Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Tumbrels and Hubris

ALONG THE PARIS STREETS the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrels carry the day’s wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself are fused in the one realisation, Guillotine. And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those that have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

I can’t wait to see the tumbrels rumble up and down Wall Street picking up the heedless and greedy financial aristocracy that plundered and sundered free-market capitalism - Maureen Dowd in the NYT

...a private equity baron who divides his time between New York and Palm Beach pinned blame for the collapse on a favorite golf caddy in Arizona, who had bought three condos as investment properties at the height of the bubble. It is this not-our-fault mentality that accounts for the plutocrats’ profound sense of victimization in the Obama era. Freeland, Chrystia (2012-10-11). Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else (p. 242). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.
We celebrate income disparity and we applaud the growing margins between the bottom 20 percent of American society and the upper 20 percent for it is evidence of what has made America a great country - Dennis Gartman, bond trader and celebrator of the 1% Freeland, Chrystia (2012-10-11). op. cit.(p. 248).

Let them eat cake - not, apparently, Marie Antoinette.

Your average billionaire is more pampered and cossetted than even a rock star. Which is probably why they are so deeply offended by any challenge to their self image. Most of them seem to think that they are powerful magicians like John Galt and have summoned electricity from the air. Even, or perhaps particularly, those who bribed, swindled and stole their way to fortune.

Chrystia Freeland devotes a big chunk of Plutocrats to what they think of the rest of us. Now these are all, or virtually all, very smart men - and yes, they really all are men. With a number of exceptions, they are as contemptuous of the rest of us as Mitt Romney showed himself to be. They are outraged that government should dare to impede their personal objectives.

It an old story that power corrupts. It might be more precise to say that it desensitizes. Being surrounded by sychophants make you think you can get away with anything, and many do. Here and there a Strauss-Kahn may get caught up in his own fantasy narrative and overreach.

China has been by far the most successful country in harnessing its plutocrats but there the vast cartel that still calls itself The Chinese Communist Party has its own brutal methods for maintaining control.

Freeland again

...between 2003 and 2011, at least fourteen Chinese billionaire businessmen were executed.

Freeland, Chrystia op. cit. (p. 256).