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February 14, 2011 7:23 AM   Subscribe

“This house believes that the global elite serve the masses.” The Economist’s latest online debate questions the role of the global elite in western society.
posted by londonmark (43 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
That quote should so go on a framed needlepoint piece à la "Bless this mess".
posted by Burhanistan at 7:26 AM on February 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


After an appetizer of Brie en croute, With a side of parsnips and endive, yes.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:27 AM on February 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Economist is a pretty unique test of my compartmentalization abilities.

I love their global and evidence-based perspective, reliance on economic statistics, cultural liberalism, and humor. I think, though they would be considered center-right, they are far to the left of the US Republicans.

However, sometimes they go on these crusades where it seems that they are trying to convince themselves that their own beliefs are true. With people of all political persuasions all around the planet rising up against various flavors of (actual and imagined) elites, the Economist gallops to the contrarian rescue.

I will go on loving and reading the Economist, and pretending that this online "debate" did not happen.
posted by tempythethird at 7:31 AM on February 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


I find both of their arguments very strange, and fixated on side issues. It's like they are describing a car by talking about the angles of the side mirrors, rather than thinking of it as "blue" or "red".

The overall global elite do not serve the masses any more than a dairy farmer serves his cows. The farmer may take actions which benefit the cows, like feeding them; someone perverse might even argue that he is compelled to feed them. But in the end, they exist to serve him.
posted by jb at 7:58 AM on February 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


Silly rabbit, there is no cabal.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:08 AM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


At least they are acknowledging a divide between "elite" and "masses". In America, just saying either of those words means you are "engaging in class warfare".
posted by DU at 8:11 AM on February 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


So... someone in this argument was reading Fight Club a little too seriously?

Worker bees may leave.
Even drones can fly away.
The queen is their slave.

posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:20 AM on February 14, 2011


At least they are acknowledging...

They are clearly a bunch of pinko commies.
posted by tempythethird at 8:20 AM on February 14, 2011


This four-car-garage house also believes that the global elite serve the masses, and would like to take this opportunity to say: you're welcome.
posted by molecicco at 8:22 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pretty neat how this one particular moment in history is different from all the other moments in history ever when it comes to the relationship of the ruling elite to the masses.
posted by jsturgill at 8:26 AM on February 14, 2011 [17 favorites]


Well of course the elite exists to serve the masses. Preferably, alongside a nice vintage wine. That's been well understood since at least the time of Jonathan Swift.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:26 AM on February 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Having worked my ass off in my current field (IT consulting/services) for nearly a decade only to earn so little now that my family is currently going into debt a little more every month largely on fixed expenses alone, with no real prospect of selling our house and moving to a better market for my industry anytime soon due to the real estate collapse in my state (and the fact that we can't afford to fix the house up enough to put it back on the market), and having also in that time seen certain well-born individuals also in my industry draw six figure paychecks as "consulting fees" merely for the accomplishment of having been born, without ever so much as showing up at the office even once (and in fact, missing their first day in a spectacularly public way due to a prescription drug fraud arrest), I can say without a trace of hesitation:

Global elite, if this is how you serve me and my kind, I want a refund.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:37 AM on February 14, 2011 [28 favorites]


The global elite probably thinks "To serve the masses" is a cookbook.
posted by DreamerFi at 8:48 AM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


This house believes that the global elite serve the masses.

As soon as I read this, I got a mental image of it carved into the masonry above the doorway of a McMansion.
posted by orange swan at 8:53 AM on February 14, 2011


@saulgoodman A modest allusion, well played.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:01 AM on February 14, 2011


Note: this is in the style of English Speaking Union Debate (such as is found in Cambridge and Oxford), so you *would* tend to have debates about polarizing, headline-grabbing absurdities.
posted by honest knave at 9:25 AM on February 14, 2011


"Some persons of a desponding spirit are in great concern about that vast number of poor people, who are aged, diseased, or maimed, and I have been desired to employ my thoughts what course may be taken to ease the nation of so grievous an encumbrance. But I am not in the least pain upon that matter, because it is very well known that they are every day dying and rotting by cold and famine, and filth and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected. And as to the young laborers, they are now in as hopeful a condition; they cannot get work, and consequently pine away for want of nourishment, to a degree that if at any time they are accidentally hired to common labor, they have not strength to perform it; and thus the country and themselves are happily delivered from the evils to come." -- Jonathan Swift
posted by blucevalo at 9:34 AM on February 14, 2011


"Serve" could also mean "eat" LOL.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:48 AM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


looking around, it's pretty hard to say that they're doing a good job of it - in fact, i'm not even sure they're doing a good job of taking care of themselves, much less us

the question they should ask isn't are they serving us but is it even working?

my answer - no
posted by pyramid termite at 9:50 AM on February 14, 2011


Um...

"Unlike transfers from the rich to the masses, which politicians openly advertise, rent extraction by the elite in a democracy must remain "below the radar". This limits the amount of rent the elite can extract. Go too far and it will become apparent; ambitious politicians will rouse and exploit majority opposition to the transfers and they will be stopped. Since no such mechanism can put a stop to transfers from the elite to the masses, it is a good bet that the masses are the long-run winners from our system."

