The Benefits of Political Nihilism

 DISCLAIMER: While I subscribe to the factual realities described in the ensuing article, upon reviewing it, its tone sounded more like a mild Jacobin or Marxist Revolutionary pamphlet than an explanation. It is an irritated response to several condescending mainstream U.S. op-eds, as well as being “inspired” by a disturbing exchange on the commentariat with one of those Trumplets, whose inchoate response to any argument was basically to run his interlocutor over. While empathizing with the plight of the plebes, considering that I am, these realities just do not apply to the same extent in a nation whose GINI coefficient is significantly lower than the U.S.

People have this illusion that if they strike out they’ll accomplish something, but of course they won’t. They only accomplish something by having a smart idea about direction and policy. The violence that’s being fomented is not helping to formulate smart economic policies.

The pro-Trump segment of the American electorate has thus abdicated a basic duty of a democratic citizenry: to hold a candidate accountable for his or her ideas. Worse, many seem to regard his crude simplifications as a feature, not a bug — a badge of uninvolvement in the corrupt Washington system

This condescending sentiment noted above is representative of an establishment elite who, enclosed within their own well-feathered cultural and socioeconomic cocoon, cannot comprehend and scornfully disdain the rubes who would nominate an uncultured Joe the Plumber, albeit a gilded one, who hasn’t a coherent governing philosophy, a consistent agenda; in short, who doesn’t have a clue.

It may be beyond imagining, within gated communities, how the savages outside could possibly perceive that the mere act of destroying the current social system could, by itself, improve their lot. But from the other side of the track, it appears entirely reasonable. And indeed, history grants some credence to the notion.

Since the 1990s, perhaps earlier, the chasm between Upstairs and Downstairs has notably gaped wider. The steps between the floors have become steeper. Some from Upstairs have even decided to tear up some of the stairwell baseboards in order to feed their fireplace. The last permutation of the American Dream is now but nostalgic reverie, except for the odd winner of proverbial lotteries. Consequently the current state of affairs increasingly looks like this: as basement dwellers, the masses were born. And as basement dwellers, they shall remain.

To slab beef upon this metaphor, the economic balance between those who own the means of production and those who labor for those with means, and between the plutocracy and the commons, has become too tilted, courtesy largely of globalization. The latter allows the owners to arbitrage labor between countries, and play one civic polity against another for tax and subsidy benefits, just as occurred in the first Gilded Age of the late 19th century on a more local basis. The traditional private-level checks, such as unions, have been undermined by an inability to unite labor in multiple countries because of the extremely disparate pre-existing wage structures between each country.

Under such economic power realities, enhanced by a prevailing conservative ideology; while production and productivity increased, labor wages could and would remain repressed far below the normal correspondence between wages and production. The excess has correspondingly been received into the coffers of the owner and plutocrat class. These empirical realities only began to filter out into public view in the last decade. But before the 2008–9 Great Recession, the public cared little, hoping to cash in on various asset booms.

The excess income in the hands of the Upstairs would, in of itself, contribute to an asset price boom. And because there became an imbalance between production and the wage incomes which could purchase the extra production, the central bankers and governments sought to soak up that excess production through private (monetary) and public (fiscal) debt-inducements, thereby sustaining an artificial economy. But indebtedness can only be increased so far and long before it becomes too perilous to borrow more, and the system is put into too fragile a condition in the event of exogenous shocks. This logically results in the occasional spectacular bust such as occurred in 1929–33 and 2008–9, each in turn, beginning a year after a debt level peak. The fear of a debt-deflationary spiral, which was the operating dynamic, although not the cause, of the Great Depression, provokes central bankers and governments to double-up on debt-inducing policies in every such downtowns in the absence of better ideas. Such are become incorrigibly hooked like an alcoholic.

But the easy money policies, meant to instigate demand and salvage the economy, more often than not, and because of many factors, only exacerbates the asset price boom, and inflation on high end goods as evidenced on Forbes, while not doing all that much, on a long-term basis, to improve the lot of the masses.

One of those assets is real estate. For the up and coming generations of youths, even the ability to own their own homes becomes increasingly elusive, as house prices rise far faster than stagnant wage rates; an example of those stair steps becoming steeper and some of the baseboards removed. Pre-existing older home owners benefit by these price increases, leading to another facet of a generation war, which is yet to become publicly manifested.

This explains the matter perhaps too simply, due to the complicating obfuscation caused by a complex global economic system among other reasons. And it is not all that new and novel an understanding. But it serves to lay a basis, just as the microcosm of the pin factory assisted Adam Smith to formulate his theories.

But a mother of all asset booms which leaves Downstairs behind, and hurts the ability for those in Downstairs to form capital; a stratified economy, in which the children of the owners and plutocrats have system financial, nepotistic, and networked advantage, even when education levels and ability are the same as or less than the poorer classes and sociopolitical outcasts; a power dynamic which allows owners to repress wages and even increase demote a considerable fraction of the labor pool to precarious contract jobs without security and benefits; these and other factors (e.g. excessive bureaucratic regulation, concentration of wealth and ownership of corporations, crony capitalism, technological threats to labor (e.g. robotics), dysfunctional families) lead not only to a stratified economy, but a sclerotic one in terms of labor and mobility.

If the youth become enamored with Bernie Sanders and socialism, it is partially explained by the fact that their first jobs are usually as contract workers and Mcjobbers in which these individual laborers are treated as. Furthermore, because of technological change or ruthless employment practices, educational credentials increasingly have a short lifespan of value, even while tuition fees and student debt rapidly increase. Returning to school in this hamster cycle seems a fool’s errand to many. This affects all ages.

The youth blame the capitalist system, not unassisted ideologically by extremely progressive-leaning educators. But capitalism only serves as an excellent conduit not as cause. A similar dynamic occurred in the late Roman Republic in the century and a half after the 2nd Punic War (218–01 BC), which brought in streams of slaves, which undermined labor and yeoman farmers, as well as price competition because of trade from the remote corners of a budding international empire.

The older generations blame trade and immigration, especially of the undocumented kind. Some of this resentment is due to civil rights initiatives, which immigrants and others exploit in order to acquire for themselves unfair socioeconomic advantage, especially in public service. And when immigration levels far exceed the ability for a host country to digest them, it unduly depresses wages at the lower end. But these issues are manifestations of a larger cause.

The problem is ultimately moral; a rapacious greed by those who already have, indirectly exploiting their economic and sociopolitical power and leverage against their less fortuned neighbour in order to acquire more for the purpose of bragging rights and moneyed influence over society. And even those owners who are not so inclined often feel that they must follow after the policy of their most ruthless competitors in order for their own businesses to survive.

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In light of these realities, whereby so many from Downstairs labor at near subsistence levels with little hope of advancement, in dead-end and deadening “occupations,” in which creative and intellectual input is frowned upon, despite mission statements and mottoes to the contrary; might not the plebes of Downstairs roll the dice (alea iacta est), disrupt and destroy the stratified and sclerotic system in hopes of opening up opportunity in the resulting social and civic tumult; a motivation especially conducive in those with natural talents which far exceed those imbeciles who unjustifiably occupy seats on the Command Heights of society?

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. (James 5:1).



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