Skip to main content

How to Break the Plutocracy

Steve's brilliant post from yesterday rightly called most developed countries "democratic plutocracies." I think he's right to do so, and I think it's quite unlikely that the plutocracy will be broken anytime soon. Nevertheless I think it can be done.

My rough model of our plutocracy is that the wealthy and the privileged use their money not to bribe people, but by making the politicians dependent on them for donations, creating a favorable intellectual environment through think tanks and payouts to favored economists, paying former staffers and friends of politicians huge sums to lobby, and of course through shadowy SuperPACs that flood the airwaves with agitprop. Probably the most important aspect of this is it's all aboveboard. Nobody has to take sacks of money and consciously acknowledge to himself that he is corrupt, and therefore the corruption can spread much further.

I think this edifice is more vulnerable than it appears. Obviously Obama has been eaten by the plutocracy, but here's my model for an insurgent movement. For starters, a candidate (or movement) would need to be able to ignore money. I think, especially now that SuperPACs can flood the airwaves (making voters ever-less-likely to pay attention), and especially for already-established politicians, the marginal value of advertising is quite low. (It would help a lot if the media stopped using money raised as a proxy for success.) Second, the candidate would need an adequate grasp of the policies to hand. Obama, for example, made a remarkably stupid and completely unjustified pivot to deficit reduction in 2010. It's quite easy, I imagine, for people to get sucked into the DC bonehead consensus when they reach high office. We'd need an unusually confident candidate, or some kind of independent advisory body free of the soul-sucking Beltway platitude machine.

But most importantly by far, is you'd need a Lyndon Johnson or FDR candidate. The heart of my scheme is the realization that there is enormous power waiting for anyone who can grasp this situation and break the plutocrats. Johnson was monster in many ways, a morally bereft, cynical, and absolutely fucking ruthless operator, but the man knew how to use power. My biggest problems with Obama are that he seems bizarrely uninterested in flexing the muscle of the federal bureaucracy (dozens of vacancies go un-nominated), and appears to actually believe in compromise for its own sake, and not solely focused on winning policy battles and elections at all costs. What happened when he passed a milquetoast stimulus, renominated Bernanke, and tried to reduce the deficit in 2010? The Democrats got crushed.

Politics is a dirty, terrible business run by awful people, but if you play, you have to play to win. Sometimes I wonder if Hillary Clinton would have done better.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why Did Reality Winner Leak to the Intercept?

So Reality Winner, former NSA contractor, is in federal prison for leaking classified information — for five years and three months, the longest sentence of any whistleblower in history. She gave documents on how Russia had attempted to hack vendors of election machinery and software to The Intercept , which completely bungled basic security procedures (according to a recent New York Times piece from Ben Smith, the main fault lay with Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito ), leading to her capture within hours. Winner recently contracted COVID-19 in prison, and is reportedly suffering some lingering aftereffects. Glenn Greenwald has been furiously denying that he had anything at all to do with the Winner clusterfuck, and I recently got in an argument with him about it on Twitter. I read a New York story about Winner, which clearly implies that she was listening to the Intercepted podcast of March 22, 2017 , where Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill expressed skepticism about Russia actually b

On Refusing to Vote for Bloomberg

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg is attempting to buy the Democratic nomination. With something like $400 million in personal spending so far, that much is clear — and it appears to be working at least somewhat well, as he is nearing second place in national polls. I would guess that he will quickly into diminishing returns, but on the other hand spending on this level is totally unprecedented. At this burn rate he could easily spend more than the entire 2016 presidential election cost both parties before the primary is over. I published a piece today outlining why I would not vote for Bloomberg against Trump (I would vote for Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, or Biden), even though I live in a swing state. This got a lot of "vote blue no matter who" people riled up . They scolded me and demanded that I pre-commit to voting for Bloomberg should he win the nomination. The argument as I understand it is to try to make it as likely as possible that whatever Democrat wins t

Varanus albigularis albigularis

That is the Latin name for the white-throated monitor lizard , a large reptile native to southern Africa that can grow up to two meters long (see pictures of one at the Oakland Zoo here ). In Setswana, it's called a "gopane." I saw one of these in my village yesterday on the way back from my run. Some kids from school found it in the riverbed and tortured it to death, stabbing out its eyes, cutting off its tail, and gutting it which finally killed it. It seemed to be a female as there were a bunch of round white things I can only imagine were eggs amongst the guts. I only arrived after it was already dead, but they described what had happened with much hilarity and re-enactment. When I asked why they killed it, they said it was because it would eat their chickens and eggs, which is probably true, and because it sucks blood from people, which is completely ridiculous. It might bite a person, but not unless threatened. It seems roughly the same as killing wolves tha