So, the masses get the better deal because the elites cannot stop the transfer of funds from themselves to the masses. (All of the tax reductions that have been enacted since Reagan are imaginary or something.)

Meanwhile the poor elites cannot raise the rents too high for fear of open revolt. This means the masses win! This is a bit like arguing that anytime a mugger cannot take every single penny in the victim's possession, the victim wins.

Let me make this man an offer. He can give me his house and then pay me rent to live in it and in exchange I'll let him tax my earnings.
posted by oddman at 9:52 AM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Rich Take From Poor as U.S. Subsidy Law Funds Luxury Hotels

Sometimes Google News tosses up the right article at the right time.
posted by hippybear at 10:16 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


hippybear: that seems like front-page material.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:19 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Done and done.
posted by hippybear at 10:24 AM on February 14, 2011


I'm really puzzled at the number of Mefites who post The Economist's laughably precious conceits.
posted by nj_subgenius at 10:30 AM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


The REAL question here is: what are the masses doing for the global elite? When did YOU last give a billionaire a back-rub, or help a Forbes 500 CEO across the road? Huh? Maybe you mass-moochers should look at YOURSELVES, look deep into your HEARTS, and think about what YOU could do for the global elite.

Think how lonely, how weighed down with responsibility the global elite are. They sit all day in their towers of ivory, upon golden thrones, the fate of millions in their delicate, perfumed hands - yet, each day, at the coming of dusk, a winsome tear describes a slow course down their beautiful, sculpted cheeks.

And yet we filthy, common little cockroach people - we can't even be bothered to clamber up from our trenches of muck and organise a public subscription to build them a glittering statue of bronze, 500 foot tall. HAIL, HAIL, THE GLOBAL ELITE! MAY THEY LIVE FOREVER! - that's what we should be shouting from our workstations. HAIL THEM WITH GREAT HAIL! MAY THEIR PENISES GROW 10 FEET LONG AND MAY THEIR TESTICLES BOUNCE, BOUNCE, BOUNCE INTO A HAPPIER TOMORROW! MAY JADE UNICORNS FLY OUR OF THEIR ARSEHOLES AND SPEAR THEIR ENEMIES! MAY THEIR BUMFLUFF BE COLLECTED BY ANGELS AND USED TO DECORATE THE CORRIDORS OF HEAVEN!

That's basically the kind of thing that these global elite people want to hear from us. And thanks to this online debate, we finally have a way to tell them.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 10:35 AM on February 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


When the banksters created a massive housing bubble, and then it exploded in there face. And the people bailed them out, yet the people suffered through a terrible recession caused by their behavior.

That was all done for the benefit of the people. Because the elite serve the people.

Who could agree with this absurd proposition?
posted by Flood at 10:38 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a portion of the argument posited by the defender of the notion (that the elites benefit the masses):
The masses can be beneficiaries of our network of compulsory transfers even if they would be better off without them. If that sounds crazy, consider neighbouring countries, Farmerland and Robberland. Every now and then a party of Robbers raids Farmerland and steals some of their sheep. It could be that, over the long run, the residents of Robberland would be better off if they stopped these raids. Nevertheless, so long as the raids continue, the transfer is clearly from Farmerland to Robberland.
That's right. The general public of the U.S. and other countries are Robbers in Robberland, while the hardworking elites are farmers in farmerland. Yes, all those blue blooded, pale-skinned, aristocratic farmers in their ranch houses of privilege and tractors of wealth: the archetypal image of elitist society if I've ever seen it.

There are so many ridiculous elements to this statement that it's hard to unpack them all. I think the most ridiculous, however, is that it goes back to the same old bullshit fable-telling in order to convey its unconsidered and thoughtless position.

(Derail: A is A, Ms. Rand? Really? Who fucking cares? Maybe we should talk about wealth and privilege and society and culture and law instead of tautologies and your advanced ideas on geometry, the hardest of all maths [eyeroll].)

Any conversation of this sort that revolves around made up stories instead of history is fundamentally flawed and the very definition of elitist wankery. This proposition isn't abstract. It's a question as real and empirical as medicine: there is actual, demonstrable, well documented evidence from the past thousand years that bears witness to what elites do to whom and for what reasons.

It's pretty disgusting to me that a magazine that is in at least some eyes viewed as respected and respectable would allow someone to advance this kind of specious approach to serious discussion. "Forget the history. Let's talk about this made up situation I just made up."

Come. On.
posted by jsturgill at 10:56 AM on February 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh my. And this gem, from the opponent to the proposition:
It has become increasingly common for such concerns to take a Malthusian form. The world, it is said, will struggle to feed a population that looks set to grow to 9 billion by mid-century. This argument, perhaps more than any other, illustrates the pessimism of the elite. It fails to appreciate that people are producers as well as consumers. Each individual is not just another mouth to feed but another brain that can exercise ingenuity and a pair of hands that can reshape the world.
On the one side, you have the argument that redistribution is a moral affront and practical failure. On the other side, concerns about the rapid depletion of non-renewable resources is not actually a problem so much as an effort by the elites to reign in the masses.

