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Now that's my kind of rich bastard!
June 27, 2014 8:47 AM   Subscribe

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats: "The thing about us businesspeople is that we love our customers rich and our employees poor. So for as long as there has been capitalism, capitalists have said the same thing about any effort to raise wages. We’ve had 75 years of complaints from big business—when the minimum wage was instituted, when women had to be paid equitable amounts, when child labor laws were created. Every time the capitalists said exactly the same thing in the same way: We’re all going to go bankrupt. I’ll have to close. I’ll have to lay everyone off. It hasn’t happened. In fact, the data show that when workers are better treated, business gets better. The naysayers are just wrong."

And in Politico, no less. It appears that Nick Hanauer's money has not destroyed his ability to think clearly and equitably... using actual facts and historical evidence! He appears to be following Ralph Nader's script from 2009.

Previously: Nick Hanauer's TEDx talk
posted by mondo dentro (134 comments total) 97 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pfft, you can use facts to prove anything.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:58 AM on June 27 [25 favorites]


I've talked to several .1 percenters about this very thing, and all 3 times I've had this conversation, the pitchforks have been the only thing that make sense. I've never been able to convince someone to have more compassion, or that the benefits of an increase total aggregate utility are worth the costs. But- "if the rest of the poor knew how rich you actually were, and what you did to get it, they'd murder you in your sleep tomorrow night" is always effective. Hanauer's taking the right track. I like it.
posted by DGStieber at 8:59 AM on June 27 [36 favorites]


Seriously? This is bullshit.
The one thing I had left to look forward to in my retirement was the pitchforks.
posted by fullerine at 9:02 AM on June 27 [46 favorites]


What is this retirement you speak of, fullerine?
posted by Mister_A at 9:03 AM on June 27 [42 favorites]


I don't know what this guy is worried about; between the NSA keeping tabs on everyone, SWAT teams willing to raid for no reason, and people more content to post selfies doing mundane things, nobody is going to even consider buying a pitchfork, let alone plan stabbing some of this guy's friends with it.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:04 AM on June 27 [8 favorites]


when women had to be paid equitable amounts

Still waiting on that one!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:05 AM on June 27 [36 favorites]


The one thing I had left to look forward to in my retirement was the pitchforks.

I was hoping for that, too. But it turns out that with advancing decrepitude I have a hard time making effective thrusting motions with mine.
posted by mondo dentro at 9:06 AM on June 27 [7 favorites]


If Apple made iPitchforks, everyone would have one, and upgrade yearly.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:08 AM on June 27 [8 favorites]


I don't know what this guy is worried about; between the NSA keeping tabs on everyone, SWAT teams willing to raid for no reason, and people more content to post selfies doing mundane things, nobody is going to even consider buying a pitchfork, let alone plan stabbing some of this guy's friends with it.

This has been my theory all along, that we're seeing the groundwork laid out for a persistent preventative counterrevolution. The writing has been on the wall for a while, all the long term forecasts look bleak, and maintaining the status quo is the most important goal.
posted by The Whelk at 9:09 AM on June 27 [59 favorites]


You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

From an historical perspective, he's dead-on here. He's absolutely right.

And I think it's arguable that part of the techno-optimism of the Silicon Valley, billionaire-libertarian set is the hope that this social law can be miracled out of relevance with technology. What are the pipe dreams about politically autonomous, floating city-states like this one if not a vulgar, ham-fisted attempt at accomplishing that stupid and amoral goal?
posted by clockzero at 9:10 AM on June 27 [13 favorites]


Business owners in Seattle are convinced that they will go bankrupt, because they will have to raise prices to pay the $15/ hour minimum and their customers will go down the street to cheaper competitors.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:11 AM on June 27


You know the truth even if you won’t admit it: If any of us had been born in Somalia or the Congo, all we’d be is some guy standing barefoot next to a dirt road selling fruit. It’s not that Somalia and Congo don’t have good entrepreneurs. It’s just that the best ones are selling their wares off crates by the side of the road because that’s all their customers can afford.


This is really really good.
posted by boots at 9:13 AM on June 27 [48 favorites]


What is this retirement you speak of, fullerine?
Darkness closed around, and then came the ringing of church bells and the distant beating of the military drums in the Palace Courtyard, as the women sat knitting, knitting. Darkness encompassed them. Another darkness was closing in as surely, when the church bells, then ringing pleasantly in many an airy steeple over France, should be melted into thundering cannon; when the military drums should be beating to drown a wretched voice, that night all potent as the voice of Power and Plenty, Freedom and Life. So much was closing in about the women who sat knitting, knitting, that they their very selves were closing in around a structure yet unbuilt, where they were to sit knitting, knitting, counting dropping heads.
I mean, it's no Boca Raton.
posted by The White Hat at 9:13 AM on June 27 [17 favorites]


a persistent preventative counterrevolution. 
Drones don't revolt.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:14 AM on June 27 [3 favorites]


As a local resident, I'm all for the Seattle minimum wage increase. But the thing about franchisees is just dumb; it either ignores the reality of those things work, or it deliberately aims to punish people who have entered into that kind of agreement.
posted by Slothrup at 9:15 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


Instead, I sock my extra money away in savings, where it doesn’t do the country much good.

I gotta quibble with that .. I do believe in the general banking principle that savings are put in banks who loan it out to people to start their own business or buy a house, etc.. Money in savings isn't taking money out of the economy (a'la stuffing a mattress with it).
posted by k5.user at 9:16 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


This is seriously so self-evident that I have no idea how capitalist propagandists can deny it with a straight face. But then, doublethink has never been a problem in our society.

This has been my theory all along, that we're seeing the groundwork laid out for a persistent preventative counterrevolution. The writing has been on the wall for a while, all the long term forecasts look bleak, and maintaining the status quo is the most important goal.

Pretty sure that was the entire point of Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent.
posted by cthuljew at 9:16 AM on June 27 [6 favorites]


I gotta quibble with that .. I do believe in the general banking principle that savings are put in banks who loan it out to people to start their own business or buy a house, etc.. Money in savings isn't taking money out of the economy (a'la stuffing a mattress with it).

This hasn't been how banks lend money for about 100 years now. Banks just add some digits to your account when you take out a loan, and the only guarantee of it is your signature on the loan documents. They don't actually lend anyone's money anymore.
posted by cthuljew at 9:19 AM on June 27 [8 favorites]


boots' quote's great - I love David Harvey on how the demand part worked up here in the Anglo-Saxon world (RSA short), basically crush the power of organised labour, export their jobs to China, dear god, no-one wants to buy anything, right here's all the credit there is, oh dear, 2008.
posted by YouRebelScum at 9:19 AM on June 27 [3 favorites]


Business owners in Seattle are convinced that they will go bankrupt, because they will have to raise prices to pay the $15/ hour minimum and their customers will go down the street to cheaper competitors.

Subway prices might have to go up. I'm thinking other fast food chains will add more and more automation. Replace customer service with a touchscreen. Use undocumented labor to do as much food preparation as possible before food gets to the restaurant.

This could become a real crisis.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:21 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


...their customers will go down the street to cheaper competitors.

Won't the place down the street still, uh, be in Seattle?
posted by cthuljew at 9:24 AM on June 27 [27 favorites]


Progressives do a really bad job of framing. By using the word inequality, the argument is diluted, because, as Hanauer notes, inequality is an inherent and necessary state in a capitalist economy. The problem is inequity, i.e., current wealth distribution is not just unequal, it is unfair. The reason it's unfair is that for the last few decades nearly all the increase in wealth has gone to the 0.1%. The rest of us have seen little share in that increase, despite the fact that we do most of the work. You often see the discussion die when the opposition says, "Well, of course there's inequality. That's how the system works! What do you want to do, redistribute the income to those who didn't earn it?" Already, the argument is off on the wrong foot.

