Growing Inequality Under Global Capitalism

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Yves here. Even though much of the material in this post will be familiar to regular readers, some points are worth emphasizing. One defense regularly made of globalization is that even though it has lowered income of less-skilled workers in advanced economies (and even those of some skilled workers), laborers in emerging economies have gained. This picture is simplistic. As Joseph Stiglitz pointed out years ago, and the picture hasn’t changed much, China has captured all of the income gains by emerging economies. Poverty in developing economies ex China hasn’t budged. And the authors stress that inequality has exploded in China.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram,  former UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development and Anis Chowdhury, former Professor of Economics, University of Western Sydney, who held various senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok. Originally published at Inter Press Service

Income and wealth inequality has increased in recent decades, but recognition of the role of economic liberalization and globalization in exacerbating inequality has never been so widespread. The guardians of global capitalism are nervous, yet little has been done to check, let alone reverse the underlying forces.

Global Elite Alarmed by Growing Inequality

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has described severe income inequality as the biggest risk facing the world. WEF founder Klaus Schwab has observed, “We have too large a disparity in the world; we need more inclusiveness… If we continue to have un-inclusive growth and we continue with the unemployment situation, particularly youth unemployment, our global society is not sustainable.”

Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director, told political and business leaders at the WEF, “in far too many countries the benefits of growth are being enjoyed by far too few people. This is not a recipe for stability and sustainability.” Similarly, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has warned that failure to tackle inequality risked causing social unrest. “It’s going to erupt to a great extent because of these inequalities.”

In the same vein, the influential US Council of Foreign Relations’ journal, Foreign Affairs, carried an article cautioning, “Inequality is indeed increasing almost everywhere in the post-industrial capitalist world…. if left unaddressed, rising inequality and economic insecurity can erode social order and generate a populist backlash against the capitalist system at large.”

Much Ado About Nothing?

Increasingly, the main benefits of economic growth are being captured by a tiny elite. Despite global economic stagnation for almost a decade, the number of billionaires in the world has increased to a record 2,199. The richest one per cent of the world’s population now has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined. The world’s eight richest people have as much wealth as the poorer half.

In India, the number of billionaires has increased at least tenfold in the past decade. India now has 111 billionaires, third in the world by country. The largest number of the world’s abject poor also live in the same country — over 425 million, a third of the world’s poor, and well over a third of the country’s population.

Africa had a resource boom for a decade until 2014, but most people there still struggle daily for food, clean water and health care. Meanwhile, the number of people living in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank, has grown substantially to at least 330 million from 280 million in 1990!

In Europe, poor people bore the brunt of draconian austerity policies while bank bailouts mainly benefited the moneyed. 122.3 million people, or 24.4 per cent of the population in the EU-28, are at risk of poverty. Between 2009 and 2013, the number of Europeans without enough money to heat their homes or cope with unforeseen expenses, i.e., living with “severe material deprivation,” rose by 7.5 million to 50 million people, while the continent is home to 342 billionaires!

In the United States, the income share of the top one per cent is at its highest level since the eve of the Great Depression, almost nine decades ago. The top 0.01 per cent, or 14,000 American families, own 22.2 per cent of its wealth, while the bottom 90 per cent, over 133 million families, own a meagre four per cent of the nation’s wealth. The top five per cent of households increased their share of US wealth, especially after the 2008 financial crisis. Meanwhile, the richest one per cent tripled their share of US income within a generation.

This unprecedented wealth concentration and the corresponding deprivation of others have generated backlashes, arguably contributing to the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election, the Brexit referendum, the strength of Marine Le Pen in France, the Alternative for Germany, and the ascendance of the Hindutva right in secular India.

“Communist” China and Inequality

Meanwhile, China has increasingly participated in and grown rapidly as inequality has risen sharply in the ostensibly communist-ruled country. China has supplied cheaper consumer goods to the world, checking inflation and improving living standards for many. Part of its huge trade surplus — due to relatively low, albeit recently rising wages — has been recycled in financial markets, mainly in the US, which helped expand credit at low interest rates there.

Thus, cheap consumer products and cheap credit have enabled the slowly shrinking “middle class” in the West to mitigate the downward pressure on their living standards despite stagnating or falling real wages and mounting personal and household debt.

