from WalMart to Nieman Marcus. Everyone has a clear place and the hope to move to the next level up.
    For those on the lower rung, the move from WalMart to Target is significant. They kinda know a Nieman Marcus world is out there and they like that
    The lifestyles of the rich and famous teevee shows are current versions of the old Emily Post etiquette books. They teach the aspirants how to act in the world they hope to achieve.
    As Matt Taibbi writes, the peasant class is alive and well in the US today, tugging at their forelocks as the lord and lady of the manor pass thru the village. The plutocrats know to keep the delusion of class mobility alive as that keep the torches and pitchforks at bay.

  18. anon2525 permalink
    October 21, 2010

    No the rich aren’t like you

    They sit at the apex of a pyramid of complexity. That complexity is something a richer person in another time — J.D. Rockefeller, for example, or Queen Victoria — could not buy. When that pyramid of complexity collapses, those at the apex will fall just like everyone else, but they will have farther to fall. Some people think that the rich will have purchased islands of 21st century life that will insulate them from the 18th century (14th century?) ocean. I doubt that because it assumes that the rich will have a) the willingness to work and b) the competence. (A hedge fund “manager” worth $4 billion isn’t a brilliant creative business genius — he’s a gambler who won a big bet.) Those islands won’t simply appear at the end of a checkbook of fiat money. Among other reasons, fiat money requires that people obey your fiat. They won’t when your fiat isn’t backed by anything of value (clean water, food, shelter, clothing, …). And the amount of complexity that they’ll need to create is beyond any small group to achieve — they simply won’t have sufficient collective intelligence.

    But what do we care whether they will have those islands or not? We won’t.

  19. John permalink
    October 21, 2010

    To the tom and dcblogger up line, I find this discussion particularly interesting because if you go the next county west of Clarke County, Virginia, you come to Winchester, sometime home of Joe Bageant of ‘Deerhunting with Jesus’ and ‘Rainbow Pie’ fame. His books don’t sell well in the US because he dares to bring up that tetchy subject of class in ‘class free’ America. Americans don’t like to have that discussion.
    So on that 70 mile strip of US Route 50 from Winchester to the Halls of Congress, you can follow the chain of US class and aspiration from poor white Appalachia to full blown plutocrat.
    And I would propose that the really virulent racism in America is a function of this class divide. The smart plutocrat keeps the peasants fighting amongst themselves.

  20. anon2525 permalink
    October 21, 2010

    The biggest problem, of course, is campaign financing. Without public financing, the “filthy rich” get more votes than the remainder, and the “filthy stinking rich” get even more; there is no democracy without public financing.

    Or even with public campaign financing.

    At present, elections are a formality — they are held to give us a vote, not representation. Representation is for those who pay for lobbyists, who are the people who write all legislation that is concerned with spending, taxing, and regulating. The house of representatives (of those who pay for lobbyists) and the Millionaires’ Club (the senate) then vote on, but rarely read, the bills.

  21. October 21, 2010

    i have some “filthy rich” friends (each personally worth several hundred million). and they are different from what they consider to be their betters/overclass, the uber-rich billionaires like the Koch bros. they think of themselves as much closer to “regular” people in some ways, even as they disdain all of us down here working for a living in others. what has always interested me is that personally (they are all women) they really are “liberal.” they believe in things like quality public education, women’s rights and reproductive freedom, an end to senseless wars, a rich life of arts and culture, homosexual equality… hell, one of them is really active in the super-liberal part of the “treat depression” movement and talks about Gaia mysticism all the time (boring me to tears, mostly, but anyway).

    but they sustain a kind of mythology that fascinate me. it goes something like this. all of them are only a generation or two away from having Little People family. an irish catholic grandfather; a great grandmother who worked as a servant; that sort of thing. so at least at the level of the family history narrative, they were at least told about how sometimes, people don’t have a lot of money for no other reason than the class they’re born into. and yet! these friends of mine are so deaf to the argument that “it takes money to have and make money these days” or “American society is not the land of equal opportunity for everyone all the time” or even “the rich aren’t paying their fair share.” yeah, that last one sets us to arguing any time i ‘go there’ with them, and they turn into really angry, stubborn, deaf people. “you just hate me because you’re not rich and because you didn’t marry my cousin like i told you back when you had a chance to join this class” is about the sum of their argument to me. i once wrote a 5 page, single spaced, 10 point, fully referenced with Census statistics paper for one of them on an argument we had about the root causes and effects of income inequality. her response? “well, the government lies and you can’t trust statistics.” this is someone with an advanced degree. another time, one of them tried to argue that the “middle class” average income is (and this was 15 years ago, so adjust for inflation) “about $250k/yr.” what i’m saying is that basically, there’s a willful ignorance among this class borne of guilt, and the knowledge that they didn’t really earn what they have, nor do they have to work very hard to keep it. of course, none of them “work” as people like us would know it. they basically spend half the year at vacation estates, and the other half of the year dealing with the petty social problems of their class. only my educational pedigree and some chances of family friendships keep me marginally within their social circles. indeed, i’m the Black Queer Friend who allows them to entertain that they are truly liberal, and not just in meaningless, unsupportive of political action, speech. the vast majority of their other friends are like themselves, or richer. one of them is constantly trying to get herself even further into the social circles of a very famous uber rich mega billionaire family; it amuses me to hear her talk about how those people put *her* down unconsciously and as easily as she sometimes does to me, and how uncomfortable it makes her. but where i tolerate it from her because of the sake of peace in our families, she lies awake at night worrying that she’s finally said or done that social faux pas that will forever bar her 1/4 catholic self (o! the horror!) from the final and most aristocratic levels of society.

    all these women vote and occasionally donate to the republican party and see no conflict in doing so. the most honest of them admitted to me once, “it’s cheaper to fight paying taxes until the absolute last minute; i can make more investing that money than the fines i ultimately will have to pay cost. and i give a half million to the republican party every year, because then i can pick up the phone and overcome any problem i may have with something (shady or immoral) i’m doing with a single call. they also know never to raise *my* taxes.” yet she would call herself a “fierce advocate” for atheist and women’s right’s. sigh.

    personally, what little experience i have with the uber rich billionaire class suggests to me that it is a sociopathic culture. i doubt there are very many real “liberals” there, let alone progressives. not to mention the fact that i’m fairly sure that in order to stay in it (because at that level, it’s kings fighting other kings and not playing nice and with the ultimate price of loss the loss of all) i believe one has to be at least semi-sociopathic. great wealth is always garnished from the blood of the poor and innocent. it is hardly any wonder to me that the media and politicians they buy reinforce those values.

    and it will take a global war before we dislodge these people, just like the last time around. it’s almost always the only way.

  22. Bernard permalink
    October 21, 2010

    sociopaths, another name for the rich. fits like a glove. poor sociopaths go to mental institutions, and the rich ones go mental on the society they live in.

  23. anon2525 permalink
    October 21, 2010

    but they sustain a kind of mythology that fascinate me. it goes something like this. all of them are only a generation or two away from having Little People family. an irish catholic grandfather; a great grandmother who worked as a servant; that sort of thing. so at least at the level of the family history narrative, they were at least told about how sometimes, people don’t have a lot of money for no other reason than the class they’re born into. and yet!

    It doesn’t fascinate me.

    It helps to choose parents and grandparents who are born into a first-world country that supports pyramids of wealth (brought about by monopolies, instead of free markets where no seller or buyer controls the price). Your friends (?) won lotteries. Molly Ivin’s quote about Shrub: “He was born on third base and thought he hit a triple.” Ask your friends — Edisons all, I’m sure — sometime to show you all of (hell, any of) the railroads (or whatever) they have personally built. The mythology in the first-world countries (the U.S., especially) is that companies are built by the management at the top. They are built by the substantial work of the hundreds and thousands of people who work there. These people are anti-union because unions would see to it that employees are paid higher wages when increased productivity or monopoly pricing increased the profits of the company, which would leave less for the management and for the financial parasites (aka, “MOTU”).

    and it will take a global war before we dislodge these people, just like the last time around. it’s almost always the only way.

