Are the Davos Men Getting a Bit Nervous?

Normally I try not to pay much attention to Davos because it is meant to reinforce the idea that plutocracy is simply a manifestation of natural aristocracy. But several media outlets took note of the sudden shift from self-congratulation (as if they were the ones who navigated the ship through the crisis, as opposed to were the big beneficiaries of how the crisis was resolved) to worry as emerging markets swooned on the last day of the conference.

A confident set of aristocrats would not react this way. Richard Whitney, the epitome of 1920s American WASP-dom (tall, handsome, athletic, a bit too often visibly snooty), as head of the New York Stock Exchange did a brief heroic turn by placing a large buy order during the Great Crash and spurring a brief rally. He also had expensive tastes and a bad eye as far the technologies of his day were concerned. He resorted to embezzlement as a way of dealing with his impossibly high debts. When Whitney was caught out, as recounted in Once in Golconda, he took full responsibility for his actions and made sure his staff were not tarred by the scandal. He went to Sing Sing (no Club Feds back then) with his head up and was a model prisoner. His brother eventually repaid all the funds that were pilfered. Contrast that with the usual CEO/top financier found within hailing distance of scandal conduct: they know nothing, remember nothing.

And in a bit of synchronicity, the Wall Street Journal published this letter from Tom Perkins, founder of Kleiner Perkins in the same timeframe (hat tip Yonatan and danny):

Regarding your editorial “Censors on Campus” (Jan. 18): Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.”

From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these “techno geeks” can pay. We have, for example, libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle on our number-one celebrity, the author Danielle Steel, alleging that she is a “snob” despite the millions she has spent on our city’s homeless and mentally ill over the past decades.

This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent “progressive” radicalism unthinkable now?

As danny wrote, “Of all the backwards, ill-considered statements coming from San Francisco elites in recent months, this takes the cake.” Perkin’s firm apparently agreed and tweeted that they were “shocked by his views” and disagreed with them. But these super rich guys to have an unseemly fondness for Nazi Germany comparisons. Recall Steve Schwarzman compared a proposal to close the loophole that lets guys like him pay taxes on their labor income at capital gains rate to Hitler invading Poland.

But more telling is the editorial at the Financial Times, which tells us Davos Men are worried about the threat that automation poses to white collar workers….including them!

Now mind you, the bit about even the folks at the very top not being safe from the threat of computers is a mere aside at a couple of points. But it suggests that deep down, somewhere, a decent proportion of the Galt wanabes actually recognize that the reason they are where they are has to do with luck and timing and not some astonishing superior capabilities that they alone possess.

So why doesn’t someone in the NC commentariat do good and make some money by helping this process along? Doesn’t the world really need a digital CEO? We are moving to computerized call centers and even have computers that can simulate therapists. Surely it isn’t hard to write a program that fires people right and left (the Chainsaw Al module) or the more upscale version that hires McKinsey or some less fancy firm to “rightsize” the company. You need a program that has decision rules as to what to do with excess corporate cash flow. Since there are only two choices, buying back stock or paying dividends, it shouldn’t be that hard to work it out. It will also need to be able to detect when questions are taking a legalistic turn and automatically disconnect from the hard disk and work only off an auxiliary drive. And think of all the money you save! No possibility of sexual harassment suits or insider trading scandals. And all the big bonuses the synthetic CEOs negotiate for themselves can be split between the company and the inventors. And of course you can order personality overlays, like arrogant/pushy (the Dimon/Benmosche flavor), smooth and super corporate (Ken Chennault of Amex style), nerdy, and young digiterati.

I’m waiting with bated breath….

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    1. j gibbs

      We could start small, with independent director robots. Consider the monthly saving in rich foods and pricey wines, the saving in Xeroxing cost for all those lavish binders crammed with fanciful projections and other documents. No doubt we could even engineer female robots and minority robots to maintain the corporate ethos of equal opportunity, and all those director stock options could be channeled to the CEOs so richly entitled to them.

      1. susan the other

        What Yves just outlined was a veritable sketch of the next dr. strangelove blockbuster movie. She can probably see the movie in her head already. Very cool. We should raise the money and pool all our resources and do an indie movie for all the film festivals! For sure there are a few director types in the NC commentariat. And probably a few perfect type-casts for the mockumentary of the 21st century.

      2. flora

        Computer CEOs – an idea whose time has come. Why not make the Board of Director seats simple sub-routines of the main CEO program. The main CEO program could sent to the Director sub-routines as input data the actual answer it wants back as output. The Director sub-routines could do any number of Rube Goldberg computations to look like they’re “seriously thinking” and then send back to the main CEO program exactly what the main program expects and wants. Getting rid of a human CEO and all directors results in, as you say, immense efficiency and savings to the shareholders.
        The only thing is, the Director sub-routines would have to be declared “legal persons” in order to vote proxy shares. But with this Supreme Court that should not be too difficult.

  1. Mark P.

    ‘But it suggests that deep down, somewhere, a decent proportion of the Galt wannabes actually recognize that the reason they are where they are has to do with luck and timing and not some astonishing superior capabilities that they alone possess.’

    I never thought I’d say it, Yves, but I really think you’re being naive here.

    If you could run an engine an energy on human narcissism, it would provide — like human stupidity — a pretty much inexhaustible energy resource. Especially with our current ‘elite.’

    Jamais Cascio (whatever you may think of the guy) attended a conference of the Great and the Good a couple of years back where the attendees included, Cascio notes, “5 or 6 Nobel prize economists, 5 former or current Eurasia prime ministers, couple of CEOs, editor of ECONOMIST.” His Tweeted reactions —

    Jamais Cascio@cascio
    What you’ve always suspected is true: Morons lead us.

