Corporatism and the illusion of “scarcity”
Here’s an exchange I came across on a board:
The other day I saw someone spend £35,000 on a contemporary art piece by Ai Weiwei, which was merely a glass jar of sunflower seeds. That’s it. These are people with more money than they could possibly spend and they have no clue what to do with it so spend it on useless crap. There are people lacking basic necessities in this world and for people to be blowing so much money on useless goods is immoral and obscene. Do you disagree with this?
If there is nothing illegal, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with how they spend their money. Wow, you guys want to really be intrusive in controlling how others spend money. Unbelievable! If you believe that this person is spending money poorly and you think you have a convincing argument, convince that person to spend it on your just cause, instead of just passive aggressively reporting it here.
The problem with this is not about it being illegal or not, but that, to put it as the Zeitgeist films have pointed out, we are operating under an illusion of scarcity with this competitive system, where there seems to be only so much money, and it has to be divided in a fashion where those at the top have most of it, but then they are basically throwing it away (and then these people’s defenders blame the poor, unions, government regulations, etc. for “burdening” them, and thus as it were “forcing” them to take the jobs elsewhere).
However, the way they’re living is not one of scarcity; it’s one of abundance; ridiculous “money to burn” abundance, but the system they are running makes it seem like it is scarce, as it is in fact scarce for everyone else. [The conservative response that giving the rich more will create a “bigger pie” is a de-facto acknowledgment of a notion of scarcity. The debate is on whether that is true, or who is really to blame for there being such an apparently small pie].
So that rich person spending that much on that kind of stuff, perhaps (along with his board members, shareholders, “the market” led by other CEO’s like him, etc) might have raised the prices on their goods, cut quality, cut jobs, worker pay, etc. while reaping the benefits of deregulation and tax cuts (while his conservative defenders all scream we are becoming “socialist” and persecuting guys like this and forcing them to make the cutbacks they do), so he’s making it seem like he HAS to have the level of money he does, or he is being wronged (robbed of “his” money, which is then given to the “undeserving”, etc); or in other words, making it seem like he is being deprived of his right to live, but he is not “living” with that money; he is being completely frivolous with it.
Again, the issue is not about “rights”, and “legality”; but about the line they are feeding us (through their conservative mouthpieces and defenders), that there is no money for anyone else (and it is all our fault for not “working hard enough” like he did; as if there was really so little money that one had to be a CEO to live decently). And then blaming other groups for eating up all the money.
No, all the money in this economy is not going to a color TV or stereo or food stamps for the poor, or salary and benefits for unions and other workers, or even for health care. It’s going to glass jars of sunflower seeds, and other stuff like that! ($89,000 pheasant hunts, wine tasting courses, etc).
In the same discussion, someone had also said:
Poor people work hard, sure. But the value of one’s labor is not determined by effort; it is determined by the results/consequences or quality of one’s labor. Business owners’ labor have more important and higher-order responsibilities for the business as a whole than the labor of someone performing menial tasks. Thus it is more “fair” that the owner gets the larger share than the person performing the menial task.
Your idea of “fair”, so it seems, is that one should be paid solely based on effort. I don’t think this is tenable because I don’t see how you can accurately determine how much effort a person is putting into a task. Even in your example, how do you know that billionaire is not working “100 times harder” than the school teacher?
My response to that was Funny, but when responding to the problem of poverty, Conservatives (who defend this system) then begin focusing on “effort” (how those on the top must have put forth so much more of it, and how those on the bottom, haven’t, and are thus “lazy”, etc).
A couple of other good articles: