The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Justification for Great Wealth

Great wealth is great power. If you have money, many people will do what you want them to do. This should be uncontroversial: Most of us have spent our lives doing tasks we wouldn’t do unless someone was giving us money.

Well, that and being scared of losing everything and dying on the street.

Great wealth is a matter of law. Property rights beyond, “What I can carry” are not natural. They require force and a series of professional classes–from accountants to cops–to maintain. Property rights, then, are actually a drag on the economy; they come with a cost. They doubtless have some benefits, but whatever those may be, they are not pure benefit. Whether any particular set of property rights is a net benefit is unclear; it might be the economy would do better with less.

Property rights are justified because they are supposed to lead to better outcomes. So are wealth and income differentials. If someone is earning more, they supposedly do more good in the economy.

The Wall Street bankers who crashed the world economy say “Hi!” and remind you that if they don’t get bonuses bigger than the rest of the country’s raises, they may not keep working.

So, let’s simplify this.

If you have a lot of money, say $64 billion, the question is “Are you doing more good with that money than would be done by simply splitting it up and giving it to everyone else in society.”

Or, better yet, what if you took that income and equalized it among all citizens?

Seems like the cost of having an overclass is rather high, isn’t it? Are they producing enough human welfare (any net human welfare?) to justify all that income they are taking?

When, of course, they actually crashed the economy in 2008 and when economic performance has been inversely proportionate to the amount we’ve taxed them?

Anyway, is having this elite worth $50K a year to you?

Hope you’re getting your money’s worth.

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Preparing for the Coronavirus


Open Thread


  1. Stirling S Newberry


    Then take ∫ of that to make it over T. It is the T part that is the killer, miracle of compound interest and all that.


    Anyway, is having this elite worth 50K a year to you?

    I’m one of the few here who can emphatically claim that it wasn’t and isn’t worth it so I walked away. I’ve been there, had it and could have had much more. I could have been an E & Y partner, but really, frankly, I couldn’t have been in my heart and that was the problem, I had and have a heart.

    This is why I have nothing in common with those who still have skin in the game. Those like Yves Smith. Those like Bernhard of MoA. Those like Robert Parry’s son who owns Consortium News and is an EU darling. I walked amongst these imposters once upon a time and I rejected them. If you haven’t rejected them, then I have no respect for you. My expectation is that in the least you do what I have done and that is, be a traitor to your class. Divest yourself if you are in the stock market. Invest your money in people versus cold & callous trading algorithms.

    Oh, and vote Bernie 2020.

    I’ve changed my mind about Bloomberg. I see the light. He’s a snake. You, those of you who told me so, the honest and genuine ones, were right. That includes you Hugh. If they cheat Bernie out of the nomination, we will withhold our vote and that means Trump will win. We are getting our passports in order. When and if that times comes, we will plead for asylum to a country that agrees the situation is dire. America will become a nightmare for women, children and minorities. Abortion will be made illegal. Women who have been raped will have no recourse. Mass shootings will become a pandemic versus an epidemic. Blacks will triple or quadruple their gun violence genocide of one another in the burgeoning to overflowing ghettos enabled by full-throated fascism and Trump will turn on his puppet master Vlad Putin and conjure a nuclear holocaust.

    Simply put, if Bernie is cheated out of the nomination and/or the general election, it’s game over. It may already be game over and we just don’t know it.

  3. anon

    I don’t think anyone does a job worth billions of dollars a year. There are only 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week. I read a fluff piece on Elon Musk’s typical day, stating he woke up early at 7am, and I thought, “Really? That’s early?” Millions of people wake up at 5 or 6am every workday to get their kids ready for school before driving an hour in traffic to work.

    Reading on, it seemed Musk did have a jam packed day filled with meetings and checking emails, but that is the typical life of most white collar workers. He spends little time with his children, which I suppose most well paid corporate workers sacrifice for money, but he tries to get in one day each week with them.

    Compare his or any major CEO’s million or billion dollar salary to the average worker who oftentimes has to work just as much for minimum wage or no around, perhaps, $150k a year if you are looking at well-paid white collar workers.

    I have a colleague who works on average 60 hours a week, and she only gets paid $80k. Another colleague who is more senior works long hours and gets paid an upper middle class salary in the mid-$100k. Compared to the average American, we are well off (I live in the Midwest, not an expensive city on the coasts), but none of us are making more than $200k for the work that we do. And many of the younger workers are straddled with student loan debt.

    I always wonder what in the hell does a typical CEO do that makes his work +100x more valuable than even his well educated, better paid workers. From what I’ve read about CEOs, they don’t get more hours in a day and Musk manages to get around 6 hours of sleep. Checking their emails, comped lunch and dinner meetings, and making deals on the golf course is not worth a $10 million dollar salary.

  4. There is no justification for great wealth.

  5. bruce wilder

    Money and property rights together provide a decentralized means of mobilizing resources in social cooperation, a means of power in other words. Power decentralized enables a deep division of labor, which multiplies the potential of power.

    The trick with power is keeping power decentralized, distributed widely enough that the exercise of power is always a negotiation, requiring persuasion by means of deliberate rationalization to resolve conflicts of interest.

    Power is not a zero-sum game. Power distributed and decentralized, provided that power is not simply consumed in protracted or violent disputes, can be power multiplied. Where the parts are more powerful, the center is more powerful. Concepts like fairness can enhance the trust that expedites transactions.

    Highly centralized power may well seek to disable opposition from subordinate parts, but if it succeeds, it does so at the expense of the Power of the whole. It will do so by evisceration of concepts of fairness and processes of deliberate rationalization. It will, in short, seek to make political society mean and stupid.

    The impulse among the powerful to enhance their own status and power by degrading the ability of subordinates to oppose them or to demand a share of the rewards to mobilized cooperation is as natural as it is ultimately destructive to the society as a whole.

