Were it charged with doing so, the United States Postal Service could easily create and maintain a non-commercial, not-for-profit, no-advertising, completely secure alternative to Facebook, which exists to harvest marketing data for its corporate clients. The fact that such an obvious thing remains unmentioned and unmentionable speaks volumes.
Among the treasures to be had thereby is the fact that, at moments, as you’re reading along, Russell hits upon a phrase that packs a truly huge punch. One of these is “insufficiently scientific optimists.”
This concept speaks volumes in several directions, not least of which is its usefulness for making sense of the prevalent habit among greens and lefties of treating science as a problem, rather than a solution. (If you think this is just a minor problem, step over to any major greenish website and get a load of the ubiquity of the “we need new worldviews” trope. It is dominant.)
Russell is genuinely liberating on this vital issue. The problem isn’t science; it is that our overclass and their forebears only respect science insofar as it helps them make money and extend their own power. To blame this on science is a fatal mistake, if you hold out hope for a decent human future.
We are not going to rescue ourselves with shamanism or alt-nihilism or self-referential story-telling. The problems we face are too large and too difficult.
Meanwhile, TCT repeats the point: Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony is part of an elite scramble to contain the data-scraping scandal to “politics.”
Conservative media host Hugh Hewitt said a mouthful in the 1/28/2016 edition of The New York Times Magazine:
NYT: Most Americans think we should raise taxes on the rich, but the Republican candidates don’t, except Trump, who has said he would consider it.
HH: I asked him about a wealth tax, and he said no. But I find that concentration of wealth in Silicon Valley deeply disturbing. Those billionaires are very smart, but they moved to Silicon Valley at the right time. Someone was going to invent Facebook. I’m glad Mark Zuckerberg did it, but it wasn’t an act of genius; it’s an act of timing. Should he have tens of billions of dollars?
NYT: That’s a pretty radical position for a conservative.
HH: I don’t think it’s very good for the society to have billionaires. It creates envy. And envy destroys republics.
NYT: So you’d say to the Silicon Valley elite, ‘‘You didn’t build that.’’
HH: No. They did build it. I would say, You should keep an enormous amount of money for your entrepreneurial ability and your success. But there is a limit in America to how much any one person is going to have. You don’t need 10 billion dollars. Nobody does. The country does.
It is overclass arrogance and decrepitude, not mass envy, that destroys republics, and why those who “build” what was already going to get built, usually after much public-sector expense and groundwork, get to keep even millions is also very highly debatable. Likewise, there has only been one time “in America” when serious limits on personal greed existed — that was WWII.
But still, point taken. It’s a shame the left doesn’t speak this plainly and pointedly.
“Here’s the deal folks: you do a commercial, you’re off the artistic roll call forever. End of story, OK? You’re another corporate fucking shill, you’re another whore at the capitalist gang-bang. And if you do a commercial, there’s a price on your head, everything you say is suspect, and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink.”
— Bill Hicks, 1961-1994
This research is exceedingly important. Yet, despite its overall quality and its stratospheric academic origins, it suffers from the de rigueur graphical illiteracy of modern liberalism.
Here is how the authors describe their findings in their own Executive Summary:
Wealth concentration has followed a U-shaped evolution over the last 100 years: It was high in the beginning of the twentieth century, fell from 1929 to 1978, and has continuously increased since then.
Here, meanwhile, is the author’s graph showing the wealth share of the richest 0.1% (one-tenth of one percent) of U.S. households:
“Fell from 1929 to 1978” is an extremely peculiar way of describing the movement of that line over those years. As any child can see, the line has two declines — a minor one from 1968 to 1978, and the only major one from, of course, from 1932 to 1949, years when corporate capitalism was first dying and then under public command. From 1949 to 1968, the line is entirely flat, meaning that the richest 0.1% was maintaining its customary share of (rapidly expanding) wealth.
To conclude, as the authors do, that “there was a substantial democratisation of wealth from the Great Depression to the late 1970s” is profoundly crude, if not intentionally misleading. The supposed golden years of welfare state liberalism were exactly 1949 through 1968. But, as these authors themselves show but cannot acknowledge, wealth was not democratized one iota over that stretch!
The plain fact is that, under corporate capitalism, only systemic crisis and/or public anti-capitalist intervention ever democratize wealth. That simple fact, of course, is publicly unmentionable in our market totalitarian society, organized as it is around the thesis that the rich can never be rich enough.