    A war might happen (some think it is likely), but it won’t be necessary. The collapse will do it.

  24. anon2525 permalink
    October 21, 2010

    All this assuming they don’t have a private residence in every city they spend any significant amount of time in.

    Apparently the British homeless have decided to bypass storming the Bastille:

    – Man leaves home for a week so it can be decorated and 15 squatters move in
    – Squatters set up home in Duke of Westminster’s £30million Park Lane mansions
    – Squatters wreck Inspector Morse’s £2m Victorian home
    – Squatters move in to £3million home and tell owners: ‘We’ll call the law if you try to evict us’

    All via Yves Smith, who got them from British observers.

    Maybe the rich don’t have separate residences now. Or, it is time for these modern-day princes & princesses to start paying the full cost of their kingdoms by hiring their own military — the first of many additional staff that will be required.

  25. Ian Welsh permalink*
    October 21, 2010

    In the US those squatters would have been evicted by force by private security/military.

  26. votermom permalink
    October 21, 2010

    I agree with what CD & anon2525 said.
    A couple of things about the rich:
    1) they believe they deserve their wealth, they imagine they earned it, they don’t think luck has anything to do with them being rich
    2) they distrust the non-rich; they think everyone wants to steal/bilk them of their money

  27. anon2525 permalink
    October 21, 2010

    In the US those squatters would have been evicted by force by private security/military.

    No doubt. As the Depression II spreads and deepens, people will be hired as private military guarding the castles of the princes where ever they live. No need to even mention the private military in Mexico, for example. But private military is only the first step after a prince acquires a castle. There will be a need some day for farmland and serfs, doctors and dentists and optometrists, and medical schools and refineries (for fuel for the jets) and tanker trucks and, well, the list goes on if you’re going to create your own island of the 21st century amid those who have slipped back to earlier centuries. It’s going to get expensive to be a prince. The rich will, once again, need our pity (who can forget lucky duckies?)

  28. alyosha permalink
    October 21, 2010

    I take issue with anon2525′s interesting comment, way upstream:

    …They [the rich] sit at the apex of a pyramid of complexity. That complexity is something a richer person in another time — J.D. Rockefeller, for example, or Queen Victoria — could not buy. When that pyramid of complexity collapses, those at the apex will fall just like everyone else, but they will have farther to fall. Some people think that the rich will have purchased islands of 21st century life that will insulate them from the 18th century (14th century?) ocean. I doubt that because it assumes that the rich will have a) the willingness to work and b) the competence.

    I’m sure some rich will indeed fall quite far, but others will have the ability, wherewithal and foresight to create a 21st century island for themselves amid a 14th century ocean. Those who understand that we’re transitioning into a kind of neofeudalism are hard at work positioning themselves at the top of that particular social order’s pyramids. And there will be no shortage of hungry peasants to do the work.

    Even if you’re not rich, but have the foresight to see that this is how society is reconfiguring (for better or worse), finding your way in this emerging landscape and social order is the task at hand.

    I was listening to Chris Hedges speak on The Death of the Liberal Class. He made many fascinating points about the present condition, and toward the end of his talk, he focused on what happens to those in “the 14th century ocean”:

    …We are not going to salvage our country or our environment through electoral politics.

    [quoting Philip Berrigan] If voting were that effective, it would illegal.

    I think from now on, all resistance is local. Food will become, very soon, a major political weapon. We already are creating, in the post-industrial pockets, food deserts…Banks have packed up and left [these areas]. Communities themselves are falling into irrepairable decay, and these post-industrial pockets are growing. And the corporate state is not going to do anything to ameliorate the suffering it causes.

    That is going to be our job. We are going to have to begin to build locally…

  29. jawbone permalink
    October 21, 2010

    Hedges’ comments remind me of the society described in Margaret Atwood’s first two books of her new trilogy, Oryx and Crake” and and The Year of the Flood.

