Curb Greed, Save Democracy

I’ve been chewing on a thought since I woke up this morning. It’s about a tweet I responded to last night about the failure of the elite. Their lack of self-control appears to be placing democracy at risk in the western world. The economist Dean Baker tweeted last night that if the elites were even slightly competent things like Trump wouldn’t have happened, to which I added and if they were less greedy. Fundamentally the rise of social democracy and the social safety net is the result of a compromise between socialists and the first generations of post industrial revolution lords of capital. Socialism was popular in the late 19th century and especially so in the early 20th century, but outside of a violent revolution in Russia the western world didn’t institute communist or socialist governments on a wide scale. Arguably the reason that didn’t happen, despite the weakness of democracy and governments generally during the Depression and the chaos post WWI, is the rise of fascism and the wealthy elite, at least some of them, realizing that giving up a percentage of their wealth would allow them to keep the rest instead of having it nationalized, taxed into oblivion, or forced into whatever state/capital confluence that existed within fascist countries. There’s an argument to be made that they didn’t curb their greed on their own, but even someone like Roosevelt is an elite. It is definitely true that the titans of industry did their best to defeat New Deal policies and politics, but it’s also true that elite politicians were necessary to reform the system from within rather than their being a violent socialist revolution.

Beyond the debating of how willing the elite were to curb their greed, curbing greed was in their self-interest because they held onto the vast majority of their wealth. Today we live in a time where the wealthy believe that greed is good and is in their, and our, best interest. A ideology that not only immorally harms billions of people around the world, but is ultimately going to consume the the elite themselves. It’s not sustainable for the wealthiest one percent to own fifty plus percent of the wealth, let alone the sixty or seventy percent it will presumably soon be at with the coming corruption of a Trump administration. A government that will allow people to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us even more blatantly than they have been for the last three decades. Frustrated, humiliated, broke, hungry, hot people are the fuse of violent revolutions and the ideological greed of the current crop of elites is manufacturing them plenty efficiently. Revolutions, in my mind, tend to be failures as they just end up with a different group of people accumulating all the wealth after a short period of improvement, such is the nature of us being flawed as human beings, but my view of violent revolutions is not exactly a widespread conviction that’s going to hold back angry people with nothing to eat and no way to support themselves. That’s why the current ideology of greed and the actions that are being self-validated by that ideology are going to end up with the wealthy eating themselves up. What is spit out may be something awful like fascist xenophobia, racism, and discriminatory violence or it may be the socialist experiments free from interference that I’d like to see, but either way it isn’t going to end well for many wealthy people who even if they can’t be convinced to give a damn about other people and act morally on their own should at least curb their greed for their own good.


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