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Does the global elite serve the masses?

By

February 18, 2011

Many of today's global elite (those with enough brains, money or influence to affect the lives of large numbers of others), have become influential by doing clever things, such as inventing (or finding ways to popularise) things that make many people's lives better. However, some argue that many members of the elite—for instance, those in the financial sector—have profited from rules, whether on financial-sector bonuses or income-tax rates, that they have had a hand in deciding. And as the very rich have done far better than everyone else over the past couple of decades, inequality within countries has exploded. Should we accept, even laud, this inequality as the logical result of the greater rewards for brilliance in a globalised world? Or is it right to worry about its less savoury origins and decry its possibly disruptive consequences? This latest Economist debate has just concluded and with the world seemingly being reshaped before our eyes in the Middle East, it makes for some thought-provoking reading at a precipitous time in world history. Which side do you think won?

12 Comments

It is not just changing in the middle east, it is also changing right on our door steps through "climate change" theory, abortion, euthanasia, abortion, eugenics, population control, gay rights, big brother tactics and so on.

Resist these changes

V

Facebook User
18th February, 2011 @ 10:23 pm PST

To answer the headline, yes, the 'global elite' serve the 'masses' - very well. Is there something wrong with that? The terminology you use is right out of Trotsky, but otherwise it's what we call business; what Gizmag also happens to be itself.

This paragraph is the standard argument for Communism. To make it stick the writer has to make a number of false assumptions and characterizations to make a (hidden) case for confiscation and redistribution of income. That is of course the implied solution here, since the writer is alleging that it's a problem when people innovate and make money.

Pretty retrograde for what used to be a forward-looking Tech blog, where the spirit of invention and entrepreneurialism used to be celebrated instead of feared.

The ancient Communist argument that wealth and inequality are the same thing doesn't play to those who have taken an Econ class. When successful people keep doing the things that make them successful, and poor people keep doing the same things that make them poor, a 'disparity' results.

So to make Gizmag's editors happy, should we stop reading about these great innovations on Gizmag, and stop innovating on our own projects, to make our incomes more closely match with poor people's? Or should we just give our own money away to those who don't work as hard?

I've heard this is being tried in North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba. They have followed this article precisely and removed that terrible disparity between rich and poor.

Todd Dunning
19th February, 2011 @ 02:21 pm PST

In response to above two comments I would like to say that innovation is not just limited to making gadgets to make money. That way in a family brother would kill brother just for the sake of protecting his such an innovation. Animals also show some innovation in a limited sense but cannot take advantage of it because they cannot learn the self defeating rules of Marketing, monetary system, Commercialization, Income tax, etc. in which social good and altruism is absolutely excluded. How ever everything in the world is not either black or white. There are numerous shades and millions of colours. We need not be absolutely communist nor be capitalist. If you love yourself truly you love your society and world too.

pramod2012
21st February, 2011 @ 05:44 am PST

Most financially successful individuals spend most of their time trying to maintain that condition and do it without exploiting anyone. There does exist certain well financed temporarily legal activities which, like the recent mortgage securitization scheme which devastates a fundamental and indispensible class of society, stable families. Similar to the sex slave, child trafficing, prostitution, gambling, closed shop labor unions, drug trafficing, religious belief exploitation and most government handout dependence, true exploitation abounds but not as described in this article. Politics includes favoring some to gain the power to exploit all. This works with an ignorant voter population who can be manipulated which is why the schools do poorly, the media remains biased toward ignorance, the universities produce illiterate baccalaureates.

qwester
21st February, 2011 @ 06:27 am PST

Globalists Seek To Hijack Middle East Revolution To Topple Iran While the current global revolt sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa is born out of a universal human cry for freedom, food security and a decent standard of living, it is important to understand that the global elite are waiting in the wings to exploit the chaos as an opportunity to re-order the geopolitical landscape in their image, particularly by exploiting the demonstrations as a vehicle through which to weaken and topple the Iranian government.http://www.prisonplanet.com/ George Car­lin quick­ly ex­plains how Amer­i­ca func­tions to­day. http://www.myspace.com/video/vid/33838229The role of Partnerships in the new system of Global Governance.http://www.ukcolumn.org/articles/plundering-state-assets-public-private-partnershipsAgenda 21- What it is and why you should know about .http://www.ukcolumn.org/articles/agenda-21-what-it-and-why-you-should-know-about-itAn Expose of the New World Order . http://thecrowhouse.com/bigpic.html