I now avoid saying "income inequality" or "wealth inequality," the same way I avoid "death taxes," "entitlements," and "voter fraud." I will not cede the territory on which we fight to the other side.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:25 AM on June 27 [65 favorites]


I thought this was persuasive. Of course, I'm not super-rich.
posted by newdaddy at 9:31 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


Progressives do a really bad job of framing.

100% agree. That's what got me so excited reading this. This guy Nick Hanauer just delivered the framing. I sense the winds are shifting.
posted by superelastic at 9:32 AM on June 27 [7 favorites]


"Business owners in Seattle are convinced that they will go bankrupt, because they will have to raise prices to pay the $15/ hour minimum and their customers will go down the street to cheaper competitors."

… Some business owners, the ones who own franchises, who now have a pretty good incentive to renegotiate with their chains over franchise fees. But since they're explicitly a business that removes money from the local economy, especially when factoring in things like Subway's well-documented poverty wages, I have a hard time crying for them.
posted by klangklangston at 9:33 AM on June 27 [11 favorites]


Drones don't revolt.
One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter updated target parameters.
posted by fullerine at 9:33 AM on June 27 [7 favorites]


Won't the place down the street still, uh, be in Seattle?

Yup. Somehow not taken into account.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:35 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


Also, have they ever visited countries with the kind of huge gaps and no middle class they covet? Do they really want to live in constant fear of kidnapping?
posted by The Whelk at 9:37 AM on June 27 [15 favorites]


Drones don't revolt.

Yet.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:38 AM on June 27 [11 favorites]


> I now avoid saying "income inequality" or "wealth inequality," the same way I avoid "death taxes," "entitlements," and "voter fraud." I will not cede the territory on which we fight to the other side.

I question this from a tactical perspective. To me, it would be much cooler to be able to say, "Well, I think that we should use death taxes to fund entitlement programs, and here's why..." and explain my case. It shows you're not afraid of the other side's framing. There's a certain air of sophistication and intelligence you get when you wave your hand impatiently and go "okay fine, I'll use whatever stupid words you prefer, but let me explain why you're still wrong." And if you succeed, you've killed the power of those phrases in the mind of the other person, instead of just sidestepping them.
posted by officer_fred at 9:38 AM on June 27 [17 favorites]


This guy Nick Hanauer just delivered the framing.

Yes, this is a great thing.

But even though the unfairness is buried in there somewhere, his main argument is give something back before they kill us. I think the arguments should be reversed. The upfront argument should be fairness in divvying up the spoils and the subtext should be "or you'll die." The most important thing is to get those being screwed by the current system to realize it and vote that way, and then to defang enough of the 1% to keep them from their own coup.

That said, this was a brilliant bit of politico-economic writing and heartens me.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:39 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


From an historical perspective, he's dead-on here.

Is he? Here's one recent study (pdf) on the relationship of income inequality to civil unrest in the period 1965. A key finding:
objective measures of social grievance, such as inequality, a lack of
democracy, and ethnic and religious divisions, have had little systematic effect on risk
There is also no clear evidence that income inequality was particularly increasing above historical norms prior to the French Revolution.

Similarly, income inequality in Russia prior to the Revolution was "middling" by the general standards of the era, and strikingly less pronounced that in the Western economies of today.

I don't think I've ever seen a persuasive account of revolution that suggests that there is some clear "tipping point" threshold of either economic inequality or political oppression which reliably generates popular revolt.
posted by yoink at 9:40 AM on June 27 [8 favorites]


But- "if the rest of the poor knew how rich you actually were, and what you did to get it, they'd murder you in your sleep tomorrow night" is always effective.

I don't know if that's true. Appealing to paranoia may be effective in prodding the wealthy to act, but may inspire them to act exactly like paranoiacs.

My mom knows a reasonably wealthy guy, the kind of person who thinks nothing of taking a car service into Manhattan from his spacious home in Greenwich, or staying over in a hotel if he doesn't feel like heading home later that day. I've never seen him be anything but kind and welcoming to my mom and me, which has made it especially jarring to see him become increasingly paranoid over the past decade.

The guy is now convinced that a horde of uneducated moochers are gunning for his riches. He's building a home in Florida, both because he's tired of paying Connecticut taxes, and because it will be easier to defend.

I'm afraid that the pitchforks-and-torches framing would only cause him to double down on that paranoia, and make him even quicker to support oppressive policies that benefit and protect him at the expense of others.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:40 AM on June 27 [12 favorites]


I've been working in a unionized retail job in a major coty for 7 years and I still don't make Seattle's minimum wage.

*cries*
posted by jonmc at 9:42 AM on June 27 [4 favorites]


Also, have they ever visited countries with the kind of huge gaps and no middle class they covet? Do they really want to live in constant fear of kidnapping?

That's what the robot drones are for, to defend the perimeters of thier walled compounds.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:42 AM on June 27


Oh, I also loved in that "go down the street to cheaper competitors" link that the franchisees, backed by the huge advertising budgets and national corporate support and using a strategy of beating the crap out of ma and pa businesses on price and visibility, try to make the reader feel bad that the ma and pa sandwich shop will put them out of business by paying their help less.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:42 AM on June 27 [6 favorites]


This is great stuff:
Republicans and Democrats in Congress can’t shrink government with wishful thinking. The only way to slash government for real is to go back to basic economic principles: You have to reduce the demand for government. If people are getting $15 an hour or more, they don’t need food stamps. They don’t need rent assistance. They don’t need you and me to pay for their medical care. If the consumer middle class is back, buying and shopping, then it stands to reason you won’t need as large a welfare state. And at the same time, revenues from payroll and sales taxes would rise, reducing the deficit.
Think anyone will listen?
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:45 AM on June 27 [65 favorites]


Also, have they ever visited countries with the kind of huge gaps and no middle class they covet? Do they really want to live in constant fear of kidnapping?

That's what the robot drones are for, to defend the perimeters of thier walled compounds.


Yeah, the freedom to live in your luxurious penthouse prison, just like a modern day Pablo Escobar. Hoorray for being rich!
posted by Chrischris at 9:45 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


Republicans and Democrats in Congress can’t shrink government with wishful thinking. The only way to slash government for real is to go back to basic economic principles: You have to reduce the demand for government. If people are getting $15 an hour or more, they don’t need food stamps. They don’t need rent assistance. They don’t need you and me to pay for their medical care. If the consumer middle class is back, buying and shopping, then it stands to reason you won’t need as large a welfare state. And at the same time, revenues from payroll and sales taxes would rise, reducing the deficit.


This is the most succinct description of how to solve our problems I've ever read. Its genius. Its something that can reach everyone.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:45 AM on June 27 [49 favorites]


Or what Ben Trismegistus said.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:46 AM on June 27


Drones don't revolt.


Perhaps not, but engineers do, and coders do.
You need a lot of infrastructure to keep a drone army going and very few of the ultra rich are actually Tony Stark.
You're better off with hired goons.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 9:53 AM on June 27 [5 favorites]


Ironmouth, same argument goes for climate change.

"You want small government? When the seas rise, and the farms bake, climate crises will be at such a scale they'll justify the *largest government the US has ever seen*. You want small government? Price carbon and let the market sort it out."
posted by anthill at 9:56 AM on June 27 [23 favorites]


Similarly, income inequality in Russia prior to the Revolution was "middling" by the general standards of the era, and strikingly less pronounced that in the Western economies of today.

