The 147 People Destroying the World

Richard (R.J.) Eskow writes at Alternet:

Can 147 people perpetuate economic injustice – and make it even worse? Can they subvert the workings of democracy, both abroad and here in the United States? Can 147 people hijack the global economy, plunder the environment, build a world for themselves that serves the few and deprives the many?

There must be some explanation for last week’s economic madness. Take a look:

Cyprus: The European Union acted destructively – and self-destructively – when it tried to seize a portion of the insured savings accounts of the citizens of Cyprus. They were telling anyone with a savings account in the financially troubled nations of the Eurozone: Forget your guaranteed deposits. If we need your money in order to bail out the big banks – banks which have already gambled recklessly with it – we’ll take it.

That didn’t just create a political firestorm in Cyprus. It threatened the European Union’s banking system, and perhaps the Union itself. The fact that the tax on deposits has been partially retracted doesn’t change the basic question: What were they thinking?

The Grand Bargain: The President and Congressional Republicans reportedly moved closer to a deal that would cut Social Security and Medicare while raising taxes – mostly on the middle class – without doing more to create jobs. A “Grand Bargain” like that would run counter to both public opinion and informed economic judgement.

Who would impose more economy-killing austerity when there’s so much evidence of the harm it does? Why would the White House want to become the face of a deal to cut Social Security, killing its own party’s political prospects for a generation?

There’s more:

Him again: Washington reporters once again sought the opinion of Ex-Wyoming senator Alan Simpson, a vitriolic blowhard with no discernible knowledge of either economics or social insurance, and then wrote up his opinions on those topics in flattering pieces like this one.

Derivatives, the Sequel: Four short years after too-big-to-fail banks nearly destroyed the world economy, as the nation continues to suffer the after-effects of the crisis they created, a Congressional committee moved to undo the already-insufficient safeguards in the Dodd/Frank law.

Within days of a Senate Report which outlined the mendacity, extreme risk, and potentiality criminality surrounding JPMorgan Chase’s “London Whale” fiasco, the House Agriculture Committee approved new bills that would legalize trades like the “London Whale.”

Above the Law: The Attorney General of the United States remained silent as the controversy continued over his recent admission that banks like Dimon’s were too big to face prosecution. And yet there were no moves to change either Holder’s policy or the size of these institutions. Politico, the Washington insiders’ tip sheet, ran a piece entitled “Why Washington won’t break up the big banks.”

Dimon Unbound: The Senate report also provided evidence that JPMorgan Chase’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, failed to manage his bank’s risk and concealed information about its losses from regulators. We learned last week that regulators lowered their rating of Dimon’s bank after chastising the bank’s leadership for management failures that included inadequate safeguards against money-laundering, poor risk management, and failure to separate the banks’ own investments from those of its customers.

Illegalities during Dimon’s tenure as CEO have cost his shareholders billions in settlements and fines. Poor risk management (and additional potential illegalities) cost it another $6.2 billion in Whale-related losses. And yet last week Dimon’s own Board “strongly endorsed” his dual role as CEO and Board Chair, an unusual concentration of power at what is (by some measurements) the world’s largest bank, and commended itself in aproxy filing for the “strength and independence” of its oversight, adding: “The Firm has had strong performance through the cycle since Mr. Dimon became Chairman and CEO.”

All this, in just seven days. Has the world gone insane? What is everybody thinking?

That’s where the number “147″ comes in.

Anthropologist Robin Dunbar tried to find out how many people the typical person “really knows.” He compared primate brains to social groups and published his findings in papers with titles like “Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates.”

Dunbar concluded that the optimum number for a network of human acquaintances was 147.5, a figure which was then rounded up to 150 and became known as “Dunbar’s Number.” He found groups of 150-200 in all sorts of places: Hutterite settlements. Roman army units. Academic sub-specialties. Dunbar concluded that “there is a cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships.”

Around 150 or 200 people form a human being’s social universe. They shape his or her world view, his or her world.

Read more here.

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  • BuzzCoastin

    If preaching could save us
    we’d be there by now.
    Charlie Jung

    • Sir Legendhead

      “Sometimes a dream is just a dream.”
      - Martin Luther Freud

      • Ittabena

        A dream goes on forever… — Todd Rundgren

  • Ittabena

    “One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” ― Plato

    We have arrived…

    • Charlie Primero

      Indeed we have. Plato believed social subsidy of the Elites by the by the working class was ordained by Nature….

      “Nature herself intimates that it is just for the better to have more than the worse, the more powerful than the weaker; and in many ways she shows, among men as well as among animals, and indeed among whole cities and races, that justice consists in the superior ruling over and having more than the inferior”.
      – Plato

      He would fit right in with today’s National Socialists.

      • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

        Unless he was being facetious…

      • Monkey See Monkey Do

        And the Anarcho-capitalists.

      • Ittabena

        “that justice consists in the superior ruling over and having more than the inferior”.