    Jamais Cascio@cascio
    Shocked, shocked to find establishment leaders aggressively pro-austerity.
    2 years ago

    Jamais Cascio@cascio
    Finally someone noting that financial austerity hurts ability to get out of growth/employment crisis. academic, of course.
    2 years ago

    Jamais Cascio@cascio
    Ignored, of course. Conversation immediately goes back to how “we” can keep doing austerity without politicians losing their jobs.
    2 years ago

    Jamais Cascio@cascio
    So far unmentioned: inequality, unemployment.
    2 years ago

    More laughs via the link —

    1. flora

      “recognize that the reason they are where they are has to do with luck and timing ”
      They are certainly lucky to be living in a time with no effective SEC regulations of the big fish, no investigations, no prosecutions, and none of the big fish have gone to jail. Even the dimmest of them must vaguely recognize that fact.

    2. Crazy Horse

      Ah yes, Tom Perkins,
      Winner in the little boy’s pissing contest to own the world’s largest sailboat .
      Self-described life goal— sail under the Golden Gate bridge and take a turn around San Francisco Bay while the poor people bow down in worship.
      Bored with his sailboat once he’d showed it off and nobody cared. Sold it to a Russian billionaire.

      Is it possible for a human being to be a more worthless, hollow husk blowing in the wind?

  2. psychohistorian

    I think that many of those Galt wanabes got where they are because they agreed to check their humanity at the door. They agreed to take more and more money to screw the rest of us for the plutocrats that hire/fire and give them direction. Now that parts are starting to fly off the Mad Max machine they created for the plutocrats and the “natives” are getting restless they can feel the heat rising world wide and are challenged to maintain control. No amount of programming is going to build a control system/robot to handle our current insanity.

    Add to that the latest revelation from Snowden that says that “we” spy on Siemens for “national security” purposes. Lets unpack that a bit.
    America is empire….check
    National security is maintenance of empire…check
    Empire is really private, not public…..check
    Much empire spying is done by private contractors……check
    Private contractors doing spying report results up through private channels before handing over to “public” government….check

    I am just positive that those private spies we pay for would never think of using/sharing/selling any information they come across for private use……..LOL!!!!!!!! I have said before and will posit it here again…..Jamie gets the lowdown of the world turning before Obama.

    Open the pod bay door Davos man.

    I am sorry Dave but I can’t do that……..

    Who knew the end times of American empire could be such fun (NOT) to watch…..President Eisenhower is spinning in his grave, having warned us of this direction.

    I just keep wondering if there are any sane adults that will pull humanity out of the tailspin it is in without the elite deciding to blow us all up instead of giving up their control and power. Unfortunately our current military would probably acquiesce to such stupidity.

    1. Massinissa

      Considering that Eisenhower was an early supporter of the MIC, I never really felt that his ‘warning’ saved him from much culpability. Dr. Frankenstein warning the village that his creation is about to come attack them doesnt really strike me as particularly heroic.

      1. PaulArt

        Excellent point but to understand this people need to read a lot more history of the context of the MIC speech which is unfortunate because that takes time.

        1. RWood

          If your sources indicate Ike’s first reaction to the missile buildup/gap was to the *congressional*-military-industrial complex, that would reveal the ruling class and its servants via this money-authority-channel.

      2. Banger

        Ike new about war and understood the need for military strength to act as a deterrent to aggressors. In the world of the first half of the 20th century this was a rational response. What Ike noted was that the war party had, perhaps, split off from the normal constraints of power in Washington and become a force apart from the Exec, Congress and the Judiciary.

        In the next administration we saw the result of all this and a nuclear war was barely averted by two brave brothers who were later shot down for their efforts. Both Kennedy and Khrushchev wanted to end the Cold War, as is clear from their correspondence–but this was, to put it simply, not something the national security state of either country wanted. The end result was to continue the Cold War and keep tensions high enough to allow for a credible amount of tension. Vietnam, as it was fought, was the way later U.S. wars would be fought–in a senseless way that would drag out the war for the benefit of military careerists (promotions were automatic after a tour in Nam) and the mi;itary-industrial complex. All our major wars since then have been fought for the benefit, in my view, of the same class–in fact, the longer you drag them out without a clear result the better. I submit the national security state exists mainly to perpetuate and enrich itself and is a separate branch of government that has power over the other branches of gov’t and, even more, in the mainstream media courtesy of Operation Mockingbird that never waned only waxed in power.

        1. usgrant

          You mean the the same John Kennedy who used the fictional ‘missle gap’ as part of his campaign. Who then OKed the Bay of Pigs, increased our military fingerprint world wide, including Vietnam, ratcheting up cold war tensions, and then not looking for an exit strategy from ‘Nam but instead had his Henry the 2nd moment, “Won’t anyone rid me of this turbulent priest?” and then tried to distance himself from the deed. Now who are you implying snuffed dear John and his complicit brother and for what motive?

          1. Banger

            Kennedy, along with all new Presidents deal with the political status quo. By 1960 the national security state apparatus was firmly in control. The Bay of Pigs was in motion and Kennedy agreed to go in but declined to send air support after he found out the CIA had lied to him about conditions inside Cuba (no fifth-column) and other things–this event caused him to eventually fire Allen Dulles and JFK said he wanted to eliminate the CIA which Truman in later years regretted endorsing. As for Vietnam, NSAM 263 indicated he wanted out and certainly, unknown to most people, Kennedy had actually visited Vietnam a decade before and understood the situation rather well. If you read the Pentagon Papers anyone that had any knowledge of Vietnam believed it was a mistake–it existed, as I said to advance the national security state and for other internal political reasons. But the pressure for staying in Vietnam was huge–even Lyndon realized it was a hopeless case but was afraid of the America’s fascist movement (centered in the military–listen to the WH tapes).

