USING THE CORRECT WORDS MATTER.
Abstract: Very Serious People trying to describe the socio-economic situation in the USA, and the world, like to use the word “oligarchy”. The rule of the few. However, according to their own discourses, they ought to use the word “plutocracy”. Plutocracy, in conventional semantics, is the rule of wealth.
Plutocracy is what we have in Libya, under the crazed dictator. It is not just the rule of wealth. It is the rule of Pluto. As I was saying in the last essay, at some point only force works against Pluto.
See below an otherwise excellent editorial of the unfortunate Paul Krugman, dragged below as exhibit number one: a purring kitten when a giant roaring saber tooth tiger is needed.
All Very Serious economists such as Simon Johnson, or Stiglitz do this. Describing plutocracy, and then calling it “oligarchy”. However something has to be said about understatements.
Understatements and euphemisms can be a form of lying. For example when Jews started to disappear from Germany, the authorities claimed they had been removed for their safety. They explained that the Jews caused the world war, and had been sent east, to protect them, since people wanted to exact vengeance. Most Germans decided that was good enough an explanation.
A related form of lying is to always present as equally valid points of view, as long as they are opposed to each other. In the end, that absolute equanimity is a denial of judgment, and thus of justice. After an insane maniac has killed a few people because he did not like the way they dressed, are we going to present his point of view as equally valid? As CNN’s Anderson Cooper concurred with Jon Steward, there is something as the truth (I am paraphrasing). One cannot give a lie equal time, just because it’s opposed to the truth. And then claim to be “fair and balanced”.
Obama is one euphemism further removed from reality. He does not even dare to use the word “oligarchy” (presumably because then the question would naturally arise of why he himself is not ruling, since he was elected to do that).
So Obama uses the expression “special interests“. That’s what the French would call talking with a “wooden tongue”. Because “special interests” says nothing. We all have “special interests’, except those of us who really have no interests, and are nothing special. Or does that mean that Obama is nothing special, and has no interests? So he finds quite remarkable that some people have “special interests“?
The debate is not only semantic. Without a precise vocabulary, there is no precise thinking. False semantics breeds false thinking. If plutocracy there is, those who are in charge ought not to call it specially interesting, as if they were visiting a museum somewhere.
After giving some outrageous examples of the frasques of plutocrats, I let Krugman talk, as he describes plutocracy quite well, while calling it something more acceptable to the powers that be. And why so? Because plutocrats commandeer much more of the resources of the planet than people expect. It’s not just Maria Carrey and Beyoncé who sing for those who ought to be in jail. Intellectuals, let alone politicians, know how to find the right notes to seduce those who have it all, because they stole it. And that corrupts us all, deep inside.
I also claim that the semantics of the word “plutocracy” have to be taken in full, and seriously, since therein the ultimate warning.
PLUTOCRATS DO AS HADES DOES:
In Libya, Khadafy pursues his criminal insanity, as he has for 41 years, claiming it’s a revolution. To get on NATO’s good side, he briskly asserts that the country is at risk of becoming a new Afghanistan. However, he is proud in his boots, while he assassinates thousands of who he claims are drugged out youth under the order of bin Laden (he has got to believe that NATO is even dumber in Afghanistan than it already is). He also called protesters “greasy cats and rats“.
To help in his rule, Khadafy uses African mercenaries (paid a fortune in oil money). Khadafy used to fight a war in Africa against France, him using African mercenaries, and the French using everything, even supersonic jets, decades ago. So this is nothing new. Each time Khadafy’s sons offered millions to sexy Western pop stars, ostensibly to sing a few songs in their Caribbean palaces, that was good for business, said the West.
The New York Times gave egregious examples of the plutocracy in Libya, complete with one of the many sons of the “Guide” requesting 1.2 billion from an oil company to establish his own private army. The New York Times calls such acts “exploits”. I don’t think that irony is either cute, or appropriate. Use irony with Obama, if you wish. But, with blatant criminal insanity in plain sight, where thugs kill thousands while corrupting the world, irony is self defeating. Shall we be ironical about Auschwitz? How does that feel?
I call Khadafy’s sons antics, international criminality similar to what happened under the worst of fascism, in the first part of the Twentieth Century, and if we don’t react in a timely manner, it will end up the same.
