Globalization: Social & Geographic Perspectives

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Blog Post #4 Stiglitz

April 8th, 2011 · 2 Comments

In “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%”, Joseph Stiglitz writes about one of the single largest issues in American society that has been allowed to grow into another “too big to fix” situations, income and wealth inequality in America.  In previous assignments we saw both advocates and opponents for a wealthier upper class.  Some argue that inequality in America is not a problem because citizens of the world are becoming more equal but it’s no surprise that most advocates for the growth of the upper class are members of the upper class.  As the upper class continues to grow and the lower class continues to fall it seems that, as Americans, we are headed back to the feudal ages.

Now although most Americans believe that America is a democratic, equal opportunity, nation of the free, we can’t possibly ignore the similarities of what we presume to be the future of American society, and feudalism.  According to Marx, feudalism was a system where the “ruling class” held all of its power due to their control of property.  This system allowed the wealthy to exploit the peasants and basically do whatever else they wanted.   Although every man in America is supposed to be equal, it’s already evident that the wealthy in America have more political control than any other citizens.  For instance, almost every member of congress is, or will be, a member of the top 1% at some point in their lives, mostly because of the support they have from fellow members of the upper 1%.  How can we expect these elected officials to NOT vote in their own self-interest, let alone the self-interest of the people supporting them?  In other terms, we have a supposedly democratic government, which is supposed to protect us from some elite, dominating group, yet the most influential decision makers are from that elite group, and supported by said elite group.

But still, America is far from a feudal society, because we have a government in place to protect average Americans from exploitations and preserve our rights, right?  Well that’s an interesting one.  First, there is a disparity between the individuals that extract money from our nation and the individuals that give the money back.  While the upper 1% are capable of playing the markets for profits (which, we could argue, drives up the prices of commodities that are necessities for the lower 70% of Americans, therefore allowing the rich to make money while costing all of the less wealthy Americans even more), when markets fail, the money to repair the nation’s financial sector must somehow come directly from the middle and lower classes.  To reiterate, the wealthy get to gamble on our nation, but when they lose, the lower classes is supposed to pay to replace their chips. This is the part where most Americans miss what’s going on around them.  Claims of necessary budget cuts, increased taxes, and the general idea of “cutting back” to save our nation are spread throughout the media, but the media doesn’t say that these measures are solely directed to the lower classes while the upper class gets extended tax breaks, not to mention that some huge corporations do not have to pay taxes on their profits.  Public sector spending on education, health care, and just increasing the standards of living are wiped out and left in the hands of the private sector which, once again, is controlled the upper 1%.

So where does this leave us?

Most individuals in America for the last few decades have it hardwired into them that capitalism is the one and only way to prosper, and regardless of the number of news clips of protests around the world caused by “capitalism”, these individuals continue to support capitalism and deregulation.  What they may not understand is that “deregulation” is a shift of control from the government to the private sector, which leaves the big private sector players (you guessed it, the upper 1%) in control of aspects of the average American’s life which should not be turned into a profitable enterprise (education and health care reform being the most obvious institutions affected), and that sounds like feudalism to me.

But not to worry, once America completely become a feudal society, handing all control over to the wealthy, we won’t have to suffer for long because according to Marx, we are sure to overcome feudalism with the inevitable rise of capitalism, and that’s sure to save us all!

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1    astein102 // Apr 11, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    This is a very well written piece. I especially like your comparison to feudalism, though oligarchy would probably be more correct. It amazes me how good of a propaganda machine the elite possess. They actual have the rest of the people believing that taxes should remain low for the rich. That this will somehow create new jobs. As Bill Maher always says, the people in this country are just stupid.

  • 2    Prof. Hala // Apr 11, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Nice piece. I think the term you’re looking for is “neo-fuedalism,” which I’ve been hearing a lot lately.

    Interestingly, it looks like Americans’ opinions of capitalism may be shifting: “FAITH in the free market is at a low in the world’s biggest free-market economy. In 2010, 59% of Americans asked by GlobeScan, a polling firm, agreed “strongly” or “somewhat” that the free market was the best system for the world’s future. This has fallen sharply from 80% when the question was first asked in 2002. And among poorer Americans under $20,000, faith in capitalism fell from 76% to 44% in just one year.”

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