            Having said that Kennedy was certainly a hawk during his election (in contrast to some of his attitudes while in the Senate) because in 1960 the country was in full paranoia regalia with the press manipulated and influenced by the CIA (Operation Mockingbird which continues to this day). Kennedy was a believer in realpolitik and practiced it the best he could–he was, perhaps, the most sophisticated President from a cultural and intellectual POV we’ve had. He was also a bit of a fool to believe he could take on the national security state.

            As for the Kennedy’s death and the subsequent assassinations and other events (Gulf of Tonkin) the official explanations are completely false. Since we don’t have room here for legnthy listing of evidence I will cite the shortest and most glaringly obvious bits of evidence about RFK’s death: 1) Thomas Noguchi’s Coroner’s Report was never entered into evidence in Sirhan’s trial. Why? Because it showed that RFK was shot at point-blank range from the bottom up (Sirhan approached him from the front and from several feet away); and 2) the accoustical evidence showed that there were 13 shots while Sirhan’s gun only held 8 bullets, also witnesses all described “firecracker” sounds–sorry you can’t fire a gun that fast–I’ve fired similar guns and in addition, 14 bullet holes were found in the room. Similar evidence exists to counter the Warren report only the disparities are astonishingly large making the government’s assertions idiotic. Now I know that those of us who have researched the issue are called “conspiracy theorists” or “kooks” or “nuts” which, in our current understanding of intellectual discourse is enough to invalidate any argument and that there is an instinctual feeling, even on the left, that conspiracies are things that only happened before 1789 and that America, by design, cannot have political conspiracies, cabals, and so on which is yet another sign of American Exceptionalism.

            Finally, the history of JFK’s Presidency is marked by a great deal of controversy, contradictions, opposing stories as to what he wanted and did not want to do as is RFK’s role in all these things–it is all very murky as anyone who has spent time around either power or Washington or both knows.

            1. Nathanael

              It’s also been proven that Sirhan Sirhan’s claims of being hypnotized and not having any idea what he was doing…

              ….are completely plausible. The technique has been reproduced by Derren Brown. And we know the CIA was researching mind control at the time.

              1. hiram abiff

                see hank arbarelli’s excellent book on CIA asset Sidney Gottlieb’s mindbending mix of mayhem, & murder

    2. ex-PFC Chuck

      “I just keep wondering if there are any sane adults that will pull humanity out of the tailspin it is in without the elite deciding to blow us all up instead of giving up their control and power.”

      We’re well on our way to proving the Fermi-Hart hypothesis correct.

      1. ex-PFC Chuck

        Upon rereading the Wikipedia entry that I linked above, I note that it is greatly expanded from what I recall of when I first encountered it at least 6-8 years ago. I finally found the what I remember as the primary thrust of that recollection nearly two dozen screens down into the page:

        It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself
        This is the argument that technological civilizations may usually or invariably destroy themselves before or shortly after developing radio or space flight technology. Possible means of annihilation include nuclear war, biological warfare or accidental contamination, climate change, nanotechnological catastrophe, ill-advised physics experiments,[Note 4] a badly programmed super-intelligence, or a Malthusian catastrophe after the deterioration of a planet’s ecosphere.”

        Perhaps we could add to that laundry list “Species suicide by elites,” which subsumes them all and then some.

        1. Banger

          I don’t agree. Intelligent life separated from nature and from a spiritual life (in the broadest definition of the word) certainly has destructive power. But that is a perversion of intelligence. We are not just algorithms.

          Also, to your point of the elites blowing us up–I don’t believe in that. There is no reason for that. Their mind-control techniques have worked very well and no serious dissent is likely anytime soon. The Occupy movement proved that the left, though full of enthusiasm, is so far removed from understanding realpolitik that there’s no chance of change from that direction. The rich are moving us gradually to more of a neo-feudal and fragmented society with an overall robust AI-mediated world government.

          1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

            Any thoughtful and fact based analysis of Realpolitik is going to be slagged as “Conspiracy Theory” in the august pages of The Nation, The NYT as well as Fox News.

            1. Banger

              Most excellent point! Those of us who have read the classical historians know that conspiracy, plots, cabals are a fairly common part of politics. Machiavelli wrote an excellent book on the subject essaying the broad techniques available to those who seek power. Somehow, American Exceptionalism (believe in by the left, right and center in the U.S.) tells us that such things don’t happen in the U.S. unless it is organized crime figures with Italian names.

              In short, I find such notions particularly on the left to be worse than infantile. For the left this refusal to understand history and how power works has made the left, since it divorced itself from the labor movement, ineffective and weak. The great cry of the left is “it’s not fair!”

              1. Crazy Horse

                The litmus test of whether one’s understanding of political events in the US is reality based is whether you accept the official conspiracy theory as a plausable explanation of the events on 9/11.

                If you are willing to believe that the laws of physics were somehow suspended on that day there is little chance that you will ever be capable of understanding how history is written.

                Thus properly prepared, you will not even stop to question why the Government would hide the body of the world’s most wanted criminal in the depths of the ocean and then have Hollywood make a movie to cement their version of reality into the public consciousness.

              2. hunkerdown

                The purpose of the exceptionalist exercise is precisely to conceal the pervasive presence of power in molding our lives. To know who rules you, find out whom you’re not allowed to criticize. To know how you are ruled, find out what you’re not allowed to talk about.