I can't read the paper, but the alternate conclusion is that it doesn't take that much income inequality to start a revolution.

As for the paper on French income inequality, a key sentence: "There are no completely reliable data about income in France until after World War II"

In the end the problem isn't income inequality per se, its the ability of people to still reach those rarefied heights. And the more income inequality there is, the harder it will be to reach those heights, no matter how free the economy is. In both Ancien Regieme France and pre-revolutionary Russia, there were permanent underclasses who by law could not rise to the positions held by the nobility. The question for us is have we reached that point by dint of inequality growth--in other words, is it true that no matter how hard we try, we can't reach the 1%? If that becomes true, the pitchforks will come out

I don't know what this guy is worried about; between the NSA keeping tabs on everyone, SWAT teams willing to raid for no reason, and people more content to post selfies doing mundane things, nobody is going to even consider buying a pitchfork, let alone plan stabbing some of this guy's friends with it.

May I gently suggest that anger over 585 drone strikes and a database of what number called what number is hyped by Rand Paul for one reason--to distract you from where the money is flowing. Which Rand Paul wants to continue to flow in exactly the same way it is flowing right now.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:58 AM on June 27 [5 favorites]


Is he? Here's one recent study (pdf) on the relationship of income inequality to civil unrest in the period 1965. A key finding:

objective measures of social grievance, such as inequality, a lack of
democracy, and ethnic and religious divisions, have had little systematic effect on risk
There is also no clear evidence that income inequality was particularly increasing above historical norms prior to the French Revolution.


Two things about that study: first, it's an analysis of determinants of civil war and revolution, not an analysis of the relationship between pecuniary inequalities specifically and those outcomes, so it's not necessarily going to analyze that cluster of factor very carefully. Second, before the French Revolution, income inequality as a single variable wouldn't necessarily be expected to be the most important kind of financial measure, and anyway it is only one case.

Similarly, income inequality in Russia prior to the Revolution was "middling" by the general standards of the era, and strikingly less pronounced that in the Western economies of today.

Again, consider that many people didn't participate extensively in a monetary economy during that time, so that might not be an accurate way to capture inequalities of resource access.

I don't think I've ever seen a persuasive account of revolution that suggests that there is some clear "tipping point" threshold of either economic inequality or political oppression which reliably generates popular revolt.

Most respectable scholars of the social sciences reject monocausality. As Hanauer suggests, though, the point is that extreme pecuniary inequalities (in societies where resource access is mediated mostly through money) tend to lead either to increasingly extreme oppression or revolt, if not both. That much is right on.
posted by clockzero at 10:01 AM on June 27 [5 favorites]


Maybe "if this goes on much longer the pitchforks will come out" is a good rhetorical tactic, but as an actual prediction about the world, I'm not convinced. Slavery lasted 300 years in America, and what, 1,000 in ancient Rome? Feudalism went on for 600 years or so in western Europe. For how many thousands of years were women treated as second-class humans before feminism existed even as a conceptual possibility, much less a real political force?

Perhaps in the very long term highly unequal systems are doomed eventually to fall, but like the man said, in the long term we are all dead. For me the lesson of history is not that revolution is inevitable but that it is hard-won and must be fought for, again and again, every time. The pitchforks, if they come, will not come because rich people get too rich or steal too blatantly, they will come because the rest of us choose to take action. We will never see any change if we allow ourselves to be convinced by articles like this that it is inevitable and all we've got to do is sit back and wait.
posted by enn at 10:06 AM on June 27 [14 favorites]


His essay is good and he should feel good.
posted by edheil at 10:08 AM on June 27 [7 favorites]


I can't read the paper, but the alternate conclusion is that it doesn't take that much income inequality to start a revolution

If revolutions happen more or less regardless of the state of income inequality prevailing in the country at the time, there would seem to be no basis at all for the proposition that the income inequality was the "cause" of the Revolution. You might as well say that the extremely low number of Protestants in Russia at the time of the Revolution is proof that "it doesn't take many Protestants to start a Revolution."

As Hanauer suggests, though, the point is that extreme pecuniary inequalities (in societies where resource access is mediated mostly through money) tend to lead either to increasingly extreme oppression or revolt, if not both. That much is right on.


Would you care to provide a link to any serious comparative historical or economic analysis that supports that claim?
posted by yoink at 10:09 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


Also, have they ever visited countries with the kind of huge gaps and no middle class they covet?

They don't have to actually live in those areas, just have working assets there. They can always be physically in transit between Europe/US/East Asia while also having their money locked up in a few offshore financial centers. That way they get the benefits of stable governments, low tax, and high return on investments.
posted by FJT at 10:09 AM on June 27


Most respectable scholars of the social sciences reject monocausality.

Yes. One thing it calls to mind is how left wing organizing has always talked about the need for "consciousness raising." If you're an untouchable, but you really do believe it's because you're paying off a karmic debt (for example), you're not likely to see taking down the Brahmin class as even making sense.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:11 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


This is a good point from the piece:
The most insidious thing about trickle-down economics isn’t believing that if the rich get richer, it’s good for the economy. It’s believing that if the poor get richer, it’s bad for the economy.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:13 AM on June 27 [31 favorites]


In both Ancien Regieme France and pre-revolutionary Russia, there were permanent underclasses who by law could not rise to the positions held by the nobility.

Yes, there were "permanent underclasses" in both Ancien Regime France and pre-revolutionary Russia, but to pin the Revolution on those factors you need to show that these were either something new or something that had become significantly worse in the decades leading up to the Revolution, and you need to show that the same things weren't happening in other, comparable countries. And the facts simply don't go along with that. Britain, which alone among the great European powers in the C18th and C19th avoided any kind of "revolution," was actually egregiously low in social mobility. It was much easier, in France, for a bourgeois or petit-bourgeois person to rise into the ranks of the nobility than it was in England because the French government, in its desperate need for funds, sold titles of nobility. There was, in fact, much more social mobility in France in the decades leading up to the Revolution than in comparable European countries. And, yes, Russia had its serfs, but the Revolution was not primarily an uprising of the serfs.
posted by yoink at 10:18 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


well, yeah... but maybe capitalism IS the problem that needs fixing.
posted by gkr at 10:21 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


I don't think I've ever seen a persuasive account of revolution that suggests that there is some clear "tipping point" threshold of either economic inequality or political oppression which reliably generates popular revolt.

Can't say I've researched it myself but I have heard it put that the single determining factor in all of history's successful revolutions is hunger. When too many people can't feed their kids, all bets are off, things change ... for better or worse.
posted by philip-random at 10:26 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


there would seem to be no basis at all for the proposition that the income inequality was the "cause" of the Revolution.

You might want to read up about this time these people in Boston got upset about taxes on their tea.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:32 AM on June 27


Britain, which alone among the great European powers in the C18th and C19th avoided any kind of "revolution," was actually egregiously low in social mobility. It was much easier, in France, for a bourgeois or petit-bourgeois person to rise into the ranks of the nobility than it was in England because the French government, in its desperate need for funds, sold titles of nobility.

But in England and Wales, serfdom was obsolete by the 1500s. In Russia it was only formally abolished in the mid-19th and in such a way that many of the vestiges survived until at least 1905. In Ancien Regime France, it was still going strong by 1789. Nobles paid very few taxes, especially the hated Gabelle or salt tax.

the economic inability of the peasantry to move forward is a big factor in the Russian and French revolutions. The bourgeoisie was still relatively small in France and tiny in pre-Revolutionary Russia.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:33 AM on June 27 [3 favorites]


The one thing I had left to look forward to in my retirement was the pitchforks.

