About the author

Joseph Natoli

Joseph Natoli

Joseph P Natoli is a retired college professor and author of numerous books on culture and politics. He is a member of the editorial collective of BAD SUBJECTS, the oldest political online magazine on the web. He writes regularly for a number of political and pop culture online magazines, including SENSES OF CINEMA, BRIGHT LIGHTS FILM JOURNAL, POPMATTERS, AMERICANA, DANDELION SALAD, GODOT, TRUTHOUT

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58 Comments

  1. 1

    Richard Ivans

    .
    WEALTH IS NOT LIMITED
    20 have the combined wealth of 50%?

    So what? When one person gets wealthier that doesn’t make you poorer. Except in the game of Monopoly.

    In Monopoly there is a limited number of houses, hotels, and cash. In real life when Donald Trump builds a hotel that doesn’t mean one less hotel for everyone else to build.

    When any mega-rich guy gets rich in capitalism it is because he created things that people stand in line to buy. They buy those things because it makes their lives better. And that makes the entrepreneur wealthier and the consumer better off.

    Sam Walton got fantastically wealthy by creating inexpensive food, sox, diapers, and soap. Today he saves poor people BILLIONS every year. Sam’s activities created more wealth for himself and for poor people.

    Wealth is not limited.
    —————–
    PLUTOCRACY
    can only happen at the federal level if our politicians violate their oath to the Constitution. The Tax and Spend Clause says that the federal government can only spend on Defense and General Welfare. It can not spend on specific welfare. Neither Goldman Sachs, nor unions, nor Bernie’s small donors clumping their money together, will bribe politicians if those politicians follow their oath, an oath which prevents them from rewarding special interest groups with money from the US Treasury.

    You want to stop special interests from buying politicians. Then elect statesmen and stateswomen who understand and apply our Constitution.
    —————–

    1. 1.1

      Jeff Chelf

      We live in a finite world. Land, oil, iron ore, helium, clean fresh water, old growth virgin forests…all finite. These are the basis of wealth. If a small percentage controls the majority of these resources it therefore deprives others from obtaining wealth. And, more importantly, the ever expanding capitalist economy will come to a grinding halt when it hits the limits of the resources that we built our civilization around.

    2. 1.2

      Jeff Chelf

      In summary, wealth is limited in much the same way as your ability to reason.

    3. 1.4

      Richard Ivans

      Jeff,
      We live in an infinite universe.
      We have sent men to the moon, and robots to Mars and beyond.

      Many of our resources are renewable, most are recyclable.
      ———————
      HOW MUCH WEALTH IN A SANDBOX?
      A ton of sand can be a sandbox, glass on your computer screen, or memory and CPU chips.
      One of those chips can add a billion numbers in the blink of an eye. How much is that worth?

      Artificial intelligence on that chip can surpass Einstein and all the wheel chair confined physicists combined.
      What is the limiting value of a ton of sand?
      What is the maximum wealth that ton of sand can become?
      Unlimited wealth.

      Wealth is not limited.
      If one ton of sand can become so valuable then how about Malibu Beach?
      ——————–
      MONOPOLIZING WEALTH?
      Even if a small percentage of rich guys could control all the sand on all the beaches, why would they just sit on their sandpile?

      Rich people don’t sit on their money. They invest, save, spend, and donate. They also pay taxes.

      INVEST
      They invest in companies that make things we all want. Companies that employ people.

      Rich people use their money to make more money. When Walmart opens another store then even more poor people save money. Walmart saves poor people BILLIONS of dollars each year by selling them food and clothing at a lower price.

      SAVE
      Rich people also save their money in banks where it is then available for you and me to borrow to buy a house. The more they save in the bank the cheaper the loan for us.

      SPEND
      Besides save and invest, rich people also buy stuff. The buy stuff that others are employed to make.

      DONATE
      Rich people build universities – Vanderbilt University, Carnegie Mellon, Purdue University, Rockefeller University, Stanford University to name a few.

      Rich people donate lots of money to universities. Eli Broad, an extremely rich guy, has donated millions to Michigan State University. Most likely you and Joe have been to the Broad Art Museum built with money he donated.

      Next time you are listening to NPR note the “funded by” Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford Foundation,etc.

      PAY TAXES
      Rich people pay an inordinate amount of the taxes. We all benefit from the roads, bridges, national defense, courts and other general welfare that rich people buy for us.
      ——————–
      “GRINDING HALT” ??
      “ever expanding capitalist economy will come to a grinding halt when it hits the limits of the resources that we built our civilization around.”

      Nope. Malthus was wrong.
      As a resource becomes more and more scarce people adapt. They learn to stretch the resource and they find alternatives.

      For example, the demand for diamonds is unlimited, the supply isn’t. So the price of diamonds increases when the supply lowers. The part of civilization built around diamonds doesn’t collapse into chaos. Instead people decide that rubies look good too.

