Category Archives: Social democracy

Taxes are Good


Al Franken is a disgraced Democratic Senator from Minnesota.  Not really. He did a bad thing. He made inappropriate jokes about a sleeping woman and pretended he was going to assault her. It was stupid. He apologized, admitted it, and resigned as a Senator.  No Republican would have even considered resigning under such circumstances. After leaving the Senate he returned to his professional career of being a comedian. In that capacity he appeared as a guest host on the Daily Show after Trevor Noah resigned.

On his last day as interim host he had some fine things to say about taxes. He said he would show us why taxes are good. That is a pretty big task.  But he did a pretty good job.

He said “it is tax season, or as Donald Trump would say, ‘Get off my back already.’”  Trump famously did not pay taxes for years and bragged about it. He said not paying taxes showed he was smart.  In the minds of many conservatives, that is entirely true. There is nothing wrong with avoiding taxes by legal means. At least we can’t really blame anyone for not paying taxes that one can lawful avoid.  Tax evasion, which means unlawfully avoiding  taxes is a different matter entirely.

As soon as the Republicans took over in the House of Representatives after the US mid-term election in 2020 they announced that they would be taking at run at the Internal Revenue Service (‘IRS’) in the US, which is widely seen by the American conservatives as a subversive organization because it tries to enforce American tax laws, and conservatives—at least so ultra-right-wing conservatives believe.  The believe  taxes are immoral. As a result, anything one does to avoid paying taxes is justified. The Republicans basically said—in almost these terms, that they would be emasculating the IRS so that their cronies and supporters who supported their election campaigns would not be required to pay so many taxes. Taxes were for other people to pay. Taxes on their view are not for elites and wealthy people to pay. Taxes are for the common people to pay.  It is hardly an exaggeration to say this. Many  Conservatives actually believe this.  How do I know this?  I have listened to them!  Their own words make it clear.

In Biden’s recent Inflation Reduction Act there was a provision that $80 million would be added to the funding of the IRS to hire new employees and acquire new technology to replace their ancient technology. Conservatives think that is a waste of money in the US.  It is not. It is vital to do that to support lawful government. As Franken said,

“Better enforcement of tax laws means more money for the many, many things government does such as social security, Medicare, infrastructure, not to mention feces scraped off the Capitol walls by the Proud Boys. Clearly the new funding is long overdue. In addition, to pay for immensely popular programs it will help to reduce the deficit, so everybody has got to be happy about it. Everybody right?”


Of course not! That is what people would think in a rational world. This is not a rational world. Here is what Republican Representative Bob Good said, “Democrats want to spend 80 million dollars to hire 87,000 armed IRS agents to terrorize Americans.”  Republican Senator Rick Scott from Florida said this, “They want to hire 87,000 IRS agents that can use deadly force to go after America families.”  Republican Senator John Kennedy said this, “They want to turn the IRS into the Gestapo!”

A Fox commentator on the Tucker Carlson show said this about Biden’s efforts: “A little like James Bond except rather than hunting down evil maniacs they hunt down and kill middle class taxpayers that don’t pay enough.”

Florida Representative Matt Gaetz from Florida said this on social media:  Gaetz asked: “Chaos at the IRS where they are gearing up for something, like, war in our country? Is Nancy Pelosi trying to start a nuclear war in Asia? Is there an effort by the National Security State to stoke violence in a civil war here at home? We certainly hope not.”

Of course, the Republicans are just trying to stoke the fears of the American electorate, again, by suggesting getting wealthy Americans to pay their lawful taxes is federal “overreach.”

Al Franken asked, “Do these Republicans think that if you make a mistake on your tax return the IRS will come to your door, break down, and gun down your entire family?”

Franken said the new money is to be used to restore funding to the IRS that was  aggressively cut by Republicans in Congress in 2011. Since that was done the IRS audit rate has dropped almost 60%. During that time the number of IRS agents has dropped to levels of 1954 when the US population was about half of what it is now. 1954, he said, “was when paediatricians started prescribing menthol cigarettes for sick children.” That last one might have been a joke. After all, Franken is now a comedian and not a politician anymore.

There is a better Way


I want to end this series on the paranoid elites trying to hunker down in a missile silo on a happier note. It is not all doom.