China’s export-led development on the basis of low wages has sharply increased income inequality in the world’s largest country for more than three decades. Beijing is the new “billionaire capital of the world,” no longer New York. China now has 594 billionaires, 33 more than in the US!

Since the 1980s, income inequality in China has risen faster than most! China now has one of the world’s highest levels of income inequality, rising mainly in the last three decades. The richest one per cent of households own a third of the country’s wealth, while the poorest quarter own only one per cent. China’s Gini coefficient for income rose to 0.49 in 2012 from 0.3 over three decades before when it was one of the most egalitarian countries in the world. Another survey put China’s income Gini at 0.61 in 2010, greatly exceeding the US’s 0.45!

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  1. MoiAussie

    Global Elite Alarmed by Growing Inequality is a rather misleading, or rather, abbreviated, subhead. On suspects it should be Global Elite Alarmed that Growing Inequality may not be Sustainable.

    Is there any evidence anywhere that Global Elites would want voluntarily to reduce inequality?

    1. cnchal

      The reality is the global elite are alarmed that inequality isn’t high enough, and fear having to give up a single dollar to the poors. There is no measuring stick big enough to measure the elite’s greed.

      Apple workers in China are so abused and underpaid, I am waiting for a factory rampage. When your sweat is stolen by Tim Cook colluding with the criminal leaders of China to steal all your effort for themselves, that would drive anyone nuts. Buying an Apple product means thousands of Chinese slaves are tortured.

      1. Moneta

        Proof: 1% in US keep on arguing how they only collect 20% of income but pay 40% of taxes.

        They don’t seem to realize that if their income had stayed at 30x the lowest paid instead of 300x, the lower paid would actually be paying more taxes.

        Second, the rich typically have low incomes relative to assets so if taxes included assets, it would be interesting to see how that proportion would change.

        Furthermore, why should someone get waterfront property just because of their birthright and have the audacity to tell the younger ones to pick themselves up by their bootstraps? If society does not fix the problem, Mother Nature will.

        1. cnchal

          Chinese labor get’s shot if they were to try and organize a fight for better working conditions. The elite here and there conspire with each other to profit from it.

          Here is proof:

          Meanwhile, China has increasingly participated in and grown rapidly as inequality has risen sharply in the ostensibly communist-ruled country. China has supplied cheaper consumer goods to the world, checking inflation and improving living standards for many. Part of its huge trade surplus — due to relatively low, albeit recently rising wages — has been recycled in financial markets, mainly in the US, which helped expand credit at low interest rates there.

          Thus, cheap consumer products and cheap credit have enabled the slowly shrinking “middle class” in the West to mitigate the downward pressure on their living standards despite stagnating or falling real wages and mounting personal and household debt.

          China’s export-led development on the basis of low wages has sharply increased income inequality in the world’s largest country for more than three decades. Beijing is the new “billionaire capital of the world,” no longer New York. China now has 594 billionaires, 33 more than in the US!

          There are suicide prevention nets in the stairwells and around the building where Apple products are made. And they make really shitty money, compared to what they put out.

          Apple has what, a fifth of a trillion stashed “offshore”. Where did it come from? Right out of the sweat of those workers.

          There is a fundamental difference between our politicians and Chinese politicians.

          In our system, narcissists are elected and are then surrounded by psychopaths, in China it’s a total brawl all the way to the top, so they skip the narcissist step.

  2. dontknowitall

    One way that inequality can be mitigated is by increasing government spending to create jobs and improve infrastructure but forecasts of the benefits can be manipulated to defeat such proposals by usually showing that less than a dollar of GDP growth is returned for each dollar of spending. Economists at North Carolina Sate U. have recently created an agnostic model stripped of partisan bias of how government spending benefits GDP and they show about $1.30 of GDP growth for each dollar spent. Let me quote (the original paper is paywalled):

    “…most widely used model for predicting how U.S. government spending affects gross domestic product (GDP) can be rigged using theoretical assumptions to control forecasts of how government spending will stimulate the economy…Based on their observations, the researchers then developed an agnostic model, which was designed to avoid those tweaks that predispose the results to support a particular argument…We found that the agnostic model predicts roughly $1.30 in near-term GDP growth for each $1 in spending.”

    1. sgt_doom

      I think most of us realize the details of how to decrease inequality — just as most of us thinking people realize that inequality increases unemployment which increases inequality — so your comment falls upon those who are tired with the oblivious who seem ignorant that the problem is not with the HOW, it is with that bloody revolution which has yet to come!