          2. Madtom

            The (unavoidable?) self-elimination of intelligence does not require either elites or blowups. Consider:

            Intelligence of our sort begets technology. (w/o technology the advantage conferred by intelligence would be much smaller, and its owners outcompeted like our familiar intelligent animals have been outcompeted by us. Engineers trounce philosophers.)

            Intelligence/technology yields ever-increasing power to manipulate the environment (even to manipulate the organism itself), and the creation/use of this power becomes a key driver of natural/social selection, producing a positive feedback loop. The metaphorical PA system starts to howl, and some speak of singularities.

            But every new technology, every improvement, entails unforeseen consequences. (competition ensures that obvious advantages will be exploited long before subtle or delayed disadvantages are noticed)

            Eventually, a massively lethal unexpected consequence will appear that is only noticed after it is already irreversible.

            I’d love to see someone show a pleasant way out of this progression to termination, but all my attempts seem to require some wishful thinking as a necessary component. Perhaps the terminal unexpected consequence will be lethal to our technology (like resource depletion) rather than to our species.

            1. hunkerdown

              I think the weak spot is competition (aka social Darwinism, aka agreeing to lose). If one could find a way to portray competition as loathsome, oneupsmanship as insufferable, and respect as something to be earned, not commanded…

              1. Madtom

                Hunkerdown, haven’t those laudable goals and many similar ones been enshrined in the central reference book of Christianity for quite awhile now?

                Funny how little difference that seems to have made to the vast majority of those who style themselves Christians, isn’t it?

                So yes, the challenge is as you say: “If one could find a way . . .”

                But the actual workings of natural selection have given us the actualities of inquisitions, crusades, pogroms, and modern American denial and exceptionalism.

                We need to learn to work with our nature, not fight it. And I fear that as Banger says, today’s elites have succeeded at this far better than we know.

            2. Nathanael

              Oh, there’s a kicker. Imagine a species which is technological, but which exhibits great caution in development of its technology, so as to avoid the disastrous, species-destroying consequencies.

              How likely is such a species to emit RADIO POLLUTION into outer space? Such an intelligent species, very unlike us, would carefully avoid doing so for fear of unanticipated consqeuences. So we’d never detect it.

          3. mansoor h. khan

            Banger said:

            “Their mind-control techniques have worked very well and no serious dissent is likely anytime soon. ”

            The “matrix” can be broken with God’s help!

            Think protestant reformation of the Church.

            Mansoor H. Khan

            1. hunkerdown

              Worst possible example. Many of the most deranged pathologies of Western thought can be traced directly back to Augustine: imperialism, just war, sexual repression, to name a few.

              It’s suspicious how consistently popular faith works to the benefit of incumbent power.

      2. Walter Map

        We’re well on our way to proving the Fermi-Hart hypothesis correct.

        “It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself … Indeed, there are probabilistic arguments which suggest that human extinction may occur sooner rather than later.”

        “We’re not gonna make it, are we?” John Connor asked. “People, I mean.”

        “It is in your nature to destroy yourselves” said The Machine.

        Humanity is in grave danger from its overlords. Also from the overladies.

    3. TimR

      Our Bastards spying on their Bastards isn’t really anything new though. Why so worried about Siemens? You don’t think they’re doing it too, that they’re not connected to German spies? I’m not saying I favor the status quo, but I’m less concerned about the Plutocrats vs. other Plutocrats than the Plutocrats vs. Us.

      1. hunkerdown

        For “Siemens”, substitute “credibility of a multibillion-euro multinational concern headquartered in a Eurozone nation”. A good panderer emphasizes the areas of interest to the panderee, not their own.

  3. sd

    I believe that Snowden made the distinction that the US may spy on a company like Siemens for ‘national interests’ rather than ‘national security.’ A small reminder that the CIA liquidates leaders who stand in the way of corporate profit when a foreign nation’s extractive resources are not cheap enough for Wall Street. Sociopaths indeed.

  4. Benedict@Large

    The idea that automation is responsible for the lack of jobs coming out of the recovery is silly nonsense fabricated by bought and paid for economists. If it’s true of course (it isn’t), then there’s nothing anyone can do about it, which is a fancy way of telling their political water boys that the government must do exactly nothing. Which is why they’ve cooked up the idea. What’s funny about this is that apparently these “best and brightest” have now started to believe their own propaganda, and are thinking these same (non-existent) human replacers are coming for their sorry asses too.

    So let’s see. Don’t do anything when the human replacers replace the little guys, but I wonder how long it will be before these geniuses start cooking up laws making it illegal for they themselves to ever be replaced?

    1. F. Beard

      The idea that automation is responsible for the lack of jobs coming out of the recovery is silly nonsense fabricated by bought and paid for economists. Benedict@Large

      Yet nearly all jobs ARE doomed by automation. So then what? Are the JG folks going to pay nearly all of us to waste our time with make-work while the unjust rich get to do what, when, where, how and how much they work? Why not instead share wealth and income justly so that nearly all of us can work as the rich do? Example: That Book some of you despise commands that nearly everyone shall have family farms, orchards, vineyards, etc. that cannot be permanently sold. It also forbids theft, profit-taking*, usury* and oppression of the poor but all of these are the basis of our current money system. It also commands restitution for theft, not that the victims should have to re-earn what was stolen from them.

      Hint: Ideas based on justice rarely, if ever, become obsolete.

      *Permitted from foreigners.

      1. j gibbs

        Don’t worry, FB, there will be plenty of jobs cleaning up the toxic mess created by the sabotage of industry known as business. And you really should start reading something written within the past 2000 years.

        1. F. Beard

          Errors are endless;
          Truths are one.
          Truth is endless;
          Error is none.

          Truth has a Name
          and so does Love.
          Things cannot save
          but He can and does.

