Tag Archives | Wealth

Is it Time to Call “Capitalism” an Existential Threat?

Picture: Lepo Rello (CC)

Picture: Lepo Rello (CC)

Khannea Suntzu writes:

A few years ago I argued that rampant disparity in terms of affluence and poverty (or opportunity versus marginalization) in the world might be interpreted as an existential risk. In other words, a very large number of human beings might literally be pushed in to premature death by the combination of (a) disparity and (b) accelerating technologies. My point in 2007 was that technology is increasingly something that more rich people “purchase” (or invest in), and reap benefits from. So in effect I argued that at some point in the none too distant future technology might create products only for people who have money; lots of people would be without jobs and effectively unable to generate any meaningful income, and be displaced from the basic range of essential goods and services to literally survive.

This point was in some other form made by Jeremy Rifkin, Marshall Brain, Thomas Frey, Frederico Pistono and several others, and each placed the emphasis a little differently.

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Cops in Florida Go “Bum Hunting”

Picture: 83d40m (cc)

Another example of biased framing by the mainstream media: this is an Associated Press article, and most outlets have been running it under the headline “Homeless are a Challenge for Sarasota, Fla.” You know, as if the homeless are the problem as opposed to the people being given problems. The Washington Post, however, runs it with the more accurate and informative headline “Sarasota’s wealthy and homeless clash in Florida city’s downtown; ACLU has filed 5 lawsuits“:

On a recent sunny winter day on a downtown Sarasota street corner, a cluster of homeless men lounged on the back steps of a building, grimy backpacks and bags at their feet, while a few folks ambled to the nearby bus station.

Parked at a meter just feet from them was a red Ferrari and around the corner was Sur la Table, an upscale cookware store offering $400 juicers.

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Immortality is Not Covered by Your Insurance

The introduction of radical life extension technologies will only exacerbate current social and economic disparities already blindingly apparent to anyone willing to peek beyond the binders of the cult of unfettered capitalism. Like any other kind of health care, unlimited access to the best and most effective treatment is limited to the very rich, and what is virtual immortality if not the extremity of medical care?

Immortality by way of virtual existence (“brain upload” in all of its variants) or physical existence (slowing the biological clock to a near stop), will be – much like the very best in cancer treatment, or priority access to organ transplants, or a thousand other technological answers to the woes of the flesh – an option for the very wealthy and powerful first, and maybe the rest of us later – but only at an extremely high price.

Rise of a vampire nation:

Imagine if you will the economic bloodsuckers and bluebloods – the alpha predators of the American savannah – granted a hundred lifetimes to accumulate even more wealth and power: A family of aristocratic vampires that would leave Dracula trembling in fear.… Read the rest

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Forgiveness and Radical Egalitarianism: When Nations Emulate Jesus, Buddha, and Gandhi

Today’s major religions and spiritual disciplines such as Yoga and Zen lack officially expressed political preferences (PROUT, Ananda Marga Yoga’s social-economic component could be the one exception http://www.anandamarga.org/social-philosophy/prout.htm ). Likewise, radical Leftists in the many varieties of communism, socialism, and anarchism lack an equal focus on individual spiritual growth; historically, some have lacked a focus on nonviolence as well. In short, a spiritual politics or a political spirituality is needed that considers the ecology of the planet and the specific needs of every nation of the world.

Two and a half years ago, I retired as an elementary school teacher at the age of 60, in part to study some of things I did not quite master in high school and college. As I now study European, US, and world history, I am just amazed at the countless, stupid wars that have been fought because of greed, aggrandizement, and imperialism. Equally troubling to me is the fact that about half of the world– over 3 billion people–lives on less than $2.50 a day!… Read the rest

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African King Was Richest Man Ever

Mansa MusaIf you’ve never heard of Mansa Musa I of Mali, you should at least know that he was the world’s richest man – ever! The top ten richest people in all of history are as follows:

1. Mansa Musa I, (Ruler of Malian Empire, 1280-1331) $400 billion
2. Rothschild Family (banking dynasty, 1740- ) $350 billion
3. John D Rockefeller (industrialist, 1839-1937) $340 billion
4. Andrew Carnegie (industrialist, 1835-1919) $310 billion
5. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (last Emperor of Russia, 1868-1918) $300 billion
6. Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII (last ruler of Hyderabad, 1886-1967) $236 billion
7. William the Conqueror (King of England, 1028-1087) $229.5 billion
8. Muammar Gaddafi (former Libyan leader, 1942-2011) $200 billion
9. Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company founder, 1863-1947) $199 billion
10. Cornelius Vanderbilt (industrialist, 1794-1877) $185 billion

John Hall reports for the Independent:

When we think of the world’s all-time richest people, names like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and John D Rockefeller immediately come to mind…

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There Is No Such Thing As Redistribution

Matt Bruenig on the logical absurdity of debates about “wealth redistribution”:

The blogosphere is ablaze with discussions of redistribution: who redistributes to who, how much redistribution is happening, and so on. The right-wing can claim we are redistributing to poor folks because of government programs. The left-wing can claim we are redistributing to rich folks because of copyrights, patents, and various forms of protectionism for high-income jobs.

The word “redistribution” implies that there is a distribution that is default, and that we redistribute when we modify the distribution away from it. This, of course, is wrong. There is no default distribution. In the United States, we have constructed and enforce institutions of private property ownership and contract enforcement. All distributions are the consequence of any number of institutional design choices, none of which are commanded by the fabric of the universe. Those institutions generate very different end distributions than we would see if they did not exist.

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World’s Richest Woman, A Mining Heiress, Says Poor People Need To Work Harder

Also they need to drink, socialize, and complain less, and accept lower wages. She has praised paying African miners two dollars per day as a model for Australia to follow. Last year, she made $2 million per hour. Via Mother Jones:

Australian Gina Rinehart, reportedly the world’s wealthiest woman, has a message for you poor people: “Don’t just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself—spend less time drinking, or smoking and socializing and more time working.”

Pray, what does Rinehart do for a living? She is a “mining heiress.” Rinehart’s wealth is derived from a family trust and an executive position in a mining company she inherited from her father after his death in 1992. Since then, she’s kept very busy—pouring her wealth into conservative causes and political front groups she helped set up.

She recently tried to import cheap visa workers after unionized Australian miners asked for a competitive wage.

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Mississippi Hopes To Lure French Tax Exiles

Is the future of states such as Mississippi — which offers startlingly low life expectancy, sky high rates of poverty and disease, and minimal government regulation and protection — as laissez faire tax havens for rich expatriates? Via Yahoo! News:

France’s new Socialist leader President Francois Hollande plans to slap a tax of 75 percent on all income in excess of a million euros, and territories with lower rates are hoping for a cash exodus. Now the US state of Mississippi is making a bid to recruit wealthy exiles.

Haley Barbour [is the] former governor of Mississippi, a southern US state that was in part founded by French settlers on territory at one point controlled by the French empire. “I wonder if we Barbour boys ought to set up a business to attract wealthy Frenchmen and successful businesses from France to Mississippi,” he mused, in an article for the website of the US magazine Foreign Policy.

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The Rich Have Hidden $21 Trillion In Global Tax Havens

Wealth inequality between the super-rich and everyone else has been vastly underestimated, the Guardian reports:

The world’s super-rich have taken advantage of lax tax rules to siphon off at least $21 trillion, and possibly as much as $32tn, from their home countries and hide it abroad – a sum larger than the entire American economy.

James Henry, a former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has conducted groundbreaking new research for the Tax Justice Network campaign group – sifting through data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and private sector analysts to construct an alarming picture that shows capital flooding out of countries across the world and disappearing into the cracks in the financial system.

“These estimates reveal a staggering failure,” says John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network. “Inequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people.

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