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The global overclass and its playbook for world domination (the actual playbook)

[I'm stickying this because it's an important post. It's everything that would work against the 12-point platform. --lambert]

Golem XIV has two awesome posts that you should read carefully in their entirety: Part one, and part two. I'm just going to pull out the list of plays in part 2.

But first, a note on language: Golem uses "overclass." I think that's preferable to "the 1%." "Overclass" clearly states who's over and who's under; who rules and who's ruled; who exploits and who is exploited, unlike "the 1%," which, although appealing rhetorically, is a mere statistical distribution, and not all that accurate, really: it's the 0.01% that are the real malefactors of great wealth. "The 1%" confuses, say, a wealthy Hollywood entertainment lawyer with Paul Singer or Carlos Slim. That's not to say both aren't on the same side, but they play different roles in civil society, and actually may have differing interests. "You gotta know the territory," as they say in The Music Man.

Herewith, the plays in the playbook and Golem's comment:

1) The Over Class must retain and consolidate their control over the global system of debt.

2) The power to regulate must be taken from nations and effectively controlled by corporations.

3) Professionalize governance. Democracy can be and must be neutered, and an effective way of doing this is to insist that amateur, elected officials MUST take the advice of professional (read corporate) advisors.

4) .... A new way must be found to prise sovereign assets from public ownership.

5) In order to facilitate the political changes necessary, the public mind-set must be changed. National Treasures such as the NHS in Britain must be re-branded as evil State Monopolies.

6) Effective ways must be found to convince people that democratic rule is no longer sufficient to protect them.

7) An alternative to Democracy must be introduced and praised. That alternative must be the Rule of International Law as written and controlled by the lawyers of the 1%....

Status report:

#1: Going swimmingly. (This is why we need a Post Office Bank and a Debt Jubilee.)

#2 This is what the trade deals are all about.

#3 Going swimmingly. (This is why the work letsgetitdone on Interactive Voter Choice is so important. It's not fringe, it's at the heart of the game.

#4. Think Rahm Emmanuel's parking meter scam, or Pelosi's husband selling off Post Offices cheap for a cut of the take, or the Social Security scams of Pete Peterson's posse.

#5. Going swimmingly.

#6 Going swimmingly, here and abroad. Seems to have racked up a notch since the Arab Spring.

#7 That is what the trade deals are for (though I also wonder about the end game in Syraqistan. Could some sort of, er, "New World Order" be the outcome? As part of the "peace process"?

And Golem concludes:

In conclusion, I suggest that this amounts to a dystopian version of the old environmentalist idea of Spaceship Earth. A corporate version where we are just passengers who must pay our passage in a ship someone else owns. No longer inhabitants or citizens with the same inalienable right to be there and be heard as anyone else.

And yet, dark as all this may seem, victory for the 1% depends on no one understanding what is happening. If we are already beginning to see the outlines of what the Over Class wants, then their victory is not assured. If our ignorance is their bliss, then our understanding is like sunlight on a vampire’s skin.

All is not lost, not by a bloody long way.

I agree.

NOTE The plays need catchy, one- or two-word names that function as labels and can be turned into hash tags. And the definitions need to be crisper. But a stellar effort.

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Submitted by lambert on

There's a trope running around comparing the treatment of the Ferguson protesters with the treatment of the Bundy Ranchers, and reducing it to black v. white. But the various privileges are (at least):

  • White Privilege
  • Owner Privilege
  • Conservative Activist Privilege*

to which I am adding, speculatively:

  • Going In The Direction That The Overclass Wants To Go Anyhow Privilege

NOTE * Winger goons are never, ever terrorists, not even when they threaten people with guns, or kill them, or blow up buildings.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

That is what I meant. There isn't a link to the original Graeber post in this post.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

No worries, I hope you don't mind I edited the post to include the Golem post links, because they weren't in there.

Submitted by lambert on

Thanks. No, I don't mind. That's why you have the privileges to do that.

Sorry, I've been a little scattered lately. That's why so many photos, the only peaceful thing.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Vox says:

Late Tuesday night, India's Mars Orbiter Mission successfully went into orbit around Mars, after a ten-month, 420 million-mile journey.

The craft (also known as Mangalyaan, Hindi for "Mars Craft") won't conduct any groundbreaking science — it's primarily a demonstration vehicle. But it is a huge deal for India's emerging space program.