In the 60s and 70s Stewart Brand, now a Silicon Valley sage, owned the “Whole Earth Catalog.” It attracted a large and loyal cult following as it blended hippie-dippy advice with the technical. I loved their motto: “We are as gods and might as well get good at it.”. Brand experimented with survivalism but abandoned it.  Ultimately, he found it did not make sense. Things based on unreasonable fears seldom make sense. Evan Osnos described him in his current situation this way,

“At seventy-seven, living on a tugboat in Sausalito, Brand is less impressed by signs of fragility than by examples of resilience. In the past decade, the world survived, without violence, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression; Ebola, without cataclysm; and, in Japan, a tsunami and nuclear meltdown, after which the country has persevered. He sees risks in escapism. As Americans withdraw into smaller circles of experience, we jeopardize the “larger circle of empathy,” he said, the search for solutions to shared problems. “The easy question is, how do I protect me and mine? The more interesting question is, What if civilization actually manages continuity as well as it has managed it for the past few centuries? What do we do if it just keeps on chugging?”


As it has so often in the past, America is being pushed and pulled at the same time particularly by the extremes of left and right.  On the one  hand there are people like survivalists, neo-liberals, and their political puppets who have shredded all of their fellow feeling in order to fill their bags with as much money as possible. On the other hand,  are some genuine whackos on the left as well.  Yet there are the kinder gentler souls who see a better way, but seem to be increasingly crushed by the more vocal and bellicose camps. I don’t know who will win this battle, but I care. I hope that America (and with Canada dragging along behind) comes to its senses and abandons this philosophy of fear. Fear is all right but it must be managed. Don’t let it get unreasonable. When it gives way to panic we have to realize that smart decisions will no longer be made. We must abandon panic; we must embrace critical thinking and fellow feeling. If we can do that then we will survive. If we are unable to do that, we will sink into the mire, or worse. And we will deserve it.

We must remember: there is a better way. We may need to meander to find it, but its there.


Gilded Dispair


A symbol of decline?

Every year a group of scientists, many of whom are Nobel laureates, set a big clock as a symbol of our dire straits. At the time when the Cold War was ending they set it at its lowest (safest) point ever at 17 minutes to midnight.


Sadly, since then the clock has been moving back up closer to midnight. In January 2016, after tensions rose between Russia and NATO and after the warmest year on record for the world, they set it at 3 minutes to midnight. After Trump got elected and bellicose relations continued between the US and North Korea it was set at 2 & ½ minutes to midnight.  That was the highest since 1953 when the US first tested the atom bomb. it is even higher now.

There is no doubt that all of this is being driven by fear. Fear of disaster can be a useful thing. When the world realized that a hole was being punched in the Ozone layer because of chlorofluorocarbons (‘CFSs’) in the atmosphere they got together and adopted the Montreal Protocol to do something about it. They phased them out. This was a rational response to fear. That action has been a remarkable success story.

But this is not happening  in Kansas at the missile silos bought by wealthy fearful people. Instead, it is another case of the super wealthy doing nothing to  solve the problem they helped to create. Instead of doing something helpful,  they are using their money to buy an escape. It is illusory, but that is what these rich people want to do with their money. Instead of using it to help solve the problem, they are trying to run away from it.  As Evan Osnos said,

“Fear of disaster is healthy if it spurs action to prevent it. But élite survivalism is not a step toward prevention; it is an act of withdrawal… Faced with evidence of frailty in the American project, in the institutions and norms from which they have benefitted, some are permitting themselves to imagine failure. It is a gilded despair. As Huffman, of Reddit, observed, our technologies have made us more alert to risk, but have also made us more panicky; they facilitate the tribal temptation to cocoon, to seclude ourselves from opponents, and to fortify ourselves against our fears, instead of attacking the sources of them.


Some of the super-rich have a perverted sense of risk.  One of them, a hedge fund manager of course, said this to Osnos “He was telling me we should buy land in New Zealand as a backup. He’s, said to Osnos, ‘What’s the percentage chance that Trump is actually a fascist dictator? Maybe it’s low, but the expected value of having an escape hatch is pretty high.’ ” Even though he had supported Trump he wanted an escape hatch in case he had made a mistake.

Another super-wealthy CEO had a much better approach. This is what he said,

 “There are other ways to absorb the anxieties of our time. “If I had a billion dollars, I wouldn’t buy a bunker,” Elli Kaplan, the C.E.O. of the digital health startup Neurotrack, told me. “I would reinvest in civil society and civil innovation. My view is you figure out even smarter ways to make sure that something terrible doesn’t happen.” Kaplan, who worked in the White House under Bill Clinton, was appalled by Trump’s victory, but said that it galvanized her in a different way: “Even in my deepest fear, I say, ‘Our union is stronger than this.’ ”


Osnos understands this well. The panicky approach of rich people trying to escape reality is just plain dumb. It is dumb and counter-productive as it is likely to make the problem worse, not better. Super-rich people are purchasing their own doom with these mad schemes.  Osnos understands that the CEO who believes the political union in America is stronger than the survivalists think is in the end, an article of faith—a conviction that even degraded political institutions are the best instruments of common will, the tools for fashioning and sustaining our fragile consensus. Believing that is a choice.”