Not only is international plutocracy in business with these people, but learning to tolerate their monstrous behavior, teaches us to respect monstrosity, and, thus, to find our local plutocrats loving. In the USA the word “philanthropists” is used as a replacement for the word “plutocrats”. It does not just sound Greek, thus democratic and learned; it is the first word American plutocrats hide behind. The irony that man eating tigers are also ”philanthropic”, in a rather similar sense, is lost on the mesmerized population. So far.
What is Khadafy’s clan fortune? 30 billion in liquid assets were quickly found by “The Telegraph”. More thorough accounting show at least 120 billion. One of the world’s richest families. Not coincidentally, made of some of the most nefarious sadistic killers in the world.
In Kosovo, the new president is an extremely wealthy man who once restored the Kremlin (he got the contract for the restauration of the vast seat and residence of the Russian government)… and was examined unsuccessfully for corruption by the Swiss authorities. He wanted to become the self described “Berlusconi of the Balkans“.
Berlusconi is another extravagantly rich multibillionaire directly in power, rumored to have long befriended the Mafia, by making its laundry (money laundering, that is). Is the Kosovo president the one suspected by the UN and the EU since 2003 of killing people to sell their organs? No that’s Hashim Thaci, Kosovo’s brand new prime minister and the former head of the Kosovo Liberation Army. I am not making these things up, no need: the truth is more alarming than the imagination. Plutocrats everywhere, doing whatever it takes to further their dark arts.
In Wisconsin the just elected republican governor cut the taxes on the rich, in his bankrupt state (he gave 140 million in tax cuts to friends and corporations). Cutting taxes on the rich: another way to help the economy, say the rich. According to Reaganomics, the more one gives to the rich, the better the economy.
Then the governor decided to make collective bargaining of government employees unlawful (to save money he said, as if talking was expensive). Being employed by the government of Wisconsin would be like joining the army: Mussolini, here we come!
How do such people haters get elected? How did Mussolini and Hitler get elected? Simple; you gather some of the hyper rich together, present your plan, and, if they accept it, voila! The money is sent where it counts, or where it hurts, or where it impresses, or where nobody knows it irrigates the reasonings. And soon the people is persuaded that its tormenters are its saviors. (Governor Walker is indeed financed by the rich billionaires, the Koch brothers, and, indirectly, by many other billionaires.)
Mesmerizing people with money is particularly easy to do in the USA, where not much of an attempt to separate politics and money has been made. So the hyper rich buy the TV, and the masses do as they are told. (A sneaky way to do that is to run advertisements for the erroneous ideas themselves, so that people are then persuaded that lies are truths, and truths are lies. That works well because people do not understand that which ideas get elected is more important than which puppet gets to implement them.)
Studies have shown that, in the USA, the candidate who spends the most money is elected in 94% of the cases.
The governor wants to prevent collective bargaining with the unions, which often has to do with working conditions, or augmenting efficiency. Saving some money will allow to give more to the rich, since the rich are the economy. But mostly it demolishes some more an example of what I call ‘democratic institutions’ (see Krugman below).
There were protest demonstrations. Representative Paul Ryan, the sort of creature who passes for a star in the republican party, made a singularly apt comparison: “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison.” Indeed. Complete with one of Mubarak’s little helpers, stealing from the poor to give to the rich, and forbidding people to organize themselves to resist.
In New York, the Libyan delegation rebelled, and condemned the tyrant Khadafy as a “war criminal“. Khadafy is indeed a war criminal: his regime has no democratic legitimacy whatsoever, beyond killing people.
Khadafy’s children are known for being filthy. One beat up his wife in London. She was advised to claim to the Brits it was not what it looked like.
Another son beat up a maid in Geneva, so he was arrested by the local police. Libya, to compensate for that outrage, took Swiss citizens hostages. Switzerland soon capitulated.
Just as the USA and France had capitulated earlier, after the bombing of their jumbo jets, and various other attacks; Reagan had shown some apparent resolve, and bombed Khadafy, but the result was the death of some innocent child… So Gaddafi said. He did not explain why, alerted by some traitor in NATO, had fled his compound, with all his entourage, in a timely manner, and never explained why he left a child behind, as if she were a goat left for a tiger. (A French bombing once in the desert in Chad nearly killed Gaddafi, long ago, but that’s another story.