  3. cripes

    Yeah, I’ve always wondered what factors, besides sheer greed, elite inbreeding and stupidity, are responsible for the wide range of national GINI rankings.

    According to the CIA anyway, among the most equal are affluent Germany (27.0) France (30.1) and Sweden (24.0), but also not-rich Albania (29.0) Romania (27.3) and, most equal, Slovenia at 23.7.

    The European Union as a whole is rated GINA 30.1. The handful of non-European countries that crack the more equal list, strangely are, in ascending order Kazakstan (28.9) Pakistan (29.6) South Korea (30.2) and Australia (30.3).

    Geographically, there is a swath of more-equal economies stretching from Western Europe to North Africa, South-west Asia (middle east) through India, Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Japan. This tends towards the idea that old-world, culturally cohesive societies have an interest in maintaining economies that promote inclusion and common interest. The Muslim barbarians and European socialists are less prone to exploiting their neighbors or throwing them overboard than we are, although Washington is working hard to remedy this situation.

    Canada and Australia have wisely plotted a course closer to their European forbears than their American cousins.

    Southern Africa, Latin America starting at the Rio Grande, China, Russia (bordering much more equal Kazakhstan?) and of course the USA are the heartlands of inequality. The common thread here, I presume, is their colonial heritage.

    There may be something to the argument about homogeneous societies having a cultural advantage and all that, but England (32.4) and France, hardly exemplars of racial tranquility, or Australia, India and Canada seem to say otherwise.

    The interesting thing seen easily on the map is that low income “developing” countries, with exceptions like Hong Kong (53.7) have a large preponderance of high GINI scores.

    Middle-income China, Russia and Brazil, are joined by the always exceptional United States as continental empires with extreme inequality.

    Readers thoughts?

    1. Moneta

      I’m not sure Canada can survive without socialism.

      If we use current economic productivity and efficiency models, it would seem that North-South activity would make more sense than East-West. So from my perspective, if we want Canada to work, we have to share and accept higher costs and less material wealth to reach that goal.

      The other issue we are facing… capital from China… let’s say there are 10 million Chinese (we only have something like 12m households) who want to get their money out and a few million Canadians who want to get rich selling their house, you can imagine what kind of havoc the zirp/bailout/EZ money policies have unleashed on small attractive countries like Canada.

      And our leaders are still denying the impact of foreign capital on our real estate market. Because these are the people who live in the overvalued urban areas and quite happy to see their home values soar.

      IMO, protectionism will need to rear its ugly head.

      1. Massinissa

        I’m not sure anyplace can survive without socialism if capitalism doesn’t try and fix itself again like in the 30s. Which it might not, this time.

        1. different clue

          Capitalism didn’t fix itself, any more than a car fixes itself. The New Dealers fixed it and then the anti-New Dealer Repealers spent the next few decades working to break it again.

    2. sgt_doom

      Remember, please, GINI scores do not accurately represent growing inequality within countries, they just supposedly represent inequality BETWEEN countries.

      1. MoiAussie

        Huh? It’s exactly the opposite. The Gini score of a country measures inequality between incomes within that country. Perfect equality scores 0, and “perfect inequality” scores 1. A rising score over time = increasing inequality.

        Comparing the Gini scores of different countries tells you nothing about “inequality between countries” in the sense of relative wealth. In fact, a rich country with high internal inequality will score higher than a country where pretty much everyone is poor.

        And it’s Gini, not GINI. It’s named after an Italian statistician, not an acronym.

    3. Paul Greenwood

      There may be something to the argument about homogeneous societies having a cultural advantage and all that, but England (32.4) and France

      Not quite sure what you mean by this. However England is less homogenous than N Ireland or Scotland because it is where the bulk of Non-Christian populations are clustered in certain cities; however I would consider England to have “racial tranquillity” compared to Sweden or France or USA. There are far fewer problems than in any of these countries though I do not believe problems in UK will not get much worse.

  4. knowbuddhau

    >>>”Meanwhile, China has increasingly participated in and grown rapidly as inequality has risen sharply in the ostensibly communist-ruled country.”

    Participated in what?

    We’re the bottom of the barrel. They’re the cream on top. But the vessel is being overpressurized, accidentally on purpose. How much more can we take before the Great Blowout?

