Sep 05 2012

The revolt of the elites, revisited

Posted by: Nick Shaxson in: Thoughts

Take a look at this superb article by veteran U.S. Republican Mike Lofgren, who resigned after finally becoming disgusted with what the Grand Old Party once stood for. It fits with everything I wrote about in Treasure Islands: about how an increasingly offshore-steeped, rootless global élite has become detached from society (and his particular bugbear, taken over his once-beloved Republican Party.)

Entitled Revolt of the Rich (a nod to Christopher Lasch’s 1996 book entitled Revolt of the Elites, itself was a sarcastic tribute to José Ortega y Gasset’s very different book Revolt of the Masses,) Lofgren makes some powerful points, not least of which is this one:

The rich elites of this country have far more in common with their counterparts in London, Paris, and Tokyo than with their fellow American citizens. . .  the super-rich and the corporations they run [have seceded] from the nation state.
. . .
Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it.

Very Treasure Islands. He calls this secession ‘internal immigration,’ where the rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being – except as a place to extract loot.

(If you want to read another superb, shortish recent account of the process of loot extraction, take a look at Michael Hudson’s fiery article in Business Insider, with a longer version here.

Lofgren puts his finger on the big reason why such craziness has now gripped big sections of U.S. politics, the media and society:

“Being in the country but not of it is what gives the contemporary American super-rich their quality of being abstracted and clueless.”

Exactly. This rootlessness is very much an offshore phenomenon, with Mitt Romney — who is not as crazy as some of his counterparts, but still a representative of this rootless, offshore-roaming, tax-dodging, society-scorning plutocracy – at the forefront of the Republican Party now. All bow to the God of Shareholder Value, no matter how venal and wealthy those shareholders may be, and no matter the impact on the other stakeholders in society.

“The now-prevailing Milton Friedmanite economic dogma holds that a corporation that acts responsibly to the community is irresponsible. Yet somehow in the 1950s the country eked out higher average GDP growth rates than those we have experienced in the last dozen years.”

Exactly. The high-tax, financially-repressed quarter century after the Second World War was the time of highest overall growth, and highest median income growth, of the entire century: it had the fewest economic crises and is now known as the Golden Age of Capitalism.

Now read on.

Leave a comment