“This is my fear, and it’s a real, legitimate fear,” Greene says, revving up the engine. “You have this huge, huge class of people who are impoverished. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we will build a class of poor people that will take over this country, and the country will not look like what it does today. It will be a different economy, rights, all that stuff will be different.”
Um, yeah. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Why is it, exactly, that the plutocrats think they can indefinitely fuck with the rest of us?
Greene is getting at one dynamic… some sort electoral revolt. But what is worth noting is that traditionally it wasn’t just fear of electoral defeat that encouraged the super rich (or aristocrats previously) to make concessions, it was also the fear of mobs armed with pitchforks.
Throughout the 19th century, many progressive social changes occurred in the context of looming violence. Indeed, fear of the “the Revolution” was the driving dynamic behind much of the politics of progressive policy in Europe, and certainly it was a similar fear that brought many wealthy to accept the improvements in work conditions and ultimately social insurance here.
Indeed, I was reading a book on San Francisco from the 1950s to 1970s — Season of the Witch — and it was a reminder about how much left(ish) violence there was even at the time. It wasn’t that concessions were won at the point of a gun, but rather that a certain amount of fringe violence reminded the wealthy that there were limits they had to acknowledge.
It strikes me that the fall of the Soviet Union is another dynamic. No one is worried about the commies taking advantage of growing inequality, or the consequence of austerity.
The rich are worried about elections, but know they can control that through unlimited money. What they aren’t worried about is their skins.
Another part of the New York Magazine article quotes a hysterical member of the plutocracy:
More often than not, fears like these manifest as loathing for the current administration, as evidenced by the recent wave of Romney fund-raisers in the Hamptons. “Obama wants to take my money and give it to do-nothing animals,” one matron blurted at a recent party at the Pierre for Dick Morris’s Screwed!, the latest entry into a growing pile of socioeconomic snuff porn geared toward this audience.”
Keep it up lady. Keep it up, and sooner or later, holding onto your money is going to be the least of your problems.
Just to be clear, I’m not encouraging or condoning violence. I’m just saying that a healthy respect for the potential of violence in society would be a useful constraint on the sort of slash and burn politics being pushed by today’s right.