Wednesday, February 22, 2012

serfin usa updated

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Thomas B. Edsall, a Columbia University journalism professor, asks the following questions:

Are large segments of the American workforce — millions of people — at a structural disadvantage in the face of global competition, technological advance and ever more sophisticated forms of automation? Is this situation permanent?

Will the share of profits from improving corporate productivity flowing to capital and to high-earning C.E.O.s continue to grow, while the income of wage earners stagnates and their share of profits declines?

Has the surging wealth and income of the top one percent and of the top 0.1 percent reached a tipping point at which the political leverage of the very affluent decisively outweighs the influence of the electorate at large?

Is it possible that in the United States and Europe, democratic free market capitalism is no longer capable of providing broadly shared benefits to a solid majority of workers?

In the exposition that follows, Edsall answers "Yes" to all these questions, with odious implications. It's getting harder all the time to "get ahead" by working, because if you're working for the guy who lives in the castle, he is paying you as little as possible for the labor he takes from you, and selling it for his own profit. There was a time when there were political remedies for the worst abuses of this form of predation, but now that the guy in the castle owns the political system as well as the ranch, those remedies are no longer available.

There are several things you can do to counteract the tendency of all but the lord of the manor to sink into serfdom, all of them difficult.

1. If you can get enough money together you can buy your own little patch of ground, provided you're in adequate physical condition to work it and adaptable enough to learn how.

2. You can rely for support on local, independent sources of food, shelter, and medical care. Fuel remains a problem, but you can heat your shelter cheaply with propane, and if you've decided to stick with the internal combustion engine, I'd recommend converting your vehicle(s) to natural gas.

3. Vote, but not for any Republicans or Democrats.

Painting: a miniature by the Limbourg brothers, from Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.

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