      So people substitute with rubies, cubic zirconium and cut glass. And researchers develop methods of making artificial diamonds.

      So it is with every other resource. Just when we think we have reached peak oil some guy figures out how to squeeze oil out of shale, or drill horizontally, or frack, or grow gasohol, or power the car with electricity created with atomic energy. All of those things create more wealth.

      Wealth is not limited

    4. 1.5

      Richard Ivans

      Jeff Chelf,
      My ability to reason?
      Why you have to try to belittle me? Did I insult you or your family or something?

    5. 1.6

      Jeff Chelf

      Richard, here’s the thing. These days I’m actually rather wealthy by most standards, and have never once felt that the sand is limitless. Most resources are not renewable. Trees for instance, not as renewable as we would imagine as it turns out that after the third cutting they don’t come back with nearly the same vigor. Just because some corporate boob figures out how to squeeze more juice from the turnip does not mean that the recourse, in this case oil (from your own example) is limitless.

    6. 1.7

      Jeff Chelf

      Sorry for the early reply, I’m a bit drunk in London, forgive me. Anyway, we are not able to tap into the resources of the universe, we have one earth. One home planet with a finite size. There is no scenario where we realistically harvest minerals from so far off galaxy this is our lot in life. Therefore the eart is finite, your reasoning (as well as mine) is finite.

    7. 1.8

      Jeff Chelf

      now, onto this horse shit about rich philanthropy. Sure foundations have done some amazing things for us, but so have the taxes of everyday individuals. To hire someone is intrinsically to exploit the resource that is their life, and to give back a library is a small reward for taking someone’s time. This may sound odd, but realize in my mind the only non exploitave society is a primarily agrarian society where each community is responsible for itself. Again, I’m not sober so my reasoning is nearly as impaired as yours but I will forever be an anarchist. Much love, peace and harmony- Jeff. Oh and in summary, I don’t always end with ad hominem arguments but when the opposing parties reasoning is indeed dead wrong, I can’t help myself.

    8. 1.9

      Richard Ivans

      Jeff,
      If you are “rather wealthy by most standards” then how do you square that with your socialist view of the world?

      Doesn’t social justice compel a wealthy white privileged guy to give up his wealth and privileged station in life to someone from the oppressed classes? to impoverish himself down to the average, if not by government redistribution then by giving to charity?

      Instead of drinking away your excess wealth shouldn’t you be redistributing it to the poor? Or is that something only other wealthy people should do?
      —————-
      ALL RESOURCES ARE RENEWABLE
      All renewable – carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, all resources. It is just a matter of developing the technology.

      In MSU’s early years waste was dumped into the Red Cedar. Now there are research ponds out College Rd where they turn waste water into clean water wildlife ponds.

      When I was a kid bottles and cans went into the permanent waste dump site. Now they never reach the dump.

      Today waste dump methane is captured and used to make electricity.

      Recent advances in carbon sequestration show promise in capturing and returning CO2 to the soil.

      Everything is renewable. (except that which is lost to entropy, which it seems nothing in the cosmos can prevent)
      ——————
      I ACCEPT
      So now you are saying “your reasoning (AS WELL AS MINE) is finite.”

      I accept your apology.
      ——————
      BOTH SIDES
      It seems you see capitalism as one-sided, benefiting only the employer.

      “To hire someone..[is]..taking someone’s time” ???

      NO. Walmart no more takes some employee’s time than the employee take Walmart’s money.

      The way it works is you work and you get paid money for that work. Your employer doesn’t take your time. You freely give it to him, in exchange for money.

      What you are talking about is a command economy, where small groups decide what shall be forced on the masses. That’s what Socialism is. Socialism forces what is built, who builds it, at what price.

      Socialism takes your time, your labor, and redistributes it to others who either didn’t labor or didn’t labor as productively as you.
      ——————
      CAPITALISM
      ..is two free men looking each other in the eye and freely discussing the terms of a proposed transaction. If they agree they shake hands. If either doesn’t like the terms then they walk away. No one is forced to do anything. Freedom.

      No Walmart employee is forced to work under terms they don’t like.
      —————–
      DRUNKENNESS
      I’m sorry to hear that.

  2. 2

    Einar Nordgaard

    Here we go again diarrhea…
    and Sam Walton if you like him that much get a job at one of his great stores
    Medication time again for you.

    1. 2.1

      Richard Ivans

      Einar,
      Walmart saves poor people BILLIONS of dollars every year, even in your country. Your poor fellow countrymen buy milk, diapers, medicine and clothes cheaper at Walmart, saving them money to live better lives.

      Some of your countrymen work at Walmart, of their own free will. They decided to work at Walmart, no one forced them to.

      What don’t you like about helping the poor and providing jobs that people like?