  5. cripes


    The common thread (to the US) with unequal China and Russia is not their “colonial heritage” but their empire-sized geography.


    There is also the matter of GINI inequality within national borders, seen here:

    Surprisingly, but not to me, is that New York State holds the worst GINA rank at 49.9, a fact due not solely to the density of high income jerk-offs like Trump who claim residence there, but to the density of truly impoverished people that still remain in the five boroughs of NYC and the abandoned former industrial cities of upstate New York.

    Although they report a very high 21% “poverty” rate, NYC’s Commission on Equal Opportunity reports in 2012 that 40% of New York City families subsisted on less than $34,000 annually. Anyone familiar with the absurd official poverty thresholds, or the punishing cost of living in NYC for working people, well, do your own math.

    Suffice it to say, national GINI rankings tell only part of the story.

    There is a whole other realm of study in qualifying GINI effects by state, county, zip code or tract level.

    1. UserFriendly

      Bernie did best in the most egalitarian states… interesting. Rich people vote more and if you are rich in an unequal state Bernie must sound like Satan.

      1. MoiAussie

        I guess you meant more rich people vote, but there’re hidden truths in rich people vote more which are worth unpacking.

        – In the US system, money talks. Rich people donate to support their future benefactors, which buys MSM speech and advertising that sways gullible votes to their side.

        – Elected representatives are often in it to get rich, and are certainly bought and paid for. So rich people get the votes on the legislation that matters to them. The rest get representatives who simply don’t deliver on the policies and promises that they ran on. Obama.

    2. Susan the other

      I was also thinking that broad data like the above hide the obvious solution. But I don’t know how working from localities upward from towns to counties to cities to states would technically work to redistribute income. I know how they redistribute state tax money for the state’s dept of education – they pool the money and distribute it per pupil evenly across all districts. The poorest districts getting the most help. So redistribution of income via taxes would have to come from the tax authority, i.e. the state. But that leaves local resources and solutions unused. As unused as they are disenfranchised from neoliberal globalization. It is just those very local communities that could be enlisted and employed to clean up the environment and do it sustainably. The state could subsidize cleanup. Organic farming. Artisans of all sorts. The fact that there is such inequality, and the fact that we are awash in garbage, pollution, and climate change seem to go hand in glove; and the mess is totally reversible. But start at the local level.

      1. HopeLB

        Fresh water and arable land are becoming scarce and climate change will only exacerbate the trend. People could be put to useful, gratifying work using that suburban farmer’s idea. Those large subsurban yards covered in meticulous lawns could be put to use feeding the world.

    3. sgt_doom

      Thanks for your great remarks and comments — should be highly informative to many.

      Also important to note — given the incredibly shrinking middle class in America (which might not always appear that way in the purposely faulty numerical data presented — or misrepresented) — that it is always worse than it appears since such data derives from the Census Bureau, which tracks ONLY wages, not income streams from capital gains (such as bonds and stocks, etc.). This (purposely) skews the size of the middle class much larger than it actually is — and it has been dramatically shrinking in America — as those rich and super-rich show up listed as in the middle class, economically.

      Also, important to keep in mind that much supposed “data” comes from the National Bureau of Economics Research (NBER), which has as an emeritus, one Martin Feldstein from Harvard. Said Feldstein was a director at HCA when they were hit with the largest out-of-court penalty settlement for their Medicare/Medicaid fraud back in the 1990s. Said Feldstein was a director at Eli Lilly when they were hit with the then-largest criminal penalty for fraudulent marketing of their drugs. Said Feldstein was a director at AIG/Financial Products when they had to be bailed out by the US government for partaking in the largest insurance swindle in US history, so EVERYTHING coming out of the NBER should be considered suspect, given the character of its crew!

  6. Anonymous2

    I wonder about Gini scores for the UK. A lot of residential central London is now owned by extremely rich people like Saudi princes and Russian oligarchs. My suspicion is that they are excluded from the figures. Their impact on the local economy by pricing just about everyone else out of this market is, however, non-trivial.

    1. sgt_doom

      Yes, this site has carried some excellent articles in the past about this subject, GINI essentially tracks the supposed inequality among countries, not WITHIN the individual countries (or at least it fails to do so).