I would call the whole thing stupid, but it's actually a depressingly smart piece of propaganda and yet another example of the elites manipulating the masses.
posted by jsturgill at 11:06 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Economist: This house believes that the global elite serve the masses.

Defending the motion: Journalist/author and head of research and publishing, Oliver Wyman Financial Services.

Against the motion: Journalist and author of "Ferraris For All: In defence of economic progress".

Did someone say "elitist wankery"? Yeah, you were right.
posted by vidur at 12:02 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


jsturgill: "There are so many ridiculous elements to this statement that it's hard to unpack them all."

Dude, you get a decoder ring with every Tea Party membership.
posted by sneebler at 12:12 PM on February 14, 2011


having also in that time seen certain well-born individuals also in my industry draw six figure paychecks as "consulting fees" merely for the accomplishment of having been born, without ever so much as showing up at the office even once (and in fact, missing their first day in a spectacularly public way due to a prescription drug fraud arrest), I can say without a trace of hesitation:

Too obscure for me. A true fact I happened to miss? It refers to what, exactly?
posted by IndigoJones at 1:02 PM on February 14, 2011


Too obscure for me. A true fact I happened to miss? It refers to what, exactly?

Check your MeFi mail.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:10 PM on February 14, 2011


*fills out FOIA paperwork for saulgoodman's obviously suppressed-by-the-cabal story*
posted by hippybear at 1:12 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


No, it's on the record stuff--I just need to be, erm, cautious about talking up the details too publicly. (Still got mouths to feed.)
posted by saulgoodman at 1:18 PM on February 14, 2011


Ah, hell, I guess I can link to an existing CNN article about it. Not like I'm the one breaking the news.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:20 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


jsturgill: what your tiny, non-Objectivist mind fails to understand is that any wealth transfer from the poor to the rich is natural and good and normal, which makes it like farming, whereas any transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor is artificial and therefore evil and bad, which makes it like theft.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:26 PM on February 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yeah, having the masses chip in for all that infrastructure to support big bidness is justified because the masses get to drive on the highway, too. Plus, they get a subsistence job.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:07 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


...a magazine that is in at least some eyes viewed as respected and respectable would allow someone to advance this kind of specious approach...

Dude, it's an online thingie, not the print deal.

And I agree with your rapier-like summation of the cluelessness of the framing, tone, and content of the entire discussion.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:11 PM on February 14, 2011


...what are the masses doing for the global elite?

Yeah, not only do we insist they give us jobs, but then we think they should pay us! They could easily just give us everything we need (up to some reasonable maximum) from the company store. Then they could just credit us with our work to make sure things came out even. But, noooooooo, we need to get "money" to "buy" "things" we don't even "need". Sheesh.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:14 PM on February 14, 2011


Sorry for the multiple po...Doh!
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:14 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any conversation of this sort that revolves around made up stories instead of history is fundamentally flawed and the very definition of elitist wankery. This proposition isn't abstract. It's a question as real and empirical as medicine: there is actual, demonstrable, well documented evidence from the past thousand years that bears witness to what elites do to whom and for what reasons..

Well, granted. But isn't this thread really about a bunch of elites sitting around complaining about how everything is the fault of the actions of higher-level elites? In spite of being in the top 5% of wealth and power, the argument is that all the wealth that been focused away from developing countries for the last several centuries and into the West? Oh that's all being done by some OTHER elites, up there somewhere. In fact,while we're at it, let's make up a category of the "truly elite-y" so we can properly point fingers.

I think that maybe more study needs to be done on the wealthy who pretend to be common people. We could start here.
posted by happyroach at 3:35 PM on February 14, 2011


Well, granted. But isn't this thread really about a bunch of elites sitting around complaining about how everything is the fault of the actions of higher-level elites? In spite of being in the top 5% of wealth and power, the argument is that all the wealth that been focused away from developing countries for the last several centuries and into the West? Oh that's all being done by some OTHER elites, up there somewhere. In fact,while we're at it, let's make up a category of the "truly elite-y" so we can properly point fingers.

I think that maybe more study needs to be done on the wealthy who pretend to be common people. We could start here.


Your premise is wrong. The top 5% is nowhere near the realm of real power. You're not being exclusive enough. There is a moment where wealth and power become synonymous, but I doubt anyone in this thread has reached that level of wealth.

Worse, the message you've shared here is one that discourages solidarity between the American poor and the unindustrialized or industrializing poor. That message seems to lead to not-so-great results for the masses, but great ones for the elites.
posted by jsturgill at 4:11 PM on February 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also, happyroach, wealth in the US isn't really distributed along a smooth continuum like you seem to be imagining. The US's Gini coefficient (the international metric of national income inequality) is currently higher than even Egypt's was pre-revolution. And basically, there's a massive wealth gap between 99% of us and the top 1%. That is to say, the 99% of us aren't even in the same universe as the top 1%, and the gap between all of us and the top 0.1% is even bigger, and rapidly expanding.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:03 PM on February 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


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