The Obsolescence of Americans

Michael Lind has an interesting theory regarding the relationship between the economic elite and the common man in America.  For much of history, capitalism and democracy in America worked on the notion that the rich receive the fruits of the economy and in return “paid a disproportionate percentage of the taxes needed for public goods and a safety net for the majority.”

Now, because of globalization and the privatization of the military that deal has expired, hence why the economic elite no longer desire paying a higher percentage of taxes.

This marks a historic change in the relationship between capital and labor in the U.S. The robber barons of the late 19th century generally lived near the American working class and could be threatened by strikes and frightened by the prospect of revolution. But rioting Chinese workers are not going to burn down New York City or march on the Hamptons.

What about markets? Many U.S. multinationals that have transferred production to other countries continue to depend on an American mass market. But that, too, may be changing. American consumers are tapped out, and as long as they are paying down their debts from the bubble years, private household demand for goods and services will grow slowly at best in the United States. In the long run, the fastest-growing consumer markets, like the fastest-growing labor markets, may be found in China, India and other developing countries.

This, too, marks a dramatic change. As bad as they were, the robber barons depended on the continental U.S. market for their incomes. The financier J.P. Morgan was not so much an international banker as a kind of industrial capitalist, organizing American industrial corporations that depended on predominantly domestic markets. He didn’t make most of his money from investing in other countries.

In contrast, many of the highest-paid individuals on Wall Street have grown rich through activities that have little or no connection with the American economy. They can flourish even if the U.S. declines, as long as they can tap into growth in other regions of the world.

Essentially, Lind argues that the average American has no use to the economic elite any longer.

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