          1. j gibbs

            Business is about salesmanship. The salesman’s idea is to promise as much as possible and deliver as little as possible. Religion carries salesmanship to its highest level: it promises everything and delivers nothing.

            1. mansoor h. khan

              j gibbs,

              Westerners have the wrong idea about monotheism. It is most freeing idea of all. Bar none.

              Historically, clergy and priests and even kings have used the “officialness” of their positions to screw the people and live the high life on people’s money.

              True monotheism allows challenge to any earthly power. True believers are free to fight any power on earth to promote justice. They can of course even fight priests or churches or mosques.

              Mansoor H. Khan

              1. skippy

                What about having deity’s compete in the market place… oh yeah those were the first corporations – my bad… snicker.

                Skippy… I have to say – its still human centric and a bias which can is quite destructive.

    2. PopeRatzo

      And if somehow, automation was responsible, then as a society we better come to terms with a more robust and larger welfare state, because the only other alternative is “population reduction”.

      Not that I want to give anyone any ideas…

      1. F. Beard

        then as a society we better come to terms with a more robust and larger welfare state, PopeRatzo

        Do the rich need a welfare state? Or can they buy what services they need with their unjustly obtained wealth?

        So the solution is just wealth and income distribution and that requires a just money system PLUS restitution for the current system PLUS a Guaranteed Income.

        Hint: One does not build a sound economy on the foundation of a crooked money system.

        1. Ben Johannson

          No, the solution is decently paying jobs, not basic income welfare checks. The poor want to work and they want to earn a respectable wage doing it. You seem to think you know better than they do and take it upon yourself to deny them their wish for dignified work.

          Sorry, but you don’t get to lead other peoples’ lives for them.

          1. F. Beard

            You are confusing the need for work with the need for a job when the NORM in human history is SELF-EMPLOYMENT.

            Give back to people the means of employment stolen from them by the banks such as family farms and an equal share in those businesses that are better left consolidated for economies of scale and people will find plenty of their own MEANINGFUL work to do, BY DEFINITION.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Before family farms, there were family hunting and gathering territories, perhaps one person per 10 square miles.

            2. Ben Johannson

              Self-employment is the norm in non-monetized societies. So all we have to do is regress ourselves to the medieval period . . . hmm, Lord Beard, perhaps?

              1. F. Beard

                Ethical ways to monetize assets are:

                1) 100% purely private banks with no government deposit insurance* nor legal tender lender of last resort nor any other government privileges.
                2) Issue common stock backed by assets and accept it back for the goods and services the issuing company produces from the assets.

                Justice is coming with or without Progressives.

                *The monetary sovereign is the only proper provider of a storage and transaction service for its fiat and that service should make no loans, pay no interest and be free to all citizens up to normal household limits on account and transaction size.

                1. F. Beard

                  *The monetary sovereign is the only proper provider of a storage and transaction service for its fiat FB (moi)

                  Make that *The monetary sovereign is the only proper provider of a RISK-FREE storage and transaction service for its fiat …

                  Let the banks provide their own private monies if they can find people willing to accept them. I suspect they won’t be able to find many and thus will be forced to share wealth and power by issuing their own common stock as private money – what they should have been doing all along except for their greed.

          2. hunkerdown

            They want to work? That’s their problem. Let them sort it out within their own economy of suffering-for-money. Let them abuse one another and pay for the privilege. But above all, keep that Arbeit-macht-Frei nonsense from replicating itself or infecting others.

            1. Ben Johannson

              Well let’s break that comment down:

              Increased suicide rates: you’re cool with them.

              Increased domestic abuse rates: you don’t care.

              Higher divorce rates: “Not my problem”, you say

              More children living in poverty, resulting in a lifetime of physiological damage: “So what?”, you propound.

              Depression: “The weak should perish!”, you exclaim.

              Substance Abuse: “Are there no prisons. . .?”

              Destroyed household and family formation: “. . .decrease the surplus population!”, you demand.

              Perhaps you should move into Mordor, there’s folks there who feel much the same.

  5. JohnB

    What would it take to level the playing field to becoming a CEO/executive?

    Potentially naive opinion alert:
    It seems to me, that free-marketeers laud competition and supply vs demand dynamics, in every area except corporate leadership; people aren’t provided a level playing field for developing the skills necessary to run a corporation, and the hierarchy within a business often (in my view) is rarely based upon how good someone is at the job, but on how well they know those within the leadership, or upon how much they can put on the fraudulent pretence of being competent/better at the job, compared to others.

    So would would it take to do this, to give a more level playing field in opportunity to develop the necessary skills to run a business? Give all workers the opportunity to take on managerial roles, for a certain period, to determine competency? Provide subsidised education on how to perform in those roles?

    What then, given more people with the necessary skills, can be done to force companies to actually allow competition for these roles?

    If there was a practical way of doing this, seems like it’d be a good way of ending the problem of skyward-aiming executive compensation, and (potentially) would be a good way of opening up the corporate hierarchy to more competition, which would make corruption (or concealing it long-term) more difficult.

    1. Carla

      I think Gar Alperovitz’s writings on cooperatives might be a place to start. See your NC headlines today.

    2. Banger

      No way to do that. Corporations are first of all political entities who perform some economic services to others–but that’s not the goal of these establishments. There was a big push in corporations some years back to create “flat” organizations in order to facilitate communications, be more customer oriented and make policies and procedures more rational. This idea was, other than in some tech companies, roundly rejected because people who live to have power prefer power to honest profit from providing good services (with some exceptions). In the end, the corporate world became more not less hierarchical because corporations are where the power is. A senior exec makes ten times or more what a Senator makes–what does that tell you?

