Plutocratic Self-Justification as a Dissipative Activity…
A column from Daniel Ben-Ami really made me wince:
It is hard to imagine how the rapid development of many poorer economies in recent decades could have happened without the emergence of super-rich individuals. No doubt for most Financial Times readers the two go together…. Extreme wealth in emerging markets is largely self-made…. [Success] means, among other things, showing through the force of argument that everyone can benefit from a wealthier society…. [But] the fight cannot be won with evidence alone…
And this last brings me up short: what kinds of “non-evidence” is he thinking of?
What Ben-Ami–and, in my view, Freund also–really need is a much closer engagement with William Baumol (1990): Entrepreneurship: Productive, Unproductive, and Destructive:
- Some very rich people become very rich because they are productive entrepreneurs.
- Others become very rich because they find a way to collect a rent off of ongoing economic activity–they impoverish others, but in a zero-sum way because they do not distort and damage the pattern of economic activity.
- Still others not only live high on the hog off of the rents they collect but also destroy portions of the social division of labor.
Coincidentally, the next tab in my browser right now has this graph in it:
And the next browser tab has:
Jeb Bush Vows Not to Give Greedy Black People “Free Stuff”: “A white guy at a South Carolina campaign event last night asked him…:
…how he planned to attract black voters…. Jeb replied:
Our message is one of hope and aspiration. It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting–that says you can achieve earned success.
Are you listening, black Americans? This is Jeb’s message. You have to work for everything in life and not be handed anything for free. If you need a role model, look to Jeb Bush, the son and brother of U.S. Presidents. IMPORTANT: JEB’S MESSAGE IS NOT ‘WE’LL TAKE CARE OF YOU.’ DO NOT MISTAKENLY ASSUME THAT YOU WILL BE TAKEN CARE OF. When Jeb Bush was running for governor of Florida in the 90s, he answered the question of what he would do for black Floridians with the statement ‘Probably nothing.’ He’s come a long way since then.
May I suggest that reinforcing the belief of the plutocrats of our Second Gilded Age that their success is “earned” and must aways redound to the public good is a very low-value activity to engage in?
Dividing the plutocracy into those who are productive, unproductive, and destructive would be a much better thing to focus on, IMHO.
Book review: ‘Rich People, Poor Countries’, by Caroline Freund: “It is hard to imagine how the rapid development of many poorer economies in recent decades…:
…could have happened without the emergence of super-rich individuals. No doubt for most Financial Times readers the two go together…. But it is important to remember that many people do not see it that way…. Rich People, Poor Countries should be understood against the backdrop of this debate…. Winnie Byanyima… the richest 1 per cent of the world’s population would own more than 50 per cent of the world’s wealth by 2016. In response, Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP… ‘I make no apology for having started a company 30 years ago with two people and having 179,000 people in 111 countries and investing in human capital each year to the tune of at least $12bn a year.’
The first part of Freund’s work is essentially a taxonomy of the super-rich in the emerging world…. Extreme wealth in emerging markets is largely self-made…. The second part of the book argues strongly that the rising prosperity of poorer countries has been closely associated with the growth of large companies…. Winning the debate on the benefits of popular prosperity requires a culture war waged on several fronts. It means, among other things, showing through the force of argument that everyone can benefit from a wealthier society. It is also necessary to tackle the moral qualms about mass affluence. The fight cannot be won with evidence alone.