You Can Have Billionaires or You Can Have Democracy

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    • #431392
      eridani
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      • Total Posts: 9,978

      https://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/70067-you-can-have-billionaires-or-you-can-have-democracy

      There’s an understandable focus on the first-generation billionaires — the Bezoses and Musks — and their surging wealth gains during the pandemic. But America also has growing and persistent “wealth dynasties”: multigenerational inherited wealth families. There are fifty dynastic families in the United States with a combined $1.2 trillion in wealth that we know of. Most likely there are trillions more hidden in trusts and offshore sites. The twenty-seven wealthiest families that were billionaires in 1983 have seen their wealth increase over 900 percent in the last thirty-seven years. It’s interesting to see how the second and third generation, the inheritors, aggressively invest in “wealth defense” — lobbying to end the estate tax, create trusts, and hide wealth offshore.

      These wealthy billionaire families are less focused on starting businesses and more on “dynasty-building” and rent extraction — passing wealth on over multiple generations in a neo-feudal way. With this system being solidified, today’s billionaires will be tomorrow’s dynastic families. If the pattern persists for twenty years on the current trajectory, we will have even greater concentrations of hereditary wealth and power dominating our politics, economy, media, and philanthropy. Looks like feudalism, smells like feudalism.

      Yes, tax cuts are only part of the story. These billionaires hire what sociologist Jeffrey Winters calls the “wealth defense industry” — tax lawyers, accountants, wealth managers — to figure out ways to sequester and hide wealth so it doesn’t even show up near a tax return. They play a global shell game of shifting assets around between anonymous shell companies, trusts, and offshore banking centers. They put billions into “dynasty trusts” that are formed in places like South Dakota where the state eliminated the rules to limit the lifespan of trusts and other legal arrangements.

      Speaking of feudalism, South Dakota repealed its “rule against perpetuities,” an anti-feudalism measure in common law to prevent the deceased wealthy from lording over the living by prohibiting contracts, leases and trusts from lasting forever. By abolishing them, these states are effectively allowing trusts to exist for centuries — keeping wealth away from taxation and accountability. A hundred years from now, some of these trusts may hold trillions of dollars, assets that have never been taxed.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

    • #431418
      Ohio Barbarian
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      • Total Posts: 21,760

      Amazing how many people refuse to see that.

      It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs

      You can jail a revolutionary, but you can't jail the revolution.--Fred Hampton

      • #431422
        Hobbit709
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        • Total Posts: 2,607

        than the ancient Athenian version.

        I don't waste my time teaching pigs to sing.

        • #431425
          Ohio Barbarian
          Moderator
          • Total Posts: 21,760

          Athens had restrictions on citizenship because they had a slave-based economy that was unquestioned, not to mention the disenfranchisement of women that was prevalent throughout most of the world before the 20th Century, but Athenian citizens most definitely had a true democracy for a couple of centuries. Most American citizens do not, and haven’t even had a democratic republic since at least 2000, when the Supreme Court and Al Gore went along with the Bush coup.

          As far as democracy goes, more Athenians had democracy than we Americans do, or ever have had, for that matter.

          It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs

          You can jail a revolutionary, but you can't jail the revolution.--Fred Hampton

          • #431453
            Hobbit709
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            • Total Posts: 2,607

            Not women, not slaves. So only about a quarter of the population could actually vote

            I don't waste my time teaching pigs to sing.

            • #431454
              Ohio Barbarian
              Moderator
              • Total Posts: 21,760

              If 25% of Athenians had real democracy, that’s still at least double the percentage of Americans that have any democracy. I think it’s closer to 25 times as much democracy in Periclean Athens than in the neoliberal kleptocracy that claims to be American democracy.

              It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs

              You can jail a revolutionary, but you can't jail the revolution.--Fred Hampton

          • #431529
            doh1304
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            • Total Posts: 1,673

            Voting rights in the Athenian democracy was based on land ownership because of the assumption that only someone who did not have to work himself had the time to learn critical thinking and competently debate. Later democracies have tried to adulterate that by linking citizenship to military service – it was actually the opposite. Military service was an obligation of citizenship – if you were rich enough to vote you were rich enough to buy armor.

            We have universal education not to ensure everyone has the skills necessary to competently vote, but to justify flooding the electorate with voters who are controllable – indoctrinated and without the skills or the time to adequately come to a competent opinion.

            • #431534
              Ohio Barbarian
              Moderator
              • Total Posts: 21,760

              Plato made that argument in The Republic. Democracies can be as fickle and unstable as any monarchy during a succession crisis. When people of poor character rule, they can make disastrous decisions.

              The problem with that, of course, is that limiting real power to a few doesn’t guarantee those few will be people of good character, and they can make equally disastrous decisions. If anything, capitalism promotes those with bad character, so it makes it even more likely decisions disastrous for the majority will be implemented.

              It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs

              You can jail a revolutionary, but you can't jail the revolution.--Fred Hampton

    • #431426
      GZeusH
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      • Total Posts: 4,259

      I realize that everyone is a bit insecure about what the future will bring and would like not to be caught short, but to pile away resources a thousand times in excess of what is needed for a very comfortable life is deranged to the point of needing severe psychiatric readjustment.

      To take those resources from people who are caught short all day, every day is the definition of sociopathic.

       

       

       

       

      Corporate America consists of totalitarian entities laser-focused on short-term greed.

      • #431510
        Utopian Leftist
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        • Total Posts: 645

        And if our country had a safety net that was remotely adequate, such psychoses would not be so prevalent amongst the population.

        But then, in modern times, as far to the right as the whole world has been dragged by Amerikastan, kicking and screaming all the way, all that real conservatism amounts to anymore is psychosis. Why conserve a culture that is psychotic? As Krishnamurti noted, becoming well-conditioned to a psychotic culture is not a positive accomplishment.

        "All fascism is a result of a failure of the left to provide a viable alternative." ~ Trotsky
        “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” ~ Krishnamurti

        • #431515
          Ohio Barbarian
          Moderator
          • Total Posts: 21,760

          Our kleptocracy needs a good, long visit from Shiva. Or maybe Kali.

          It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.--Eugene Debs

          You can jail a revolutionary, but you can't jail the revolution.--Fred Hampton

          • #431517
            Utopian Leftist
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            • Total Posts: 645

            Shiva (Creator) and Kali (Destroyer) were a couple. The Guillotine is a very Kali-like (and increasingly relevant) object of destruction. Shiva, I suspect, would prefer to create a third party, rather than slaughter the Plutocrats.

            I found the exact quote attributed to Krishnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

            "All fascism is a result of a failure of the left to provide a viable alternative." ~ Trotsky
            “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” ~ Krishnamurti

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