Can Systems Of The People, By The People, For the Titans, Long Endure?


If politics is mainly “the economy, stupid,” can cherished ideas from the former help the later?

Lincoln proclaimed good government is "of the people, by the people, for the people,” (from Wycliffe’s 14th-century Bible). That last clause provides a tyranny test. Tyranny being any power used “not for the good of those...under it,” but for the tyrants benefit.

Shouldn’t economies be run “for the people”? Not the private benefit of elites?

1. Economic tyranny? Seas of data say yes; 1975-2007 the bottom 90% of Americans got under 20% of total income gains vs around 70% in Europe; median US income has barely increased since 1988 while the UK’s is up 35%.

2. Market merit: Hard work is rewarded? US GDP per capita swelled 52% since 1988, but 50% of workers got none of that gain. Is “the meritocracy of capitalism...a big, fat lie"?

3. Common interests: Rising tides haven’t lifted all boats. Plato’s “ship of state” metaphor better captures that we’re on a single vessel atop which private success must build. Luxury cabin occupants ignoring galley wage-slaves below risk destabilizing the ship. However unequal the upside, we share the downside if the ship sinks.

4. Separatist success: Tyler Cowen lets the veil slip in saying societies owe “strong… support for their most successful citizens.” Aren’t all citizens due that? The weak even more than the strong? To determine if the “most successful” are good or bad see here.

5. Unwholesome titans: Thomas Piketty’s book documents how wealth tends to concentrate. That rich-get-richer dynamic is especially dangerous if they use their power to skew policy, see “US is an oligarchy.” No politics of parts or economics of echelons can work unless the health of the whole governs.

6. Replaceable titans: Is inequality a necessary evil? Must taxes on the wealthy be low? Well many innovators are driven by passion, not only money. They previously built stronger economies under higher taxes. If entrenched titans work less, other hungrier wannabe-titans can replace them.

7. Freeloader titans: Corporations and entrepreneurs seeking to evade or lower their taxes are  free-riding or cheap-riding. Taxes aren’t paid only for direct benefits, they’re to keep the whole ship afloat. It’s in nobody’s rational interest to damage what they depend on.

8. Lax titans: Blanket resistance to regulations bespeaks self-serving laziness or weakness. Each must be considered in context. Some “inefficiencies” desirably put public interest above private profit (e.g. minimum wages reduce subsidies to businesses). Strong titans will figure it out. Laxer rules beget weaker titans.

Orwell reviewing Hayek’s Road To Serfdom said free markets were “a tyranny probably worse...than that of the state.” He knew tyrants are easier to stop than a “tyrantless tyranny” of bad ideas. A constitution-like balance of powers within economies must ensure they serve “the people.”

 

Illustration by Julia Suits, The New Yorker Cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

Videos
  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less

Why modern men are losing their testosterone

Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?

Flickr user Tom Simpson
Sex & Relationships
  • Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
  • While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
  • The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less