Consider this: only the US, Russia, and the European Union have had successful Mars missions so far. What's more, more than half of all previously attempted missions have failed — including the first attempts made by the US, Russia, and China.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the craft's success is that it was made entirely with homegrown Indian technologies — and was produced on a remarkably small budget.

The entire mission cost $74 million. As Narenda Modi pointed out during a June visit to an Indian rocket facility, that's less than it cost to make the movie Gravity (the film's budget was about $100 million).

It is, by far, the cheapest successful interplanetary mission ever carried out. Here's a comparison to the most recent Mars orbiters launched by NASA (MAVEN), the European Space Agency (Mars Express), Japan (Nozomi), and Russia (Phobos-Grunt). The latter two missions failed to reach Mars. [See chart]

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Submitted by CMike on

This suggests India is operating under a different economic paradigm, at least in their aerospace sector. I can't imagine a U.S. government project as exotic as this one coming in at a dollar number like their Mars shot did even after any purchasing power parity adjustments. I think this bodes ill for western elites, who have come to rely upon rent protected profiteering and government backstops for their unproductive financial activities and government project cost overruns, competing with other elites in the out decades.

Submitted by lambert on

I don't think India went to Mars for $76 million because scientists work for cheap but that they aren't infested like rentiers to the degree we are. (There are plenty, I am sure, which is why farmers commit suicide so frequently, but not, apparently, in their technological sector).

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

I knew what you were saying in your nt comment, and you had expanded on it in a reply to Rainbow Girl all ready, anyway. I was just explaining why I sound off topic on occasion.

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Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

... for western elites, who have come to rely upon rent protected profiteering and government backstops for their unproductive financial activities and government project cost overruns ...


Submitted by lambert on

1) Graeber pointing out the true innovation failures over the last 20 years

2) The dead hand of the rentiers

3) It gives the lie to glibertarians like Elon Musk and the rest of the Silicon Valley dudes; they shouldn't try to do this privately; they should outsource to the Indian government.

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Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

Yes. And how much of the gross income of Silicon Valley Dude product derives from contracts to sell their s**t to government agencies, large and small? IIRC there was an article breaking out the massive percentages of gross income for companies such as Microsoft and IBM that derived from selling to the government(s) through gov. procurement contracts. And that's not even touching the bit about how a lot of the product itself was "designed" (cough, engineered) originally under the auspirces of USA taxpayer money and programs.

What a giant lie about these "Market Heroes." Meanwhile they're just government-protected and funded tapeworms with not an iota of individual creativity or contribution to anything (as "Private Marketeers," that is).

Submitted by lambert on

... with a timeline at the bottom, showing how families/clans/factions accumulated their money.

Graeber adds the new element -- or the Old Mole's element -- of the falling rate of profit.

I've got no beef with Phillips; bought some of his books, back in the day.

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Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

Excellent point of history.

Which, in my view (not sure if it's yours too), underscores the naked truth that the great fortunes (financial and other) of the Overclass clans have been inextricably intertwined with (1) crime and/or (2) reliance on the largesse of government (i.e., the citizenry).

I am really beginning to wonder how on earth so many millions outside the Overclass (in the U.S.) have been so totally in the thrall of the Horatio Alger (or Gault) fictions (Lies, actually) for at least 2 centuries now, which has resulted in the non-Overclass (wo)(men) giving their 100% consent to the existence of the Overclass - as looters of the very "folks" giving their consent, and grabbers of all natural resources and commons(es).

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Submitted by CMike on

I find Seth Shulman's The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret pretty convincing. To move things along I'll link to Part II of a teaser for the book where on page 2 you can take a look at the two reproductions Shulman introduces with the passage:

Here, for your own inspection, are the documents that first set me upon the strange quest to track down the true story about Alexander Graham Bell (click each to enlarge and see the caption):

But for me, it's not so much that the self-made -by hook, crook, or useful endeavor- can accumulate a huge fortune in their lifetime but rather it is that the political power inherent in those fortunes transfers for generations to heirs who have done nothing, otherwise than to inherit it, to earn that power and can begin exercising it in their thirties if not their twenties to boot.

I recommend the whole episode for Alistair Cooke's perspective on the subject, and will add that most of the other episodes in his series also are flat out examples of history superbly told, but here is a clip that concludes with Andrew Carnegie's view of inherited wealth. (Then again in Carnegie's day magnates grew up as just ruthless, rationalizing Victorians, not as Randian embracers of sociopathy.)