      Something with is as appropriate to the UK as it is to America, a quote from an outstanding book, Glass House, by Brian Alexander:

      “Corporate elites said they needed free-trade agreements, so they got them. Manufacturers said they needed tax breaks and public money incentives in order to keep their plants operating in the USA, so they got them. Banks and financiers needed looser regulations, so they got them. Employers said they needed weaker unions – or no unions at all – so they got them. Private equity firms said they needed carried interest and secrecy, so they got them. What did Lancaster and a hundred other town like it get? Job losses, slashed wages, poor civic leadership, social dysfunction, drugs.”

      1. Paul Greenwood

        Democracy ALWAYS reaches its terminus dominated by lobby interests at the expense of the voting public

  7. Michael C.

    To alter James Carville’s noted quote, “It’s capitalism, stupid.” Or at least the way it is configured so that short term profit for the ownership class takes precedence over the immoral destruction of societies and mother earth.

    1. Allegorio

      It’s the Federal Reserve stupid, passing out free money to the ethnically privileged creating asset bubbles that make the rich richer. We live in a society where the money supply is based on credit and wealth is determined by who has access to credit. The same is true in China. The profusion of billionaires is directly correlated to central bank policy. The constitution gives the privilege of creating money to the Federal government, but this privilege has been usurped by the wealthy, who use access to credit to buy up everything and charge the rest of the population rent for using anything.

      Until the creation of money is taken over by the government and used to fund infrastructure, schools, medical care, the electoral process and access to money by the common people to meet their material needs, the .001% will continue to run rampant over the people. You can tell a politician’s bona fides by their attitude to the Federal Reserve. Elizabeth Warren’s recent statement that she opposes an audit of the Federal Reserve is all you need to know about her credibility. What is to be done when the legislators are all bought and paid for by big money? Short of violent revolution, government funding of the electoral system to give access to the ballot by ordinary people, this is the one issue key to all others.

  8. Kalen

    Rampant inequality, joblessness, homelessness is not a shameful aspect of unfortunate excesses of few or tragic side effect of modern mass capitalism but in fact it is its best feature, in fact absolutely necessary even critical to the success of this unbelievable confidence scheme callled capitalist socioeconomics enhanced by debt based monetary system and fiat currency.

    And we all believe in that sham. We all believe in the value system and valuation of our commodified social life by somehow divine authority of few puny lowlifes in the ruling elite who are laughing at us all the way to the empty bank they own and we are indebted to.

    As long as we believe that we work for money, a useless symbol of our total dependence, not for food, sustenance and shelter, as long as we believe we need money that cannot be eaten or utilized as a material for building shelter but can best be used as an emergency bathroom tissue substitute, we are lost begging for mercy enslaving ourselves to strangers for nothing but an illusion that breaths and promotes rampant inequality.

    I know it sounds shocking but give it a thought if you can.

    Here I found unique and controversial take on origins of money that touches upon similar theme of money itself as a propaganda tool of social control.

    1. Moneta

      Even if everyone worked their butt off or got multiple PhDs, we’d still need workers to clean radiation messes, toilet bowls or change diapers.

      All our system is doing today is making everyone compete ever harder for crappy jobs.

      Do we really need the education we are getting for most of the jobs out there?

      1. justanotherprogressive

        “Even if everyone worked their butt off or got multiple PhDs, we’d still need workers to clean radiation messes, toilet bowls or change diapers.”

        Is there some law that says that PhD’s can’t clean radiation messes, toilet bowls or change diapers? Shouldn’t everyone be responsible for “survival work”? Why should it just be some class of “workers” that need to do those jobs? Why are some people considered so much better than others that they are exempt from “survival work”? What if everyone put some of their work time every day doing this “survival work” before they did their “careers”?

        Unfortunately, this is just another example of how the neoliberal ideology has infiltrated everyone’s thinking, even those who are diametrically opposed to neoliberalism on some level……and why it is going to be so hard to get rid of…..

        1. Moneta

          Typically those who go to university to get PhDs do not dream of changing diapers and wiping butts.

          Two big issues here are expectations management and misallocation of resources.

          Unhappy individuals and misallocation of resources contribute to reduce quality of life and wealth.

          1. Moneta

            If we want PhDs to like wiping butts, we need to dissociate education from the workforce. IOW, education should be for the love of knowledge.

