[p2p-research] Income inequality at an all-time high...

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Fri Aug 14 21:51:32 CEST 2009

Ryan Lanham wrote:
> http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/14/income-inequality-is-at-a_n_259516.html

 From there: "Income inequality in the United States is at an all-time high, 
surpassing even levels seen during the Great Depression, according to a 
recently updated paper by University of California, Berkeley Professor 
Emmanuel Saez."

I predict: "We ain't seen nothing yet". :-(

Wait till we start seeing *serious* layoffs from increasing automation, and 
a race to the bottom on wages, and a flow to the top of the value created by 
automation. We have seen only the tiniest part of that so far. That's 
assuming we don't otherwise shift to a basic income, or a switch to local 
subsistence production, or implement a peer gift economy through a commons, 
or massively increase war/schooling, or do some mix.

But rather than acknowledge the fundamental flaws in modern economics, 
conservative forces are encouraging extremists with guns to come out and 
resist any sort of sharing the wealth (not that current timid policy 
proposals do very much).

Still, as G. William Domhoff says:
   Based on these findings, it seems likely that everyday people don't opt 
for social change in good part because they don't see any plausible way to 
accomplish their goals, and haven't heard any plans from anyone else that 
make sense to them. But why don't they just say "the hell with it" and head 
to the barricades? Why aren't they "fed up?" The answer is not in their 
false consciousness or a mere resigned acquiescence, as many leftists seem 
to believe, but in a very different set of factors. On the one hand, for all 
the injustices average Americans experience and perceive, there are many 
positive aspects to everyday life that make a regular day-to-day existence 
more attractive than a general strike or a commitment to building a 
revolutionary party. They have loved ones they like to be with, they have 
hobbies and sports they enjoy, and they have forms of entertainment they 
like to watch. In fact, many of them also report in surveys that they enjoy 
their jobs even though the jobs don't pay enough or have decent benefits. 
(And as of late 2005, 93% of individuals earning over $50,000 a year 
describe themselves as "doing well.") They also understand that they have 
some hard-won democratic rights and freedoms inherited from the past that 
are much more than people in many other countries have. They don't want to 
see those positive aspects messed up.
   On a less positive note, many ordinary white workers have priorities that 
they put ahead of economic issues. As all voting and field studies show, a 
large number of average white Americans do many things based on their skin 
color. They often vote Republican, for example, especially in the South. 
They protest against affirmative action programs. They live in segregated 
neighborhoods. White Americans also often vote their religion -- that is, 
the fundamentalist Protestants and conservative Catholics who vote 
Republican are members of non-college-educated blue-collar and white-collar 
families. In terms of their economic situation, and their need for unions, 
they should be for the Democrats, but many of them aren't.
   It is these alternative issues, both positive and negative, rooted in 
their own lives and experiences, not a false consciousness created by the 
capitalists' ideological hegemony, that explain why most Americans don't 
rebel -- or even vote their pocketbook -- most of the time. In short, the 
theorists of consciousness may be serious thinkers, and they work at a level 
that is very attractive to most leftists, but they are wrong when it comes 
to understanding why positive social change does not happen. They have 
misconstrued the problem, which has to do with structures of power and life 
circumstances and the compelling nature of everyday life, not the chains of 
consciousness. They have misunderstood everyday people, and in effect blamed 
them for the failures of the left, even though at the theoretical level it 
seems like they are blaming the overwhelming powers of the dominant class or 
power elite. They have made the people the problem instead of considering 
the possibility that what the left offers does not make any sense to most 
   If this critique based on studies of actual people in actual social 
structures were taken seriously by leftists, it would clear the way for a 
fresh start. It would make it possible to reconsider the many failed 
strategies and projects that need to be abandoned if a left is to grow in 
the United States.

So, how does one make peer production or a basic income or universal 
healthcare "make sense" to most people? How does one have alternatives 
affect or enhance everyday life? The internet (like Wikipedia or Google made 
possible by GNU/Linux) is the best example. Maybe we need to get more people 
to understand the peer nature of so much of the wealth created using the 

--Paul Fernhout

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