I was thinking the future of retirement was public-supported rail-based transport out of town with a complementary tar-feather pillow for comfort.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:35 AM on June 27


It's nice to see Hanauer is continuing to show that Chris Anderson is full of fecal matter. Anderson killing his talk was the "jump the shark" moment for TED, as it showed that there was an agenda there.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:41 AM on June 27 [7 favorites]


When too many people can't feed their kids, all bets are off, things change ... for better or worse.

but who wants revolution anyway? As an old hippie put it to me a while back, "Revolution just means to turn in circles, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. What we want is evolution."
posted by philip-random at 10:42 AM on June 27 [6 favorites]


Should they ever offer us concessions, keep in mind that what they'll give is the bare minimum required to keep us from rioting.

If we want anything more, we'll have to take it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:43 AM on June 27 [7 favorites]


I've read some of Hanauer's earlier stuff, and I really hope people start adopting his framing because it really nails things in my opinion.

I think some of the discussion here is strawmanning his arguments a bit -- they really are more nuanced than people are giving credit.

Pitchforks -- he's not saying they will definitely come, I think the two key points he makes is (1) suppressing them tends to lead to a police state (which arguably we are seeing already), and (2) the exact point at which they come out is likely to be a surprise.

Economic self-interest -- again, he hits this from a number of angles, not just that the middle class drives business but that poverty is expensive since it requires a larger welfare state to compensate. I think the notion that "the best way to shrink the government is to reduce the need for its services" is a brilliant bit of political jujitsu, and I would love to see that idea enter the political mainstream.
posted by bjrubble at 10:44 AM on June 27 [9 favorites]


Just to clarify a bit, the question of whether the US slave economy, or ancient Rome, or any number of other historical examples invalidates his point about inequality leading to revolution, I feel is addressed adequately by his note that you wind up with a revolution or a police state. Quibbling over how effective a violent drone-enabled crackdown on popular revolt would be seems to be missing the point that this should be regarded as a clearly insane alternative, and while truly sociopathic plutocrats might look forward to that sort of future, the presumably generally well-intentioned audience of this article are probably a lot less gung-ho about it.
posted by bjrubble at 11:00 AM on June 27 [5 favorites]


My worry, as a Seattleite, about the wage hike: I fear we will screw this up not because it's a bad idea or unworkable, but because we're Seattle and we have trouble with things like math and money.

I came here in 2004 and for two years had to pay an extra $125 on my car tabs to cover a monorail line that was already canceled and will never be built, and nobody went to jail over it. This city votes down publicly financing arenas, but they get built with public financing anyway. And there's this giant hole downtown that may never become anything useful, that was a bad idea from the start, which was given a big flat "NO" by Seattle voters twice and we even elected a mayor whose entire platform was essentially "let's not build the tunnel," and the state has always been super dodgy about who will pay for cost overruns, and yet, look, there's our giant hole to nowhere.

And we also shoot down pretty much every revenue-raising measure that comes onto the ballot. Except for school levies, and lemme tell ya, I work for the Seattle school district. Those levies aren't always a good thing.

So, yeah. $15/hour wage minimum? I'm 100% for it. But I'm very worried that we'll fuck it all up because we're Seattle, and then everyone in the rest of the country will say, "See? It doesn't work," when the real problem isn't the theory, but rather the laboratory.

God, I hope this works.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:07 AM on June 27 [13 favorites]


I'm afraid that the pitchforks-and-torches framing would only cause him to double down on that paranoia, and make him even quicker to support oppressive policies that benefit and protect him at the expense of others.

Pitchforks and torches probably does cause some marginal level of increased discomfort with the poor/paranoia, but I think that paranoia is probably the only response available (some) 1%ers. If you experience limited empathy for people poorer than you, and you become aware of the societal stresses caused by massive inequality, you're going to be worried about the only people you still feel empathy for- yourself and the other 1%ers. In my experiences, the only two reactions to inequality (from the super-rich) are paranoia and apathy. YMMV as to what's worse.

tl;dr: Alarm - Empathy = Paranoia
posted by DGStieber at 11:12 AM on June 27 [3 favorites]


"As Hanauer suggests, though, the point is that extreme pecuniary inequalities (in societies where resource access is mediated mostly through money) tend to lead either to increasingly extreme oppression or revolt, if not both. That much is right on."

Would you care to provide a link to any serious comparative historical or economic analysis that supports that claim?


So, what, you want me to do a lit review and prove that? Are you going to pay me for this?

Yes, there were "permanent underclasses" in both Ancien Regime France and pre-revolutionary Russia, but to pin the Revolution on those factors you need to show that these were either something new or something that had become significantly worse in the decades leading up to the Revolution, and you need to show that the same things weren't happening in other, comparable countries.

I think you might have neglected Ironmouth's very good point, which (I think) is that something like income doesn't have an invariant relationship with a more basic social phenomenon like access to resources. So the argument that Hanauer makes doesn't imply that one could demonstrate statistically that there's a direct correlation between the income inequality variable and some "likelihood of revolution" construct. The problem isn't income inequality itself, it's the co-option and diversion of prosperity which should belong to everyone by a tiny cadre of dedicated manipulators, the unrepentant exclusivity of elite control over all wealth, which is always and inescapably a product of sociality itself. That's what either causes revolutions or has to also entail brutal repression.

And the facts simply don't go along with that. Britain, which alone among the great European powers in the C18th and C19th avoided any kind of "revolution," was actually egregiously low in social mobility.

It's also worth pointing out again that characterizing revolution as strictly binary, something that either happens or doesn't, and if it doesn't happen it implies that no causal or even relevant elements were present, is not a very nuanced or theoretically sophisticated conception.

It was much easier, in France, for a bourgeois or petit-bourgeois person to rise into the ranks of the nobility than it was in England because the French government, in its desperate need for funds, sold titles of nobility. There was, in fact, much more social mobility in France in the decades leading up to the Revolution than in comparable European countries. And, yes, Russia had its serfs, but the Revolution was not primarily an uprising of the serfs.

There's a big difference between explaining specific revolutions and describing features of social life that exacerbate discontent and erode confidence in the ruling classes. Simply because the Russian or French revolutions weren't entirely determined by a handful of economic measures doesn't mean that the relationship between economic/material privation caused by gratuitous concentrations of wealth and the overturning of the socio-political orders that insist upon those concentrations is any less real.
posted by clockzero at 11:21 AM on June 27 [5 favorites]


I just got the overwhelming urge to hug my computer monitor.
posted by echocollate at 11:24 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


Maybe "if this goes on much longer the pitchforks will come out" is a good rhetorical tactic, but as an actual prediction about the world, I'm not convinced. Slavery lasted 300 years in America, and what, 1,000 in ancient Rome? Feudalism went on for 600 years or so in western Europe. For how many thousands of years were women treated as second-class humans before feminism existed even as a conceptual possibility, much less a real political force?

The examples you mention are qualitatively different than the conditions he's talking about, though. I appreciate your valuable point about how we shouldn't be politically complacent because of a belief that history tends to favor emancipation in the long run, but there is validity to his claim that the pitchforks tend to come out when the rich don't know when to stop winning the class war.
posted by clockzero at 11:28 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


I just have one question. If everyone was suddenly making a lot more money with each pay check, wouldn't businesses just raise their prices accordingly?
posted by echocollate at 11:33 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


This is the most succinct description of how to solve our problems I've ever read. Its genius. Its something that can reach everyone.

I don't think you understand. To pay everyone $15 means that the people who sign the checks will have to accept less. And that's not how this system works.
posted by kgasmart at 11:37 AM on June 27


The money quote in TFA for me came early:

Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society.

