Posts Tagged ‘inequality’

From Enlightenment to Onlinenment

May 4, 2019

Peering way back in human history, we find . . . generally, the battles have indeed been won by the strong, and the races are usually won by the swift of our species.

There are exceptions, for sure, but generally you know it’s true. Them who know how to throw their weight around  usually manage somehow to outweigh the rest of us.

The people who manage to work, or fight or compete, to the top of the heap—those folks pretty much stay on top of things until some group or faction that is lower on the pecking order manages to muster enough money, or strength or discontent or firepower or political power to throw the bums out and usher in a new regime of wealth, or weapons, or wherewithal to take charge of things and call the shots.

Throughout history we talk about this and wonder about how to deal with it in ways that are fair and equitable, and maybe even civil.

In the last 300 years of pondering these issues, we’ve moved from the Age of Enlightenment, through the Age of Development, and now we’ve progressed into the Age of Onlinenment.

Three centuries ago, power was all about royalty. The royal houses pretty much ruled the world. They divided it up. Now and then they fought battles, or even wars, to re-draw the boundaries of ownership and authority and hegemony etcetera etcetera.

The printing presses had gotten in gear back in the 1400’s; over time all those mechanically copied manuscripts began to make a difference in everything that happened.  Ideas got spread around through documents and books, and people began to think more, exchange ideas and information more, think differently about themselves and the world they lived in, and . . .

People got smarter, or at least they thought they were smarter. At any rate, they had more information (more data!) to work with. Many of these smart folks figured out that they could work their way out of indentured servitude or serfdom or whatever royal arrangement had been holding them back.

So they moved off the estate, and into town; there they set up shop, doing business, making goods and services that people needed.

Capitalism was born. . . little people doing business and making it on their own.

Along with capitalism came the age of Enlightenment, a time in history when more and more folks were figuring out that hey! we can do this this thing we don’t need the bluebloods up in the castle to tell us what to do.

Although it took a century or two for these changes to really make a difference on a societal level, eventually the newly emerging middle classes had enough members and resources and smarts and clout to push the old fuddy-duddy royals out of power.

It was a long bloody process. Our American revolution busted out and changed the world forever.

Revolutions (1)

The French did an even bloodier version when they guillotined the Bourbon monarchs. As the proletarian uprisings gathered steam across Europe,  Napolean and Marx and hordes of discontented Europeans got out in the streets to rearrange the economic structure of things into a state more fitting to their demands.

Eventually, the Bolsheviks in Russia managed to run the royal Romanovs outa town. The new revolutionizing proletarians cornered those royals and put  bullets into their fair-haired Romanov heads.

Further down in Europe, the same Revolutionary zeitgeist was burning hot. 20th-century Liberation busted Western civilization out of its old royal antiquities. Along with the supposed modernizing came a bloody mess called the World War I.

Archduke4

When the guns were finally silenced in 1918 and the smoke cleared and the dust settled, the world was a different place.

Most of the royal houses had been run out of their big houses; what was left of them were cornered into ceremonial roles, and a new way of doin’ things became the order of the day.

Our yankee country country here had a lot to do with the way things turned out. After we had sent King George and his reds back to Britain with their tail between their legs, we had a whole, vast, 3000-mile continent just waitin’ to discover what the steam locomotive and the motorized tractor and the combine and the cotton gin and the blast furnace and everything from Pittsburgh to Pacific was all about.

And by the time we got to the Pacific, by crackies, the world was mechanized.

We had wrought it into a whole New World.

However, as things developed here in the 19th-century in the big wide bustin’-out USA, the ancient hierarchical tendencies of the human race had re-asserted themselves the fray, and before you know it—in spite of all the wide open spaces and new opportunities— we were back into a situation where the rich got richer and and the poor got poorer.

As the tycoons and magnates—Carnegie, Rockefeller, Bell, Edison, Morgan—got America all cranked up on oil and gas and electrical power, they formed companies.

By ’n by, them companies grew and prospered, and—long story short—those little startup corps from our late-19th, early 20th-century developments eventually morphed into giant corporate behemoths.

Even so, every now and then throughout the last century, a big economic reset button gets pushed somewhere and the forces of mankind whack the hell out of all our wealth-gathering institutions.

The biggest Depression hit back in ’29 and hung itself around our necks until the big guns showed up to blast us out of the trenches. After the Second Big War, we had a big round of wealth-spreadin’, middle-class widenin’ expansion with more folks than ever before jumpin’ on the middle and upper-class band wagons.

