Following is an essay outlining some current problems with today’s form of globalized capitalism.
The message being conveyed is that there is something kind of off about the existence of hundreds of millions of people (the first world/outer party) who assume that they are democrtic citizens when the power to literally topple governments and start world wars is handed down dynastically into the hands of very few people. I’m aware that I am largely preaching to the converted, but if you’re interested, please read on.
The whole of human history may be considered as a broad narrative detailing the aggregation and evolution of small human communities into city-states, nation-states, super-national states and perhaps ultimately – a global state. It is perhaps the case that the current rate of social aggregation has exceeded the rate at which societies are willing to adjust economic and regulatory conditions within the emerging global community. The discrepancy between the economic condition of a global “free-market” and the severe lack of regulation and cooperation between world governments has allowed for the creation and proliferation of a new ruling class which may be referred to as the Global Aristocracy. Oligarchy occurs when the power to rule becomes concentrated within the hands of a few (Oligarchy, 2010). When a society’s controlling class consists only of the wealthy, it has entered a state of plutocracy (Plutocracy, 2010). The sum of these two realities can be referred to as “plutarchy”. The existence of the Global Aristocracy represents a major step in the previously gradual transition from diverse national autonomy towards a common global condition of total and abject plutarchy.
The Global Aristocracy became increasingly permitted to congeal into a highly entrenched existence throughout the second half of the twentieth century (Haseler, S., 2000). A consequence carried with the wave of free-trade legislation in the 1990’s was the ability of the wealthy to freely mobilize their wealth and invest it across national borders (Mcnally, D., 2006). Concurrently, the use of the internet to transfer money electronically greatly contributed to the ability to mobilize capital (Haseler, S., 2000). Historically, the wealthiest citizens have been inhibited from accumulating capital at today’s rapidly accelerating rates by progressive tax legislation, requiring citizens to pay income taxes proportionate to the amount of their income (Haseler, S., 2000). Over time, the wealthy have fought persistently and tirelessly against such measures, but with the emergence of free-trade and mobile capital also came many legal loopholes enabling wealth to concentrate and accumulate at unprecedented rates (Anderson, S., & Pizzigati, S., 2008). Transnational corporations – the primary consequence of globalization and tools of the elite – use a tactic known as transfer pricing to avoid paying taxes, effectively having the option to choose the nation to which taxes will be paid, always opting for the cheapest country (Haseler, S., 2000). Such tactics have provided many governments with motivation to loosen their tax regimes on the highest earners (Haseler, S., 2000). The result of this massive economic climate-change is that over ninety-five per cent of citizens are paying a significant amount of taxes relative to their income while those at the top of the economic food-chain are not (Anderson, S., & Pizzigati, S., 2008). It was noted in 2006 that the top four hundred highest earning taxpayers in America kept eighteen times more income than the top four hundred in 1955 (Plutocracy Reborn, 2008). It has also been shown that the top five hedge-fund managers took home thirteen thousand times more income than the top five military leaders, and roughly forty-three times as much income as the top five corporate Chief Executives (Plutocracy Reborn, 2008). These comparisons illustrate the phenomenon of social mobility existing primarily at the margin between the Global Aristocracy and their faithful instruments on Earth; the Executive Managerial Class, who tend to be situated at the head of corporations and higher levels of government (Haseler, S., 2000). Capitalism is inherently prone to developing plutocratic traits (McNally, D., 2006). Wealth plays a significant role in the political process and the amount of money one possesses directly translates to political influence (Etzioni, A. 2004). Those finding themselves relatively impoverished in comparison to economic deities such as the Global Aristocracy cannot afford to assert and lobby for their rights in the political arena on an equivalent level, if at all (Schalit, J., 2002). The confluence of these conditions allowed those who could afford to do so to cement positions atop the mathematically-based capitalist system.
The Global Aristocracy – or those with a net-worth of over one billion U.S. dollars – numbered approximately four-hundred members in 2000 (Haseler, S., 2000) and has since risen to roughly one thousand and one hundred, jumping sharply during 2009, a year marked by economic recession (Li, K., 2010). Members of the Global Aristocracy do not earn money through the provision of a good or a service like the other social classes; rather they accumulate their capital passively, through investment (Haseler, S., 2000). While a net worth of one billion U.S. dollars accumulates an average annual income of fifty million dollars, considerable numbers of the Global Aristocracy are drawing in much higher unearned incomes enabling them to live in absence of financial limits while being completely free from any obligation to work (Haseler, S., 2000). Despite the focus of the media on the outrageously high corporate salaries of those in the Executive Managerial Class, much of the wealth present within the Global Aristocracy is generated through inheritance (Haseler, S., 2000), alienating many of the members from the work process from the time of their births. Notable exceptions to the inheritance rule do exist, but these members cease doing any work once enough wealth has been accumulated to diversify investments to a self-sustaining degree (Haseler, S., 2000). The emergence of mobile capital and the prevalence of transnational tax-dodging have freed the Global Aristocracy from any national loyalty (Haseler, S., 2000). Akin to the corporations that they collectively own, members of the Global Aristocracy are transnational beings, unfettered by loyalty or obligation to any mere nation (Gray, J., 1998), for many nations are beneath them in power and in status (McNally, D., 2006). The coupling of the expanded ability to diversify investments and the massively accelerated accumulation of capital potentiates mathematically-certain entrenchment within the Global Aristocracy, and the element of inheritance lends a strong dynastic component which has been referred to as the “Achilles’ Heel of Capitalism” (Haseler, S., 2000), and is largely ignored as a potential threat to democracy by the mainstream. The result of these characteristics has been the removal of the Global Aristocracy from participation in society (Haseler, S., 2000).