Although I am rapidly becoming convinced that feudal societies are the end goal of capitalism. And remember, when Our Founding Fathers gave us the Perfect System the Constitution-Worshipers want to re-capture, the only eligible voters were white, male, property owners. Now, THAT's a Capitalist System. And the much-praised Magna Carta just transferred power from a single King to a group of feudal barons.

A "permanent underclass" has always existed in America, as well as every other society. The Horatio Alger mythology which celebrated the .001% who rose from the bottom to the top has been a fairly effective tool in reinforcing that structure. But with the underclass growing, how many dot-com billionaires rose from anything resembling poverty? Name ONE.

With our two political parties being "the one that's okay with Regulatory Capture" and "the one who wants to eliminate Regulation period", there is no legitimate way any more to use the Power of Government for the Common Good. Besides, our Lords and Masters are not IN the government. The new fascist model no longer needs a Hitler when it has a Volkswagen and a Hugo Boss.

There may be "validity to his claim that the pitchforks tend to come out when the rich don't know when to stop winning the class war", but I must argue that Post-9/11 Security Developments have pretty much made our nation 'pitchfork-proof'. I'm not going to join the "Truthers" in believing that was the goal of 'the powers that be' all along (I can't imagine Bush/Cheney/Co. being that competent), but I would like to say "Thanks, Osama". Your legacy is America becoming more and more like Saudi Arabia.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:45 AM on June 27 [10 favorites]


But- "if the rest of the poor knew how rich you actually were, and what you did to get it, they'd murder you in your sleep tomorrow night" is always effective. Hanauer's taking the right track. I like it.

This is precisely what the rush to privatize security forces is about, incidentally. Segmenting the enforcer class away from the population they were once ostensibly in service to and a part of, and making sure they work for the highest bidder.
posted by mhoye at 11:46 AM on June 27 [4 favorites]


Forget pitchforks. The greatest weapon we American serfs have is a refusal to shop as a form of entertainment, although turning off their propaganda noise machine is a necessary corollary.

Think They Live. It's here!
posted by spitbull at 11:47 AM on June 27 [4 favorites]


"In the end the problem isn't income inequality per se, its the ability of people to still reach those rarefied heights. And the more income inequality there is, the harder it will be to reach those heights, no matter how free the economy is. In both Ancien Regieme France and pre-revolutionary Russia, there were permanent underclasses who by law could not rise to the positions held by the nobility."

While serf and peasant populations and their appalling treatment played into those revolutions, it was also the failure of educated, middle class men to find advancement.

It's also worth noting that one of the problems with talk of revolutions and causes is the myopia that comes from wanting to pin everything on America, Russia or France. Not only are there wide differences between those revolutions, there's also a wide difference between them and, say, the 1848 German revolution, or the ongoing revolutions in France in the 1800s. Even further, the predominant mode of revolution in the 20th century was anti-colonialist, which had a huge inequality component.

Inequality is linked more closely to instability than it is to revolution, especially under narrower definitions of revolution. But that doesn't mean they're unconnected.
posted by klangklangston at 11:52 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


A "permanent underclass" has always existed in America, as well as every other society.

The big difference being just how far under.
posted by srboisvert at 11:53 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


Regarding demand for government, an argument against a high minimum wage is that the marginally employable won't have jobs anymore so they'll need more government services.
posted by michaelh at 12:04 PM on June 27


One thing that's bothered me about this - and I think I've got it figured out - is if you force businesses to pay a higher minimum wage, then businesses will hike their prices in order to make the same amount of money.

The higher prices will then just put the people on minimum wage back where they started.

What is not stated in the article - maybe left intentionally unsaid - is, in order for this to work, business owners will have to take less profit because their companies will have to lower prices (or not raise them as much) in order to compete. And that's why he's pointed this essay at the 0.01%. They will have to reduce their income in order to stay competitive, even with a higher minimum wage.

At least, I hope that's how it would work.

posted by mmrtnt at 12:05 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


evidenceofabsence: "I'm afraid that the pitchforks-and-torches framing would only cause him to double down on that paranoia, and make him even quicker to support oppressive policies that benefit and protect him at the expense of others."


I read this statement in the article "You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when."

And your statement above nicely parallels this. "Support oppressive policies."

"The Police State" mentioned above (and let's set-aside for now that what we really mean here is is "police state for middle class white people" - lower class Americans (particularly ones of color) have had to deal with a police state their entire live, otherwise we wouldn't have the largest per-capita prison population in the world, now would we, but that's an aside)...

The view that "revolution or fascism" is the only end point, well if it is true, then what you're doing is entrenching these people to further support a totalitarian State to defend their interest against the increasingly frustrated and angry mobs. Sure, you're giving them relief via Social Democracy saying "let's avoid the pitchforks" but then, if we can black-swan this sucker and pretend pitchforks won't actually happen, why give up good money when we don't have to.

You'll pry the profit from my cold dead hands!!! Why compromise when the laws are in our favor? And enough fools can be bought off so we can have a police state, it won't affect us any, just the plebes.

He's under the assumption here that the psychology of the current elite overwhelmingly corresponds to the ideals of liberal democracy (I don't use Liberal in the US sense here, but in the Classical Liberal sense). I'm not so sure I would trust that state of affairs, I think the elite have become so privileged that attempting to argue with them from a position of self interest only further aggrandizes their perceived persecution complex and entrenches them even further in their plutoclaves.

posted by symbioid at 12:05 PM on June 27


Oh! I like this...

The most insidious thing about trickle-down economics isn’t believing that if the rich get richer, it’s good for the economy. It’s believing that if the poor get richer, it’s bad for the economy.
posted by symbioid at 12:11 PM on June 27 [7 favorites]


if you force businesses to pay a higher minimum wage, then businesses will hike their prices in order to make the same amount of money.

Totally not true. How much of what anyone (including minimum wage workers) spend money on is stuff whose price is really dependent on the labor costs at the bottom? How much of the price of a McDonalds hamburger goes toward the guy in the paper hat at the counter? Not that much. Now, businesses could raise their prices by a comparable amount, but then they'd make a lot more money, and they wouldn't do that, right?
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:12 PM on June 27 [3 favorites]


Of course, you know where we're all going to buy our pitchforks...
posted by gueneverey at 12:12 PM on June 27 [2 favorites]


What is not stated in the article - maybe left intentionally unsaid - is, in order for this to work, business owners will have to take less profit because their companies will have to lower prices (or not raise them as much) in order to compete. And that's why he's pointed this essay at the 0.01%. They will have to reduce their income in order to stay competitive, even with a higher minimum wage.

Yes, I think that's the intention. One way to put it is that he's advocating for trickle-down economics as a proactive commitment of the hyper-rich, rather than a magical natural economic phenomenon.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 12:12 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


And your statement above nicely parallels this. "Support oppressive policies."

I'm sorry, but that's not even close to what I said.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:19 PM on June 27


I think we should all listen to what Br'er Plutocrat tells us to do....
posted by ennui.bz at 12:20 PM on June 27


The Big Lie about "trickle down" is the physical property of liquid to collect in large pools at the bottom. If the poor were at the bottom, they would become the rich in a short time. The rich have always been at the true bottom of any natural gravitational economic system.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:27 PM on June 27 [6 favorites]


So a certain set of plutocrats are beginning to make noises at the kakistocrats who contain within their ranks another set of plutocrats and those who follow plutocrat money?

Huh.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:30 PM on June 27


Here is the video of the TED talk that Nick Hannauer did. I did not see it linked before.
posted by Vindaloo at 12:32 PM on June 27


One thing that's bothered me about this - and I think I've got it figured out - is if you force businesses to pay a higher minimum wage, then businesses will hike their prices in order to make the same amount of money.