    3. SqueakyRat

      What is the point of offering everyone a vanishingly small chance of becoming a successful CEO? Is that supposed to be consolation, or compensation, for the vast majority who, necessarily, will not be able to cash in on that opportunity and who will suffer to make the winners rich?

      1. JohnB

        It’s more about forcing more people to take on the responsibilities of management, so that this isn’t the exclusive playground of powermongers, who act corruptly within the corporate structure – primarily to enrich themselves and others they are closely connected to.

        Not just of forcing people to do that either, but to level the playing field on who gets to develop that skillset as well (helping to remove the advantage of ‘privilege’/connections, that often seems to determine who gets managerial/executive roles), so that the ‘market’ of managerial-competent people is rich, which would allow better competition for lucrative managerial/executive roles, and should help drive down executive pay levels to a less insane level.

  6. PaulArt

    The rise of the CEOs is proof of the ignoramuses that Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and the entire sorry Blue Dog caucus were and still are regarding the history of the Fat Cats. Go back in history, these people have NEVER behaved in any other way except the examples quoted in this article. It is not for nothing that the Bible and other religious books warn us about the evil brought about by the love of money. The moment you start thinking that you stand apart from the rest of the human race is the moment when you should be blindfolded, taken out at dawn and shot for the good of the rest of human kind. The combination of allowing CEOs to get unlimited stock options, carried interest and the rolling back of Glass-Steagall were terrible onslaughts on our society. It enabled the rise of these fat cats. Any solution MUST start by rolling these back completely.

    1. Vatch

      There are bills in the U.S. Congress to restore the Glass Steagall Act (or at least portions of it). Go to, formerly thomas.loc.goc and search for “Glass Steagall”. One bill is entitled “21st Century Glass-Steagall Act of 2013”, and the other is the “Return to Prudent Banking Act of 2013”. U.S. citizens, please write to your Congress critters about these bills.

      1. F. Beard

        “Prudent banking” once included denying loans to black neighborhoods.

        You should aim for “ethical banking” and you’ll automatically get prudent banking too. Example: 100% purely private banks might still have discriminated against blacks wrt lending but they would have had to pay high real interest rates for savings (including from blacks) so there’d be much less need to borrow in the first place and a limited (unlike credit which can be unlimited) amount of loanable funds to lend anyway so ONLY the most prudent loans would be considered.

  7. Jmd

    Think about Davos…think about Tom Russo, the former general counsel of Lehman and right-hand man to Dick Fuld, swanning there for CNBC year after year…he’s presently general counsel of, yes, famous bail-out recipient AIG. Think of Maria Bartiromo and the other dignitaries at Davos, Nicholas Berggruen, in a fawning, embarrassing, laughable piece in the NYT yesterday, and you’ll see why no one takes it seriously. Davos? It might as well be Six Flags New Jersey for all of the ‘intellectual firepower’ that you see there. Blech!

    1. Ulysses

      While I don’t disagree that most Davos men (and a handful of token Davos women) deserve to be mocked for their stupidity, I am still very concerned about their current power to do evil in our world:
      “A few hundred people, backed by an army of bribed politicians, academic apologists, intelligence spooks, experts of all sorts and the repressive force of the military and police, hold civilization by the throat and threaten to destroy it to satisfy their insatiable greed. This social—or, to be more precise, anti-social—element is virulently hostile to the people, contemptuous of democratic rights, and militaristic.
      In its effort to expand its personal wealth, it relentlessly attacks the living standards of the working class—the vast majority of the population. All over the world, governments controlled by the plutocrats impose ever more painful austerity, cutting wages, slashing jobs, dismantling social programs, closing schools, gutting health care. State treasuries are emptied to provide bailouts to the banks and corporations and central banks pump trillions into the financial markets to drive up stock prices, corporate profits and CEO pay. All legal restrictions on profit-making are lifted.
      To deal with the opposition of the workers, governments are systematically criminalizing organized resistance by the working class. In countries across Europe, every significant strike is met with legal bans and police violence.
      Petrified at the prospect of social revolution, they are putting in place the infrastructure of a global totalitarian police state, as revealed by the revelations of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
      Competing cliques of plutocrats, using their national states as bases of operation, invade weaker countries and occupy and plunder them without mercy, inflicting death and destruction. In the struggle against their rivals for control of territories, markets, resources and cheap labor, they turn the planet into an armed camp and threaten to plunge mankind into a third world war, this time with the prospect of nuclear annihilation.”

      1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

        Money is not really the driving force with Davos Man. It is, rather, an all consuming lust for power over others. It’s perhaps at last dawning on mankind that no political system yet devised is proof against sociopathy.

        1. hunkerdown

          Fair enough, but which might be the most resistant under the most probable replacement scenarios? It seems that one of the biggest problems is that politicians have more right to continue ruling than citizens have to remove them. In no other industry that I know of does an employee have the chartered right to continue wrecking up the factory for the remainder of their scheduled shifts than the owner has to protect the factory.

          Whatever comes next, “at the pleasure of the citizenry” is key. It’s not a question of technology to perform flash plebiscites or confidence votes at any scale, from precinct to national — we could deploy such a thing in 72 hours flat, modulo standard bureaucratic wrangling. It’s a question of a culture whose only operating or guiding principle is authority.

      2. Banger

        I wouldn’t go that far. Not that I’ve been to Davos or, lately been even within cannot shot of power, but having grown up in the neighborhood of the international ruling class I can assure you these people are not stupid. Intellectually they are uncurious, as a group, but why do the need to search? They know what it takes to gain and maintain power and that takes quite a lot of smarts–it’s basically playing a very sophisticated form of chess so it takes a lot of focus and power.

