Thomas Piketty – The left’s new hero
We don’t have many heroes today. Not the kind that are willing to call out the real truth and tell it like it is. We have a lot of pseudo heroes thought. The right has Sterling and Cliven Bundy. The left has Krugman and Rachel Maddow and Robert Reich and now Thomas Piketty.
Seems that Thomas Piketty has a new “Tell All” book out, Capital in the Twenty-First Century that is creating quite a stir in the blogosphere for it’s “Truth Telling” of the Wall Street world. However James Howard Kunstler seems to differ in his latest essay in Clusterfuck Nation. I will highlight some of the juicer parts here [with commentary of course].
The first mistake of Piketty fans such as New York Times op-ed ass Paul Krugman is the assumption that the dynamic labeled “capitalism” is an ism, a belief system that you can subscribe to or drop out of, depending on your political correctitude. That’s just not true. So-called capitalism is more like gravity, a set of laws that apply to and describe the behavior of surplus wealth, in particular wealth generated by industrial societies, which is to say unprecedented massive wealth. The human race never saw anything quite like it before. It became both a moral embarrassment and a political inconvenience. So among the intellectual grandiosities of modern times is the idea that this massive wealth can be politically managed to produce an ideal equitable society — with no side effects.
Indeed, the left loves anyone who proposes ideas and solutions that mean they can retain their 6 figure incomes and grandiose life styles. He also points out that the decrease in fossil fuels is the main reason that the industrial revolution is coming to a halt, it’s engine running out of gas, as it were.
Piketty and his fans assume that the industrial orgy will continue one way or another, in other words that some mysterious “they” will “come up with innovative new technologies” to obviate the need for fossil fuels and that the volume of wealth generated will more or less continue to increase. This notion is childish, idiotic, and wrong. Energy and technology are not substitutable with each other. If you run out of the former, you can’t replace it with the latter (and by “run out” I mean get it at a return of energy investment that makes sense). The techno-narcissist Jeremy Rifkins and Ray Kurzweils among us propound magical something-for-nothing workarounds for our predicament, but they are just blowing smoke up the collective fundament of a credulous ruling plutocracy. In fact, we’re faced with an unprecedented contraction of wealth, and a shocking loss of ability to produce new wealth. That‘s the real “game-changer,” not the delusions about shale oil and the robotic “industrial renaissance” and all the related fantasies circulating among a leadership that checked its brains at the Microsoft window.
This “Magical Thinking” has been quite popular with the left for sometime. Any one remember in the 1950s how nuclear power was going to “Save us all !” and give us all “Cheap energy, now and into the future.” That has worked out REAL well, hasn’t it. [snark intended] Or that solar and wind will now bring us to some energy nirvana. [Don’t get me wrong, I love solar and wind. But to replace carbon base fuels ? Forgetaboutit. If we truly wanted or thought we could have this “energy magic bullet” there would be a hell of a lot more time, energy and resources into finding a replacement.
Historically advances of this kind have not come from think tanks or research institutions, but some clown in his/her garage or shack who had a eureka moment. “AHA…I’ve found it !” Then if took another set of clowns to figure out just what “it” was, since the first clown hasn’t a clue. But I digress.
I suppose it’s counter-intuitive in this moment of the “Deep State” with all its Orwellian overtones of electronic surveillance and omnipotence, but I’d take the less popular view that the Deep State will choke to death on the diminishing returns of technology and that nation-states in general will first degenerate into impotence and then break up into smaller units. What’s more, I’d propose that the whole world is apt to be going medieval, so to speak, as we contend with our energy predicament and its effects on wealth generation, banking, and all the other operations of modern capital. That is, they’ll become a lot less modern.
We are seeing this now, in other countries and even here. With people, groups and even states telling the Federal Government to “Bugger Off” on more and more issues. With the Federal Government having to capitulate more and more. And else where like the Ukraine and Italy. I’m waiting for Brittany and Bavaria to start getting antsy.
I doubt that the Warren Buffets and Jamie Dimons of the world will see their wealth confiscated via some new policy of the Internal Revenue Service — e.g. the proposed “tax on wealth.” Rather, its more likely that they’ll be strung up on lampposts or dragged over three miles of pavement behind their own limousines. After all, the second leading delusion in our culture these days, after the wish for a something-for-nothing magic energy rescue remedy, is the idea that we can politically organize our way out of the epochal predicament of civilization that we face. Piketty just feeds that secondary delusion.
I have stated this many times. Thinking that we can somehow magically change this at the voting booth is just silly at best. Talk about magical thinking…OY ! Throughout history, such choices have been made by people who become royally pissed off and over throwing the situation…usually violently. And such changes have nearly always resulted in just exchanging one set of robber baron scum-bags for another.
The most plausible framework for understanding that is the circulation of elites. This refers to the tendency in history for one ruling elite to be overturned and replaced by another group, often by violence, and then become the new ruling elite. It always happens one way or another, and even the case of the Bolsheviks in Russia during the industrial 20th century can be seen this way.
Catching everyone by surprise, for some reason. Even those who planned it and wanted it in the first place. Here comes the new boss…same as the old boss.
Image Flickr creative commons