This argument tends to vastly overestimate the percentage of a product's final price consists of wages.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:36 PM on June 27 [3 favorites]


Britain, which alone among the great European powers in the C18th and C19th avoided any kind of "revolution,"...

Um, that's because they did it a lot earlier. See The English Civil War, just to refresh your memory. I think Cromwell would be annoyed that you forgot him, even if his main beef was religious, and not economic (though to a greater degree at the time, religion and social standing were inextricably tied together, and you taxation by the crown was often rather whimsical in it's logic or reasoning).

Also, of note, that the merchant class, which became the first Capitalists, did not have much, if any power up until around 1700, at least in Europe. The creation of the Dutch Stock Exchange, in 1602, is the first formal creation of a Capital class, but was heavily isolated and did not gain much prominence until many of the taxes and levies of international trading started to lower due to pressure from aristocrats (who were pretty much the only people who could afford to buy stocks or bonds) to increase their own wealth and holdings. The initial formation of Capitalism was financed by the wealthy of the time, i.e. monarchs and landed gentry. Hell, the creation of the Dutch Stock Exchange was in order to issue and trade Dutch East India Trading Company stock, which were the first stocks and bonds issued in the Western world. And the East India Trading Company was a quasi-governmental organization, created by the Dutch Parliament, which was still a Parliamentary Monarchy. It's main business was colonization of Asia. And the wealth that those colonies generated went to the landed gentry of the time, not the common people of the Netherlands. The whole system of Capitalism is an evolution of concentrated wealth leveraging the power of that wealth to gain even more wealth. They simply figured out that they could get the merchant class to do more work if they offered the possibility of joining the ranks of the wealthy, provided they continued to give more of their spoils to the original financiers than they kept for themselves. Much of this was codified into law at the time, as well, and is one of the basis for modern contract law throughout the world (which is also one of the reasons many countries hate it, due to the exorbitant long term costs and contractual obligations that those contracts entail: see international trade agreements and the formation of the WTO for more information on leveraged agreements for resource extraction).

The main problem of all of this, and especially Capitalism in general is the complete and utter ignorance of non-contractually redeemable factors, such as the environment, labor availability, labor mobility, and necessary infrastructure for the effective and successful completion of any business contract. Yes, you can have a contract say that even if the Second Coming happens, you will still get paid, frankly, having that contract be legally binding and honored, should the second coming happen, is probably outside the realm of enforceable contract law. The second factor is that there are very rarely any good escape clauses allowed by the financiers, because their goal, no matter what the costs to the other side of the table, is to make more money from their investments, and it has to be a direct line of action, none of this secondary effect that most Keynes economists talk about.

This is probably why so many "business people" are so adamantly against raising wages. They do not feel that they will see a return on this investment in labor. For them, the balance sheet does not have a line item where they can calculate the increased sales or revenue by paying higher wages. But again, this is entirely due to not seeing the forest (the whole economy) for the trees (their particular means of production/wealth generation). Understandably, then, is why you see and hear so many small business (and many times, franchise business holders, i.e., people who buy turn-key businesses) are unable to address the necessary adjustments to the economic workings of labor and capital. Yes, they will be "hurt" by this change, and the payoff for this change is possibly not going to affect them for many years (see the models that show a rise in spending by minimum wage workers 2 or more years after a minimum wage increase - can't find that study at the moment, but it's rather interesting). Everyone wants a solution that fixes everything right now and doesn't cost them anything. And those solutions have all been used up. The last trick in the bag was extending credit to uncreditworthy groups. This COULD have worked, but only if the revenue generated by businesses at the time had been invested in wage increases for the general workforce, instead of being illiquid and locked into investment vehicles, which were in turn devalued due to major lack of effective oversight and regulation. But, well, we all know this now. It's now history.
posted by daq at 12:36 PM on June 27 [52 favorites]


"One thing that's bothered me about this - and I think I've got it figured out - is if you force businesses to pay a higher minimum wage, then businesses will hike their prices in order to make the same amount of money.

The higher prices will then just put the people on minimum wage back where they started.
"

That's called "inflation," and it actually hasn't been found to be that much of a direct problem around minimum wage hikes. Minimum wage hikes actually don't affect that many people directly, and as noted above the labor inputs are minimal in most prices anyway.
posted by klangklangston at 12:39 PM on June 27 [7 favorites]


Yeah, the idea that minimum wage hikes spike prices/cost jobs simply hasn't got any empirical support.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:42 PM on June 27


This is probably why so many "business people" are so adamantly against raising wages. They do not feel that they will see a return on this investment in labor. For them, the balance sheet does not have a line item where they can calculate the increased sales or revenue by paying higher wages. But again, this is entirely due to not seeing the forest (the whole economy) for the trees (their particular means of production/wealth generation).

Really, really good. Wish I could favorite ten times.

From a bit more abstract perspective: most people, including, unfortunately, professional economists, don't understand how the "laws of economics" are at best leading order approximations that do not take into account a host of "internal variables" (some of which you mention, daq, related to externalities and communally held wealth), and that the entire thing is fully dynamic with interacting time scales.

Most of what people think of as "hard core economics" involves simplistic and static models.

And then there's the deeply erroneous view that economic "laws" have the same ontological status as physics. They don't. They're human constructs, and we can change the rules of the game if we want to. That's one thing a revolution aims to do: it's a global reset into a new rule set.
posted by mondo dentro at 12:47 PM on June 27 [4 favorites]


officer_fred: it would be much cooler to be able to say, "Well, I think that we should use death taxes to fund entitlement programs, and here's why..." and explain my case. It shows you're not afraid of the other side's framing. There's a certain air of sophistication and intelligence you get when you wave your hand impatiently and go "okay fine, I'll use whatever stupid words you prefer, but let me explain why you're still wrong." And if you succeed, you've killed the power of those phrases in the mind of the other person, instead of just sidestepping them.

The only thing that using the other side's framing communicates to the other side is "You are right, and I'm a crazy person, so ignore me". They will not see your coolness, intelligence, and sophistication. Only your own side will see that. The only way you can kill the power of those phrases is to show that those phrases are incorrect representations of reality by using better framing. Choosing the framing of an issue (or choosing the issue) is akin to choosing the battlefield of a physical conflict. You never want to let your opposition choose where the fight will be held.
posted by the big lizard at 12:51 PM on June 27 [6 favorites]


So a certain set of plutocrats are beginning to make noises at the kakistocrats who contain within their ranks another set of plutocrats and those who follow plutocrat money?

It's like plutocrat turducken!

Hey wait a minute . . .
posted by spitbull at 1:15 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


I post this very interesting and well reasoned essay to my Facebook. My friends post an image macro saying "I saw you take that food stamp card out of your Gucci bag" to theirs. Yet somehow I'm the asshole pushing my political views. God Bless America.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:23 PM on June 27 [9 favorites]


If people are getting $15 an hour or more, they don’t need food stamps. They don’t need rent assistance. They don’t need you and me to pay for their medical care.

Hmmm. I know a young lady who is making slightly over $15/hour, and since her deadbeat ex won't even pay his minimum reduced child support, she has to be on rent assistance and medicaid to cover the bills for her and her kids.

Even if a mom and dad are working for $15/hour, trying to raise a couple kids is still a tough thing, esp with child care. Heaven forbid they try to put away a decent amount for further education and retirement.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:29 PM on June 27 [4 favorites]


One thing that's bothered me about this - and I think I've got it figured out - is if you force businesses to pay a higher minimum wage, then businesses will hike their prices in order to make the same amount of money.

This argument tends to vastly overestimate the percentage of a product's final price consists of wages.