    In her speculative or, as she termed it, social science fiction about a near future, there is only private security provided by the ruling power, CorpSeCorps. There are no public police. Corporations control everything and provide guarded compounds for their employees’ highly privileged living — as long as they are completely loyal to the corporation. If employees’ or their family members’ loyalty is questionable, people may and do disappear. Or suffer unknown terminal sudden illnesses. The rest of the population lives in wild and rough Pleeblands. Their major purpose is to be consumers of what the corporations want to sell.

    Hhhmmm….

  30. anon2525 permalink
    October 21, 2010

    …others will have the ability, wherewithal and foresight to create a 21st century island for themselves …

    Maybe.

    Consider one element of their 21st century life: the fuel for their private planes.

    - Will they have their own private tankers to bring them the oil, or will they have their private military guard pipelines?

    - Will they have their own private navies to guard their tankers (consider the Somalian pirates)?

    - Will they have their own private oil refineries? Their own tanker trucks? Their own armored vehicles guarding the tanker trucks?

    There are many more examples of the benefits that they get from a complex economic system. Their own pharmaceutical drugs? From their own drug companies? With their own researchers and manufacturers? And their own universities that train doctors and chemists? And their own engineers to design and build their private planes? And their private mechanics trained at their private schools? And their privately trained pilots? The list is quite long because the number of people that work in a complex economic system that the rich benefit from is large.

    They can live like a 19th century prince with a military and shelter and food, but the 21st century won’t be easy to keep, even for them.

  31. tatere permalink
    October 21, 2010

    Charlie Stross went into that somewhat, in the context of why the fantasies of space colonies are a little off…

    So. I ask: how many people does it take, as a minimum, to maintain our current level of technological civilization? [...]

    I’d put a lower bound of 100 million on the range, too [...] Hypothetically, we may only need 500 people in one particular niche, but that means training 20 of them a year to keep the pool going, plus future trainers, and an allowance for wastage and drop-outs by people who made a bad career choice…

    And so on. It’s a pretty big pyramid to keep all the shiny running.

    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/07/insufficient-data.html

  32. October 21, 2010

    I wrote a post about this at my old blog (back when I used to blog) called “Indistinguishable From Aristocracy” :

    http://broadwaycarl.blogspot.com/2009/11/indistinguishable-from-aristocracy_28.html

  33. October 22, 2010

    - Will they have their own private tankers to bring them the oil, or will they have their private military guard pipelines?

    - Will they have their own private navies to guard their tankers (consider the Somalian pirates)?

    - Will they have their own private oil refineries? Their own tanker trucks? Their own armored vehicles guarding the tanker trucks?

    This is not as much a problem as you might think. Without growing the Venter route of creating a copyrighted organism from scratch, a few million and a few good molecular biologists could get you a blue green algae that uses sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to make all the hydrocarbons you need. The big boys have been squelching development of this critter because once you have it, big oil is passe. There’s about a trillion dollars or so of fossil fuels left, and they want to wring the earth dry before they switch to something else.

    But in 50 years or so the new feudalism should be in top shape, and some body will pull this out their hat too… when only the Right Sort of People can use it.

  34. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    October 22, 2010

    I consider myself highly paranoid, but I don’t see how any interests, even the ‘garchs acting in unison could suppress something like that. You’re telling me no one will seize the opportunity of patenting it and getting rich? No country is interested in cheap energy?

  35. soullite permalink
    October 22, 2010

    Humans are more or less the same everywhere. The rich who con themselves into thinking that Americans are somehow more servile than other people are just kidding themselves. Americans are richer than most people, so they will put up with a little more disrespect. But when things head toward the bastille, they do so quickly. Political violence is not a slow, building thing; it comes to a head and then it butchers and massacres until the moment passes and everyone is left to wonder ‘why now?’. There are few warnings, and the warnings that come look exactly like the false starts that faltered before them, so nobody thinks much of it. Americans will turn to violence just like everyone else. They are not special, they are not better and they are not worse. A human is a human is a human.

