Pity the Billionaire


If the billionaires that are presently building hidey-holes in New Zealand want to help their cause they should bring back Noblesse oblige.

Seriously, they could save a lot of money, which seems to be the raison d’être for billionaires.

Notice how I’m using a lot of French words? There’s a reason for that in that the French Revolution is the kind of historical perspective the billionaires could use right about now. Marie Antoinette’s, “let them eat cake,” comment comes to mind, as well as the guillotine, the tumbrel, and Bastille Day.

It’s not just the French Revolution that should give them pause. History demonstrates again and again that when income and wealth inequality become widely disparate, the forces of populism rise, revolutions sweep away the old order, and lots of rich people die. Meanwhile, inequality in the US and in the Western world is at levels not seen in a century, largely caused by runaway financial capitalism, resulting in the new Great Depression.

It’s not just populism and revolution that should concern the billionaires. There’s a proven health risk that comes from living in grossly unequal societies. Put simply–people in unequal societies live shorter lives, even the rich. It’s stressful hoarding and guarding your possessions and property. If everyone else around you is poor and you’re rich, you need some security, in a hurry. Anyone who’s traveled to the Third World is surely aware of this dynamic?

The situation has gotten so bad that this year at Davos some of the billionaires are starting to acknowledge it.

It’s pretty ironic that the “masters of the universe” who gathered in Davos this week claim to be puzzled that people who are frustrated by stagnating standards of living are falling prey to nationalists and populists. They could have saved the trip to Switzerland on their private jets and taken a long, hard look in the mirror instead.

It’s really not complicated: Our economy was redesigned to reward corporations and a few individuals which has resulted in their amassing huge piles of money while leaving behind just about everybody else. We watched as the absolute prioritising of individual greed has sanctioned a pathological self-absorption, a selfishness that has provided fertile ground not only for capitalism, materialism and consumerism but for the fusing of all of them into a turbo-charged neoliberalism. That has entitled a tiny elite to amass and hide away most of the planet’s wealth out of reach of the rest of humanity.

Populism from the left or right may be anathema to the billionaire class, but they helped create it. For decades, they inflicted insecurity on the rest of us and told us it was for our own good. They have rigged an economic system so that it paid them bonanzas and stiffed others. They have lobbied and funded politicians to give them everything.

And worst of all, the neoliberal intellectuals who created this world, insisted at the top of their lungs that there was no alternative, and crushed any opposing sentiment as irrational, as uncivilised, as primitive.

But now, the bill is coming due.

As we look ahead to the 2020 presidential election, I think what scares the billionaires, their bought and paid for political lakeys, and their corporate media handmaidens, is an alliance across political boundries between Sanders and Trump supporters. These are the Americans who are protesting the bi-partisan policies in favor of capital, finance and the ultra rich, but especially their own decline in living standards. They’re also protesting an increasingly aggressive financial capitalism, the dismantling of the welfare state, and deindustrialization have eroded standards of living for forty years.

Here’s a comment thread from Tucker Carlson’s show that gets to this left/right convergence. “I think despite my voting for Trump and you for Bernie, if you made a venn diagram of our positions, we’d overlap quite a bit.”

What this demonstrates is the hunger out there for a new political party, one that harnesses the desires of progressives and conservatives, that rightfully identifies and blames the real culprits in America’s decline–America’s billionaires–for the serious problems in America.

The reason that Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in the US and that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has caught on like a house on fire is that they have put economic inequality and injustice at the center of their agendas, and American are hungry for the types of change they are advocating.

The problem for the billionaires is that they have invested too much into their greedy-ideology to embrace Noblesse oblige. They’ve told us since forever that they’re the makers, while we’re the takers, and they can’t very well come out and admit that it was all projection and that their very success was based on extraction rather than production.

So expect them to double-down on the lies and to attack anyone who dares suggest an alternative.

Indeed, every day, the narrative and language being used by the establishment is becoming more unhinged and desperate. They’ve become openly irrational and more brazen in the way in which they project their wrongs on to their opponents. Projection is about shifting blame. Broadly, psychological projection is a defence mechanism in which an individual attributes characteristics they find unacceptable in themselves to others.

Pity the billionaire.

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