    The idea that power is a negative-sum game arises easily from the experience of a society where centralized power acts arbitrarily in pursuing its own interests at the expense of the whole society, disabling subordinate power in acts of predation or parasitism, as the case may be. Where great accumulations of idle money concentrate in few hands, there is no use for that money but usury and manipulation.

    Greed for power has a tendency to make itself stupid in other words, intent as it often is on degrading those whose cooperation is necessary to enable productive use of power.

    The seemingly idealistic notion of the ideological libertarian, that private power can be trusted while public power must be disabled, feeds on the experience of power distributed, when people feel the “burden” of public regulation and the constraints imposed on independent action when everything must be negotiated.

    There can be no utopia where there is no cost, no loss of efficiency from operating the institutional machinery of social cooperation.

    The “good society” does not escape the burdens, it accepts them and makes them work intelligently, by putting a premium on negotiating by means of rationalizing deliberation: figuring out what is “fair” for example.

    The U.S. has been done in by a subversive ideology, neoliberalism, which has very effectively attacked and degraded shared ideas of what is fair and what institutional means will keep power efficiently and effectively decentralized and distributed.


    The U.S. has been done in by a subversive ideology, neoliberalism, which has very effectively attacked and degraded shared ideas of what is fair and what institutional means will keep power efficiently and effectively decentralized and distributed.

    This issue transcends neoliberalism. It’s pretty much a feature of civilization and has ebbed and flowed throughout the history of civilization. Russia too has been done in by a subversive ideology. It’s called plutocratic kleptocracy. Lenin and Trotsky, like was done to the Romanovs, would have had Putin executed on the spot and his family executed as well considering his wealth and power exceeds that of the Tzars. They would consider him an abomination and a traitor to the revolution as was Stalin.

  7. Alan Coovert

    Every day I wake up in the most hated, evil and dangerous country in the Global Capitalist Empire. This country is a racist, white supremacist militarized police state. I’ve known this in the back of my head since I was 13 years old when I watched Lee Harvey Oswald get shot on live TV by Jack Ruby. I remember the deaths of MalcomX, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and the four students at Kent state. I volunteered for the Marines in 1969, I volunteered for Vietnam in 1970. I remember watching the F-4s and A-4s dropping bombs on the hills around DaNang. I remember the looks of hatred from the Vietnamese people. I didn’t think I was the enemy but I was to them. After I came home, I got a job, worked and lived my life. I never got married and I never had any children because I had learned that hope is a useless emotion. I never believed in the “American Dream” because I knew for most people it’s a nightmare. Now to my surprise, I’m 70 years old( the age my father died) and still alive. I don’t own a car or a TV and live in a house that the bank owns. I don’t have a passport because I’m not leaving. I don’t deserve to leave because I think that today is the day we burn this motherfucker to the ground.

  8. Ian Welsh

    Smart man, Bruce.

    But there’s a lot of ways to do it. Contra the anti-commons propaganda commons were stable for centuries and were only about 10% less productive than enclosed lands, and even that not in all cases.

  9. Andre

    Sanders says billionaires should not exist. What he is saying is that if a person can accumulate 64 billion dollars. there is something wrong with the structures of government, one of whose jobs it is, is too serve as a referee, and a policeman in seeing that things are equitably distributed. One can see very clearly where Bloomberg is coming from, since he really doesn’t believe that the state should have these powers, and he’s going to see that we follow his view, no matter what we believe. He’s really an arrogant asshole, and Trump’s twin to the max, though smarter than Trump. I guess inherently he thinks he’s supremely smart because of his wealth, where it was really his elite predecessors who made it possible for him to accumulate his wealth, by their pushing to destroy big government. See the The Powell Memorandum:

    I can remember when being a conservative in this country (US) was a very defensive posture. See Barry Goldwater.

  10. nihil obstet

    Capitalism generally and the neoliberal U.S. in particular has turned property rights into human rights. Most Americans wouldn’t even begin to understand what your statement Property rights beyond “what I can carry” are not natural means. Their response would be “if you take what belongs to me, you’re a thief.” Economists routinely say a country’s development into prosperity depends on having strong property rights. Most people are more upset at the loss of property than at the loss of life.

    Overcoming the view of property as a right is the biggest and most necessary obstacle to a decent society.

  11. Ten Bears

    Your bio Alan – great name, by-the-by, my middle in meatspace – is not all that unlike mine. Hell’s Belles, my birthday is/was Kent State. I did a Tour, Triple A, Ranger, my call-sign here was my call-sign there. However, gotta’ call the line at burning the place down. Got kids ‘n grandkids, great grandkid in the oven. I’m more of a mind these of days of burning those who would burn the place down, down. To be polite: you don’t have kids ‘r grandkids, great grandkid in the oven, you don’t have a stake in this. You are not a stakeholder in the future and your input is of no consequence. Sit down and shut up, be seen and not heard. Better still, leave; be unseen and not heard.

  12. Willy

    An economic conservative once recommended that I watch Dennis Prager videos about capitalism. I did and found these videos somewhat appealing. They’re generally cartoons for curious children and lazy adults done at about the third grade level.

    But I have a fourth graders intellect. I know that capitalism, like every other complicated thing mankind has ever come up with, needs to be maintained lest it fall apart. And not only do complicated things break, they can be broken as well. Sometimes even stolen! So I looked for the more advanced videos about maintaining and fixing capitalism when it breaks. But there were none.

    I felt like the kid whose bicycle has a flat tire and can only find videos about how great bikes are. Frustrating. Apparently in the world of economic conservatism, capitalism cannot break. Okay, fine. But what if my unbreakable bike gets broken anyways? What then? Apparently if you break your bicycle you’re expected to walk around with it pretending like it’s not broken. Or else you’ll be accused of all kinds of things which have nothing to do with your broken bicycle.

