2018/05/30: unlike even the most property-friendly founders Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Buchanan wanted a private governing elite of corporate power that was wholly released from public accountability.
Suppressing voting, changing legislative processes so that a normal majority could no longer prevail, sowing public distrust of government institutions— all these were tactics toward the goal. But the Holy Grail was the Constitution: alter it and you could increase and secure the power of the wealthy in a way that no politician could ever challenge.
MacLean argues that despite the rhetoric of Virginia school acolytes, shrinking big government is not really the point. The oligarchs require a government with tremendous new powers so that they can bypass the will of the people. This, as MacLean points out, requires greatly expanding police powers “to control the resultant popular anger.” The spreading use of pre-emption by GOP-controlled state legislatures to suppress local progressive victories such as living wage ordinances is another example of the right’s aggressive use of state power.
Could these right-wing capitalists allow private companies to fill prisons with helpless citizens—or, more profitable still, right-less undocumented immigrants? They could, and have. Might they engineer a retirement crisis by moving Americans to inadequate 401(k)s? Done. Take away the rights of consumers and workers to bring grievances to court by making them sign forced arbitration agreements? Check. Gut public education to the point where ordinary people have such bleak prospects that they have no energy to fight back? Getting it done.
Would they even refuse children clean water? Actually, yes.
MacLean notes that in Flint, Michigan, Americans got a taste of what the emerging oligarchy will look like — it tastes like poisoned water. There, the Koch-funded Mackinac Center pushed for legislation that would allow the governor to take control of communities facing emergency and put unelected managers in charge. In Flint, one such manager switched the city’s water supply to a polluted river, but the Mackinac Center’s lobbyists ensured that the law was fortified by protections against lawsuits that poisoned inhabitants might bring. Tens of thousands of children were exposed to lead, a substance known to cause serious health problems including brain damage.
Tyler Cowen has provided an economic justification for this kind of brutality, stating that where it is difficult to get clean water, private companies should take over and make people pay for it. “This includes giving them the right to cut off people who don’t—or can’t—pay their bills,” the economist explains.
To many this sounds grotesquely inhumane, but it is a way of thinking that has deep roots in America. In Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative (2005), Buchanan considers the charge of heartlessness made against the kind of classic liberal that he took himself to be. MacLean interprets his discussion to mean that people who “failed to foresee and save money for their future needs” are to be treated, as Buchanan put it, “as subordinate members of the species, akin to…animals who are dependent.’”
Buchanan, a 1940 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University who later attended the University of Chicago for graduate study, started out as a conventional public finance economist. But he grew frustrated by the way in which economic theorists ignored the political process.
Buchanan began working on a description of power that started out as a critique of how institutions functioned in the relatively liberal 1950s and ‘60s, a time when economist John Maynard Keynes’s ideas about the need for government intervention in markets to protect people from flaws so clearly demonstrated in the Great Depression held sway. Buchanan, MacLean notes, was incensed at what he saw as a move toward socialism and deeply suspicious of any form of state action that channels resources to the public. Why should the increasingly powerful federal government be able to force the wealthy to pay for goods and programs that served ordinary citizens and the poor?
In thinking about how people make political decisions and choices, Buchanan concluded that you could only understand them as individuals seeking personal advantage. In an interview cited by MacLean, the economist observed that in the 1950s Americans commonly assumed that elected officials wanted to act in the public interest. Buchanan vehemently disagreed — that was a belief he wanted, as he put it, to “tear down.” His ideas developed into a theory that came to be known as “public choice.”
Buchanan’s view of human nature was distinctly dismal. Adam Smith saw human beings as self-interested and hungry for personal power and material comfort, but he also acknowledged social instincts like compassion and fairness. Buchanan, in contrast, insisted that people were primarily driven by venal self-interest. Crediting people with altruism or a desire to serve others was “romantic” fantasy: politicians and government workers were out for themselves, and so, for that matter, were teachers, doctors, and civil rights activists. They wanted to control others and wrest away their resources: “Each person seeks mastery over a world of slaves,” he wrote in his 1975 book, The Limits of Liberty.
Does that sound like your kindergarten teacher? It did to Buchanan.
The people who needed protection were property owners, and their rights could only be secured though constitutional limits to prevent the majority of voters from encroaching on them, an idea Buchanan lays out in works like Property as a Guarantor of Liberty (1993). MacLean observes that Buchanan saw society as a cutthroat realm of makers (entrepreneurs) constantly under siege by takers (everybody else) His own language was often more stark, warning the alleged “prey” of “parasites” and “predators” out to fleece them.
2016/05/29: As the price of art has skyrocketed, perhaps nothing illustrates the art-as-bullion approach to contemporary collecting habits more than the proliferation of warehouses like this one, where masterpieces are increasingly being tucked away by owners more interested in seeing them appreciate than hanging on walls.
With their controlled climates, confidential record keeping and enormous potential for tax savings, free ports have become the parking lot of choice for high-net-worth buyers looking to round out investment portfolios with art.
