Archive for Economy – Page 2

Privilege, Pathology and Power

by Paul Krugman, New York Times

Wealth can be bad for your soul. That’s not just a hoary piece of folk wisdom; it’s a conclusion from serious social science, confirmed by statistical analysis and experiment. The affluent are, on average, less likely to exhibit empathy, less likely to respect norms and even laws, more likely to cheat, than those occupying lower rungs on the economic ladder.

And it’s obvious, even if we don’t have statistical confirmation, that extreme wealth can do extreme spiritual damage. Take someone whose personality might have been merely disagreeable under normal circumstances, and give him the kind of wealth that lets him surround himself with sycophants and usually get whatever he wants. It’s not hard to see how he could become almost pathologically self-regarding and unconcerned with others.

So what happens to a nation that gives ever-growing political power to the superrich?

Modern America is a society in which a growing share of income and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small number of people, and these people have huge political influence — in the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, around half the contributions came from fewer than 200 wealthy families. The usual concern about this march toward oligarchy is that the interests and policy preferences of the very rich are quite different from those of the population at large, and that is surely the biggest problem.

But it’s also true that those empowered by money-driven politics include a disproportionate number of spoiled egomaniacs. Which brings me to the current election cycle. Read more…

Objectivism vs. Sustainability

Rand & Objectivism, a Shortcut to Extinction

(Note: I wrote this in 2009 in response to some rants after the financial collapse. It seems timeless given the propensity of many to rewrite history.)

First, I have to say that, in my lifetime, I never met or talked with Ayn Rand. I have read her works a bit. Truth to tell, her prose bogged me down, and I never enjoy slogging through dialectics, especially those that tend to ignore reality when attempting to make a point. That’s one reason why I find it interesting that her works and philosophy are experiencing a renewal in interest. Today, the Rand philosophy of Objectivism has become an excuse to continue the pursuit of a particularly ravenous form of capitalism and to castigate the new administration and their effort to restore the economy to some sort of balance.

I also find it interesting that some people are again trying to justify greed. “Greed is good,” said Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. Meanwhile, one could argue that it was the greed of a few that once again brought financial calamity to us all – spurring the “socialistic” actions taken by Washington.

At the core of Rand Objectivism is the belief that a person can and should pursue his own “rational self-interest” supported by a laissez faire form of capitalism and a social structure where individual rights reign supreme. The concept of altruism is anathema. Sharing is bad. Taking for oneself is good. At least, this is the theme offered by self-proclaimed new Objectivists and the burgeoning Rand Fan Club.

So let’s look at this Objectivism from the standpoint of Sustainable Development, because both share some underlying terms, though the definition of those terms may be very different. Sustainable Development means thriving today while ensuring that future generations may thrive. It insists on altruism and sharing as essential for survival on “Spaceship Earth.” As such, it seems diametrically opposed to Objectivism and redefines “self-interest.” Read More→