            But why would we want those with special skills changing diapers if they could contribute in areas that improve our quality of life?

            p.s. I have trouble with progressivism when it is used to level from the bottom

            1. HotFlash

              Well, a clean diaper contributes to at least one person’s quality of life.

        2. John Wright

          My late father, who looked for employment during the Great Depression, would say “You needed a college degree to pump gas for Standard Oil”.

          He had a cynical view of college degrees, asserting that if degrees were necessary for jobs, the future employers should help with the training expense.

          The “must get an expensive college degree” assertion is losing its effectiveness on the stressed American population, where we approach nominal full employment at poor wages.

          I suspect the education that is most needed in the USA is critical thinking that serves to question the wisdom of our government and the MSM in the propaganda they promote..

          1. Moneta

            I tend to agree. If corporate America shouldered the cost of education, my intuition tells me that workers would not need as many degrees.

            1. John Wright

              My dad did have a college degree, but his experience in his father’s store helped him get a job as a butcher for Safeway during the Great Depression.

              As I remember the story, many were vying for the Safeway butcher job, but he outlined how his prior experience would “help them sell more meat”.

              All one has to do is look at the projections from the labor department for STEM job growth over the next 10 years (about 100K/year) and compare that to the similarly sized H1-B visa count that tech firms want per year to see that a STEM college education is not the safe haven in the job market that the MSM promotes.

              International companies cast a world wide net for educated talent, and are probably unconcerned how much a prospective employee’s degree cost to acquire.

              And these corporations also want to lower their US taxes, which indirectly cuts public education funding.

              1. Moneta

                A large percentage of well paying jobs are sales related. We don’t need PhD knowledge to perform in those. These require people skills and a network.

                1. Paul Greenwood

                  We don’t actually need PhD outside physical sciences. It is a qualification ONLY in the Thesis subject matter. We also don’t need so many Lawyers and should turn of the production line (maybe that is what inflates GDP in UK and US….lawyers billing rates ?)

                  1. MoiAussie

                    Beg to disagree, it’s not a qualification in the thesis subject matter. A PhD demonstrates capability to do original research in a field, or it should. (PhDs too have been crappified.) A PhD in any (science) field knows a lot more than just their thesis subject matter.

                    1. Paul Greenwood

                      PhD is a credential. It is awarded based on a thesis otherwise you could offer a PhD in General Studies

                    2. MoiAussie

                      Can’t reply to Paul because we’ve hit the nesting limit.

                      I know how PhDs are awarded. You haven’t supported your claim that “It is a qualification ONLY in the Thesis subject matter”. It is a qualification in the discipline of the thesis subject matter, which is much broader.

          2. Moneta

            It also brings to mind all those who don’t want to pay for school taxes because they don’t have children.

            I’m quick to remark that on the same principle, in such a system they should not accept government services from anyone younger than them.

        3. sgt_doom

          Excellent point, but that is the purpose of Identity Politics, to erase the concept of “the worker” from our minds and thoughts, practiced by both the r-cons of the bankster party and the faux crats of the bankster party.

          The r-cons’ identity politics is that the “media” (still haven’t found them in Amerika) are “liberal” (still have found that, either) and the r-cons are besieged by these outfits.

          The faux crats wish to focus on every possible sub-grouping of humans, to the exclusion of wage earners.

          Worked for decades, but I suspect it may possibly and finally be beginning to fall apart . . .

      2. justanotherprogressive

        “Do we really need the education we are getting for most of the jobs out there?”

        The future belongs to those capable of handling it – the others will be cast to the wayside. Do you really want to condemn most people to being part of the wayside? Why do you think education is becoming so expensive?

        No, we ALL need more education, not less.

        1. MoiAussie

          We do indeed all need more education, but not of the type that most people think. The education young people suffer through for years and then go into debt for more of is designed largely to impoverish, enslave, and brainwash. It’s anti-education, creating false expectations, instilling poisonous memes, punishing independence and non-compliance.

          There are exceptions of course. Education for the rich is designed to teach the rules of the game, weed out the unreliable, and establish lifetime networks.

          1. justanotherprogressive

            Absolutely true. Our current education system only creates workers – it doesn’t create thinkers….

            1. Norb

              I am reminded that people with curious minds are always educating themselves – formal setting or not- wealthy or not. The social system should provides an outlet for those talents and effort. The failing of todays ruling ideology is that human talent is undervalued and underutilized. In effect, built on waste and inefficiency in a broader sense. Todays economic system seems most efficient on creating inequality.