“For some collectors, art is being treated as a capital asset in their portfolio,” said Evan Beard, who advises clients on art and finance at U.S. Trust. “They are becoming more financially savvy, and free ports have become a pillar of all of this.”
From left, a Etruscan sarcophagus that was locked in a free port for decades under a shell company’s name and returned to Italy earlier this year along with other antiquities stolen from burial sites; Picasso’s “Petit Pierrot aux Fleurs,” a portrait of his son Paolo in a harlequin costume, one of about 4,500 works the Nahmad family of London art dealers is said to have tucked away in the Geneva Free Port; and Leonardo da Vinci’s oil-on-panel “Christ as Salvator Mundi,” which emerged publicly for the first time in 2004 and was consigned to a free port when it was purchased in 2013.Credit2016 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
The trend is prompting concerns about the use of these storage spaces for illegal activities. It is also causing worries within the art world about the effect such wholesale storage has on art itself. “Treating art as a commodity and just hiding it in storage is something that to me is not really moral,” said Eli Broad, a major contemporary art collector who last year opened his own Los Angeles museum.
Free ports originated in the 19th century for the temporary storage of goods like grain, tea and industrial goods. In the last few decades, however, a handful of them — including Geneva’s — have increasingly come to operate as storage lockers for the superrich. Located in tax-friendly countries and cities, free ports offer savings and security that collectors and dealers find almost irresistible. (Someone who buys a $50 million painting at auction in New York, for example, is staring at a $4.4 million sales tax bill. Ship it to a free port, and the bill disappears, at least until you decide to bring it back to New York.)
At least four major free ports in Switzerland specialize in storing art and other luxury goods like wine and jewelry, and there are four more — most newly minted — around the world: Singapore (2010); Monaco (2012); Luxembourg (2014); and Newark, Del., (2015).
Scary to see that world wide debt has increased by $57 trillion since the financial crises. Maddening that it would take only $16.5 trillion for the world to meet Paris climate change targets. Infuriating that rich people are hiding $26.5 trillion in offshore accounts, and that the wealth of the 1% is $127 trillion.
2018/09/14: Democracy didn’t create our problems, but it may solve them.
the extremist evils of our age are the result of anti-democratic action from the very institutions created to preserve the elite veto over "mob rule."
Yet we continue to misdiagnose America's political disease as "mob rule" rather than "elite rule." This misdiagnosis matters, because it leads to prescriptions that merely heighten the grip by elites.
An honest examination of democratic decline would look at the ways in which our counter-majoritarian institutions are thwarting the public will—as expressed through its elected representatives—and how that can create support for truly destabilizing forces.
The transformation of the GOP into a parliamentary-style party primarily responsive to donors, right-wing activists, and conservative media is arguably the central problem for American governance.
What declinist arguments like Rosen’s actually fear is the waning influence of elites. And what these arguments seem to seek - in voicing nostalgia for early American politics - is an era where elites could steer governance with only the cursory affirmation of a narrow and exclusive public.
If political and economic elites have lost their stature in American life, it’s only after a generation of profound mismanagement, from misguided foreign adventures to wage stagnation and broad economic collapse.
If we’ve seen light, it’s in those places where ordinary people have organized and begun to build new movements and new ways of democratic living.
Decades of the government helping the rich are coming home to roost.
Analysis of a massive trove of data - much of it leaked from tax havens - suggests that inequality levels across the world should be revised upwards dramatically
Forget the 1 percent for a moment. It's the top fifth that rules.
Yesterday marked the conclusion of the two-day Summit on Technology and Opportunity, an anti-poverty conference cohosted by the White House, Stanford University, and Mark Zuckerberg's charity. Something is wrong here.
People have lost their sense of security, status and even identity. Trump's victory is the scream of an America desperate for radical change
In addition to conducting independent research, The Rules provides assistance to anti-inequality campaigns including Ekta Parishad. (Image via Ekta Parishad)The Rules is a worldwide network of activists working to transform the politico-economic structure undergirding global inequality. The network, which actively supports individual social movements while operating as a think tank, advocates radical reform focused on five strategic areas: money, power, secrecy, ideas, and the commons.
Without us noticing, we are entering the postcapitalist era. At the heart of further change to come is information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. The old ways will take a long while to disappear, but it's time to be utopian
Notizie, anteprime e recensioni su arte, libri, musica, concerti, teatro ed intrattenimento. Approfondimenti su spettacoli ed eventi. Spettacoli e Cultura, in News del Corriere della Sera.
The IMF Blog - Insights and Analysis on Economics and Finance
New technologies offer important tools for empowerment - yet democracy is stagnating. What's up?
Nigeria's lawmakers earn more than their counterparts in the US or UK
Looking down the road, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, most recently of Wages of Rebellion, sees nothing but trouble
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Guest The Valley is no longer about startups; it's about scale-ups.
What does $200 trillion of debt really mean for the global economy? A few years ago, in the depths of the recession caused by the financial crisis, I began an investigation into the consequences of several economic trends that I Continue reading ...