It went on a half-century or so, with ups and downs along the way but most everybody gett’n’ at least a little better off along the way, until ’08 when another whopper hit wall street; it dumb-struck the powers-that-be for a few weeks until they got their act together and yacked their way into a deal in which We the People baled them and ourselves out of what would have been disaster, or so the tale is told.

Anyway, here we were a century+ past those robber barons and big wheels and under-the-table deals, and the corporations are thought to be running the whole shebang.

19th-century: the Royals, kings and queens, monarchs, dukes, earls, counts, etcetera etcetera

20th-century: CEOs, CFOs, Chairmen of the Boards, etcetera etcetera

All along the way, a whole lotta regular folks have jumped onto the Corporate bandwagon and wiggled their way into some of the booty therof. Out here on the coasts and in Flyover country, a whole lot more of us consumers are in a big way dependent on this Corporatized way of doin’ things.

By the late 20th-century—and now going into the 21st—the upper-middle-class’emites who keep the electrons and the debits and the credits and the assets  hummin’ along through that vast Corporate power Web— they are pretty well fat n’ happy, like their blueblooded ancestors.

Their modern morph-up into class and privileged status was Corporate-fueled, not Royal-based like in the earlier versions.

Especially since ’08 when the whole financial world blew apart again and We the People bailed the Bankers and their kissin’-cousin Corporate mavens out.

In this round of history, the Discontents among us not using the printing press so much to drum up all this protest and pushback we see rising . This time it is more about the the Twit and the Web and the Net.

We’ve progressed past Enlightenment, past Development . . .

to Onlinenment.

DigitHeads

And by means of this digitized Onlinenment, folks are gettn’ all hot n’bothered again, and workin’ themselves into a tizzy about those same ole inequality-breeding patriarchal tendencies, which have forever reared their privilege-seeking heads into positions of authority.

We find ourselves once again passing Go. Roll the dice and collect $2 million. And so the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. What else is new?

But this time the disruption is not about throwin’ out King George or King Louie or Czar Nicholas or the Archduke of Serbia.

In this round, its about throwin’ out the Corporate mavens and their kissin’-cousin Politicians, and maybe even the Digitheads along with them, and then replacing them with . . .

um . . . with what?

Y’all Discontents be careful now. We don’t want any more Stalins or Maos, or even Chavez. Let’s talk about this.

Go easy on us who are fellow-travelers in this planetary arrangement. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t wanna throw the can-do out with the carbon.

Glass half-Full

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What about this Post-capitalism?

March 3, 2019

There are a many constructive ideas floating around in the world today.

Some are commendable, others not so much. If people propose plans for making the world a better place, then let’s hear them. Let’s consider those plans.

In our present big picture, the hot-button point of contention seems to revolve around the fate of free-market capitalism, in an age of diminishing planetary tolerance.  Is capitalism as we know it an appropriate framework for just and equitable economic development in our present, allegedly climate-changing world?

Are free-market institutions still appropriate for our collective life in the postmodern 21st-century?

Can free-market capitalism even be retained in our planetary future? Or will it be overpowered by some new 21st-century tamed-down socialism?

Generating from some academic and technocratic quarters, we find revisions of the old Marxian ideology, along with assurances that the world has certainly learned hard lessons through the disastrous failure of 20th-century communist experiments.

At  https://www.socialeurope.eu/postcaptalism-unbearable-unrealism , Paul Mason writes:

    Moving to postcapitalism does not entail eradicating market forces overnight or accepting the command-planning methods of Soviet economics. The aim is to design a controlled transition in which market forces cease to operate as the primary allocator of goods and services on the planet, in which the state shrinks and the debt mountains are dismantled.”

and

   “In the past 15 years we have built a highly dysfunctional system, which is unsustainable on all traditional assumptions. It is a system of permanent single monopolies, with massive rent-seeking and financial exploitation, the creation of low-wage, low-skilled jobs designed to keep people inside the system of credit and data extraction, and massive asymmetries of power and information between corporations and consumers.”

Now, as a centrist conservative American, I read those above words and they somehow ring true. There is a sense in which I feel there is maybe some realistic MainStreet experience  missing there, but I see that Mr. Mason raises valid points, which are worthy of our consideration.

On the other side of the debate, Jordan B. Peterson has a different take on our world problems and how to solve, or at least address, them.