It also ignores the influence of demand on prices and prices on demand, and assumes that businesses will raise prices to maintain their profit margins. Businesses and business owners are not entitled to profit margins, even though they would have us believe that. If they raise prices to preserve their profit margin, demand will fall, and prices will fall accordingly, until we have achieved a new equilibrium.
posted by zompus at 1:30 PM on June 27 [5 favorites]


Even if publishing this is just one of the early steps in his launching a political career as a less-evil-plutocrat, there are some truly choice quotes in this article. I don't trust it, but at least on the surface his heart is in the right place and it's written such that a few of the super hardcore conservatives on my FB friends list (aka the set of people I am related to) might actually read it.
posted by Ryvar at 1:33 PM on June 27


There may be "validity to his claim that the pitchforks tend to come out when the rich don't know when to stop winning the class war", but I must argue that Post-9/11 Security Developments have pretty much made our nation 'pitchfork-proof'.

But civil society is so much less stable than it was before 9/11. Even though we have militarized police and massive, wide-spread surveillance, the post-9/11 national mood is one of obsessive paranoia, anxiety, despair, rage, and cruelty. That's unsustainable, and hopefully (and I think Hanauer would agree, as would most decent people) we can collectively choose to make America a better place to live instead of inviting popular revolt by continuing down the path of belligerent irrationality.

I post this very interesting and well reasoned essay to my Facebook. My friends post an image macro saying "I saw you take that food stamp card out of your Gucci bag" to theirs. Yet somehow I'm the asshole pushing my political views. God Bless America.

Don't feel like an asshole. Anyone dumb and ignorant enough to think that Gucci shops or Saks Fifth Avenue or whatever accepts EBT cards as payment should feel like that.
posted by clockzero at 1:38 PM on June 27 [5 favorites]


Late to the party here, but I think a careful blend of fully developing basically functioning cities, increased development of affordable housing - including apartments and rentals - near areas of robust and sustainable commerce, alongside sustainable transportation arrangements will really help.

The biggest problem with the current arrangement is reliance on limited fuels to get to work to get to school to get to the stores and then get home to rest and do it all again for days on end. Ideally if we could walk between all those places our economy could grow really well. Cycling is the next best bet, then train, and so on.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 1:51 PM on June 27


But civil society is so much less stable than it was before 9/11. Even though we have militarized police and massive, wide-spread surveillance, the post-9/11 national mood is one of obsessive paranoia, anxiety, despair, rage, and cruelty.

The panopticon has also been shown to be less than omniscient and omnipotent when it comes to preventing actual bad guys, instead of security-theatering the majority of the population.

If there were a real decentralized revolt, I'm not convinced the purportedly unsinkable Titanic that is the militarized American state would 1) see the iceberg coming and 2) be able to avoid it.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:08 PM on June 27 [2 favorites]


They will have to reduce their income in order to stay competitive, even with a higher minimum wage.

and

The rich have always been at the true bottom of any natural gravitational economic system.

You put these together and whattya got? Increasing the incomes of the poor will increase the wealth of the wealthy. It all comes back to the wealthy eventually, but what we want to happen is for the amount circulating to increase so that more people benefit to a greater extent as the wealthy circulates. Gross inequality actually starves that circulation, cutting many people out of the loop. The mistake for both the rich and poor is to view wealth as a static pie to be divided. Ain't how it works.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:10 PM on June 27 [4 favorites]


His essay is good and he should feel good.

Sleeping on a mattress stuffed with cash always feels good.

Today was payday, for my 80 hours of work, I mostly covered my bank overdrafts and now my checking account balance is only -$25. And I consider this a strategic victory.

But his framing is incomplete. It should be pitchforks and torches. They go together like tar and feathers.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:10 PM on June 27 [2 favorites]


how about flaming pitchforks?
posted by detachd at 2:26 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


The mistake for both the rich and poor is to view wealth as a static pie to be divided. Ain't how it works.

This. This, this, this, this, this. This is where almost everyone I've tried to talk to about economics, even people who apparently took Economics in college, have constantly failed to comprehend, even marginally, it seems. Don't get me started on day traders.

Hell, even news about economics tends to use words and phrases that distort the reality of the temporal nature of the whole system. By focusing so much on quarterly earnings and very rarely looking towards the long term results of any economic policy, the whole system is corrupted by short sighted and simple instantiated results.

I am far from a technocrat, and do not think that centralized planning of the economy can really be workable without trending towards monopolistic oligarchies, but to a greater degree, the mindset and attitudes of most people who are directly involved in the Capitalist economy is one of complete ignorance of secondary effects of economic policy. Even the SEC and The Fed are horrible as they are entrenched in maintaining the status quo of money flowing OUT of the economy into rarefied and stratified non-productive coffers of wealth accumulation that end up creating long term shortages in the majority of the economic system.

What's worse, is that finance has become such an unfettered destructive force, that instead of business loans being a means of allowing the economy to smooth over the variable business cycle, most loan servicing has become a one time principal loan instead of revolving credit accounts (where the whole point of the loan is to establish a revenue stream for the lender, not as a one time loan with a short term payback period plus interest). This myopic cycle has accelerated and many of the really horrible bubbles we have had in the past few decades are symptoms of this bloody awful mindset. Venture Capitalism and how a start-up company can go from nothing to a multi-million dollar buyout in a few months is utterly ridiculous. Any solid business should have a verifiable stream of revenue BEFORE going public (or being bought by any other company). The pump and dump of the 80's is just rebranded with "branding" instead of financial stability.

But that's probably a whole different conversations.
posted by daq at 2:27 PM on June 27 [4 favorites]


It should be pitchforks and torches.

That's assuming that the uprising will occur at night. Today's revolutionary likes to get a good 7 hours of sleep before sacking their oppressors. Health considerations and all. Also, safety third.
posted by daq at 2:28 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


Just FYI: the whole "middle out" campaign is a push by some center-left DC think tanks, and is language that Obama has used in speeches before. Hanauer featured prominently in Robert Reich's (pretty good) Inequality for All documentary last year.
posted by ropeladder at 2:32 PM on June 27 [2 favorites]


Hell, even news about economics tends to use words and phrases that distort the reality of the temporal nature of the whole system.

It's very much analogous to thermodynamics: there's equilibrium thermodynamics, and then there's the nonequilibrium variety, which is much harder and still poorly understood.

Likewise, in economics, people talk about reseting some parameter (like minimum wage) and then say that a "new equilibrium emerges". But the system is never in equilibrium. It's always moving toward an equilibrium that it can never actually reach because the equilibrium is changing, too. (Well, being manipulated in many cases, I'd expect. Not to go all Alex Jones on everyone...)
posted by mondo dentro at 2:55 PM on June 27


Pitchforks?? my ass. This time it's just FORKS.
posted by Twang at 3:04 PM on June 27


You have forks? All I have are sporks.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:16 PM on June 27


I don't know what this guy is worried about; between the NSA keeping tabs on everyone, SWAT teams willing to raid for no reason, and people more content to post selfies doing mundane things, nobody is going to even consider buying a pitchfork, let alone plan stabbing some of this guy's friends with it.

Basically.

Income inequality is here to stay, because there is no incentive to change it now. And the impact from climate change will only make things worse. We can't take care of our people now. Imagine what the future will bring.
posted by formless at 3:20 PM on June 27


Who even has pitchforks anymore?

I'm thinking maybe tire irons. Anyone with a car has a tire iron (or should). Or kitchen knives...
posted by suelac at 3:39 PM on June 27


Nokia 3310s
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:51 PM on June 27 [2 favorites]


This has been my theory all along, that we're seeing the groundwork laid out for a persistent preventative counterrevolution. The writing has been on the wall for a while, all the long term forecasts look bleak, and maintaining the status quo is the most important goal.