Khadafy’s son, his heir apparent, the intellectual Seif Al Islam, warned of a holocaust, should the protesters keep on protesting. By the way, Seif Al Islam purchased a PhD at the London School of Economics. OK, many Anglo-Saxon universities are for profit organization, and the plutocrat Soros had been instrumental in the granting of the PHD, written by some eminent Harvard professors for Mr. Seif Al Islam Kadaffi. However, since PhD means Philosophiae Doctor, should not they strip him from it? What’s philosophical about preaching mass murder?
Notice that the young, Senegalese born Secretary to Human Rights in France, Yama Rade, courageously protested the coming of Khadafy to France. She got in very hot waters from her boss, the plutocratic friendly Sarkozy (he then cancelled the position she held). Sarkozy is not a plutocrat, but many individuals in his closest family, let alone countless friends, are. Fate is a most miraculous thing.
Notice also in passing that (Hilary) Clinton and company (Obama?) acted very well in the Arab revolution, because, in total contrast with their attitude with WikiLeaks, the USA taught young protesters how to use the Internet to implement a revolution (yes, some of those the Department of State helped also worked for WikiLeaks, and a lot of the horrors revealed on many of the nasty regimes came, trough WikiLeaks, from the US Department of State! Maybe the anti-WikiLeaks rage was all an act…)
Libyan Air Force pilots fled, with their French made supersonic jets, to Europe. The war criminal has been using jets to bomb protesters. Why does not the EU and the USA issue a warrant of arrest against Khadafy for on-going war criminality? And a no-fly zone? (Since I wrote this, the UN made some hesitant steps in that general direction; but a freeze on anything pertaining to the Khadafy clan ought to have long been in force.)
CALLING LIONS LIONS HELP IN NOT BEING EATEN:
Concepts such as “Satan”, “Evil”, and “Pluto” were invented for occasion such as these: when personal madness disguised as self-love kills thousands, for no other reason than self expression. Khadafy ought to be arrested on sight. When he bombed American and French jumbo jets, killing nearly 500, he was forgiven. Who gave Western leaders the authority to forgive him? It was a crime against mankind, and there is no forgiveness for that. Khadafy was recently received in Paris and Rome as if he were the messiah.
It would probably take only a small fraction of the armed forces of any one of the three leading armed democracies (USA, UK, France), and just a few days, to do away with the murderous Libyan thug. View it as realistic training. That would be good, especially for the Italian army.
Or shall we do as with Auschwitz, wait until the heat subsides, and the ovens cool, and decision makers can whine that they would have done something, had they know? The truth is, our politicians love his oil, his money, and the established order, worldwide plutocracy, that the Libyan dictator belongs to.
It is not just that Libya, with 3% of the world oil production, a lot of it “Light Sweet Crude” necessary to Europe, is an important piece of the set-up. Khadaffi helps keep the principle of dictatorship honorable, the People down, and it does not hurt that his enormous portofolio of 150 billion dollars keep many a Western bankster happy.
The comparison with Auschwitz is not outrageous. First, before it got real big, Auschwitz, and the like, started small. After a few years, it got real big. Of course, Libya is small in population (7 millions). But to leave huge outrage in Libya alone will encourage others, much bigger, to become outrageous too, and much more outrageous, since they are so much bigger.
Second, the comparison is not outrageous, from my point of view. I have important family reasons to have that point of view, since my direct ancestors engaged Nazism in combat, on both maternal and paternal sides, and those born in Europe moreover engaged in the resistance, sheltered the hunted in secret rooms, and barely escaped with their lives.
They were saved from the Gestapo by a traitor inside the Gestapo (!) and by US GI, while chased across the countryside, so any claim of primary anti-Americanism against this site have to be taken with a grain of salt, since, without GIs, there would have been no author; thus American GIs are objective accomplices to whatever is going on here. Also claims of primitive anti-Germanism don’t hold water either.
I had an uncle with the inner German and Nazi story, as he had married in the very highest reaches of the German military-industrial complex (he knew some of the plots from inside, thus was never allowed to visit the USA, although a most famous astronomer). This background made me a Nazi expert. By the age of 6, I had already a few iconoclastic theories I still subscribe to today, and were plenty enough to irritate a beloved, older cousin with (who defended conventional wisdom, as she meekly claimed the Germans had been abused just by Hitler; I knew better from the other side of the family!).