    Then I found out that Prager is being funded by these billionaire fracking brothers. Maybe they’ll have an answer.

  13. Dan

    Then I found out that Prager is being funded by these billionaire fracking brothers.

    No kidding? I’m surprised.

  14. bruce wilder

    Re: Commons

    Yes, there are many right answers.

    Community management of the commons can be an excellent model of a superior ideal for resource management, because it explicitly acknowledges the careful balancing of opposed interests representing conflicting values and considerations, that is required for truly superior community self-government. (My own cautions about “idealized” thinking apply.)

    The “ideal” of the rational individual — the hero, the entrepreneur, the great man, the conquering general, the lone genius — as the benchmark standard of what “rational” is all about — that is what we are up against and the rationality of community management can serve as an instructive contrast. It is an old joke that there are few memorial statues of committees, and it is true that malfunctioning committees can be dumber than any of their individual members. But, it is also true that the unconstrained individual is liable to arbitrary expedients and the hazards of idiosyncratic ignorance — as the sage said, all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Mainstream economics, in feeding the monstrosity of neoliberalism, relies on the lethal combination of the mythical “rational, selfish individual” of methodological individualism with the completely imaginary transactional context of the (‘free”! or “competitive”) market.

    The “market” model cuts people off from their experience of the way the political economy is actually organized. There are very few actual “markets” — that’s not how a modern economy is mostly organized. In real life, the economy is organized by hierarchical bureaucracies, networked and inter-nested. And, economics as a social science and political philosophy does nothing to help anyone talk about the reality of that.

    I think bureaucracy is a mixed blessing at best, but it is how we develop and apply what we know of genuine science to the arts and practice of commerce and industry. Organization in and by bureaucracy is how power is created and wielded. It is the transactional context that we ought to be thinking about. (Bureaucracy, not mythical markets, is or ought to be the core issue in regard to M4All.)

  15. ven

    The history of the world has always been one of exploitation – by elites with wealth / power, of everyone else. The last 500 years has seen Europeans in particular, expand and colonise the rest of the world. Its wealth is based on this historical exploitation and continued bullying.

    Most of the people living in the West don’t see this.

    Funnily enough though, the greed that has been built into our collective psyche, is such that we are going off a cliff, in our quest for continued consumption.

    So Alan C – I broadly agree with you – except, we just have to sit back and watch as they burn this place down. Qudos to you for seeing clearly and honestly.

  16. Willy

    Power corrupts because of how power games are played (in reality, with no rules) and who power games attracts (those who enjoy playing by no rules). Plus a bit of the callousness from emotional distance thing I suppose.

    In my experience, people who enjoy playing by no rules haven’t turned out to be very good people. At the end of the day they always screwed me over. And such people aren’t usually very good at being very good at anything except for playing power games. This means they suck at the other stuff. But they usually win power because they have more weapons and so get to spread their suckage around.

    In my humble experience, most people like that are so morally unfit that they could be considered mentally ill. Yet millions of people actually admire and respect them because of the status they conquered. This seems incredibly confused to me.

    Speaking of incredible confusion, I think of the TV show, The View. It’s a committee, sort of, of 1%er women hobnobbing about various pertinent topics. When AOC was a guest Meghan McCain complained bitterly about the meanness of Bernie Bros. Apparently Meghan was getting trolled by people claiming to be Bernie Bros. Whoopie then joined in and proclaimed that Bernie had to apologize every single day for the hostility of his Bernie Bros. I didn’t know that Bernie Bros had invented trolling, let alone anybody pretending to be a Bernie Bro.

    Are Meghan and Whoopie the same kind of mentally ill power players of which I spoke? I dunno. But they are certainly in positions of some power. And they’re in the 1%. Why would such rich and powerful ladies think Bernie Bros are the cause of all trolling? Personally I think that trolls are the cause of all trolling. Worse, why would they think that their viewers would eat up their obvious nonsense like it’s some kind of incontrovertible truth? Maybe they have no choice. I think it’d be scary to be a 1%-er knowing that most of the other 99% are starting to get angsty about the way things are.

    My point is that real power players have it worse. They know they’re assholes and need all the supplicant sucker help they can get to keep their ill-gotten estates from being burned to the ground by angry mobs.

    Yet not all of the 1% are bad. Some IMHO, deserved their position by working hard to invent things which made my own little life easier. But in the case of say, my smart phone, which allows me to communicate worldwide in text and pictures at the expense of the third world labor which manufactured it, and innocent landline employees, things aren’t so simple.

    Once the 99% has patched up the sinking ship captained by the worst of the 1%ers, how do we separate out sum total benefit from the harm total which may have also been caused? Are there simple cost-benefit equations which even fans of The View might understand?


    Sure, power and how it’s distributed and levied is an issue but it’s not thee issue. It’s not the nucleus or root of the matter. Power can be properly disseminated in an egalitarian manner and the human species can still makes terrible choices about how to coexist in harmony with the living planet that sustains it/us. It’s also possible for power to be concentrated and positive choices are made in accomplishing the aforementioned.

    I find it ironic bruce expounds about the virtues of distributed power and the vices of concentrated power to support his conclusion that neoliberalism is the root of all of this all the while, with a straight face, taunting on another threat that he would vote for Vlad Putin. I’m sure many of you didn’t realize heretofore that Vlad Putin is all about distributed power versus concentrated power. Speaking of Vlad Putin the magnanimous egalitarian power distributor, what is Russia reporting in regard to Covid-19? I guess Russia and Russians are immune to it since Putin’s Russia hasn’t been affected by it.

  18. Stirling S Newberry

    We see with the Covid-19 the problem with having the dumb rich be in power: they lie.

  19. Dan

    Pandemic Bonds look like a good play:

    As a more religious soul than I might say: God help us.