        I don’t think most of them want to destroy the world and ruthlessly exploit it–I think, rather, they want to manage it and try to not damage things too much. They are, of course, in competition with each other so that makes it hard but I’ve noticed that in recent years there is an attempt to create an international ruling elite that goes to many conferences and meetings whether it is Davos or other venues to create ad hoc emergent networks. This is what many critics of the power-elite don’t understand–the technology of power is much more powerful and sophisticated than it was a half-century ago. Chaos theory, the maturity of systems theory, the cybernetic revolution that has not only brought us ubiquitous computing but the ability to run software that can find patterns, patterns of patterns and on up the scale as well as AI applications and robotics and so on but also has made the idea of networks (neural nets and so on) to mature into emergent virtual organisms. I believe the current power-elite are rapidly moving towards a world-state based on emergent properties rather than some hierarchical set of human arrangements. My guess is that we will be ruled by a virtual and constantly changing (depending on conditions) virtual emperor made up of millions of “selves” or routines. But I’m going into sci-fi now but you get the picture. I don’t believe the elites are blindly going to be so many Hitlers or Capt. Ahabs doing down with the ship–they’ll make it work–for them.

        It is up to us to create a competing emergent system but the left seems stuck in reverse in terms of thinking–only the populist right seems to have a small grasp on how power works. But things could change.

        1. hunkerdown

          The radical left also understands (or at least is not blind to) power and its workings, at least among the cypherpunks. So maybe that’s not where the cut line is.

          Retail politics provides a social identity, a Great Project around which that social identity can coalesce, and a way to avoid thinking about power — all of it, by design. The first is apparently a basic human need; the second a basic social/organizational need, and the last a crutch. The content is irrelevant as long as people consume it and there aren’t too many unpredictable side effects. Could it be that the mainstream has stage fright and too many easy ways to avoid facing it?

  8. Moneta

    Since most bankers have proven themselves to be commodities in the grand scheme of resource allocation, their salaries are bound to drop to median wages.

    I guess the high incomes are compensation for keeping the skeletons in the closet.

  9. NotTimothyGeithner

    I think there might be concern about being cash poor which saw the dismantle mentioned of gilded age wealth. If I recall the Biltmore was owned by the youngest and poorest member of the (I’m too lazy to look it up) family. That money has been maintained over the years along with an amazing house.* The fortunes of the older siblings were lost over the years, but largely it wasn’t the shocks but not being able to pay debts without breaking up revenue generating assets.

    Private security forces are accepting stocks and you can bet they have made promises of payment.

    The Biltmore trip is fun. Asheville, NC was a nice town.

    1. Ulysses

      You won’t have to look it up if you follow this helpful hint: “Which famous robber baron had a surname that ended in “bilt” like the first 4 letters of Biltmore?”

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Argggh! I’m sort of a gardener, low maintenance plants that birds like, so I was a tad more interested in the grounds.

    2. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

      What happens in the west when the elite can no longer afford to pay the private military-security overlords? Something very ugly I predict.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Plenty of places are ugly and aren’t going nuts because there is a view the Democrats and in the case of the X tian right the GOD are fighting the good fight. They are just stopped by partisanship, but this is really a sign that people don’t want to admit they elected a dolt or a crook and prefer invisible villains.

  10. Garrett Pace

    LOL Chainsaw Al Dunlap. I was in b-school long after he had been discredited, but his “success” at Scott Paper was still the subject of an approving business case discussion.

    1. Vatch

      Regarding Al Dunlap, see the book The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson. Here’s what Wikipedia ( Albert J. Dunlap ) says about this:

      ‘In the book The Psychopath Test, the author, Jon Ronson, recounted an interview he did with Dunlap where he asked if Dunlap felt he fit the characteristics of a psychopath, though without initially using the label “psychopath.” According to Ronson, Dunlap freely admitted to possessing many of the traits of a psychopath, but that he considered them positive traits such as leadership and decisiveness. In a review of the book, Business Week reported that Dunlap “scores pretty high on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist.”‘

  11. Talking purpleturks

    Baby steps. Radical change might be too hard. First we should eviscerate and taxidermically mount the incumbents and rig them with audio-animatronic devices to report the system outputs.

  12. fajensen

    I think the elites worry more about the more immediate robotic threat scenario: Autonomous drones.
    It is hard to drag along something like “Iron Dome” everywhere you go and expensive too. No more golf games and scenic views from glass towers for the elites!

  13. impermanence

    Davos people are the ultimate purveyors of the ‘something for nothing’ scam, little more.

  14. MacCruiskeen

    While you probably could make a ceobot, it would probably be cheaper just to outsource the work to Bangladesh. You could probably set up a whole executive suite, with the board of directors and everything, for less than the cost of Dick Fuld’s washroom.

  15. Jerome Armstrong

    lol, that was like reading a fiction novel– can’t believe it’s real. “Progressive” radicals– this guy ain’t seen nothin yet.

  16. MikeW_CA

    This commentary by Mr. Perkins confirms a suspicion that’s been sneaking up on me for quite a while now.
    Ordinary working Americans have more confidence in the legitimacy of the privilege of the “Masters of the Universe” than the Masters themselves have.

  17. smokethebarbecue

    The Davos men are nervous? Maybe they read this:

    “…the economy, as we have known it for more than two centuries, will cease to be viable at some point within the next ten or so years unless, of course, some way is found to reverse the trend”

    When you add in environmental blowback (of which climate change is just a part),
    the Davos men are going to be getting a lot more nervous.

  18. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Did someone say that it was an error and the correct translation should be Devils Men and not Davos Men?

