Saturday, August 12, 2017

Plutocracy




Plutocracy or plutarchy, is a form of oligarchy and defines a society ruled or controlled by the small minority of the wealthiest citizens. 

Recent events have  lot of stunned people wondering how we got where we are. There is so little respect for each other and for our home planet and everything seems to be for sale to the highest bidder. The media has become a sordid portrayal of dystopia -- a "can you top this" grim saga of explicit violence and exploitation.  Where is the heroic dream of helping and caring and pulling together to make things better?

On the one hand there have been such a lot of real technological progress and inventiveness that improves the quality of communications, transportation, housing and health. But climate change and the depletion of water and soils looms, threatening food supplies and a healthy environment for all creatures, including humans. All this begs a closer look at the big picture and a better understanding of the changing paradigms and moral values.

At the end of the last Great Ice Age, humans changed from being nomadic hunter-gathers as agriculture allowed people to stay in one place and build permanent dwellings. This fostered the development of essential changes in our social relationships and human values so that the acquired skills and knowledge of individuals could be bartered or exchanged. And from this a monetary system evolved along with ownership and wealth and a system of the rule of law. Gradually governments evolved to regulate human behavior and commerce.

By about 2500 years ago several moral or religious traditions had been established, such as Judism and Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Muslim-ism and others. These became institutions of moral and legal governance which conferred or concentrated political power and wealth into the hands of a few. And with the development of gun powder and metal weapons, a few rulers could demand and achieve compliance of the many.

Gradually, educational institutions were established which began to systematically sort fact from superstition. And the invention of the printed word in about 1450 greatly enabled the literacy of the many rather than the privileged few as had been previously. Within just a few decades the ideas of the ancient Greek philosophers were translated and revived in the popular imagination, so that ideals such as democracy became a real threat to the corrupt aristocracy and the church that had been virtually all-powerful for a long time.

That aristocracy feared implied spiritual and political dimensions of the new enlightenment, and began wielding their powers against it. But the new autonomy of an educated populace only grew stronger. The ensuing struggle cut man in two, setting one half against the other.

Luther and Calvin accused the church of misleading the believers of Christianity, and Descartes, a Roman Catholic follower from cradle to grave, was concerned not only about the schism in the church, but the rise of skepticism. He and others discounted the value of empirical knowledge in favor of divine revelation which gave rise to Cartesian materialism. 

Materialism is a preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual values. This soon led to Scientism, which is the belief that science and its method of skeptical inquiry is the most reliable path to the truth. The scientific paradigm ignores or devalues anything that cannot be weighed, measured or sold. People have come to trust science so much that all else is being lost at great pearl to our very survival.

The Renaissance was a period in European history, from the 14th to the 17th century, regarded as the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages and modern history. The effect was to give rise to a middle class when there had previously been only the rich and poor. Out of this middle class there soon arose a powerful group of merchants, bankers and military men who rapidly gained political power.

They built fleets of ships that greatly enhanced commerce and military exploits. Colonialism began with the pre-colonial African empires which led to the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans who all built colonies in antiquity. But with the discovery of The New World, the Earth's Western Hemisphere afforded European monarchs a new opportunity of Empire over a number of territories and peoples who could be subjugated and exploited under their sovereign authority. And this trend still continues as machines, and machine-like hierarchies in large organizations, deliver efficiency for the wealthy.

For 800 years, Europe, and later America, progressed through the expansion and energies of the rising urban middle classes, resulting in economic growth and advances in personal and political freedom. Industrialism tore this happy conjunction apart. In 1982 there were just 13 American billionaires. Now there are hundreds.

 The three wealthiest individuals in the world have assets that exceed those of the poorest 10 percent of the world's population. The net worth of the world's billionaires increased from less than $1 trillion in 2000 to over $7 trillion in 2015 so the gap is growing up dramatically.

"...nearly 80 percent of the national wealth generated since 1973 has gone to the upper 2 percent, 65 percent to the upper 1 percent. Estimates as to the rise in real income for salaried workers over the past 40 years range from 0 percent to 28 percent. In that period, real GDP has risen by 110 percent — it has more than doubled. .... In short, the overwhelming fraction of all the wealth created over two generations has gone to those at the very top of the income pyramid. That pattern has been markedly accelerated since the financial crisis hit in 2008. Between 2000 and 2012, the real net worth of 90 percent of Americans has declined by 25 percent.

Oxfam International has released a new report called, "Working for the Few," that contains some startling statistics on what it calls the "growing tide of inequality." Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.

"Wealth inequality in the US is at near record levels according to a new study by academics. Over the past three decades, the share of household wealth owned by the top 0.1% has increased from 7% to 22%. For the bottom 90% of families, a combination of rising debt, the collapse of the value of their assets during the financial crisis, and stagnant real wages have led to the erosion of wealth."

America is losing it's image as the gatekeeper of peace and freedom. A truly peaceful world can never be achieved unless we create a planet where the rule of law rises above the strength of individual nations and the sovereignty of the people is above the egos of their leaders. That world is still within our grasps. But a blink too long and we may lose it.

When fascism was on the rise in Europe, indifference made it possible. 9 to 15 million peoples died in world war I and at least 50 million people died in world war II. Now every 10 seconds, a child dies from hunger-related diseases. About one out of three people on earth don't even know where there next meal is coming from. And almost half of us will get cancer, heart failue, diabetes or or start taking dangerous psychological medications for stress or depression. Sadly, the big pharmaceutical companies  are the world's most profitable industry.

The West and machine-based economies,  may have led the world to the brink of ecological suicide. And that has a big part in the radicalizing for a new world order and a battle against violent extremism and what is typically a male symphony of violence rather than a rational and humane approach to the dilimma.

American political system is being rewritten by billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state. A Plutocracy is emerging:
The average price of winning or holding on to a six-year term in the U.S. Senate averaged $10,476,451 in the 2012 election cycle. Most of this pays for media advertising and that money goes back to the very wealth media owners. The 2016 US presidential elections could cost as much as $5 billion, about double the cost of 2012 election, according to top fundraisers.

That much money can realistically come from very wealthy doners. Following the Supreme Court's 2014 decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, there is no longer an aggregate limit on how much an individual can give in total to all candidates, PACs and party committees combined.

Democracy for sale to the highest bidder is no longer democracy, but plutocracy, or autocracy drifting toward fascism. A report published by Freedom House found 48 countries to be "not free."