  20. Benjamin


    Your constant lying is genuinely starting to piss me off.

    “This is why I have nothing in common with those who still have skin in the game. Those like Yves Smith. Those like Bernhard of MoA. Those like Robert Parry’s son who owns Consortium News and is an EU darling. I walked amongst these imposters once upon a time and I rejected them. If you haven’t rejected them, then I have no respect for you. My expectation is that in the least you do what I have done and that is, be a traitor to your class. Divest yourself if you are in the stock market. Invest your money in people versus cold & callous trading algorithms.”

    I can’t speak for b; I don’t know his backstory (and neither, I very much suspect, do you), though I gather he is some sort of retired military officer, probably air force. And I very much doubt Consortium News is some giant, highly profitable enterprise.

    But Yves Smith/Susan Webber is not remotely like your smear jobs. Her Aurora Advisors business hasn’t been active in at least a decade. She doesn’t even live in NYC anymore, she’s moved (back) to Alabama. I don’t know what Strether’s identity is (apparently it’s not super secret, but I’ve never figured it out), but he’s not living some massively cushy life either. They are both in fact class traitors, and actively advocate for more class treason. And their position isn’t just that capitalism needs to die, it’s in fact already effectively dead:

  21. bruce wilder

    Not to take 450 especially to task for his heroes-and-villains approach, which is very, very common, but I think we ought to note how confused everyone seems to get about power and its uses.

    Power and purity just do not go together. Idealism — I write here as an idealist recognizing the limits of my own style of thinking — struggles to get right with the reality of power in a world of uncertainty. I cannot say we can dispense with righteousness, but, boy, can righteousness make us stupid!

    There was a tiny controversy recently built around Sanders having once praised Castro’s Cuba for successfully promoting universal literacy after the revolution, as if Castro, as designated villain, could do nothing right, ever.

    Americans do not generally get a realistic view of Cuba. The exiles in South Florida all seem convinced the Castro’s were simply corrupt, and did nothing but accumulate great personal wealth. It is a telling projection — not dissimilar to the way conservative commentators disparage Putin as a billionaire oligarch among the class of greedy Russian oligarchs. In Cuba, people do not generally regard either the Castro’s or the current successor regime as particularly corrupt. Inept in some respects, but well-intended, even though Cuba is generally not a happy society. The Cuba government is authoritarian, and even repressive in many petty ways, but not repressive any longer of opinion generally and if not universally supportive of ambition, at least selectively ambivalent enough to channel some efforts to build some things. Odd things get focus from authority and then forward movement is possible; others are neglected and subjected to the rigors of impoverishment.

    In Havana and many other historic cities, significant resources have been devoted to restoration. In Havana at least, much of this has been accomplished to a very high standard, as part of a policy to earn money from tourism. The center of civic power in the capital is the historic society, which anywhere else would be a bunch of nerds pouring nostalgically over a collection of old photographs. Everyone in Cuban society gets a taste of tourist dollars. It means a rickshaw driver may earn more than a doctor. China sold the state a fleet of your tour buses. But, the country’s public transit is poorly developed and much of public intercity transit is your buses on backhaul.

    Russia and Putin are treated as rude caricatures, even by the commenters here. Cuba remains a communist country; Russia ceased to be that beginning nearly thirty years ago. One thing I think Americans fail to grasp from within their duststorm of propaganda is how singular Putin’s focus has been on strengthening the Russian nation-state economically and politically. The sense of practical public purpose in setting an agenda of programs, reforms and projects is relentless. State companies have been used to rein in the oligarchs to cooperation in state programs of national development. That Russia is trapped in the middle income range in common with other Eastern European states is well-understood, but it is also understood that it is public policy to seek ways to break out.

    Russia accepts and works with a weak currency, which leads many casual observers to underestimate the Russian economy. At market exchange rates, Russian GDP ranks it on a par with Italy. More realistic PPP estimates put Russian output roughly equivalent to Germany. The median Russian household lags only modestly behind the median American household. Though low oil prices and the deliberately weak currency have held down income growth since 2008, the country is in the midst of a self-financed boom in small business investment and import substitution.

    Putin is a talented politician, and is quite deft in the exercise of enormous power and authority. Though it does reflect his personal domination of Russian politics, calling Putin a dictator is seriously misleading. Russia has an active multi-party politics. Significant resources and responsibility devolve to regional and oblast (state) governments. Putin leaves the initiative in many areas of policy to others. In the recent upheaval involving the reshuffling of the cabinet and the proposal of constitutional changes, Putin has turned away from his old allies in the United Russia party, the popularity of which is in decline, and promoted reputedly competent technocrats. On the constitutional changes, suggestions have been openly solicited. Putin, it should be noted, is a dedicated state builder, something not usually associated with tyrants and strongmen.

  22. Tom

    Japan has now confirmed independently, re-infection/remission of COVID-19 and has shut down schools for 2 months.

    Italy now has the second most deaths outside of China, surpassing South Korea which has over 2,000 cases now. Iran’s former Ambassador to the Vatican has died from the disease and Mosoumeh Ebtekar, the Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, is also infected now. She was the spokeswoman for the 1979 Hostage Crisis as well. She is also an Immunologist, since Iranian Law requires everyone running for Public Office to have a Doctorate Degree to qualify. And she recently had a Cabinet Meeting with Iran’s President.

    Well this is going to be interesting.

  23. Stirling S Newberry

    >There is no justification for great wealth.

    Sure there is: the law of the jungle.


    Correction, Stirling: The law of the Concrete Jungle. Or better yet and more up-to-date: The Law of the Virtual Jungle because information and what is made of it is truly our reality — a reality that often if not always obscures, and destroys I’d say, nature until nature destroys it.


