The French economist Thomas Piketty believes that if the gap between rich people and the majority becomes as wide as it was before the French Revolution, there could be another such revolution.
But Cory Doctorow, writing in The Guardian, says the financial elites are aware of the danger of revolution and their response is to press governments to spend money on the police, the military and government surveillance, rather than on measures that would allow a more broadly shared prosperity.
Piketty is trying to convince global elites (or at least the policymakers beholden to them) that it’s cheaper to submit to a redistributive 1% annual global wealth tax than it is to buy the guards to sustain our present wealth disparity.
There’s an implied max/min problem here: the intersection of a curve representing the amount of wealth you need to spend on guards to maintain stability in the presence of a widening rich/poor gap and the amount you can save on guards by creating social mobility through education, health, and social welfare is the point at which you should stop paying for cops and start paying for hospitals and schools.
This implies that productivity gains in guard labor will make wider wealth gaps sustainable.
Improvements in military and surveillance technology tilt the balance against economic reform.
Why spy? Because it’s cheaper than playing fair.
I think Doctorow is right. I think the reason so many known suspicious characters are able to commit acts of terrorism is that the U.S. government and other governments are more concerned about putting down social unrest.
Technology should be used to create social mobility – not to spy on citizens by Cory Doctorow in The Guardian.
Why salaries don’t rise by Harold Meyerson for the Washington Post.