CHARLES HUGH SMITH
That’s how Neofeudal systems collapse: the tax donkeys and debt-serfs finally rebel and start demanding the $50 trillion river of capital take a new course.
The Great American Middle Class has stood meekly by while the New Nobility stripmined $50 trillion from the middle and working classes. As this RAND report documents, $50 trillion has been siphoned from labor and the lower 90% of the workforce to the New Nobility and their technocrat lackeys who own the vast majority of the capital: Trends in Income From 1975 to 2018.
Why has the Great American Middle Class meekly accepted their new role as debt-serfs and powerless peasants in a Neofeudal Economy ruled by the New Nobility of Big Tech / monopolies / cartels / financiers? The basic answer is the New Nobility’s PR has been so persuasive and ubiquitous: soaring inequality and Neofeudalism has nothing to do with us, it’s just the natural result of technology and globalization–forces nobody can resist. Sorry about your debt-serfdom, but hey, your student loan payment is overdue, so it’s the rack for you.
The recent Foreign Affairs article referenced here last week Monopoly Versus Democracy (paywalled) describes the net result of the economic propaganda that the stripmining of the working and middle classes was ordained and irresistible: Today, Americans tend to see grotesque accumulations of wealth and power as normal. That’s how far we’ve fallen:
“As the journalist Barry Lynn points out in his book Liberty from All Masters: The New American Autocracy vs. the Will of the People, the robber barons shared with today’s high-tech monopolists a strategy of encouraging people to see immense inequality as a tragic but unavoidable consequence of capitalism and technological change. But as Lynn shows, one of the main differences between then and now is that, compared to today, fewer Americans accepted such rationalizations during the Gilded Age. Today, Americans tend to see grotesque accumulations of wealth and power as normal. Back then, a critical mass of Americans refused to do so, and they waged a decades-long fight for a fair and democratic society.” (emphasis added)
The bottom 90% of the U.S. economy has been decapitalized: debt has been substituted for capital. Capital only flows into the increasingly centralized top tier, which owns and profits from the rising tide of debt that’s been keeping the bottom 90% afloat for the past 20 years.
As I’ve often observed here, globalization and financialization have richly rewarded the top 0.1% and the top 5% technocrat class that serves the New Nobility’s interests. Everyone else has been been reduced to debt-serfs and peasants who now rely on lotteries and luck to get ahead: playing the stock market casino or hoping their mortgaged house in an urban sprawl on the Left or Right coasts doubles in value, even as the entire value proposition for living in a congested urban sprawl vanishes.
America has no plan to reverse this destructive tide of Neofeudal Pillage. Our leadership’s “plan” is benign neglect: just send a monthly stipend of bread and circuses (the technocrat term is Universal Basic Income UBI) to all the disempowered, decapitalized households, urban and rural, so they can stay out of trouble and not bother the New Nobility’s pillaging of America and the planet.
There’s a lot of bright and shiny PR about rebuilding infrastructure and the Green New Deal, but our first question must always be: cui bono, to whose benefit? How much of the spending will actually be devoted to changing the rising imbalances between the haves and the have-nots, the ever-richer who profit from rising debt and the ever more decapitalized debt-serfs who are further impoverished by rising debt?
As I explain in my book A Hacker’s Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet, people don’t want to just get by on UBI, they want an opportunity to acquire capital in all its forms, an opportunity to contribute to their communities, to make a difference, to earn respect and pride.
That our “leadership” reckons bread and circuses is what the stripmined bottom 90% want is beyond pathetic. The middle class has meekly accepted the self-serving claim of the New Nobility that the $50 trillion transfer of wealth was inevitable and beyond human intervention. But once the stock market and housing casinos collapse, the last bridge to getting ahead–high-risk gambling– will fall into the abyss, and the middle class will have to face their servitude and powerlessness.
That’s how Neofeudal systems collapse: the tax donkeys and debt-serfs finally revolt and start demanding the $50 trillion river of capital take a new course.
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