    It is going to be interesting, Tom. Maybe Trump will use this as a pretext to declare Martial Law and suspend the elections indefinitely. Who knows, this could be biological warfare. Maybe it’s why Russia and Russians seem to be immune to it. Russia needs China’s population to be culled and culled fast, otherwise, China, when the resource restriction shit hits the fan and I submit it is hitting the fan, will have to invade Russia for its resources and Russia knows this. So, Russia plants this virus for which it has a vaccine in China knowing full well it will spread to every corner of the planet from there. This is what happens when power is concentrated into the hands of greedy psychopaths versus shared in an egalitarian manner amongst nature-loving tree huggers who want to coexist in harmony with the natural world from which we sprang.

    Meanwhile, Joe & Mika are pumping Biden up and imploring Bloomberg to get out of the race because he’s helping Bernie. Now you understand why I was supporting Bloomberg. They’ve caught on so the cat’s out of the bag.

    The Dem party is a plantation of sorts for elderly black folks. The black vote is not as monolithic as it once was. Sure, blacks in general if they vote will and do overwhelmingly vote Democratic, but who they vote for as the Dem candidate is no longer predictable or reliable. South Carolina blacks are not the same as Michigan blacks or New York blacks or Pennsylvania blacks or Texas blacks or California blacks. Just as the Hispanic vote is not monolithic, neither is the black vote but not according to Joe & Mika who believe all blacks are the same and think the same. I don’t know about you, but I consider that notion that all blacks are the same to be a racist notion. The Dem establishment are racists through and through, even the blacks amongst their ranks. Cowardly racists unlike their GOP counterparts. The GOP fascists are racist to your face, whereas the Dem party still wears the iconic white hoods.

    Hell, not even all black folks in South Carolina think alike and act & behave as one as Joe & Mika would have their privileged white audience believe. I was listening to an NPR segment yesterday where they were interviewing an elderly black woman in a run-down, neglected section of Charleston that always floods. She likes Bernie Sanders and is going to vote for him. Why? Because she likes his message that all people who need help need to be helped, not just white folks or brown folks or black folks, but all folks who are struggling and suffering. She knows of many people, many blacks especially, who have no health insurance and Bernie Sanders is the only one addressing it. Funny how Joe & Mika ignore such sage sentiments from a wise elderly black woman and instead amplify the endorsement of crooked Jim Clyburn who is, for all intents & purposes, Samuel L. Jackson to Biden’s Calvin Candy in the Dem party’s version of Django Unchained.

  26. nihil obstet

    I find the establishment view of Russia interesting. It frequently omits the fact that Russia stopped being the Soviet Union decades ago and that it transitioned to capitalism, with privatization of major companies. It’s been years since I’ve seen any acknowledgment of the fact that the transition to capitalism was carried out by American consultants, who did very well financially themselves and pointed the way for the emergence of oligarchs. Not that American economists know anything about service to oligarchs, of course.

    The whole post-WWII economy was developed as a response to the world-wide threat of communism centered in the Soviet Union. The collapse of the Soviet Union has meant that capitalist governments don’t have to fear completely immiserating the populace because there’s no longer a vision of a workers’ state, but they haven’t been able to find a positive justification except for the foreign threat.


    Hey nihil, how many Russian companies are in your stock portfolio? Russia is not a capitalist country. It has certain capitalist features just as China’s economy has certain capitalist features, but that doesn’t make either a truly capitalist economy. So long as Putin controls the fate of any company in Russia, said companies are not in private hands. At best, they’re leased to approved oligarchic thugs for profit taking but ultimately they belong to the KGB state and the KGB state, for all intents & purposes, is Putin. The KGB, criminals that they are & always were, after watching the West try to seize Russia’s wealth & assets after the “fall” of the USSR, swooped in to fill the power vacuum and effectively became the state and helped themselves to the state’s assets & wealth versus the West. Putin and his cronies are a criminal gang, a mafia if you will, sucking the Russian people dry. Putin and his thugs are the state therefore the companies are not really private, but instead state-owned by the criminals who run the state. Russia is Potemkin Capitalism.

  28. Stirling S Newberry

    > Correction, Stirling: The law of the Concrete Jungle. Or better yet and more up-to-date: The Law of the Virtual Jungle because information and what is made of it is truly our reality — a reality that often if not always obscures, and destroys I’d say, nature until nature destroys it.

    These are mere variants.

    28 February 2020

    I sit and watch the stock market dive,
    Because el Presidente need to lie and pander,
    From the dishonest days which he reveled in.
    He who lies his way in,
    will surely dissemble on his way off the mortal coil.

    The mistakes are made
    with repetitive sameness,
    why should tomorrow
    be any different from today?
    We forget that there are markets without money,
    and other travelers the have no tickets.

    Will it stop?
    Of course, it will,
    Like any with any trial, or slave auction
    in our past.
    On the second, minute, hour,
    We tell the unvarnished truth,
    and set ourselves to hard-won toil.

  29. bruce wilder


    Your rants seem to be becoming more incoherent. I understand your personal situation may not be great, but are you sure you’re basically OK?

    Just concerned.

  30. realitychecker

    typing with one finger due to injury, please bear with me.

    really seems that we just refuse to admit how similar we are to other animals. we are very similar.

    the aquisition of absolute power in the territory of one, or a very small grouping, of dominant individuals is, in fact, THE NORM IN NATURE.

    that is reality, folks. i leave it to the individual readers to work thru the obvious mental adjustments that should flow from the attitudinal shift this reality should compel. but please do give this the consideration it deserves. and note that our technology does not immunize us from clinging and reverting to the natural behavior patterns, when all is said and done.

    separately, i am wondering about the state dept.’s influence over the decision and operative steps re bringing all those infected americans back from japan–they are mostly obama holdovers at state and at hhs, and bad virus news bad for market bad for trump good for dems taking power back. and please don’t tell me they would never sink so low, not after what we have already seen.

