Quick Takes – The New Feudalism: The Autocracy; The Gatekeepers; and The One Percent

     Another “quick takes” on items where there is too little to say to make a complete article, but is still important enough to comment on.

     The focus this time: Bow down to your digital overlords

     First, a little mood music:

     Carrying on…

     Funny how those who most loudly cry “democracy” are the quickest to embrace authoritarian totalitarianism of our “betters“:

“Increasingly the call is not so much for a benevolent and charismatic dictator, but for an impaneled committee of experts to rule over our lives. Former Obama budget adviser Peter Orszag and Thomas Friedman argue openly that power should shift from naturally contentious elected bodies—subject to pressure from the lower orders—to credentialed ‘experts’ operating in Washington, Brussels, or the United Nations.

“The new progressive mindset was laid out recently in an article in The Atlantic that openly called for the creation of a “technocracy” to determine energy, economic, and land-use policies. According to this article, mechanisms like the market or even technological change are simply not up to the challenge. Instead the entire world needs to be put on a “war footing” that forces compliance with the technocracy’s edicts. This includes a drive to impose energy austerity on an already fading middle class, limiting mundane pleasures like cheap air travel, cars, freeways, suburbs, and single-family housing.”

     The past, of course, is prologue:

“There are some alarming parallels between these developments and the last days of the Roman Republic. There, too, developed a similar tendency toward vicious partisanship and a growing concentration of wealth in a few hands. In Rome’s case, the old middle classes and yeoman farmers were gradually replaced by patricians with access to slave labor; in our society, cheap foreign labor has been perceived as doing much the same for our oligarchs. Much as in Rome, our republican virtues are also fading. Instead, society seems to require a sure hand, particularly if the central authorities decide to transform society in ways that the vast majority might not like (for example, essentially banning suburban development or gas-powered cars). It may take a strict nanny state, to paraphrase Mary Poppins, to make the bitter medicine go down.”

     But it’s not like they will crush dissent just like every other authoritarian totalitarian:

“I was thinking about this as I have been watching the slow motion train wreck that has been twitter in the last few weeks. There is something going on, what it is ain’t exactly clear – but this much is; it is not trending in the direction of individual liberty.

“I’m old enough that I remember when the internet was supposed to be this great open space for rough and tumble discussion. Regulars on the Front Porch here know that those who have a fetish for the jack-boot have always tried to silence those who differed in thoughts than their blinkered views – but they always seemed to lose out to the default towards freedom. Not any more. Freedom is waning.

“If you don’t like something, don’t read it. If you don’t want to hear something, block it, unfollow it, generally get on with your life. Sticks and stones may break my bones and all that.

“Well, no. In 2016, the bullies and fascists are on the march. Like rust, they never sleep.


“That is why the recent changes at twitter, where they have brought on a strange mix of Star Chamber and French Terror committee, has left me a bit flummoxed. In a blink of an eye, what was once a libertarian bastion has become almost Stalinist”

     Unsurprisingly, those #Occupy whiners seem to have no problem with real plutocrats who want to treat them as iPad buying serfs.

“When Steve Jobs died in October 2011, crowds of mourners gathered outside of Apple stores, leaving impromptu memorials to the fallen businessman. Many in Occupy Wall Street, then in full bloom, stopped to mourn the .001 percenter worth $7 billion, who didn’t believe in charity and whose company had more cash in hand than the U.S. Treasury while doing everything in its power to avoid paying taxes.

“A new, and potentially dominant, ruling class is rising. Today’s tech moguls don’t employ many Americans, they don’t pay very much in taxes or tend to share much of their wealth, and they live in a separate world that few of us could ever hope to enter. But while spending millions bending the political process to pad their bottom lines, they’ve remained far more popular than past plutocrats, with 72 percent of Americans expressing positive feelings for the industry, compared to 30 percent for banking and 20 percent for oil and gas.


“Tech oligarchs control portions of their companies that would turn oilmen or auto executives green with envy. The largest single stockholder at Exxon, CEO and chairman Rex Tillerson, controls .04 percent of its stock. No direct shareholder owns as much as 1 percent of GM or Ford Motors. In contrast, Mark Zuckerberg’s 29.3 percent stake in Facebook is worth $9.8 billion. Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt control roughly two thirds of the voting stock in Google. Brin and Page are worth over $20 billion each. Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle and the third richest man in America, owns just under 23 percent of his company, worth $41 billion. Bill Gates, who’s semi-retired from Microsoft, is worth a cool $66 billion and still controls 7 percent of his firm.


“And now, these 1 percenters—who invested heavily in Obama—are looking to help shape the “public good” in Washington and, as with Fwd.us, what they’re selling as good for us all is what aligns with their interests.


“The oligarchs believe their control of the information network itself gives them a potential influence greater than more conventional lobbies. The prospectus for Fwd.us—headed up by one of Zuckerberg’s old Harvard roommates—suggests tech should become ‘one of the most powerful political forces,’ noting ‘we control massive distribution channels, both as companies and individuals.'”


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