At  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXgZAdaMtS8&t=35s,      he says:

     “If you’re tilting toward the left, and you’re temperamentally inclined that way—and half the population is—then you have an ethical problem on your hands, which is . . . how do you segregate yourself from the radical policies of the 20th century? “

and

“. . . two things exist in a very uneasy (leftist) coalition in the West—there’s care for the poor, and hatred for the successful.  Those two things are not the same at all . . . and it looks to me that one of the things that really happened when the communist doctrines were brought into play , and also by the way we did the multi-national experiment.  It doesn’t matter where you put these policies into play . . . the same bloody outcome occurred. Didn’t matter whether it was Russia, or China, Cambodia or Vietnam—pick a random African country—or Cuba or Venezuela, for that matter. . . it was an unmitigated catastrophe. That has to be dealt with.  The intellectual left in the West has been absolutely appalling in their silence on the communist catastrophe.”           

Dr. Peterson, the speaker of these words just above, is a Canadian professor of Psychology at University of Toronto.

Down here Stateside, we have a sizable number of Americans who agree with his assessment. That supportive group includes the this blogger.

Back in 1989, freedom-cultivating citizens, such as I, thought we heard the ringing resonance of a Liberty bell when the Soviet Union fell apart and the Berlin Wall came down. We were patting ourselves on the back after those historic events, especially because Kennedy had gone to Berlin in 1963 and spoke:

    “There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. . . Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in . . .”

And then later, Reagan went over there and said:

    “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Well, the Germans did tear down that damn wall, and the subjects of Soviet domination throughout that terrible empire wasted no time in tearing down—not only a wall— but much more. . . the Soviet Union itself.

Like Humpty-Dumpty it was.

So the question remained: Would they, could they, tear down all that Marxist communist ideology that had built that wall under threat of gulag imprisonment? Could they expose and dismantle the Statist oppression that had built all the gulag walls? and the Stalin statues, and the tanks and the nukes, etcetera etcetera.

That would take a long time, and it has taken a long time. But in some ways, that early 20th-century tide of Marxist oppresso-utopian wishful thinking is seeping back as a kind of theoretical, kinder, gentler socialism.

So the question becomes: is there any part of the Dr. Jekyll Marxian collectivist ideology that is workable and fair? and, as for the Mr. Hyde alter ego: Is there any part of that disgraced Soviet that would creep back as fierce totalitarian servitude?

Cmnism

On the other side of 21st-century civilization, at the same time, and as long as we’re at relative peace in a cooperative globalist attitude, another question arises: What parts of FreeMarket Capitalism are still workable?

Tiananmen talk

Advocates of our free-market democratic republic must admit, for instance, that yes, Virginia, Freedom and free-market capitalism does have its problems. It always has, although those troubles do not necessarily disqualify the free market as a model for economic well-being.

The weak spot in our capitalist framework was exposed in 2008-9, when our financially engineered wall street perpetual profit, speculative machine flew apart, and sent all of us free-marketeers high-tailing it for the exits.

Statistics reveal that since that disruptive correction in the fall of ’08, a stubborn stagnation has taken hold of our economy. Even though the Fed cranks out statistics to reinforce the notion that we have recovered . . .we have not recovered.

You call this a recovery?

No way!. I grew up in the ’50’s; I know what a real recovery looks like, and I worked my way through the ’90’s.I know what a truly busy, productive economy feels like.  And whatever we got now—this ain’t no real recovery.

  This is stagnation.

The Feds got all their numbers trying to convince us that all is well, but the truth is: So many folks are not making enough money to prosper. They’re just gettin’ by. Meanwhile so many speak of a widening inequality gap, and although I don’t really see the world in those “class warfare” terms, I suppose that, in some sense, yes Virginia, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

But then, hey, hasn’t that always been true? We shall see. At any rate, let’s not get all commie-bent out of shape about it. Just keep busy. Find something helpful to do. As Jordan says, responsibility gives life meaning. You can start by cleaning your room, and thereby making the world a little bit better place.

Glass half-Full

Don’t go ballistic like Cain did

March 10, 2014

I’m a meat-eater, but that’s neither here nor there. Some people are not, and that’s just fine. You do your thing and I’ll do mine. People are different; each person has his/her own preferences. This diversity makes human life much more interesting and dramatic than it would be if we were all the same.

In that  ancient great Book–the one  that is holy and cherished by millions while it is disdained by others–a story is told about two brothers of long ago, Cain and Abel. Cain was growing crops in the ground; Abel was raising flocks of sheep.