Yes there really is a better way.

Strange Fears


All unreasonable fears are strange, but some are stranger than others. Some fear environmental collapse. Not such a strange fear at all.

Some of the people who put down $3 million to purchase a condo in a former missile silo in Kansas have strange fears. In the land of conspiracy theories that should not surprise. Maybe they all do. Evan Osnos interviewed Tyler Allen a real estate developer in Florida who bought a unit in the Kansas silo. He worries about future “social conflict” in America. That really is not so strange a fear.  Allen also thinks that the government will deceive the public, as it has done in the past. He even believes that Ebola was allowed into the country “in order to weaken the population.” Unsurprisingly, he is transfused with fear and conspiracy theories. But I am not putting down $3million. Of course, I can’t put down $3 million, but if I did, I would think that there must be a better way.

Allen claimed that when he started suggesting ideas like this people thought he was crazy, but they don’t anymore. He said, “my credibility has gone through the roof. Ten years ago, this just seemed crazy that all this was going to happen: the social unrest and the cultural divide in the country, the race-baiting and the hate-mongering.”

Of course, how will people get to their bunkers? The buyers don’t live next door. Tyler lived in Florida. That is a long way from Kansas. Tyler thought he would have 48 hours to make it to Kansas. Most people he believed, when the crisis came, would head to the bars while he headed towards Kansas. I guess they would be watching from “Sports bars.” Of course, if a nuclear bomb hit American, such driving would be difficult. Did you see the images of the highways around New Orleans when the people there were told to evacuate because of impending Hurricane Katrina? We would not want to be in the line-up. Pretty messy!

As I have said, all of this is driven by fears–in particular fears of the very rich. Osnos does not disagree,

“Why do our dystopian urges emerge at certain moments and not others? Doomsday—as a prophecy, a literary genre, and a business opportunity—is never static; it evolves with our anxieties. The earliest Puritan settlers saw in the awe-inspiring bounty of the American wilderness the prospect of both apocalypse and paradise. When, in May of 1780, sudden darkness settled on New England, farmers perceived it as a cataclysm heralding the return of Christ. (In fact, the darkness was caused by enormous wildfires in Ontario.) D. H. Lawrence diagnosed a specific strain of American dread. “Doom! Doom! Doom!” he wrote in 1923. “Something seems to whisper it in the very dark trees of America.


Do these doomsday fears not tell us something important about the über rich? This is what they are bringing about! They have no one to blame but themselves. Can’t they do better? Their own actions are creating these fears. Their own actions could forestall them.

There must be a better way and its not being brought in by forest fires from Ontario.

Worry OK; Panic not so Much


A friend of mine challenged what I have been saying about the super elites buying condos in a former missile silo in Kansas by suggesting it is not reasonable  to suggest that one crazy idiot buying a condo in a missile  silo does not mean we are doomed.


Of course, one rich guy does not establish that we are doomed. In fact, no single act establishes that.  Even 15 crazy rich guys who have bought condos in a missile silo don’t establish that. But the accumulating actions of many people, including those “idiots,” are increasingly suggesting that western society is in a serious state of decline and perhaps even on the edge of collapse. I don’t know about you, but I am getting increasingly more pessimistic. And I am increasingly doubtful that our leaders know the way out.


There are also many other indices of this decline. I will be posting about some of them soon.  I know I have been going on interminably about these nuts who bought concrete condos in the former missile silo in Kansas, but I think it is interesting and significant.  These were business leaders. They were people who earned a great deal of wealth and respect. Many of them were in the financial sector or the tech sector who made fortunes.  Interestingly, it is precisely these people who panicked and starting selling their investments in the recent Silicon Valley Bank fiasco when there was no need to do so. These are the people who have now brought our financial system to the edge of collapse as a result of their unjustified fears!  All of this shows that panic is seldom a valuable tool to deal with serious problems whether it comes to buying silos or selling investments. Fear is sometimes justified; panic is never helpful.