    People are all running on the same instincts, though, and people put far more stock in socialization than they really should.

  36. October 22, 2010

    The problem comes in making money off it.

    Venter’s approach is to create such an organism from scratch, with all kinds of sterility/ nutritional safeguards to ensure 1) it can be patented and 2) some bright girl or boy doesn’t figure out how to grow it independently of Craig’s Sooper Seekrit recipe. BP is heavily invested in this. But it will be a tailor-made organism far more so than Monsanto’s Round-Up resistant crops.

    The other approach would simply splice archebacterial genes into blue-green algae. No selection. No profit, as it could be grown by anyone anywhere.

    It would immediately make paupers of the Saudis. It would end all war in the mideast. What’s to fight for, and how could you continue to fund it?

    You have to understand the people who own everything do not want this. This would, indeed interfere with the new feudalism in a very big way. It won’t be done. Instead, Venter will come up with an organism that behaves according to specs, patent it the way the big boys want it, and it won’t be released until the Saudis (and Poppy’s New World Order) are ready for it.

  37. Lee MAttocks permalink
    October 22, 2010

    I have lived poor and lived with very very wealthy too! I like my simple life of unwanted stuff! I help the disadvantaged and love my country. I do not like how the wealthy have turned our anger against us with this bigoted Tea Party Group but I have faith the people will see through this and will recognize the price for their votes is not money!

  38. Lee MAttocks permalink
    October 22, 2010

    We pay a higher income tax than the wealthy 2% right now. That is a tax cut that is out of step! We need to put them at Hoover levels-39% See how they like it-they will still have money but may be be a bit less cocky about it! Knocked down a level or two won’t hurt them at all! They won’t even notice.

  39. Lee MAttocks permalink
    October 22, 2010

    You don’t think we can prevent the New World Order from taking over?

  40. KLCarten permalink
    October 23, 2010

    I think if things get where people are starving, things could get ugly. I don’t know anyone that wants anyone to hand them anything, they just want to work and be able to pay the bills and have a little extra. We had a saying in the union, a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. American’s are workaholic’s most of us identify by either our job or career. We in general are not a lazy bunch, American’s just want a fair shot, give them a chance in a decent job and wage and we can take care of ourselves. The thing is everything is stacked against us, you got the super wealthy “lobbying” for their own benefit.

    We just want a level playing field and we haven’t really had one in thirty years. Its much easier to villify the unions, because with strong unions, the working class is strong, it brings people out of poverty. I grew up lower to middle class, times were tough when there were strikes and I never knew that we were kind of poor. I had a roof over my head, food in my belly, and clothes on my back, sure the clothes weren’t designer, and the house my parents worked on until they made a very nice home, and we never went hungry. Sure, it might not have been steak every night but we had meat with veggies .

    I was lucky until I became disabled and found out, things can turn pretty ugly fast. The union helped out with food for a couple years. Say what you will, but unions take care of their own. Americans are a funny bunch, we always pulled together and made things happen, it can happen. I watched Tumka ( president of the AFL-CIO) say that americans were just beat down, that after nearly 30 years of getting shafted they just know that their gonna get screwed.

    When people get hungry, survival kicks in, my dad grew up dirt poor. He said you forget things you were taught when you haven’t eaten in days. All morals are tossed out the window when your hungry, if it gets that bad on a large scale ,Viva La Revolution.

  41. Phoenician in a time of Romans permalink
    October 24, 2010

    If people are able to win elections by spending more money – and they aren’t buying them by bribing the vote counters, which I know, it’s a whole separate issue and yes there are problems but honestly we really lose sometimes – then how is it that we end up at a point where all those individual voters decide, “Yeah, I’m gonna vote for that side with the cash”?

    One of the best ways, of course, is to create one side with all the cash, make it look like two sides, and prevent any meaningful authentic third side from coming into play. If voters are given a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, well, you don’t really care which they choose.

    Bonus points if you can get the more easily excited screaming that Tweedledee is the Devil…

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