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

Great recommendations, and I have some fun reading/viewing in store. Thank you.

I don't think anyone here begrudges the fact of wealth accumulation in the abstract. Unfortunately it appears that the reality on the ground is that the obscene varieties of wealth accumulation (1) have not historically occurred solely by virtue of rugged individualist greatness (as the myth goes) and (2) have always been a phenomenon of political economy, i.e., there was never a time when this type of accumulation happened in a vaccuum, where it wasn't built on the labor and sweat of the unacknowledged (and under or not at all compensated) workers.

As for the inheritance bit and the creation of dynasties with the narrowing genetic trees and the descendants who just have the dough without doing anything - that's just a consequence of the first evil, though an abhorrence in itself, I agree.

If our polis (and its economic guts) could simply implement the motto "Less Pig," we'd be quite a way forwards already.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

...yours up here.

I'd certainly be interested in hearing if there are any books, videos, or posts you might want to recommend. I'm not trying to give the impression I'm broadly read or otherwise well versed in any way but I have happened upon a few gems.

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Submitted by CMike on


[13:18] And here I'm going to cheat [and encapsulate a view] by talking about Horatio Alger who wrote a series of didactic novels in the years following the Civil War. My excuse for cheating is that he was so popular. He was a kind of J. K. Rawlings or Susanne Collins except he was male, a failed minister, and a child molester. He had a vast audience. In Muncie, Indiana where the library records survive between 1891 and 1902, Alger accounted for five percent of all the books checked out during that period.

[13:57] Horatio Alger took the idea of contract freedom and individualism, so resonant with Lincoln, and applied them to a new urban and industrial society. You don't have to actually read an Alger book, all you have to do is read the title and your get the basic message [book cover examples on the slides are Risen From the Ranks and From Farm to Senate]. The plot usually centered on a street urchin who runs into a variety of middle class sponsors.

In Ragged Dick the hero was an orphan selling newspapers and living in a wooden box in an alley. Dick meets a middle class boy, Frank, and his uncle. The uncle tells him, quote, "Remember that your future depends mainly on yourself and that it will be as high or low as you choose to make it."

[14:38] This might seem an astonishing thing to tell an orphaned, illiterate child living in a box in an alley but in Alger's world this is sufficient. Dick learns the, quote, "satisfaction of self-denial and the pleasures of property." These are juvenile novels, of course, and there's only so many of the details of the satisfaction of self-denial that the readers can take and so Alger will cut to the chase. Ragged Dick is riding the ferry to Staten Island when a girl falls off, he dives in to save her, she turns out to be rich and her father is grateful -- presumably if she's poor he throws her back in -- and he's on his way. He gets a job and ragged Dick is ragged Dick no longer, he is now Richard Hunter, Esquire. He, quote, "has taken steps upward determined to mount still higher."

[15:26] Alger insisted the United States remained a place where personal qualities, proper values, competition, and contract relations sorted society into the deserving and the undeserving. Your fate was still in your hands. Alger's and similar novels were often described as "rags to riches" stories but they can be more accurately read, I think, as rags to competency stories.

[15:56] Ragged Dick was not wealthy at the end of the novel. He merely had a job and a chance to rise. Alger was liberalism swaying to one side of the tightrope, denying that anything had changed.

[16:07] William Graham Sumner was as tough minded as Alger was sentimental. He was liberalism playing to the other side. Sumner taught at Yale from 1872 to the end of the century. Writing What Social Classes Owe Each Other in 1883, the answer was nothing. The main reason the social classes had no obligations to each other was that society in his view was not made up of classes or any other collectivity but individuals.

[16:38] Where Jackson and Jefferson had been liberals because they thought that laissez faire and small government would yield a just society of largely equal white men, Sumner made laissez faire and small government goals in and of themselves despite rising inequality.

[16:55] Here's a typical Sumner quote, "Let it be understood, we cannot go outside this alternative: liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest; not: liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members, the latter carries society downward and favors all of its worst members."

The price of liberty and progress was inequality. Sumner's poor have no one but themselves to blame. But if Sumner attacked the poor, he did not praise the rich. His heroes were largely people of middling wealth. The rich remained something of an embarrassment.

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Submitted by letsgetitdone on

The overclass is a great meme.