  19. Ignacio

    The moment computers become decision makers in all sectors those neoclassical models based on Homo economicus will turn to be… good models.

  20. Hugh

    Davos men are the French aristocrats of our day. They do not fail. They are only failed, usually by lazy, obstreperous peasants. They view themselves as the epitome of the natural social order. They will believe this and that they are being terribly ill used even on the tumbrils taking them to the guillotine.

    In reality, Davos men are the great criminals of our times, and their enablers. They are financial terrorists. They do represent the top of a social order, the order of the locust, the sociopath. They are immensely, unimaginably destructive. Their victims number in the billions. The deaths and ruined lives on their hands are incalculable. They may look like oblivious, preening, super entitled clowns but we should never forget these are people who are truly evil and mean us only harm.

    1. Ulysses

      Excellent comment! This is why I tremble for the souls of those much further down the order of locusts who enable their atrocities. The union-busting “education reformers,” the software engineers working for the Panopticon, the academics who pretend that establishment sell-outs really are trying to improve things for the “less fortunate.”

      Banger is right we need to understand the true ruthlessness of the powerful. They are vain and shallow, but lethal all the same. Trying to appeal to their better natures is futile, as is any sort of reform that depends on their voluntarily behaving in an honest fashion.

      Our current crop of arrogant elites can be overthrown, no doubt. Yet history suggests that elites are like the moles in whack-a-mole: eventually they pop back up, and start screwing things up for the rest of us until we whack ’em again!

  21. rps

    A digital CEO? That’s a joke. The CEO’s sole purpose is to go to bat and hit malfeasance, fraud, embezzlement and larceny allegations out of the ballpark without being hit by the pitcher. That is to say, the claim of no knowledge since the CEO insulated bubble-effect from the known knowns are duly kept from them with their express orders not to know, knowing all paper trails, phone calls, meetings and signatures are not to be seen, heard or talked about in the presence of the CEO; thus plausible deniability. The known unknowns is that lowly conscientious employee who sends internal memos, voice mails and data to the CEO. Or worse, who ignores chain of command and happens to walk into his office to alert the CEO about internal fraud such as Sherron Watkins of Enron or Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom. Then there’s the unknown unknowns; the employee secretly working with the SEC or FBI – then again that’s not likely to happen since the C’s have cannibalized the regulators and laws rigged with the extra safety feature of internal moles working on the behalf of their future employers. Lucky for the CEOs, malfeasance, fraud and larceny have been legalized. Now their job consists of denying knowledge and the occasional hang their head in public hearings while being admonished by Congress for public show. Move along

  22. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I don’t want to scare people, but I see in my crystal ball no robot CEO’s but clone CEO’s.

    Clone CEO’s are good for vicarious serving of jail time while the original one-and-only CEO’s party on.

    Look for the story in an upcoming congressional legislation or a sci-fi fiction, whichever comes first.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      If you never read the whole 47% Romney transcript, I highly recommend it because the whole video demonstrates Mittens was the most thoughtful and intelligent man in that room besides the mole. The oped comparing the Super rich not being super popular to Jews in Nazi Germany is the norm for these people, partially because they aren’t corrected anymore.

      They don’t commit crimes when they do, and guys like Holder are beholden to their overlords and will defend them through thick and thin.

  23. MikeNY

    Yes, the right historical analogy is 1793, not 1938.

    Tom Perkins is in such a gilded bubble that he’s a burlesque of the plutocrat.

  24. Kunst

    “I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent.”

    That would be a bad thing if the one percent all earned their money honestly. All over the world, and the US is not an exception, much of the extreme wealth we see concentrated at the top has been gained by means that by any fair judgment amount to dishonesty, corruption, favoritism, and theft. That’s why the people are turning against the rich. How did Mitt Romney get a $100 million IRA? By playing very loosely with the rules, I think. And when wealth turns into political power that bends the rules toward the wealthy, well, oligarchs are not unique to Russia. Top that all off with cheating and/or rigging the system to pass down massive wealth and political power to future generations that did nothing to earn it and you have the makings of a permanent (or at least long-term) aristocracy. Viva la revolucion!

  25. lambert strether

    Perkins is just as crazy pants as any other hoader. He’s just hoarding capital instead of kleenex boxes or old newspapers. (I keep hearing stories about rich people with so many houses they forget they have one or two — but their staff just keeps running them. Same thing.)

    Why we look to these people as moral exemplars I cannot imagine.

  26. bob goodwin

    Yves, I have done a fair bit of work on exactly the question you raise. The answer comes from post-materialism. I should be careful, we will always need money to manage limited resources, but limited resources will decline in relative value over time. The other aspect is materialisms preference for control and fact. When information moves faster (which will happen inevitably for the same reason that money has accelerated in the past) it will be harder for people to corner information. It will be harder to insist on a specific truth. Top down is needed for scale, but free flowing information is far more efficient means of scale. Bye bye materialist CEO. Bye bye privacy. They were both imaginary anyway.

  27. Lune

    I don’t need automated CEOs. I’d just be happy if U.S. laws allow us to outsource them. Seriously, why is U.S. management the only class of workers protected from outsourcing? You can’t run an airline in the U.S. without an American CEO. You can’t run a telecom company either. Let’s see: a Chinese auto worker costs significantly less than an American worker, so “inevitably” it must follow that the jobs go to China. According to our neoliberal elites, this is an unstoppable force which we are powerless to counteract. Yet American CEOs cost many multiples of European and Asian CEOs, many of whom do a fine job managing their own MNCs. So why can’t CEO and upper mgmt jobs also be outsourced to much cheaper foreign managers? Why does comparative advantage and the invisible hand stop at the C-suite?

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