        I see a conflict here between your interpretation and the quote. Unless of course inferior has different meanings in each quote. Under your interpretation wouldn’t superior equate crooked, devious, dishonest, no scruples? At least in the context of this article anyway…

        • Charlie Primero

          Yes. Plato believed the superior classes were ordained by God/Logos/Nature to rule over the inferior classes. We see this system today expressed in the Socialist welfare/warfare state designed by the 19th century Fabian Socialists at Oxford who trained the professors of our current current slave masters.
          Located here is a good summary of how this idea was transmitted from the Hindu caste system thousands of years ago, through Plato, though medieval Divine Right of kings, through Prussia, through Rhodes and the Oxford Fabians, to today…
          http://www.tragedyandhope.com/the-trivium-method-vs-the-classical-trivium/

          • Ittabena

            Wow, nice link. Obviously, it will be tomorrow before I will be able to comment in any way.

            I was completely unaware of this site or this series. I thank you again. It is right up my alley.

          • Calypso_1

            Elfwad has to be one of the best names in history.

        • Calypso_1

          Plato considered the workers/producers (craftsmen/slaves) as asocial/apolitical. Aristotle echoed this by saying that in the ideal State no worker would be a citizen.

          Justice was defined by Plato in the unequal distribution of the Three Virtues to the Three Classes. Wisdom is given to the rulers. Courage to the warriors. The third Sophrosyne: prudence/ balance, is not given to the workers but is distributed equally to all three. Justice stood outside as the ‘balance’ of proper relationships between the classes.

  • tibby trillz

    if the number is 147 than why does everyone have a thousand friends on facebook?

  • ishmael2009

    I’m European, not American and the Republicans seem like a bunch of douchebags to me, but I really don’t get how the Democrats seem to always get a pass from “alternative” websites like this. I mean, Clinton did more to further deregulation and globalisation than any other president I can think of. Repealing Glass-Stegall, NAFTA, and much more.

    By all means excoriate the self-serving GOP, they obviously deserve it, but omitting the Democrats’ fundamental part in all this is so wrong. It’s just a perpetuation of the left and right hand puppet show of contemporary politics worldwide.

    • Ittabena

      Okay, this is simple to understand but it’ll take a minute.

      For a long time the Dems were more of the people’s party, and by people I mean regular Joes and Janes. Likewise if there was going to be any help for the people of color in this country it was going to come from this party.

      Though Democratic President Johnson did some nasty poop in Viet Nam, he did launch a War on Poverty. This war was replaced by Republican Nixon’s War on Drugs. The War on Poverty has never been seen or heard from again.

      Earlier on, the poor of Louisiana were helped by Democratic Huey P. Long. Was he crooked? Of course, but he was working for the poor at the same time. Later he had one million signatures on the Redistribute the Wealth petition and was headed for the Presidency. Some say that he would have put FDR out if FDR hadn’t seen him coming, watered down Long’s programs and renamed it the New Deal.

      FDR? A quick look will show you that he was an Elite, but he was a Democrat and the Republicans were not going to change the way they vote just because he was one of them. He needed to court the Democratic vote because you have to dance with the one that brung ya.

      So this is what the Democratic legacy is. Did it change? Yes, if not during Carter, then definitely during Clinton’s administration. Clinton sounded like regular people but that was just the Southern accent. Another quick look at what went on in Mina AR and the flap over the Coroner’s report on the two young teen boys that were killed in connection with it will show you that something was stinky in AR. Clinton’s refusal to remove the Coroner and his repeated defense of him will demonstrate who he is with.

      But the institutional memory for Democrats has been in place for a very long time. A lot of young people today know what you are saying to be true, and some middle aged people have taken the time to look, with more catching on each day. However institutional memories do not die quickly at all. In fact, they probably have a lifespan rivaling the half life of radiation. Much of that is due to the fact that most of us simply still watch the news on t.v. each night while sucking down their alcohol medication, or worse. The US is the most medicated country in the world. Do you suppose that occurred by chance?

      We all know what Huxley said at that California Commencement address so long ago. It was posted here last week I believe. Something about getting people to enjoy their enslavement through drugs. Well, many of us in this country are there. And they are the ones who react most violently when confronted with the truth. Of course they do not march off to Washington and protest as the people of our country used to do, but rather they attack the messenger bringing the bad news, because he just can’t be right.

      The Democratic Party of the past is no longer. It has been infiltrated and bought by the Repubs, but how do you inform the nation as a whole when the Repubs have bought the media too? Those of us who see what has happened are looking to your people to tell us what is happening here. A sad state of affairs.

      But I do think that you should save some of your ire for those who are not trying to help. For the most part the guys that post here are good guys, trying to head towards the right thing, but we have fifty Goebbels with polish, special effects and a huge budget trying to tell us how to feel and what to think in this country every single night. The institutional memory is a big problem, we know. We are open to suggestions.

      • ishmael2009

        That was awesome. Really made it clear, and i complete agree with the concept of collective memory of what the Democratic party once was. My personal take is that both parties in the US and elsewhere (UK, Australia) are neo-liberal in economics with differences mainly in rhetoric (gays, abortion foreign policy etc), but your explanation makes it a lot clearer as to why this rhetoric is so essential (the narcissism of the small difference). Thanks again.

  • http://www.zoboprepublic.wordpress.com/ zobop republic

    The Euorpean Union was a bad idea. It failed, time to reset!
    It’s a great way to steal people’s money though.