  31. nihil obstet

    shorter 450: there are no bad capitalist societies.

  32. Tom

    And its on. Turkey took off the gloves. It is now officially at war with Assad and is unleashing its Air Force. Putin overplayed his hand and thought like all others that Erdogan was bluffing. He was not and his moving of LAAD assets into Syria was an indication he wasn’t and now MAAD assets such as Hawk Missiles are being deployed to Syria. Last night a series of Drone and Artillery Strikes by TSK wiped out several Regime Convoys and the Syrian National Army is now launching major counter-offensives after retaking Saraqib from the Regime.

    Oh and the Pope is sick. No further explanation given by the Vatican after his quite visible illness on Ash Wednesday. Given he was mixing with the crowd among other actions, safe to say if has it, he infected hundreds if not thousands.

    And if Italy’s economy falls, the EU’s will crash like a house of cards and every EU Government will likely get voted out and replaced by the Far Right who will close borders as should have been done in the first place, but also use it as a pre-text to go full Fascist.

    As usual, Wokeness kills. Viruses don’t care about Wokeness, Wealth, or Hierarchies. They take anyone and everyone they can get. They don’t respect borders either. So border control is an essential public health imperative along with Universal Healthcare. You also must be able to manufacture your own medicines, which makes outsourcing a public health threat.

    By going Woke, EU politicians alienated the working classes who are vital to keeping Society functioning and they in turn, turned to the Far Right who didn’t insult them and offered them jobs and revenge on those who wronged them. All the Far Right needs is a crisis so big and disruptive combined with Governmental Incompetence at handling it to get their shot.

    In the US, the Far Right is in power, so its the opposite situation, however, Bernie has to be careful and not botch this by being open borders and Woke. Because if Trump wises up and implements appropriate responses, Bernie would be toasted quickly. Bernie needs to start making his case now for closing the borders as a matter of public health, aggressive COVID-19 testing and containment, insourcing of jobs, rapid expansion of Medical Technicians, Government takeover of all Medical Institutions and Pharmacy Companies + Ambulance Companies. He also must be Pro-Life and Pro-Gun. Then he needs to bash Trump over the head over his incompetence and peel away Republicans from him using COVID-19 as the reason Trump is no longer fit.

    If he can do that, he can make a blowout election night and govern by near Fiat for 2 years. If not or if he catches COVID-19, he will be toast.

    This is not the time for Wokeness, this is the time for cold rationality on Public Health and the Heartland needs to see him as rational and on their side without compromising their red lines on Abortion and Guns. Otherwise the Heartland will gladly screw the rest of the country over. Louisiana Democrats figured this out a long time ago, Bernie needs to figure it out now.


    Not true, nihil. I’m not an advocate for capitalism at all. The difference between you and me, one of many no doubt, is that I’m an equal opportunity critic whereas your criticism is highly selective with an obvious predetermined and intractable bias. I can criticize Israel and Russia and America and the Dem establishment and Wall Street and Saudi Arabia and Syria and Cuba and Castro and Putin and Stalin and Jimmy Carter and, well, you name it, whereas you have shown you can be critical of Israel, i.e. your links you provided about AIPAC, yet you make an exception when it comes to Russia and America, meaning Russia is just a victim to you and America and its neoliberalism is responsible for all the ills of this world. That’s woefully myopic and inadequate.

  34. Willy

    Why cant we all just get along so we can throw the bums out?

    I blame the masters of nuance. Not that the masters of binary are any picnic. Masters of power are so slippery these days that masters of nuance and masters of binary are at each others throats slipping around on all the slipperiness. Its like a mud wrestling contest, but with ugly people. Cant you guys at least put on some makeup?

  35. Dan

    Why cant we all just get along so we can throw the bums out?



    I think it’s clear Trump needs to be forcefully removed from office. Covid-19 is a national emergency at this point and he’s incapable of managing it as the titular head of America. I’m not the only one thinking this way. More powerful people are thinking the same way. People who are in positions to act upon it. Trump needs to be removed. Wall Street will demand it. It’s going to happen. Trump’s base is scared to death about this shit and they will not follow him in this regard. As he continues to double down on the lies and the cover-up and the marginalization of this, his flank becomes more and more exposed. What a scene it will be. In extracting him, they will have to subdue him like the NYPD subdued Eric Garner, with a body slam and choke hold. If he survives that, a straight jacket and rubber room will be in order. This is what happens when morons help elect a narcissistic mad man.

  37. bruce wilder

    asked and answered

  38. Willy

    But, I do like the possibility of having a populist on the right battling with a populist on the left for the highest office in the land.

    Finally, will real things be discussed? I don’t care so much what they say since their discussions will probably devolve into Crazy Bernie vs. Dotard Trump in the World Mudwrestling Federation Championship Old Men Division, but at least the media will have to refocus. And so will all the consumerist advertisers who fund them.

    I’m getting tired of seeing on TV ads where 30-ish couples in multi-million dollar homes decide to buy two Lexus for Christmas instead of just one. I like the old ads where normal kids played in front of normal houses with their water weenies while mom baked with Betty Crocker and 40 year old dad drives home to his typical starter home in his new red Mustang.

    If the worst happens, Trump vs Bloomberg, maybe the forbidden box has still been opened. Maybe the media will ask where the MAGA hats have gone. Maybe they’ll wonder why all of Bloombergs people are wearing matching new outfits and speak, boo and cheer in unemotional unison.

    Who cares about culture wars. Economic wars is where the action should be at.


    Donald Trump cannot handle this. He must be removed. What’s revealed in this ABC In Depth video is coming to America and may in fact already be here spreading like wildfire as we type.

  40. Ten Bears

    The Law of the Jungle everyone gets enough to eat, barely.