              A 4 hour work day based on a livable wage could open many “educational” doors.

              1. Norb

                I am also old enough to remember that vocational training was taken seriously in public schools without social stigma. Labor was not a dirty word. A different form of critical thinking focused on manufacture.

          2. Another Anon


            Are you referring to the “practical” one and two year programs like the Australian TAFE system ? I got a two year computer degree from such a program almost twenty
            years ago and was fairly impressed with the program. Of the twenty
            people in my class, eighteen had at least a masters degree in some technical
            subject though the program was designed for those who did not seek to
            go to university. The ones with the advanced degrees such as myself were unemployed and so retraining.

            1. MoiAussie

              Not at all. Practical training like TAFE (or like TAFE used to be) can be valuable, depending on what course you choose. I’m referring to primary, secondary and university education as it is offered to the mainstream today in the western world.

              Primary and secondary education is degraded for reasons far too complex to get into here. Of course there are still tertiary courses and teachers that educate, but universities are now run strictly as commercial enterprises, and such teachers find it harder and harder to prosper.

              1. Paul Greenwood

                Before John Major UK had quality courses such as City & Guilds and Part-Time University Courses – “Sandwich Courses” where working students had Block or Day Release to study and could work through their studies with access to industrial labs and equipment and university facilities. It was very cost-effective. Major turned everyone into Full-Time Students so they emerged after 3 years with no relevant industrial experience and lots of debt

      3. Norb

        The answer to your question is No. The resistance to single payer health care in America belies that fact. Many alternative lifestyles would be possible if one could relieve exorbitant medical care from household expenses. Private businesses would be indirectly forced to offer more humane working conditions, regardless of what that work entailed by the mere fact that labor could easily relocate to a less exploiting employer. Added to that, the removal of stress accompanied by needing to deal with medical uncertainties of life. A sane society would provide care for all its members.

        Guaranteed food, shelter, basic education, healthcare, and some form of work are all that is required from a just society. That should be the criteria for evaluating the system. This is not utopia, and is within reach. There is nothing technical holding this realization back. The elite create conflict to secure their position. They believe in inequality.

        When you look at it, most “jobs” in capitalist society don’t satisfy any legitimate human need for survival. Not to mention the needs of the remaining life on the planet. Most are satisfying manufactured wants. A cynical play on human emotion that condemns most to unhappy and stressful lives.

        Change will happen when a critical mass of people can get past the fear and psychological damage that is caused by manufactured needs, excessive higher education for all being one them. In and of itself, a “higher education” is meaningless if you cannot practice the acquired skill. Are lower work hours on the horizon to accommodate all the excess degrees? Not in the least.

        This is not to say that lifelong education should not be an aspirational goal. Only to stress that the social organizing structure must accommodate that goal in a meaningful way. Right now, in America, it is mostly overt exploitation. A creative way to manufacture debt slaves.

        1. Moneta

          Once upon a time, most of the highly educated took a vow of poverty with the assurance they would be cared for in a time of need.

          Today most jump on the degree bandwagon to get on the road to material consumption and end up realizing they were sold an expensive if not worthless bill of goods.

          1. Paul Greenwood

            Before BANKS became the motor of Western Capitalism it was different. Banks were a Service Business now the rest of society SERVES the Banks

        2. MoiAussie

          Regarding excessive higher education as a manufactured need, I think there are at least two other factors at play besides credentialism and the (futile?) pursuit of good careers.

          One is the decline in the literacy, numeracy, general knowledge, and other educational achievements of your average high school graduate compared to 30 years ago. It’s well recognised in universities that much of what used to be taken as known by freshpersons, today needs to be taught or retaught in the early years of a university/college course.

          The second factor is simply the growing complexity and pace of change of the world we inhabit. I suspect this is a major reason behind the increase in the number of years of fulltime education the average person seems to think they require.

        3. Paul Greenwood

          What is the US Healthcare problem ? It is a Ricardian Issue of who is taking Supernormal Profit and what the correct level of Economic Rent might be.