In the US in particular, business leaders are nearly worshipped. Look at Donald Trump. I don’t know how many Americans I have met in the past 2 &1/2 months in this country who hail him as a business leader who can make the country great again. I consider him neither a great business leader nor great political leader, but many here think otherwise. Business leaders get automatic respect in America and Canada for that matter. When a group of 15 of them go so far off the mark as the condo buyers did in Kansas, it bears consideration. What is up with that?

To my mind, there are signs of the decline of western civilization all around us, but yet I admit there are also positive signs.

I am particularly encouraged by the improvement in the fortunes of the LGBTQ community in an astonishingly short time. Though I hasten to add they had to overcome the battalions of opposition from Conservatives each step of that way. Why is that? In fact, now the American conservatives seem determined to make war on transgender people who are among the most marginalized and vulnerable people in the country. They like to pick on minorities. The weaker the better.  In fact, as soon as they are not in minorities the conservatives tend to give up quickly.  I will post more on this later.

So, I don’t know whether decline or improvement will win out. We are in the midst of gigantic political changes so it is hard to predict what will happen. We will just have to wait and see, but I am worried. Not panicking, but concerned.

Things are not likely to be perfect in a Silo


How can you live in a former missile silo?

One problem is how to get away with the absence of windows. Can you imagine it? According to Osnos,

“The condo walls are fitted with L.E.D. “windows” that show a live video of the prairie above the silo. Owners can opt instead for pine forests or other vistas. One prospective resident from New York City wanted video of Central Park. “All four seasons, day and night,” Menosky said. “She wanted the sounds, the taxis and the honking horns.”


To me this sounds like virtual reality–with an emphasis on virtual. Will this be life behind these walls?  Hall has given some thought to how people will live there, but I wonder if he has given enough thought. It is ironic that these vistas are all part of the commons. I thought that was what they wanted to get away from. These are things the super-rich should have helped sustain, but many preferred to enhance their own private wealth instead. Now they want them?

According to Osnos,

“Hall [the developer of the missile silo] said the hardest part of the project was sustaining life underground. He studied how to avoid depression (add more lights), prevent cliques (rotate chores), and simulate life aboveground.”

Frankly I would not be satisfied with simulated life. Would you?  Or is even death preferable? This is particularly poignant when you consider that most (all?) life might outside the bunkers might perish.

Some survivalists have mocked Hall’s plan. They say they won’t pay. They will just attack when the time comes. Hall claimed that he and his “guards” could repel all forces. And if necessary, the guards would return fire. What will Hall to secure the loyalty of the guards. After the apocalypse won’t things start over? What will money be worth? Why won’t the guards switch sides? Who would persuade the hired armed guards to stick with supporting the rich people hunkered down?  Why would they stick with the rich? How long could people survive a siege?

Things are not likely to be perfect in a former missile silo. I know I am deeply skeptical.


A Survival Condo Project in Missile Silo



Evan Osnos in his New Yorker article, described the Kansas landscape that Chris and I  drove through on this trip to Arizona.  He drove to a place  called the Survival Condo Project near the town of Concordia and Salina Kansas which we drove through. When he arrived, he was met by a guard dressed in camouflage holding a semiautomatic rifle.  It looked impressive. The condo project was being built inside  an underground missile silo like the one Chris and I had seen a few years ago in Green Valley Arizona. That has been turned into a museum.

The facility housed nuclear warheads from 1961 to 1965–a mere 5 years. After that the site was decommissioned and a bigger and better silo was built somewhere else. I think that site is still secret as this one had been.  The  developers were building 15 luxury condos there because the site had been built with walls so thick it was supposed to survive a nuclear attack by the Russians. The site was originally built in response to a perceived threat from the Soviet Union that was engaged in a long-standing “cold war” with the United States and its allies. The developers are led by Larry Hall the CEO of the new project. As Osnos said, “Hall has erected a defense against the fears of a new era. “It’s true relaxation for the ultra-wealthy,” he said. “They can come out here, they know there are armed guards outside. The kids can run around.”

Wow is that the best the super-rich can do? Is there not more to life than being ensconced in a concrete cocoon? Presumably its better than getting incinerated in the nuclear attack. To me that sounds horribly limited. Maybe being super-rich is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Hall developed the property for which he paid $300,000 by spending another $20,000,000 for renovations. With that he created 12 private apartments that he sold for $3 million each in the case of full floor units and $1.5 in the case of half floor units. He sold them all except for one that he decided to keep for himself.