WHEN NAZIS WERE REVERED IN PLAIN VIEW:
From my point of view, Nazism was pushed by hyper wealthy financiers and industrialists, not all of them German. Many were based in England and the USA. It is ironical, and I guess part of a general cover-up, that the movie “The King’s Speech” talk so much about the difficulty someone had in reading a discourse of Churchill (OK, I did not see the movie yet).
On second thinking, maybe it’s not surprising. The preceding King, his brother, had been thrown out, ostensibly, for wanting to marry a woman, who was to divorce several months later, thus putting her in the position of marrying him. Her picture is part of the handsome threesome below.
The truth: ex-king with co-conspirator in 1937.
Wallis received roses daily from the Nazi foreign minister Von Ribbentrop, apparently slept with him, and kept on leaking secrets to him (the FBI was told). It helped that the very rich Von Ribbentrop, a wine merchant, had an extremely expensive residence in London. The influential network Ribbentrop had set-up in England led to a de facto alliance of the UK with Hitler in 1935 (this alliance then proceeded to violate the Versailles Treaty; this explains why France did not attack Hitler in 1936: no matter what, France was not going to contradict Great Britain).
HIGHEST TREASON IMAGINABLE STILL UNCONDEMNED:
In truth Edward VIII was thrown out for being part of a vast pro-Nazi conspiracy throughout British upper society. Similar cleansing was needed in the USA, but never happened. Instead the American pro-Nazi conspiracy headed what one ought to call the Nazi reconversion movement, after the war.
When are we going to see a movie on that much more interesting subject, namely when all too many leaders of the West, stabbed democracy in the back, by becoming Hitler helpers, or even enablers?
The pro-Nazi British conspiracy was not finished after the abdication. The best was yet to come. The ex-Edward VIII stayed powerful and influential, especially in Portugal, and Spain. But he liked France best. So he was naturally named Inspector General of the British Forces, with the rank of major general, and, as such, had a full month to inspect the French lines in 1940, when France and Britain had been at war against the Nazis for more than six months.
And this, well after the German ambassador to the Netherlands had warned, in February 1940, that the ex-king had leaked to the Nazis the Allied war plans (the German ambassador thought the Nazis were crazy).
Hey, why should the armed forces fear a man who declared about their enemy: “In the past 10 years Germany has totally reorganized the order of its society … Countries which were unwilling to accept such a reorganization of society and its concomitant sacrifices should direct their policies accordingly.” (Edward VIII, 1940).
True love: ex-king Edward VIII reviewing a squad of towering SS, with Robert Ley, head of the German Labour Front. Ley hanged himself in 1945 to escape further Allied punishment.
Ley was the head of the Nazi trade union busting effort (for further trade busting, see Wisconsin above). It helped that Ley was of a poor, socialist and trade union background. Ley was indicted at Nuremberg on three counts. Count One: “The Common Plan or Conspiracy to wage an aggressive war in violation of international law or treaties”. Count Three:”War Crimes, including among other things, mistreatment of prisoners of war or civilian populations“. Count Four: “Crimes Against Humanity – murder, extermination, enslavement of civilian populations; persecution on the basis of racial, religious or political grounds”.
The ex-Edward VIII informed Hitler where the weak point of the French defenses was. Hitler then took enormous risks (and big losses), to mass all his armor through one tortuous road in the Ardennes mountains. Nazi armor was seen by a Spitfire pilot, but he was not believed.
Hitler then broke through the weak point, thanks to a pounding by the entire Luftwaffe, and suicidal charges by explosive laden engineers. In a mystery unexplained to this day, giant French guns in the area did not fire. The second rate French reserve division which was in the way of the entire Nazi army panicked, and the rest is history. Dozens of first rate French (and some British) divisions, and nearly all the Franco-British armor were north, in Belgium and the Netherlands, punching in a vacuum.
Although vastly superior to Nazi armor, the French and British divisions were cut from behind. The American plutocrats were on the other side of the Atlantic, not counting their chicken, since they were not hatched yet.
Desperate efforts by courageous Canadians and the remaining French army were not enough to insure the safety of French aviation (which may have regained air superiority), and a coup and associated cease fire followed, before the proposed Franco-British common nationality could be implemented (because a government needed to represent and protect the French, and the only remaining government was in London, headed by Churchill).