    Fat cats don’t last long in the bush.

  41. Ian Welsh

    The fact is that for most of human existence, the evidence is that we were very egalitarian, not ruled by one or a few individuals.

    In nature, some species are very authoritarian or hierarchical and others aren’t.

    People over-generalize.


  42. ven

    Ian, on your point, worth watching this on egalitarian societies – as you say.

    By a chap called Bruce Parry, who did a series for the BBC, where he lived with several indigenous tribes in the early 2000s. And now reflecting back on his lessons.

    The problem is that we have scaled to such an extent that we can’t go back to live like that any longer. Hence the cliff is inevitable.

  43. realitychecker

    sorry but have to add, re your ‘over-generalize’ dismissal—–you then say “some species are authoritarian or hierarchical and others aren’t.”

    that is over-generalization on steroids, and leading to the wrong conclusion, unlike my generalization which was appropriately focused to helpfully lead to the correct conclusion.


    name as many mammalian species as you can who constantly live in your lovely natural un-hierarchical harmony. then name all who don’t.

    then focus further by applying the same numerical analysis to only those mammals who ever eat other animals.

    you are brilliant on a lot of issues, ian, but man oh man are you wrong on this one.

    three days of power outage or other essential shortage, and it is back to the jungle for us. and the result of over-concntration of power in a civilized society will always be the eventual abuse of that power.

    some generalizations are actually the essential guardrails that might keep us from going off the logical cliff. some do the opposite.

  44. scruff

    The problem is that we have scaled to such an extent that we can’t go back to live like that any longer. Hence the cliff is inevitable.

    I find this perspective incomprehensible. I’d say we cannot help but go back to live like that, because on any unsustainable track – and the one we’re talking about is unsustainable in like thirty different ways – the closest thing to a guaranteed outcome is that the behavior will not be sustained.

  45. Stirling S Newberry

    >Fat cats don’t last long in the bush

    They do live better. The very recent human discovery is to make them live longer.

  46. realitychecker

    would it be ok if i just ask you to specify all the mammals you can think of that live in the perfect egalitarian harmony you posit, and give a sense of your perception of how many more species go the opposite way, which is also the same opposite, and misleadingly inaccurate, direction compelled by your insultingly dismissive response to an accurate generalization of mine, above at “#shrug”?

    just as a matter of simple respect.

  47. ven


    With 8 billion people, most of which live in cities and with corrupt power structures, complex supply chains to meet even our basic needs, etc etc All the inevitable outcome of scale. Not sure how we are going to ‘de-scale’ voluntarily. For a start, it would require re-distribution of wealth concentration and removal of hierarchy – see the YouTube link I posted. Do you really except people to voluntarily give up wealth and power?

    We have gone down a path which is not reversible, even if we wanted to – which we clearly don’t – vide the elections in the UK, across Europe, and no doubt in the US too.

  48. Ten Bears

    Three days, as I have read, might be a bit inconceivable, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near those cities when those complex supply chains fail. Thirteen days they’ll be eating each other.

    Law of the Jungle.

    I have observed here before: it’s not necessarily the strong, or well-provisioned, who survive.

  49. Ian Welsh

    There’s a book called “A Heaven Made In Hell” about what happens during catastrophes.

    it isn’t that it turns into Lord of the Flies.

    But some people have very strong ideological biases: they want to believe that humans are bad to the bone.

    One wonders why.

  50. Ten Bears

    It would please me to be mistaken. On-the-other-hand, prudence dictates preparation for the worst. No surprises there. Old Chinese guy wrote about that, long time ago.

  51. nihil obstet

    And it’s tv documentary recommendation time again! This is interesting generally, but on the subject of egalitarian vs. hierarchical, how some revolutionary baboons became communists is inspiring for all kinds of reasons.

  52. realitychecker

    well, ian, you are making it impossible to leave this point with a passive acceptance of your once-again “one wonders why” negative insinuation dismissal (#shrug???). because the point being argued is so very basic, and because the words you have used to dismiss me are so obviously logically defective.

    you cannot defend your position by giving examples as i requested, with numerical comparisons to establish ‘norm’ so instead you straw man me by mis-characterizing my position as “humans are bad to the bone” when in fact i am saying that you are wrong by saying that humans are good to the bone, so no hierarchies are needed, and they are actually evil when they exist in human societies.

    i am saying humans are like animals. which means like nature. that is not inherently evil, to a rational person.

    you say that means i say ” humans are bad to the bone.” that would mean i am also saying animals are bad to the bone. so, nature is bad to the bone.

    clearly, your straw man is on fire. 🙂

    you seem to want to posit the absolute goodness of man, while fraudulently painting me as positing the absolute evilness of man. the truth is never in the absolutes. simplicity is. if you leave from absolutes, things get more complicated, lazy minds won’t go there, but alive minds will.

    please don’t become the evil censor or sly slippery rhetoritician that characterize and flavor so many other discussion venues, i know you to be infinitely better than that.

  53. As usual, Wokeness kills. Viruses don’t care about Wokeness, Wealth, or Hierarchies. They take anyone and everyone they can get. They don’t respect borders either. So border control is an essential public health imperative along with Universal Healthcare. You also must be able to manufacture your own medicines, which makes outsourcing a public health threat.