TOAD
21st February, 2011 @ 07:29 am PST

By ROBERT H. FRANKPEOPLE often remember the past with exaggerated fondness. Sometimes, however, important aspects of life really were better in the old days.During the three decades after World War II, for example, incomes in the United States rose rapidly and at about the same rate %u2014 almost 3 percent a year %u2014 for people at all income levels. America had an economically vibrant middle class. Roads and bridges were well maintained, and impressive new infrastructure was being built. People were optimistic.By contrast, during the last three decades the economy has grown much more slowly, and our infrastructure has fallen into grave disrepair. Most troubling, all significant income growth has been concentrated at the top of the scale. The share of total income going to the top 1 percent of earners, which stood at 8.9 percent in 1976, rose to 23.5 percent by 2007, but during the same period, the average inflation-adjusted hourly wage declined by more than 7 percent.Yet many economists are reluctant to confront rising income inequality directly, saying that whether this trend is good or bad requires a value judgment that is best left to philosophers. But that disclaimer rings hollow. Economics, after all, was founded by moral philosophers, and links between the disciplines remain strong. So economists are well positioned to address this question, and the answer is very clear.Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, was a professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow. His first book, %u201CA Theory of Moral Sentiments,%u201D was published more than 25 years before his celebrated %u201CWealth of Nations,%u201D which was itself peppered with trenchant moral analysis.Some moral philosophers address inequality by invoking principles of justice and fairness. But because they have been unable to forge broad agreement about what these abstract principles mean in practice, they%u2019ve made little progress. The more pragmatic cost-benefit approach favored by Smith has proved more fruitful, for it turns out that rising inequality has created enormous losses and few gains, even for its ostensible beneficiaries.Recent research on psychological well-being has taught us that beyond a certain point, across-the-board spending increases often do little more than raise the bar for what is considered enough. A C.E.O. may think he needs a 30,000-square-foot mansion, for example, just because each of his peers has one. Although they might all be just as happy in more modest dwellings, few would be willing to downsize on their own.People do not exist in a social vacuum. Community norms define clear expectations about what people should spend on interview suits and birthday parties. Rising inequality has thus spawned a multitude of %u201Cexpenditure cascades,%u201D whose first step is increased spending by top earners.The rich have been spending more simply because they have so much extra money. Their spending shifts the frame of reference that shapes the demands of those just below them, who travel in overlapping social circles. So this second group, too, spends more, which shifts the frame of reference for the group just below it, and so on, all the way down the income ladder. These cascades have made it substantially more expensive for middle-class families to achieve basic financial goals.In a recent working paper based on census data for the 100 most populous counties in the United States, Adam Seth Levine (a postdoctoral researcher in political science at Vanderbilt University), Oege Dijk (an economics Ph.D. student at the European University Institute) and I found that the counties where income inequality grew fastest also showed the biggest increases in symptoms of financial distress.For example, even after controlling for other factors, these counties had the largest increases in bankruptcy filings.Divorce rates are another reliable indicator of financial distress, as marriage counselors report that a high proportion of couples they see are experiencing significant financial problems. The counties with the biggest increases in inequality also reported the largest increases in divorce rates.Another footprint of financial distress is long commute times, because families who are short on cash often try to make ends meet by moving to where housing is cheaper %u2014 in many cases, farther from work. The counties where long commute times had grown the most were again those with the largest increases in inequality.The middle-class squeeze has also reduced voters%u2019 willingness to support even basic public services. Rich and poor alike endure crumbling roads, weak bridges, an unreliable rail system, and cargo containers that enter our ports without scrutiny. And many Americans live in the shadow of poorly maintained dams that could collapse at any moment.ECONOMISTS who say we should relegate questions about inequality to philosophers often advocate policies, like tax cuts for the wealthy, that increase inequality substantially. That greater inequality causes real harm is beyond doubt.But are there offsetting benefits?There is no persuasive evidence that greater inequality bolsters economic growth or enhances anyone%u2019s well-being. Yes, the rich can now buy bigger mansions and host more expensive parties. But this appears to have made them no happier. And in our winner-take-all economy, one effect of the growing inequality has been to lure our most talented graduates to the largely unproductive chase for financial bonanzas on Wall Street.In short, the economist%u2019s cost-benefit approach %u2014 itself long an important arrow in the moral philosopher%u2019s quiver %u2014 has much to say about the effects of rising inequality. We need not reach agreement on all philosophical principles of fairness to recognize that it has imposed considerable harm across the income scale without generating significant offsetting benefits.No one dares to argue that rising inequality is required in the name of fairness. So maybe we should just agree that it%u2019s a bad thing %u2014 and try to do something about it.Robert H. Frank is an economics professor at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.