Charming scenes followed, such as Hitler giving, with his entourage, the Nazi salute to a bigger than life portrait of the ex-Edward VIII, in his castle in Sologne. Or when the ex-Edward VIII ordered the Nazis to put guards at his residences in France (even on those on the Riviera). And the Nazis did! Hey, one would not have wanted one of these crazy French to make the ex, and future, Edward VIII uncomfortable.
Finally an exasperated Churchill ordered the treacherous ex-king to return to British soil, lest he be court-martialed (and probably condemned to death, for high treason). He was exiled to the Bahamas.
There Edward VIII had to live among Jews and “negroes”, and he did not like it. As he said about the most prominent editor in the Bahamas: “It must be remembered that Dupuch is more than half Negro, and due to the peculiar mentality of this race, they seem unable to rise to prominence without losing their equilibrium.”
Edward VIII knew about equilibrium: he was half Nazi, half British. No wonder his brother stuttered.
Edward VIII would stay rich, influential, and unpunished thereafter. The plutocracy knows how to take care of its own, and rein in the unruly. Never mind that Edward was an important contributing factor in the death of 50 million (the defeat of France and Britain in 1940 happened because of an extraordinary confluence of amazing events; in theory, the Nazis did not have a chance against the combined strength of the French and British empires, plus the British Commonwealth; the defeat happened because of many factors the reigning oligarchy has shown no enthusiasm to explore, as many keep on going in the present world, as strong as ever).
IF IT’S THE RULE OF MONEY, MONEY-RULE, PLUTOCRACY, DON’T CALL IT JUST “OLIGARCHY”:
The Nazis would have recognized immediately that what the governor of Wisconsin is trying to do is a beautiful, and necessary thing. The Nazis themselves, in spite of tremendous efforts, were unable to subdue totally the unions and guilds.
The Nazis were the original believers in trickle-down economics, although they hid it below a “nationalist” and “socialist” discourse (although many Nazis were genuinely nationalist and socialist, the smaller group around Hitler was neither: it was just predatory, and self obsessed, and directed from not so far, by their plutocratic sponsors, because that’s where the money was).
As Nobel Prize Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times [February 20, 2011]: “What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy.”
Said oligarchies are ALWAYS characterized by immense wealth, and the wealth is used to rule. So they are more than oligarchies, they are plutocracies.
As I have long insisted, democracy cannot work without institutions; democratic institutions answer the objections of the Platonic Socrates against democracy.
(By the way, this implies that if the West, namely the USA and the EU, want to help democracy in democratizing lands, they should help the building of democratic institutions, and not even hesitate to do this before the one-man one-vote thing, which the Greeks viewed, correctly, only as part and parcel of a democratic society.)
Socrates whined that anybody voted about anything and for anybody, and that one ended with unqualified people leading the City. But Socrates’ reasoning is weak, because he shows no specific examples. He was judge and party in the matter, having educated, enlightened, bedded, dined, feted, loved, admired, celebrated and begged many of the controversial principals (his lover Alcibiades, the “30 Tyrants”, etc…). Those later led the anti-democracy movement in Athens. They were all members of a would-be plutocracy of Athens, and they all, at some point, were active dictators, or first class traitors. (Hence the accusation against Socrates of “corrupting the youth“, and hence Socrates philosophically smelling like a rotten fish. At least on that subject.)
However, corrupt Socrates’ mind was in the matter, his core objection is valid, and the European Middle Ages worked to answer it over a period of 15 centuries.
15 centuries? When the Middle Ages finished is a matter of serious controversy. Philosophically, 1945 CE could be advanced, and not just as a half joke. What Hitler did was similar to what Justinian did, and exactly what the European Union was designed to prevent, namely the return of holocaust driven fascism. So the FINAL break with philosophical traditions started under the fascist theocratic Roman empire happened after 1945, not before; last point: some of those traditions that came to be typical of the Roman empire, were antinomic to the principles of the early Roman republic.
In my chronology of meaning, the Dark Ages got rolling when Roman plutocracy started to dictate policy, around 146 BCE; it was then just a matter of time before everything decline and fell. Amusingly, that came in blatant evidence as Marcus Aurelius, who was dabbling in philosophy behind closed doors, put his biological son in charge (making him an early version of Khadafy; although Marcus Aurelius was much less plutocratic, differently from his rotten son).