The silos in which the apartments are located are solid.  They were built by the Army Corp of Engineers to withstand a nuclear strike.  The inside has enough food and fuel for 5 years off the grid. Of course, it will require that people raise tilapia in fish tanks and hydroponic vegetables under grow lamps and supposedly renewable power that could function indefinitely, according to Hall. I am not sure how he would accomplish that.

In a crisis more drastic measures can be expected. According to Hall,

“In a crisis, his swat-team-style trucks (“the Pit-Bull VX, armored up to fifty-caliber”) will pick up any owner within four hundred miles. Residents with private planes can land in Salina, about thirty miles away. In his view, the Army Corps did the hardest work by choosing the location. “They looked at height above sea level, the seismology of an area, how close it is to large population centers.”


If owners of planes can’t fly them in they will need to make arrangements for a pilot and family members of the pilot. Where would they go after flying in? That does not mean that each prepper has an individual bunker. After all, hardened bunkers are expensive and complicated to construct. The complex looked and felt like a ski condo that did not have any windows. What kind of ski condo is that? But it had a central area with pool table, stone fireplace, a kitchen, and leather couches. No TVs of course. No poor people will stick around to man the TV stations.

What will life be like without poor people to do all the manual work needed to keep the place going.  Why will the people hired by Hall as security and to do necessary tasks  continue to work for the group? How will they be paid? Where will money come from? Why won’t they just take over and kick out the rich people whose wealth will no longer have any meaning? I have a lot of questions about this project.

It sounds to me like a crazy scheme for rich people that makes no sense except to the paranoid rich. Would you invest in it?

This might be the real grand finale.


Over valuing private goods and undervaluing public goods



For a long time, it has been my opinion that people under value pubic goods and over value private goods. For example, good schools, hospitals, libraries, parks and many others are really important and valuable.  One of the problems with some rich people, like those who bought condos in the missile silos of Salina Kansas, was that most of these privileged people no longer recognize the benefits–the mutual benefits–provided by the commons. They have either forgotten how important they are or they never realized it.  They really believe only private goods count. Only private goods are really good. Public goods are irrelevant.  Robert Johnson who Osnos interviewed for his  New Yorker article realized  this was not the case. He said,

“If we had a more equal distribution of income, and much more money and energy going into public school systems, parks and recreation, the arts, and health care, it could take an awful lot of sting out of society. We’ve largely dismantled those things.”


It is difficult to discern why the privileged are so fearful. What do these ultra-wealthy people have to fear? If money does not buy happiness, surely it buys security. If one thought that, one would be wrong. As Osnos reported,

As public institutions deteriorate, élite anxiety has emerged as a gauge of our national predicament. “Why do people who are envied for being so powerful appear to be so afraid?” Johnson asked. “What does that really tell us about our system?” He added, “It’s a very odd thing. You’re basically seeing that the people who’ve been the best at reading the tea leaves—the ones with the most resources, because that’s how they made their money—are now the ones most preparing to pull the rip cord and jump out of the plane.

In other words if people valued the common good as much as they valued their own private good, there might be a lot less anxiety.  When the über rich are so fearful it really make you wonder about the stability of the system. Do they know something the rest of us don’t know? Or it that guilt poisons their perception? Or do they just not understand what is important?

Sometimes the most. important things we have are the things that we share.



A Deeper Crisis

It is also interesting how the privileged classes have selected things to worry about.  As Evan Osnos reported in his New Yorker article:


“Élite anxiety cuts across political lines. Even financiers who supported Trump for President, hoping that he would cut taxes and regulations, have been unnerved at the ways his insurgent campaign seems to have hastened a collapse of respect for established institutions. Dugger said, “The media is under attack now. They wonder, Is the court system next? Do we go from ‘fake news’ to ‘fake evidence’? For people whose existence depends on enforceable contracts, this is life or death.”


It is also interesting how the privileged classes have selected things to worry about.  As Osnos reported


“Robert A. Johnson was another person that Osnos interviewed.  He saw the fear of his peers as “the symptom of a deeper crisis.”[2]  I agree with that. I too see the fear as a manifestation of fundamental unease about their place in modern society. They are unmoored and their wealth, which often is extreme wealth, is not able to fill the void. Johnson was the manager of a hedge fund. He was also the head of a think tank. He called himself “an accidental student of civic anxiety.”From my own career, I would just talk to people. More and more were saying, ‘you’ve got to have a private plane. You have to assure that the pilot’s family will be taken care of, too. They have to be on the plane.’ ”

 Johnson saw the fear of his peers as “the symptom of a deeper crisis.”  I agree with that. I too see the fear experienced by the über wealthy as a manifestation of fundamental unease about their place in modern society like those who bought condos in a concrete missile silo in Kansa. They are unmoored and their wealth, which these days often is extreme wealth, is not able to fill the void. Johnson was the manager of a hedge fund. He was also the head of a think tank. He called himself “an accidental student of civic anxiety. More and more wealthy people were telling. him, ‘you’ve got to have a private plane. You have to assure that the pilot’s family will be taken care of, too. They have to be on the plane.’ ” Escaping the apocalypse is not easy.

