Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Collapsing Social Contract


by Gaius Publius

"[T]he super-rich are absconding with our wealth, and the plague of inequality continues to grow. An analysis of 2016 data found that the poorest five deciles of the world population own about $410 billion in total wealth. As of June 8, 2017, the world's richest five men owned over $400 billion in wealth. Thus, on average, each man owns nearly as much as 750 million people."
     —Paul Buchheit, Alternet

"Congressman Steve Scalise, Three Others Shot at Alexandria, Virginia, Baseball Field"
     —NBC News, June 14, 2017

"4 killed, including gunman, in shooting at UPS facility in San Francisco"
     —ABC7News, June 14, 2017

"Seriously? Another multiple shooting? So many guns. So many nut-bars. So many angry nut-bars with guns."
     —MarianneW via Twitter

"We live in a world where "multiple dead" in San Francisco shooting can't cut through the news of another shooting in the same day."
     —SamT via Twitter

"If the rich are determined to extract the last drop of blood, expect the victims to put up a fuss. And don't expect that fuss to be pretty. I'm not arguing for social war; I'm arguing for justice and peace."
     —Yours truly

When the social contract breaks from above, it breaks from below as well.

Until elites stand down and stop the brutal squeeze, expect more after painful more of this. It's what happens when societies come apart. Unless elites (of both parties) stop the push for "profit before people," policies that dominate the whole of the Neoliberal Era, there are only two outcomes for a nation on this track, each worse than the other. There are only two directions for an increasingly chaotic state to go, chaotic collapse or sufficiently militarized "order" to entirely suppress it.

As with the climate, I'm concerned about the short term for sure — the storm that kills this year, the hurricane that kills the next — but I'm also concerned about the longer term as well. If the beatings from "our betters" won't stop until our acceptance of their "serve the rich" policies improves, the beatings will never stop, and both sides will take up the cudgel.

Then where will we be?

America's Most Abundant Manufactured Product May Be Pain

I look out the window and see more and more homeless people, noticeably more than last year and the year before. And they're noticeably scruffier, less "kempt,"​ if that makes sense to you (it does if you live, as I do, in a community that includes a number of them as neighbors).

The squeeze hasn't let up, and those getting squeezed out of society have nowhere to drain to but down — physically, economically, emotionally. The Case-Deaton study speaks volumes to this point. The less fortunate economically are already dying of drugs and despair. If people are killing themselves in increasing numbers, isn't it just remotely maybe possible they'll also aim their anger out as well?

The pot isn't boiling yet — these shootings are random, individualized — but they seem to be piling on top of each other. A hard-boiling, over-flowing pot may not be far behind. That's concerning as well, much moreso than even the random horrid events we recoil at today.

Many More Ways Than One to Be a Denier

My comparison above to the climate problem was deliberate. It's not just the occasional storms we see that matter. It's also that, seen over time, those storms are increasing, marking a trend that matters even more. As with climate, the whole can indeed be greater than its parts. There's more than one way to be a denier of change.

These are not just metaphors. The cocuntry is already in a pre-revolutionary state; that's one huge reason people chose Trump over Clinton, and would have chosen Sanders over Trump. The Big Squeeze has to stop, or this will be just the beginning of a long and painful path. We're on a track that nations we have watched — tightly "ordered" states, highly chaotic ones — have trod already. While we look at them in pity, their example stares back at us.

Mes petits sous, mon petit cri de coeur.


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At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you GP. I agree completely that we are in a pre-revotuionary state. Another news story that was completely drowned out by the Alexandria shooting was the fire at Grenfell Tower in London where at last count 17 people died and an unknown number are still missing and presumed dead. This public housing high-rise had a documented history of neglect thanks to neoliberal austerity. The searing comments accompanying today's Washington Post story on the fire is a clear warning about the anger boiling just beneath the surface. As for climate change, I note that the Phoenix area is expecting temperatures near 120 degrees next week.

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Ten Bears said...

Marie Antoinette had no idea what was coming.

At 10:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What we are seeing is the emergence of the "society" that the NRA has long espoused. Completely destroy all sense of community among the people and make them frightened of everyone else so that gun sales could soar.

But of what use is money if the government which issues it collapses? Governments can only maintain order one of two ways: through the consent of the governed - or force. Since it's clear which side the NRA favors, of what use is money when those enforcing the law can just take what they want?

At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To GP and all above except TTB who already gets it, when questions of humanity's vector arise, look to history for clues. France, Russia, China all were where we almost are. What happened to their betters? The lesson isn't that the lessers of those times did not end up in paradise. The lesson for the betters is that they all ended up dead.

Each day I await a little more eagerly the violent demise of our "betters". They deserve it.

But each day I also fail to see anything from the masses of lessers that give me hope that anything at all they will do will make anything improve... except possibly the purge of the betters.

Again, history. If humans weren't so intrinsically stupid, maybe we'd have learned from the past. But we're stupid and we don't. So we'll just lather, rinse, repeat and await the next time and do it all over again... again.

At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Hone said...

Thank you, Gaius.

Yes, history. And civics. Our students and many Americans are not, uh, well educated in these matters. And these topics really matter.

With nuclear weapons available, the price of escalating these problems is way too high. And now we have the ignorant orange nutcase with his finger on the button ready to press it.

Please, Mueller, nail it for the USA! Save us from this horror show. The Republicans should go down with the sinking ship - one would hope. McConnell has revealed himself to be more evil than Trump, if this is possible. He is intelligent and has a plan, a very bad plan for us. He has been hijacking democracy right in front of our eyes and seems to be getting bolder by the day.

At 8:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Putting your hopes in Mueller? Not sure what kind of emotional flaw allows for that many disappointments without losing hope... but I "hope" this isn't your final straw. Mueller wasn't hired to get to the bottom of anything. He's there to kill time until martial law or bigger R numbers in 2018 or our next war to get a president (re-)elected.

I can argue that the only reason the vestiges what remains of the "social contract" that was last augmented in '68 is due to what GP called "institutional inertia" (I think that's the term).

I see no patience in the Rs (neither voters nor the sociopaths they elect) for ANY "social contract". That's been the case since just after the civil war.
But it was the democrats (with good Rs like Proxmire and Dirkson) who passed nearly all of the "contract", yet I have seen ZERO inclination in that totally corrupted party since 1992 to maintain it. They get votes by claiming that they still stand for it, but in their deeds, they betray ambivalence, at best, and hostility, at worst. Even obamanation offered to erode SSI to get a year of debt increase.

I would argue that "social contract" is a term that is archaic in America. The concept is all but dead and there is nobody who much gives a shit. 65 million voted for $hillbillary who could not have cared less for it and 62 million who are rabidly against it voted for the orange-utang. Obama got re-elected with a similar number of votes in spite of being utterly ambivalent (his hostility came in his second term).

Voters don't care, clearly.


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