By the same token, regimes giving prominence to a particular superstition are part theocracies, thus partly stuck in the Middle Ages (that’s an allusion to Muslim regimes).
The Middle Ages invented many institutions to allow expertise in a democratic context. An important type were the self governing cities (some under the theoretical supervision of some distant king).
Another important type of institutions, invented in the Middle Ages were the guilds. They still exist today. Many are called unions. the Nazis tried to break them, and they failed. Let me quote Krugman in extenso, since he brings some fuel to keep my fire burning.
…”contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there’s not much room for further pay squeezes.
So it’s not about the budget; it’s about the power.
In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.
Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.
You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.”
One is often condemned to repeat some ideas, until most people in the target audience get it, and revolution can click. In this case the audience is the world, with its seven billion people, augmenting quickly, and using the planet’s resources as if it were 50% larger than it really is, time is of the essence.
Michel Bréal introduced the word sémantique in 1883, from the Greek semantikos “significant”, from semainein “to show, signify, indicate by a sign“. Semantic is an integral part of any logical system. Exactly how that works has not been figured out yet, in my opinion (I am aware of the “Semantic Theory of Truth” of the famous Polish(-American) logician Tarski, or later pertinent objections by the US philosopher Davidson).
Basically the logic gives cooking recipes, semantics tells you what the ingredients are, allowing you not to prepare your Coulis de Framboise with red mercury, or trying to use frozen nitrogen for fuel. Precise logic needs precise semantics. Euphemisms pollute semantics.
A good example is the habit of using “oligarchy” where one truly means “plutocracy”. This clearly what Krugman means above, as he gives a near textbook definition of plutocracy, without giving its name (God used tio be the one with “no name” in the old Hebrew religion).
Just as Ley could not utter the word “war criminal” about himself (instead he stuttered so much, the word never came out), the honorable Krugman, Johnson, Stiglitz, do not dare utter the word “plutocracy” about the USA. So how come the private bankers got 5 trillions in the USA alone (trillions in Europe too)?
(OK, Krugman has claimed that giving money at 0% to the private banks so that they could place it with the same government at 4% was not a subsidy, because one was short, and one was long, a distinction without a difference if there ever was one! So what one sees here is that a reluctance to call plutocracy plutocracy, that is calling a cat a cat, leads to view a cat’s meal as a short term phenomenon, even, when, long term, one shares the same cage, and there is no place to go, except between those teeth …)
The (contemporary) Greeks have to suffer because rich private European banks, and the likes of Goldman Sachs, conspired to lend money to the government, which could not be paid back. How did that happen? Because the rich private banks greased the paws of the cats and rats (to recycle Khadafy’s poetry). So why not prosecuting those who got greased and those who greased? Well, because this society of deciders is a plutocracy, not an oligarchy: money rules, and that means many got greased, so many that they form a class, a solidarity, an union of the malfeasant, and they demonstrate their determination every day more, as they not build further fortune, but work to escape justice, and thus jail and restitution. As Madoff said, there is no way the banks did not know.
Of course they knew, but they were doing the same, exploiting a pyramid scheme, so they were not going to denounce pyramids, especially tiny ones. (Madoff’s pyramid was about 60 billion, the banks’ pyramid is in excess of 10,000 times bigger: such is the size of the derivatives’ markets, more than 600 trillions, and don’t believe anything the banks say about it; the only thing you need to know is that last time they went down because of derivatives, and they are the main investors’ therein.)
Thus, in an important sense, the plutocracy works precisely because it’s not the rule of the few. But, instead, it is the rule of the many who have money, so precisely plutocracy works because it’s not an oligarchy.
An oligarchy is the rule of the few. A plutocracy is usually defined as the rule of the wealthy. Hence, usually, the rule of the few. Thus any plutocracy is an oligarchy. Except when the corruption has spread so far, and wide, and deep, that it is a matter of the many. That is what we have now. That is why there was no prosecution of the persecution.
This has happened many times in the past. The Persian empire that Athens fought was such an international plutocracy.