orions_haven
21st February, 2011 @ 02:43 pm PST

Overthrow, outlaw corporate personhood and lobbyists, then things will improve. We might even get a working democracy! Bring back Eisenhower era tax rates. The rich will still be rich when taxed at 90 percent again. Prioritize the telecommute.

foghorn
21st February, 2011 @ 09:17 pm PST

Todd, you are totally right. We should worship our transhumanist overlords without questioning their divine benevolence and graciousness towards the weak, pathetic and powerless mess that the rest of humanity has become. We should never worry whether or not they would use that power to advance themselves at the cost of less wealthy or influential beings. It is our gift from God, this capitalist free market global economy, where only the pure of heart prosper in attempts to amass wealth and gain carnal immortality.

Psssssshaaaaw

Anyways, aside from the CIA funded, communist bashing bozo who is one of the only people brave or stupid enough to post something on this strangely placed article, I happen to have just been thinking about how these powerful disparities work themselves out.

It is of no doubt that many of us benefit from the current system, just take a look a the logos on our clothes and computers. I'm writing this post right now with the help of untold millions of laboring Chinese who actually built the electronic components that power my computer and most of the electronics on the planet. As well as an increasing percentage of all goods manufactured globally, period.

Sure, it used to be British , or American, or German, or Japanese products that we brought home: but things change, and are changing ever faster still. The affluence of these countries is one of the main reasons that they have become so unproductive: they can sit back and let somebody else do the grunt work.

I find it hilarious that bozo here would bash the commies when there is slim to no chance that he would be writing this post without the aid of "stuff" not created because of merit, but because the barrel of a gun is pointed at a bunch of people who are given no choice but to "build this or die."

The same thing happened in the West during the Industrial Revolution, but we would like to forget that most of our grandparents grew up in poor rural settings, labouring on farms or in unsafe and filthy factories. Many of them moved to the cities to escape the poverty of the country, only to experience the poverty of the city.

There is indeed a great disparity in the world, and those of us in the middle are the only ones who have the perspective to question it, yet few of us would dare because it would make apparent our own hypocrisy. We are the ones that live in the space between slave labourers and masters of the universe: we know what it's like to have some power, and also to be subject to the limitations of finite resources.

This is why we fear a war on the middle class, because the "powers that would be" can never count on us to just stick with the plan. Lackey's can always be bought out by someone else, or could have one of those those rare and usually fleeting moments of conscience... which we all know by watching so many Hollywood movies usually just gets them killed.

No wonder nobody wants to touch this one. The thought police are sure to come after me...

You gonna let them do this to the world, you gonna help them, or you gonna try to build a better place with your own two hands?

Who's the propaganda machine now?

macbraughton
22nd February, 2011 @ 01:59 am PST

macbraughton - go back to InfoWars. Your conspiracy lunacy will play there.

"The thought police are sure to come after me..." - no, just Alex Jones.

Todd Dunning
22nd February, 2011 @ 09:09 am PST

Producers, elite or poor, are good. Thieves, elite or poor, are bad.

The question assumed a false dichotomy, as is necessary to sell gov/thievery. If we had a free market, i.e., laissez-faire capitalist system, we would not be having this discussion because the problems of poverty, war, and injustice would be solved. As long as gov exists it will rob the producers in the name of protecting "society". Even though a powerful elite exists who destroy and consume wealth; they do so with the sanction of their victims. Until people accept responsibility for their lives and stop giving away their power to so-called leaders who only exploit their fears, humankind will suffer.

voluntaryist
1st March, 2011 @ 07:51 pm PST

There is a better option. Resource based economics. Read more at http://www.thevenusproject.com/

CanDMan
2nd March, 2011 @ 10:54 am PST

The elite take, they never give, they don't have empathy so they don't care, never have never will.

Until man evolves further the elite will continue to be parasites and the normal man a slave.

RealityBites
29th August, 2011 @ 09:23 am PDT
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