This is a great post.

Glad you think the reinventing democracy work is so central.

In addition, however,

The MMT work we're collaborating on in the area of Real Fiscal Responsibility is also vital,because if we can get it spread the overclass will have a much more difficult time getting austerity accepted.

In addition, the platinum coin stuff is also very important because if we could elect one president who would do the $60 T version, the austerity game would be over forever.

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Submitted by blues on

"In real life, tyrants do not laugh about starving and murdering children. Instead, they somberly address the nation about "regrettable necessities" and "shared sacrifices," then launch more drones and cut school lunch programs yet again."

Hmm. Maybe I used to agree with that. But lately in the course of my continuing project of developing my «Theory of Everything That Other People Prefer to Not Think About», I have come to entertain darker possibilities...

It's not like tyrants actually "laugh about starving and murdering children." However. The Theory of Everything That Other People Prefer to Not Think About has come to incorporate the notion that «the concept of rich people (and even of modestly affluent people) would be bleached into meaninglessness if the poor ones ceased to exist». That is, the rich need the poor and oppressed for the sake of their own self-definition. So therefor they "launch more drones and cut school lunch programs yet again." (Really only a neocon subset of the rich and powerful actively promote these pogroms; others just jet-set and so on.)

No one should be allowed to own more that 20 times what they need to make a living and live comfortably. People should be required to register their substantial holdings, and if they exceed the 20 times limit, a random jury should force them to sell off the excess, and reduce their holdings to 15 times what they need. The proceeds should go to the commonwealth. Anything they fail to register should be confiscated, and those who willfully avoid registering assets should be punished. That is the only way to control economic royalism and protect freedom and human rights.

Most of our industry has been sold by the rich for profit and shipped down the river to other nations, and there is perhaps only one way to rebuild it. All large industry should be owned and completely controlled by democratic communities and towns. Each community would own an industry, which could only be sold to another community. Some communities would have to be larger than others. For example, an ironmaking operation would require a large community, or consortium of communities. There could be government sponsored research and development communities too. Employees would have to live in the communities, and thus there would be a powerful incentive to minimize pollution. Small businesses would be operated by ordinary companies.

There will be no more rich political parties. No more rich to be protected by vicious policing. No more rich capitalists selling our industrial facilities down the river to China. There must be some regulation, unless we want to be utterly ruled by ultra-rich tyrants. Wealth control would bring freedom and prosperity at last!

I have known about half a dozen billionaire's kids, due to my unusual background. About 2/3rds of them seem like nice people; they seemed friendly and decent. About 1/3rd seemed like exploitative creeps. Most of their family names appear on products that may be found in an average person's home. They were already rich. To me, rich today is having about $250,000,000.00 of relatively expendable money.

I think maybe 30% just live on trust funds and party. Maybe 60% have jobs of some sort, such as sitting in boardrooms from perhaps 10 to 50 hours a week. And maybe about 10% participate in fascistic political "foundations" which do vast harm to our nation and its people. So all in all, the rich screw us over, and thus bestow toxic negative benefits.

Average people do not envy these rich ones. "Envy" is universally defined as "resentful desire of something possessed by another or others." Ordinary folks, and activists also, do not possess energy to waste contemplating resentful desires — they are too preoccupied with dealing the latest toxic negative benefits being foisted on them by the fascistic elements among the rich.

We would all be happier and safer if the rich went away. For example, if no one was allowed to own more than 20 times what they need to live comfortably and to have a good income.

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Submitted by nihil obstet on

During and following the New Deal, income taxes were progressive -- top marginal rates of over 90%. Inheritance taxes were significant as well, although loopholes like trust funds defeated the purpose. We don't need to invent new ways to prevent the piling up of money in a few hands, just to reimpose sensible tax policies.

I agree that the greedy and narcissistic have a streak of sadism that contributes to their enjoyment of wealth.

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Submitted by CMike on

The big box store model, for instance, does offer some efficiencies that I'm not sure we'd be better off losing. What's needed to mitigate its abuses is an organized retail labor force or an adequate minimum wage enforced by law with work rule legal protections in place and both single payer health care and free lifetime education for all in order to guarantee the employees of these enterprises a secure living wage income and other opportunities.

I, myself, am not real big on the idea of centrally planned, one industry (company er,) government towns. Great leaps forward don't always land in greener pastures.