Back in those days, men had not yet figured out how cool they were, so they looked to the supernatural realm for inspiration and faith. Many men and women of antiquity  believed in offering a portion of their increase to God. It wasn’t like today, when folks don’t pay attention to such things because they are, you know, on their own.

One day,  these two brothers were offering their sacrifices to God, but, as it turned out, with differing results.The book of Genesis reports that God had regard for Abel’s sacrifice, but not for Cain’s, whatever that means. The common interpretation of this is that God rejected Cain’s offering, but received Abel’s. If God did indeed reject Cain’s sacrifice, the Bible provides no explanation of God’s preference in this incident.

In Christian tradition, writ large and writ small, this event has been for a long time a matter of some study and speculation.  Some have inferred that God was indicating a preference for meat instead of veggie or grain produce, or simply an acknowledgement that meat has more protein value as food for us humans. Or maybe God’s apparent distinction was based not on the foods being offered, but on some difference between the two brothers themselves. Perhaps Cain had offered low quality goods, while Abel had reserved his best for God. Or it could be that Cain just had a bad attitude. We don’t know.

What we can see in this story is that God’s acknowledgement of one brother’s offering was not the same as his regard for  the other. That’s about it.

Those of us who believe in God, and in the Mosaic revelation about God’s attributes, can derive with surety only one lesson from this demonstrative story about God’s preference: whatever God does, he does. Or, to put it the other way, whatever he doesn’t do, he doesn’t do. There is no need for him to justify his acceptances to us. Who are we to question the One who created all things?

And we have to live with that.

Christians and others who value the Genesis revelation have this awareness of the Almighty’s sovereignty, which is absolute because God is the Creator who set all things in motion. Our conception if God is fundamentally different from our view of humans, whom we know to be fickle, inconsistent, generally unpredictable, contentious, and sometimes murderous.

The reality of God’s sovereign will was not a lesson that Cain was ready to accept. He got upset about God’s apparent rejection of his offering. So Cain killed his brother.

Is God guilty of some injustice here? Is God unjust because he did not receive both sacrifices as equal?

No.

Equality, as venerable as it is, is a human notion.  According to our Declaration of American Independence, the God who created Nature also created men and women, and created them all equal. This means that we, as men and women who need to govern ourselves, must form institutions that regard all persons as equal if we want to work together toward societal justice.

Let’s accept the human idea that all persons should be equal in the eyes of human law.

But we are individuals; that is important. Furthermore, equality of individual persons is a valuable truth for prioritizing our behaviors and institutions.

Once a baby is born, the wonderful dynamic of that person’s unique circumstances–nature and nurture and all that–determines what that person is, who they become, and how the work of their hands and mind is received by others, or for that matter,  by God.

But this does not mean everyone’s input and output will be equal. In that sense, we are not equals. This inequality affords us a thoroughly fascinating human race, with a beneficial diversity of inputs and outputs, and hence a vast range of incomes and outcomes.

Let us make judicial provisions for equality of opportunity for each person. But equality of income and outcome is ultimately a matter that is determined by each person’s use of the resources available to him/her.

If you have something to offer to God, or to the world, do not go ballistic if it is ignored or overlooked. Just find the lesson in that rejection; then go back and try again. You will have better results than if you, like Cain, get mad and kill someone.

As for Cain’s fate after his crime, God spared him the death sentence, and allowed him to wander away to the land of Nod, east of Eden, where he took a wife. Perhaps her feminine influence, coupled with the Lord’s chastisement, mellowed him out a bit.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, soon to be published

The Notion of Equality

June 9, 2012

To say that God created all men

equal,

Now that is one thing. But

to apprehend the throne of God and then

set up men as his replacements, in order to

equalize

all the inequality, that is another.

It just aint natural to try and make

everybody equal.

I mean

Lenin tried that, right? And then Stalin and

look what happened there.

Oh they had a great idea, right.

To rip down the palatial pile of czarist wealth and

redistribute it, so everybody’s got the same.

Looks good on paper but then

the working out of it, the the the i mean the

blood

the gulag and the schmulag and the ragtag

enforced

equalization of it, well it . . .

you tell me.

What about Mao’s millions

laid upon the altar of

the people’s perfect plan,

some great hungry leap forward to revolutionize culture

like some vulture

would do, and then cometh Pol Pot,

with the common pot, and a head shot

and oh what an income redistribution hotshot.

I mean, you

may think I’m oversimplifying this but hey

that’s the point.

Filling God’s shoes with human ruse now

that’s a tall order.

How’s that workin out for ya?

Glass Chimera