The Global Aristocracy’s recently acquired ability to inject unprecedented amounts of capital into formerly quaint foreign economies has led to the creation of “emerging superpowers” which has in turn initiated an equalization of living standards between competing countries (Haseler, S., 2000). The implicit and ever-present threat of withdrawing their investments allows the Global Aristocracy to control the actions of the transnational corporations and national governments of which – when combining their investments – they own controlling stakes. Duress over governments and ownership of mass media outlets amounts to the rendering of the political process as mainly symbolic (McNally, D., 2006). Using finance capitalism to hold economic prosperity and social order hostage, the Global Aristocracy has converted most national governments into “handmaiden states” which service the needs of capital over the needs of citizens (Haseler, S., 2000). The massive and accelerating accumulation of capital by the Global Aristocracy is without a known purpose, serving only to devalue the labour of the rest of the population, while the value of passively accumulating wealth and manipulating markets to profit from the changes rises proportionately (Haseler, S., 2000). A notable consequence of the Age of Globalization is falling wages for the vast majority of people due to the international competition for labour (Gray, J., 1998). The machinations of the Global Aristocracy are not only serving to widen the rich-poor gap at both ends, but are also contributing to the erosion of the middle class (Haseler, S., 2000). These forces are driving the quality of the common life downward.
The vast power and control wielded by the Global Aristocracy is evident from the consequences of its mere existence. The remaining question to be examined is one of whether or not global plutarchy need necessarily be considered a negative phenomenon. As clairvoyance does not lie within the province of this paper, no prophecies will be documented presently, what must instead be acknowledged is the growing potential for a truly negative scenario to occur. Recognized factors that have contributed to the past development of totalitarianism are conspicuously present today. Political emancipation of the wealthy elite such as the eroded political loyalty held by the trans-national Global Aristocracy is one such factor (Arendt, H., 1958). Imperialism is described as the hallmark of the political rule of the wealthy (Arendt, H., 1958). One need only look to the all too relevant example of present day American imperialism occurring in the middle-east and worldwide to observe this phenomenon (Mcnally, D., 2006). Fulfillment of the current imperialist agenda would not be possible were it not for another marker of totalitarianism; an alliance between the mob and wealthy elite (Arendt, H., 1958). This alliance is commonly referred to as the military-industrial complex (Mcnally, D., 2006) and represents the concentration of enormous power (Arendt, H., 1958). Powerful propaganda must be employed in order to effectively rule populations which are not completely subdued (Arendt, H., 1958) and it is known that members of the Global Aristocracy own and control the mainstream media and use it to legitimate their imperialist, perhaps totalitarian agenda (Mcnally, D., 2006). It has long been argued that the current state of democratic failure represents an inexorable end on the path of capitalism (Mcnally, D., 2006), bringing with it the erosion of individual rights and autonomy, and the disappearance of the middle class (Mcnally, D., 1988). The global elite continue to bring in record incomes, while most people are earning record lows (Anderson, S., & Pizzigati, S., 2008). The presence of these social factors demonstrates a growing totalitarian potential which should give citizens of all nations pause to consider its implications.
Due to the evidence demonstrating the purest forms of greed motivating its members, and due to the deplorable social consequences of said greed, the Global Aristocracy has qualified itself to receive increased public scrutiny. Regrettably, the level of scrutiny needed to inhibit the Global Aristocracy’s more destructive behaviours is sharply incongruent with the level of public awareness regarding its existence, activities, and impact. The mainstream media cannot be relied upon to generate this awareness; therefore the responsibility falls upon individuals who inhabit the more conscious end of the spectrum of sentience to make others more aware.
Thank you for reading.
While the essay is heavily critical of the ruling elite, you may have noted that it does not demonstrate the pretention of knowing what to do next or exactly which measures may fix this lost situation.
The responsibility is ours to ensure our own freedom, and we cannot currently rely on external entities to supply it for us.
Spread the word.
(2008). Plutocracy Reborn. (cover story). Nation, 286(25), 24. Retrieved from MAS Ultra – School Edition database.
Anderson, S., & Pizzigati, S. (2008). Ending Plutocracy: A 12-Step Program. (cover
story). Nation, 286(25), 30. Retrieved from MAS Ultra – School Edition database.
Arendt, H., (1958). The Origins of Totalitarianism. Cleveland Ohio: Meridian Books.
Etzioni, A. (2004). The American Slippage toward Plutocracy. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 84(1), 26-29. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.
Gray, J., (1998). False Dawn. Oxford Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press.
Haseler, Stephen., (2000). The Super-Rich. Oxford Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press.
Li, Kenneth, (2010). In The Financial Times. Retrieved March 20, 2010 from http://www.ft.com
Mcnally, D., (2006). Another World Is Possible. Oxford Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press.
Mcnally, D., (1988). Political Economy and the Rise of Capitalism. Oxford Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press.
Schalit, J., (2002). The Anti-Capitalism Reader. Oxford Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press.
Oligarchy. (2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 20, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online
Plutocracy. (2010). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved March 20, 2010, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plutocracy
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