Osnos analyzed this situation this way,

“By January, 2015, Johnson was sounding the alarm: the tensions produced by acute income inequality were becoming so pronounced that some of the world’s wealthiest people were taking steps to protect themselves. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Johnson told the audience, “I know hedge-fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway.”

Johnson is like some other wealthy people that have not entirely lost their sense of empathy or their sense of justice. Osnos described their situation this way,

Johnson wishes that the wealthy would adopt a greater spirit of stewardship,” an openness to policy change that could include, for instance, a more aggressive tax on inheritance. “Twenty-five hedge-fund managers make more money than all of the kindergarten teachers in America combined,” he said. “Being one of those twenty-five doesn’t feel good. I think they’ve developed a heightened sensitivity.” The gap is widening further. In December, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a new analysis, by the economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman, which found that half of American adults have been “completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970s.” Approximately a hundred and seventeen million people earn, on average, the same income that they did in 1980, while the typical income for the top one per cent has nearly tripled. That gap is comparable to the gap between average incomes in the U.S. and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the authors wrote.”

If you are the fortunate beneficiary of such largesse, it is difficult to believe that that such extreme inequality is justified. It takes a special kind hubris. Or perhaps blindness. The result is fear that some day that injustice might be rectified.

Apocalypse Insurance


There are different types of apocalypse insurance. Pascal said you should bet on Christianity. Many of the über rich, like those who purchased condos in a former Titan missile silo near Salina Kansas, believe that money can buy you anything. Everything is for sale. After all, if your own soul has been sold, everything must be for sale.


No one knows exactly how many wealthy Americans have bought into the fear that the west is headed towards a Russian style revolution event, but the numbers are not insignificant. Many of them see New Zealand as a refuge. It is far enough out there to satisfy them. Evan Osnos, writing about this phenomenon for the New Yorker, asked Steve Huffman the 33-year-old founder of Reddit to estimate what share of fellow Silicon Valley billionaires have acquired some level of “apocalypse insurance,” in the form of a hideaway in the U.S. or abroad.  He guessed 50%. That is pretty good chunk of the wealthy.

One of the things that scares survivalists and also that scares me is Artificial intelligence.  “The fears vary, but many worry that, as artificial intelligence takes away a growing share of jobs, there will be a backlash against Silicon Valley, America’s second-highest concentration of wealth.”  Many of them, like Huffman asked “Is the country going to turn against the wealthy? Is it going to turn against technological innovation? Is it going to turn into civil disorder?”

There is something inherently barbarous about ultra  rich people taking such extreme measures to protect themselves from hazards that their own reckless disregard for benefits to other classes has wrought. Max Levchin, a founder of Paypal and of Affirm, a lending start-up, admitted this to Osnos, when he acknowledged,

“It’s one of the few things about Silicon Valley that I actively dislike—the sense that we are superior giants who move the needle and, even if it’s our own failure, must be spared.”

It shows the deep injustice of their wealth and the deep justice of their fears! If only these multi-millionaires and worse spent some of their money helping others, or even if they moderated the exploitation of workers and the system in their own favor, and spent less time worrying about how they can survive the impending troubles a solution to the problems might actually be found. That is perhaps the saddest thing about this profoundly sad movement.

Levchin told Osnos that he prefers to shut down cocktail party discussions on the subject by asking people instead,

“So you’re worried about the pitchforks. How much money have you donated to your local homeless shelter?’ This connects the most, in my mind, to the realities of the income gap. All the other forms of fear that people bring up are artificial.”

In his view, this is the time to invest in solutions, not escape.

“At the moment, we’re actually at a relatively benign point of the economy. When the economy heads south, you will have a bunch of people that are in really bad shape. What do we expect then?”

We can try to escape or we can try to solve the problems we face. Which makes more sense?  When the wealthy and powerful are overcome by fears, this a  pretty good sign of decline. Or even collapse.