    I very much like this, Tom. If Bernie or Trump adopted the simplicity of this good kind of love of country that protects its people with healthcare and clean air and water, protects its borders, and manufactures and grows everything that it basically needs, we would feel a a lot safer. Hard for some to admit, but Trump wanted to tackle health care right off the bat and was a former advocate for single payer. But he got slapped down. Last year he told the GOP that they should again tackle affordable health care and run on that, but Mitch and Co., blew that idea off again. But that is the winning ticket. Add to that Willy’s idea of getting those commercials with the husband and wife getting matching $60,000 trucks for Christmas off TV and add to that getting drug ads off TV, then it’s a slam dunk for a presidential candidate.
    And thank you Bruce Wilder, for explaining once again that Russia is a Federation and no longer communist. They have small businesses and large businesses. Because of our stupid sanctions , they are growing much of their own food again. They were always a religious people and have reinstated the importance of the Russian church. Putin is not a globalist. He is a Russian first. He loves his country as no globalist can love theirs. Listen to the Oliver Stone interviews with him. And read his 2015 speech to the UN in which he declares that Russia learned from its Soviet Union experiement that it is stupid to try and export an ideology. Better to have each nation figure out what kind of democracy they want for themselves. He calls it sovereign democracy.
    I haven’t been here for awhile, but enjoy the always interesting bantering and exchange of ideas that Ian ‘s essays manage to generate.

  54. Ian Welsh

    You haven’t done the research RC. It’s just that simple. Your politics are reactionary conservative with terrible consequences because you believe a theory of human nature which is false. You’ve also mischaracterized my view on human nature, which takes a great deal of work, given I’ve written about it multiple times. (Here are just two.)

    If you want to actually do the reading, start with Flannery and Marcus “the Creation of Inequality.” Also read the book I already suggested, “A Heaven Made In Hell.” Yes, I’m afraid sometimes actually reading books is required.

    This shit isn’t hard, but you have to do the work. I didn’t not start off thinking people are good, my childhood told me they were bad. Once I matured a bit intellectually, I realized one should be careful generalizing from experience and actually looked into it. What I found out isn’t that people are good OR bad.

    You would be happier reading and commenting somewhere else, I suspect.

  55. different clue

    Just now, I notice that NaCap is running an article about some non-evil people doing a non-evil thing in a non-evil way which will have genuinely non-evil consequences. It might even be possible to consider thinking the word “good” in place of the word “non-evil” in that prior sentence, even if the beaten-down-over-and-over soul dare not bring itself to utter the word “good” out loud.

    The article is about a thing called “Freecycle” It is a way of putting people with stuff to give away in touch with people who need some particular item of stuff, which they can then receive or go get for free.
    If it means enough millions of pieces of stuff not bought, that could eventually mean millions of pieces of stuff not even produced, and could begin a needed shrinkage of the crap economy.

    Here is the link:

  56. someofparts

    I can’t find a copy of Heaven Made in Hell anywhere. Any advice?

    Tom – So Bernie can win big if he goes pro-life? For me, that pretty much ends your credibility.

    Last I checked, Bernie was already doing really well, and without throwing women under the bus.

  57. Ian Welsh

    My bad, “A Paradise Made In Hell”, Solnit.

  58. Joe Reeves

    ” A Paradise Built in Hell” – Rebecca Solnit

  59. different clue

    Man is by nature a pack ( or band) animal. Not a herd animal. And certainly not a social-insectoid super-organism animal. And yet every big city is a functioning social-insectoid super-organism. The history of civilization is the story of mankind’s attempt to learn to live like the social insects. This certainly benefits the Queen and King Termites at the Top of the Mound who have spent thousands of years managing their mid-level minion layers to drive and exploit the worker-termite masses to harvest wealth and send it up the wealth-pumps to the Top of the Mound.

    If the social-insectified people in the big cities could figure out how to create or evolve thousands of tiny packs and/or bands so as to re-introduce some free human living into their social-insectoid matrix surroundings, they might be able to start thinking about things like the difference ( if any) between money and wealth . . . and how to begin micro-aggregating micro-wealth into the thousands of micro-social hands of micro-social bands. And prevent that wealth from streaming upward to the Top of the Mound.

    Mankind deserves better for itself than what life adapted to termitic servitude to the great social organismic Insectivilizations can offer.

  60. Mojave Wolf

    @DifferentClue. That is a brilliant take. Had never thought of it in those terms but, well. Yes, exactly.

    As for me, temperamentally I probably align closest to coyote or bear, (Mojave Wolf as a name came about because I couldn’t think of anything that sounded good with Coyote), but everyone is different. As far as primates go, hopefully humanity as a whole will start being more gorilla and less baboon (and also, lemurs are cool. Not relevant to the Ian/RC argument but seems a worthwhile thing to say).

  61. Willy

    I’d rather us be more bonobo and less chimp. Those bonobos know how to party.

  62. Mojave Wolf

    +1 for bonobos!

  63. different clue

    @ Mojave Wolf,

    Thank you for the kind words. To the extent that they are true and useful, I hope people can begin thinking in terms of what packs or bands they wish to form up and be part of within the Greater Social Insectoid Civilization Matrix.

    I hope people can begin thinking about the partial overlaps and partial differences between “wealth” and “money”. Someone living in a house on a half-acre lot may not be able to “earn” very much “money”, but may be in a position to create some real personal survival wealth outside the moneyconomy-system. A million people doing this, turning their million houses and yards into a million survival doomsteads, growing some or all of their own food, water, heat, cool, etc. without having to earn the money to buy these things . . . . could begin growing and strengthening the free unmarket bio-physiconomy and begin shrinking the forced market moneyconomy.

  64. different clue

    @ Mojave Wolf,

    Also, about a nom d’keyboard with the word coyote somewhere in it, I think engineering a name out of parts of “mojave” and “coyote” might work. Say . . . Mojaveyote. Or Mojaveyote Wolf. But it does sound ungraceful I admit, and has the disadvantage that wolves and coyotes have not interbred the least bit in the West and Far West, so far as I know.

    Now, if you were living in Maine, you could perhaps call yourself Maine Coyowolfdog . . . because the coyotish-things living in Maine and maybe elsewhere in the Far NorthEast seem to be the result of three-way crossing between wolves, coyotes, and dogs. So . . . Coyowolfdog.

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