          Maybe it is Insurance that is the problem. People buy Insurance not Health and Insurance responds only to Litigation

    2. justanotherprogressive

      + 100
      I think that people are so driven to value themselves in terms of money, that they won’t even allow other ideas like this to enter their consciousness……
      Sadly, now is the time when we need to be thinking about other ideas, because the ones we currently accept as valid just aren’t working for most of the world’s people …..

      1. Kalen

        Thank you. You seem to be the only one who got my most important point namely a subversive function of money as a propaganda of liberalism that underlie socioeconomic system of capitalism and commodification (valuation and valorization in terms of money) of environment and social relations.

        What I mean by “propaganda of liberalism” is hijacking of ideas of individual Freedom to mean abandonment of common interests and separation from community, also separation from community in a form of alienation of private property from community commons and hence introduction of money as a representation of the private property, capital or collateral in a debt based monetary system.

        The money is so much embedded into people’s psyche that trying to explain artificiality of such an arrangement amounts to a sort of Copernican revolution of explaining reality that completely contradicts everyday common sense experience.

        What’s insidious in capitalism is that social relations among masses of people are forced to be negotiated by money in addition to old ways of social relations (also labor relations) being negotiated by social position and political power and/or what we call culture i.e a common set of attitudes and practices that have been empirically/historically proven beneficial for community.

        People do not realize that even 200 years ago many people were living who did not use money even once in their lives since they did not need to, they produced their own food, cloths, tools, they barter other goods and even taxes they paid via field labor.

        Imagine us today paying all our bills directly with our labor, one thing we have abundant and we control, not scarce money controlled solely by greedy elite.

        Unemployment would be something our children would have learned about only from history pages.

  9. B.J.M.

    I guess nobody every read False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism, by John Gray then a professor at the London School of Economics. It was published in 1998 and is to this day the greatest critique of neoliberal economic dogma ever written. Then again Gray is an intellectual’s intellectual so the media has always ignored him in favor of pop intellectual simpletons like Tom Friedman.

    It is as if Gray had a time machine which allowed him to see the future.

    1. Paul Greenwood

      Prior to 1914 Global Capitalism had powered ahead hindered only by US Tariff Walls such as McKinley Tariff and the upsurge in Tariffs in Germany, Russia, France and a ludicrous British commitment to Free Trade which destroyed investment in industry as capital flowed overseas. The result was 1914-18 War and the removal of Russia (the fastest-growing market) from European trade and destruction of Germany and Central Europe

  10. Bob

    Social unrest and a populous backlash against global capitalism are always trotted out as the main effects gross economic inequalities will have. But given the elites control of the media and our economy they have the tools and power to limit unrest and any backlash. The more important effect of economic inequality is that it will destroy capitalism itself.

  11. Paul Greenwood

    Global Elite Alarmed by Growing Inequality

    That is reassuring, I would hate to think “the Global Elite” was out of touch or playing shepherdess in Hameau de la Reine; it is good to know the Controllers have their finger on the pulse and are “caring” for us.

    Cynicism is well-fed in the current era.

    Years ago I read Amy Chua’s book “World On Fire” (2002)

    and Sir James Goldsmith: “The Trap”

    You can read it FREE at

  12. Scott

    None of the workers give a shit about how rich the rich are. All they want is a living wage. That the rich, who Piketty points out are rich because they inherited wealth to start with won’t pay, is insane on the part of the rich.

    1. Paul Greenwood

      Worth looking at the classical case of the Third Estate in France in 1780s

  13. greg

    It is easy to see the lie to this: All the wealthy elite have to do is tell the governments they control, which is basically all of them, to tax the wealthy more, and redistribute the money to the rest of their societies. They won’t do this.

    In the US, for instance, the rich could tell Trump, and the Republican congress, to raise taxes on the rich. And what do we see? We see Trump and the Congress seeking to lower taxes on the rich. Are we to conclude, therefore, that the rich don’t actually control the government?

  14. Altandmain

    Basically what has happened is that the rich got too greedy, and now they are afraid of the consequences of a problem of their own making.

    To them the dilemma is how they can loot society and get away with it. That is what this is about.

    If they were smart enough, they would realize that the modest reforms proposed by Bernie Sanders and similar politicians would actually save this own filthy hides from a revolution.

    They are not that smart though. They are not long term greedy, but rather short term greedy. Another example might be global warming. The whole reason why the denialist movement is so strong is because of wealthy right-wing interests. They are without integrity and not smart enough to see how it threatens their long term order.

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