Alex Jones is an entertainer and possibly nuts, but he calls this the "control grid." The hope is that technology will finally make revolutions impossible, not unnecessary. I don't know that all of the pieces are being put into place by master counter-revolutionaries, but the pieces sure are coming-to-fucking-gether.
posted by aydeejones at 4:00 PM on June 27


(By "possibly" I mean, he knows he's an entertainer and we can all agree that that's what he's really profiting from, fear-porn, and I'm not going to armchair DX the guy)
posted by aydeejones at 4:01 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


This was a deeply silly article. I'd be more than happy to bet half of my net worth against half of his that we don't see a violent revolution in the next decade or two.
posted by jpe at 4:03 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


most loan servicing has become a one time principal loan instead of revolving credit accounts (where the whole point of the loan is to establish a revenue stream for the lender, not as a one time loan with a short term payback period plus interest).

What I love about these sorts of threads is all the totally bonkers stuff that's said.
posted by jpe at 4:04 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


I am fairly certain that the article will do nothing but convince the wealthy that we need to spend more money on police, drones, swat teams, prisons, the national guard and build more gated communities.
posted by empath at 4:07 PM on June 27 [2 favorites]


You're kidding yourself if you think anyone but the true believers will take it seriously.
posted by jpe at 4:12 PM on June 27


Pitchforks?? my ass. This time it's just FORKS.

Then forks it shall be.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:27 PM on June 27 [2 favorites]


The best argument here is that paying employees generously and allowing them to live comfortable, satisfied, full lives is good for job satisfaction, good for business, good for consumption, good for the bottom line, and good for the wealthy. It should really just be common sense. You can take the "pitchforks are coming" approach, but I think you'd have to pry money from cold dead hands before the obscenely wealthy will be convinced by that route. But tell them that everyone stands to gain more, that it's possible to replace the huge income gulf and inequity with something where all of the wheels of the machine are running smoothly - within an unmistakably capitalist system - and it starts looking attractive.
posted by naju at 4:30 PM on June 27 [2 favorites]


Seconding that Inequality For All documentary - it's really quite good.
posted by naju at 4:32 PM on June 27


Almost all their power comes from having particularly long strings of ones and zeroes in a banks computers somewhere. How do they not realize that if the system collapses, all the plastic cards and computer files in the world won't protect you from a hungry man with a rock.
posted by Megafly at 4:40 PM on June 27 [3 favorites]


It's gotta be pitchforks AND torches, because how do you burn things without torches? THINK, PEOPLE.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:48 PM on June 27 [4 favorites]


Bonkers
posted by fullerine at 4:52 PM on June 27


I am fairly certain that the article will do nothing but convince the wealthy that we need to spend more money on police, drones, swat teams, prisons, the national guard and build more gated communities.

I did not interpret this as literally being addressed to plutocrats. It's a framing exercise. The fact that many plutocrats won't buy into it is expected, and there are obviously many among the super rich who have pretty much gone all in on a despotic end game. But these facts do not diminish the potential efficacy of the political ideas expressed in the essay.
posted by mondo dentro at 5:18 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


I'd be more than happy to bet half of my net worth against half of his that we don't see a violent revolution in the next decade or two.

I might be willing to make the same bet, if he'd offer those kinds of odds.

But I wouldn't be so certain if you changed the terms from "in the next decade or two" to, say, "the next 50 to 100 years". And I've got a kid, and beyond that I'm in favor of the notions of democracy and egalitarianism, and if there's any way to avoid having the country dissolve into anything like the chaos of the French or Russian revolutions, sign me the fuck up.
posted by Ipsifendus at 5:33 PM on June 27


My problem with this as a framing enterprise is that it doesn't really shift the power balance. All the power remains with the plutocrats, who extend their magnanimity to the extent they wish, when faced by a fall in demand. I think it's a problem because raising wages is not the only way of generating demand, there's also credit availability. That leads you to the 2008, but it's not the plutocrats that get burned. The only thing that can shift this is organised labour and, whoops, we're back into anachronistic old skool Marxism that immediately puts you in the mentalist camp of public debate.
posted by YouRebelScum at 4:47 AM on June 28


The only thing that can shift this is organised labour

Agreed, but I wouldn't expect any sort of resurgence for the labor movement unless (ironically) ideas like the ones in this article gain a wider currency. Despite the pose that the writer is adopting here, where one billionaire is addressing the community of a his own economic class, the real value in a new frame like this is that it can potentially speak to the members of the working class who have been voting Republican for years. You got sanitation workers and warehouse schleppers out there voting GOP because somebody has convinced them that the estate tax is something they should worry about.

A good first step to developing class consciousness is to recognize the economic value that's produced by your own class. This article, I'd say, provides a little nudge in that direction.
posted by Ipsifendus at 5:57 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]


One thing that's bothered me about this - and I think I've got it figured out - is if you force businesses to pay a higher minimum wage, then businesses will hike their prices in order to make the same amount of money.

Let me see if I can recall how this is supposed to work from my Econ 102 class. A firm will produce whatever number of widgets can be produced at the point of lowest marginal cost. That is, the cost of producing one addition widget costs more than the one before it. Where ever that number of units hits the aggregate demand curve, that is where the price will be.

Since raising wages doesn't change the amount of time that it's takes to make a widget or cook a hamburger or whatever, the marginal cost curve doesn't change so the price that they can charge doesn't really change either.

Obviously, that is a incredibly simplified model but it's a little more sophisticated than what people are exposed to in Econ 101. I'm not totally confident that I've got that right so if I'm wrong, please correct me.

And for some products, the demand isn't really determined by the price. MacDonald's hamburgers are dirt cheap. Cheap enough that I don't really know how much they cost. For myself, the price doesn't really have anything to do with how many I consume in a year.
posted by VTX at 6:47 PM on June 28


Well, and, it's not the price of stuff keeping the poor from buying it as much as their existing debts. Once someone can pay debts and rent and all that and actually think about buying your stuff, an extra 50 cents per thing because you had to raise wages isn't going to be such a big deal. I mean, look at some of the big necessities that the poor have to pay for before they can even think of paying for your stuff. Rent, for one, and landlords aren't making minimum wage anyways, so a wage hike doesn't equate to a price hike there until the wage hikes start rolling for quite a while and they see their tenants can afford it. Transportation's another, and I'd imagine the percentage of minimum wage workers among car companies is actually quite small, that's skilled labor and union territory. Healthcare's a big cost for the poor, but the ACA just cranked out a bunch of new revenue for the healthcare industry anyways, and again, not so much full of minimum wage workers as a large chunk of the bottom line. So once they pay for all that stuff, they'll throw money at your stuff, even if it's a few cents or even dollars more expensive than it was before.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:42 PM on June 28


We will never revolt. Soma and "Bread and Circus" keep us docile, forever staring into our screens, happy to live in a future where we can never be bored for more than 10 seconds.

I'll grab my pitchfork in a minute, I've just got to check out my fb page. Oh, and someone might have "+"ed my comment on Metafilter (WTF is Soma?). Of course, I have twitter feeds, oh look a cat playing with a camera, that's cute.

Where was I? Oh yeah, bedtime. Pitchfork waits until tomorrow, but leans on the door frame, ready for me to go.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 10:01 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


Drones don't revolt.

Perhaps not, but engineers do, and coders do.


Citation, please.
posted by univac at 11:15 AM on July 2


Anonymous
posted by philip-random at 11:41 AM on July 2


Libyans
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 1:25 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


America is a Time Bomb
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:16 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]


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