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Pitchforks and inequality

pitchforkThis “memo” from Nick Hanauer to his fellow billionaires is an absolute must-read. Couched in straight forward language, he’s basically saying to his class that not enough people have a stake in the system any more and this will pose them an existential threat unless inequality is sorted out. Here’s a snippet:

Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid

Image Copyright: shutswis / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. Bernie Evans says:

    When the austerity measures began in 2010, political commentators of all persuasions were surprised by the ratio of cuts to tax being in the region of 80:20, and Miliband needs to have the courage to say that his party will change it dramatically. Rawnsley mentioned some of the obvious ways a future Labour government would “raise extra revenues from tax rises targeted at the wealthy”, but there is intellectual and economic support for more. Piketty has shown the Laffer curve to be economic nonsense, and recommends that high-earners in the United States should pay 80% tax, so Labour has the ready-made theoretical justification for an all-out attack on inequality. Even the IMF has admitted the rich in Britain can afford to pay more! Labour has already unveiled plans for a 10% starting tax, and could develop this further with a sliding scale for income tax, so that by the time earnings reached between £65K and £150K the rate would be 45%. From £150K to £200K, it would rise to 50%, increasing incrementally, and stopping at 80%. Would that appear unreasonable to the majority of people in this country, where the number of food banks has increased exponentially under this government, and where average earnings are around £26K, an amount earned in two and a half days by the FTSE 100 bosses? Working full time on the current minimum wage yields the disgraceful annual gross income of around £13000. Parties which do not pledge to change drastically this situation, in the 7th richest country in the world, do not deserve anyone`s vote!

  2. PoundInYourPocket says:

    I don’t have a pitchfork but I’ve angle grinded the prongs on the garden fork to razor sharp points.
    It’s gauling when rather than the Labour Party demanding higher taxes it’s the ultra-wealthy that offer to hand it over, not through altruism or conscience but fear of the mob. And the leopard is not changing his golden spots, as the last line in his article reads:
    “It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer.”

  3. James Martin says:

    I’ve long thought that the USA is very prone to huge upheaval due to wealth inequality and the complete divorce of tweedle-dee tweedle-dum republicans and democrats from the interests of the wider population outside of a narrow political class. The conditions are there, and increasingly the recognition is there (the 1% vs the 99% has huge traction, even if the ruling class is larger than 1% of the population), and what in the past have been race riots could the next time move into class confrontation.

    The problem though is that this may not be a movement of and to the left. The unions are weak, socialists, let alone socialist parties, are very small or non-existent in many areas, and the Tea Party, gun movement and numerous and very large right-ring militias show the organising potential for a move towards fascism that would be undoubtedly used by the holders of huge wealth to clamp down on any serious move towards wealth redistribution.

  4. Robert says:

    Well of course the poor have been poor going back to I suspect to the Romans and then all the way through the land working gentry who needed to have cheap labour to the factories and the match girls and the well you all know. Labour came to power in 1945 and we were all hoping we would see changes well we did but god they were small.

    And now you have a labour party standing up behind the blue union jack in which the cross of England is picked out and labour proudly tell us Miliband is Disraeli, he of course thought the rich had a duty to help the poor through the famous trickle down effect which is new labour in a nut shell.

    Poor old labour are lost they are not sure of what they are or what to do to win the next election. I suspect Blair picture will be hung in all CLP’s before long to remind us of the good days of a labour government that ruled for three terms. many many years ago.

    And they will have Miliband,s picture to remind us with Brown of the losers who took labour into 25 years of opposition behind UKIP.

  5. swatantra says:

    Too right. The hungry poor destitute and jobless will be clambering over the trenches to get a decent life. Nothing can stop them; not even Farage.

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