Wednesday, January 15, 2014

failing elites

Martin Wolf of the Financial Times has an excellent piece today warning that western intellectual and political elites have failed to protect the rest of us from serious problems. He cites the failure to foresee and forestall the recent economic collapse, the growth of economic elites detached from individual nations, and the inability of the eurozone to fashion people-helping policies.

I'm especially taken with his comments on his second observed failure: the past three decades we have seen the emergence of a globalised economic and financial elite. Its members have become ever more detached from the countries that produced them. In the process, the glue that binds any democracy – the notion of citizenship – has weakened. The narrow distribution of the gains of economic growth greatly enhances this development. This, then, is ever more a plutocracy. A degree of plutocracy is inevitable in democracies built, as they must be, on market economies. But it is always a matter of degree. If the mass of the people view their economic elite as richly rewarded for mediocre performance and interested only in themselves, yet expecting rescue when things go badly, the bonds snap. We may be just at the beginning of this long-term decay.
Nationalism has some perverse effects, but greedy multinationalism does as well, such as when companies grab tax loopholes without regard to their workers.

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