Here is another famous example. As Edward Gibbon observed in his “Decline And Fall Of the Roman Empire”:
“The lands of Italy, which had been originally divided among the families of free and indigent proprietors, were purchased or usurped by the avarice of the nobles; and in the age which proceeded the fall of the republic, it was computed only two thousand citizens were possessed of any independent substance.”
Well these people, mostly of the senatorial class, were often immensely rich. they used their wealth to manipulate Roman society. They could field private armies, like Adolf Hitler in 1923, or the sons of Khadafy, in 2011.
Cutting taxes on the very wealthy augments quickly the possessions of the hyper wealthy because of the nature of the exponential function. So the present policies, in the spirit of Reagan’s “trickle down” may start with an entire class profiting, but will end up (or down!) with plutocracy where only very few are maximally profiting.
Knowing this, since the beginning of the neolithic, sustainable societies have taxed the wealthiest enough to insure that the exponential function would not take over. Societies which did not do this were not sustainable, and left little behind.
I understand that many economists of note prefer to use the word “oligarchy”, to sound less controversial, and not irritate the masters, as the word “plutocracy” no doubt would.
However, why is all happening? Out of not just the will to Power, but also the Will to Mayhem. When speculators make money out of food stuff, and people die from the resulting famines and troubles associated to them, we are talking about the worst behavior mankind is capable of.
Killing others out of hatred is terrible. Killing others out of greed is worse.
And this is happening now, and those perpetrators wear the most expensive suits. Shall we call them “special interests”, and wear an expensive suits too? And then read whatever they put on the teleprompter?
Those who impose the rule of money are not just doing that in a vacuum. In Greek mythology, the universe had been divided between Zeus, Poseidon, and Pluto underground (another name for Hades). The great philosopher Heraclitus made the keen observation that: “If they did not order the procession in honor of the god and address the phallus song to him, this would be the most shameless behavior. But Hades is the same as Dionysos, for whom they rave and act like bacchantes.” This reminds us of the source of the Ganges, of the Shivling, and Shiva, the supreme Hindu god, which has a wild, crazy, and destructive side. And indeed Shiva and Hades are related: the Greeks and Hindus communicated big ideas to each other, and that is one of those which went through. The worst part of that Hades-Pluto-Shiva is that it is, not all bad, and, thus, much more seductive.
Mythology, like semantics, did not grow out of the blue, but out of time honored wisdom. The world of plutocracy is also that of craziness, bacchantes and destruction. So plutocrats are motivated by evil, and they serve evil. That is why those “oligarchs” need to be called by their true name, plutocrats. Pluto is their master. And the word “plutocracy” should be generalized to mean the “rule of Pluto”, not just the rule of wealth.
The plutocrats do not just want us to venerate the Golden Calf. They want to crush us with it. It is the oldest instinct. But we, the seven billions, have better alternatives than the time honored holocausts they propose, once again. Shiva destroys, Shiva creates. But this time, Shiva, after destroying will have run out of a world. Einstein used to say that the fourth world war would be fought with sticks and stones. But that was wildly optimistic, since it supposed a breathable atmosphere would still be around.
Evil is sourced in the most noble necessity of sustainability. But we can find a better god. We are that clever. And have no choice in the matter. It’s this, or extinction of all we hold dear.
Note1: The importance of semantics. In a way, mathematics is more about semantics than about logics. As the great mathematician, physicist and philosopher Henri Poincare’ put it: “Mathematics is the art of giving the same name to different things.”
Note2: So when can one use correctly the concept of “oligarchy”? Well, when the few who are ruling, are not using money to rule. A military junta, when it is still materially poor may qualify (not the Khadafy clan, though, since it became immensely rich as seen above).
Indeed an army can function as a democratic institution (as it claims to want to do in Egypt, now that it has seen the blinding light). But since it holds the big guns, it is always tempting for generals to stray. The situation is a peril in any democracy. Even in France and the USA generals have come close to high treason a few times, and hanging an admiral occasionally as Great Britain did in the 18C, maybe a good way to remind the military of whom it is supposed to get its orders from.
Plutocracy is all too often hiding. Just as the mythological Pluto is often invisible, so it is with money. The USA is crisscrossed by “foundations”, “institutions”, “think tanks”, and “research centers” which are well financed and pose as Very Serious sources of ideas, when in truth they are just propaganda outfits. One could talk of a socio-economic oligarchy servicing the plutocracy.