Many, if not most, things work extremely well for a privileged few. They have more money than they can spend, lavish houses galore, and the security in knowing that their wellbeing will never suffer from the vicissitudes that life throws at the Rest of Us. And if French economist Thomas Piketty is right, their fortunes will continue to rise on the strength of ballooning asset portfolios, even as economic growth remains meager at best.
The late Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., believed that history was replete with pendular swings, generally between the rich and the Rest of Us. The Gilded Age of the late 19th century, with extreme wealth consolidation and associated political power wielded by a few oligarchs, generated resistance from the masses, leading to progressive reforms, including anti-trust legislation and the cleaving of monopolies into smaller entities. Then came the Roaring Twenties and the resumption of political and economic hegemony, abruptly suspended by the Crash of 1929 and subsequent Great Depression. Only war and the conversion of the economy to military production and support mitigated the stranglehold of the Haves. The three decades following war’s end, what I’ve called our country’s “relative halcyon days,” were marked by the lowest inequality and labor’s greatest influence in America’s history.
But clearly the pendulum has swung too far in money’s direction since the Age of Ronald, far enough to overwhelm all countervailing forces. Union participation rates are at historic lows, inequality is as high as it’s ever been, the rich have the best Congress money can buy, and the Rest of Us are too busy struggling to survive to effect change or we have completely given up on the political system, deemed corrupt and dysfunctional.
From time to time I revisit older posts of mine. Here is one apropos of the above commentary, and—surprise—I offer some suggestions on how to establish an economy and political system that works for the Rest of Us. I hasten to add that, as a practical matter, none of my ideas will reach fruition. More likely, we’ll see business as usual, with even greater concentrations of political and economic power.
Quite dystopian, don’t you think?