    2. 2.2

      Einar Nordgaard

      one of the reason they can manufacture cheap things is because of their use of prison labour, aka the 21st century slaves.

    3. 2.3

      Richard Ivans

      Walmart is the biggest retailer in the history of the world. They sell hundreds of thousands of different products from milk to tires to insurance.

      Walmart buys from tens of thousands of suppliers. They buy from farmers, cooperatives, corporations, craftsmen and redistributors around the world.

      Show us how they can be labeled a slaveholder, forced labor.

    4. 2.4

      Einar Nordgaard

      your problem is you read what you wanna read and qoute wikipedia

    5. 2.5

      Richard Ivans

      Show us how Walmart uses forced labor, Einar. Or was that something you just made up?

      Which of their tens of thousands of suppliers use slave labor?

    6. 2.6

      Einar Nordgaard

      where did you read forced labour?

    7. 2.7

      Einar Nordgaard

      Richard Ivans Martori Farms just happens to be one of the leading suppliers of agricultural produce to that beacon of corporate responsibility known as Walmart. Private companies and corporations have always found ways to exploit prison labor, but this tidy set-up, and the hypocrisy around it, is beyond the pale.

      In a press release on the Walmart Website, Ron McCormick, vice-president for produce, says of the company’s links with Martori:

      “Our relationship with Martori Farms is an excellent example of the kind of collaboration we strive for with our suppliers.”

      On another part of the Walmart website, the company unambiguously declares (pdf):

      “Forced or prison labor will not be tolerated by Walmart.”

    8. 2.8

      Richard Ivans

      .
      Where did I read forced labor?
      You said “because of their use of prison labour”
      Maybe you meant prison labor where the prisoners can freely choose to work or not work. In the USA we have prisons of that sort, where a prisoner can choose to work for a small wage, or simply sit in their cell. Most choose to work.

      And yes, there are some that are forced to work. They are criminals in prison, what do you expect? golf, swimming, buffets?
      ——————-
      Prison Labor
      In America if you commit a crime you are punished. Maybe in Scandinavia prisoners get a nice couch and TV. In most prisons here you don’t.

      From what I read about the Arizona Dept of Corrections, they let Matori and many other farming enterprises use their prisoners to work on farms.

      Are you against prisoners being punished for a crime?
      Or just against Matori and others making good use of the prisoners?

      What do prisoners in your country do? repeatedly dig holes and fill them back up? Or do they do something useful? Something that saves poor people BILLIONS of dollars each year?

      Prisoners aren’t innocent slaves, they are criminals being punished for a crime.

    9. 2.9

      Einar Nordgaard

      You just don’t get it and never will

    10. 2.10

      Richard Ivans

      What I get is that Walmart saves poor people BILLIONS of dollars every year, and provides jobs for over a million satisfied workers, around the world.

      Yet some people who have never run a business in their life think they could run Walmart better, in a way that would help more poor people.

      Instead of allowing freedom in the workplace these smarter-than-Sam people would force Walmart to pay workers more, and give workers “free” healthcare. They would force Walmart to pay more taxes too. They want the government to show up at Walmart with guns (how else are you going to force Walmart to hand over their money if you don’t have a gun).

      These smarter-than-Sam people have big hearts. That’s why they don’t like how Walmart runs their business. You see, Walmart is a big mean greedy heartless business.

      These nice smarter-than-Sam people aren’t mean or greedy. They are nice, caring people. They care about the poor man. They probably do a lot of charity work for the poor in their spare time.

      These “nice” people just want the government to show up at Walmart and force greedy Walmart to act like these smarter-than-Sam people think they should.

      Walmart is dumb and greedy.
      These people who have never run a business in their lives are smart and kind, nice people.

    11. 2.11

      Einar Nordgaard

      wtf freedom in the workplace…..prison labour

  3. 3

    Jeff Baldori

    And you can go to Cuba where the monthly income is $20.00

    1. 3.2

      Jeff Baldori

      You may. Someone here needs your job

    2. 3.3

      Jeff Baldori

      I will buy your ticket.

    3. 3.4

      Einar Nordgaard

      Jeff Baldori ones again this shows
      my education was free yours was for nothing

    4. 3.5

      Jeff Baldori

      Havent you left yet?

    5. 3.6

      Einar Nordgaard

      Jeff Baldori left from?

    6. 3.8

      Einar Nordgaard

      Jeff Baldori is there a reason for leaving?

  4. 4

    Mike Skory

    Congradulations Joe. Is this just out?

    1. 4.1

      Einar Nordgaard

      Jeff Baldori You are too blind to see what is going on and where people come from.
      BTW your favourite Trump trumps all when it comes to empty insults and stupid allegations.
      That’s the reason you, bottom feeders, deserve him.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnpO_RTSNmQ

    2. 4.2

      Mike Skory

      I voted for President Obama on 2008. Everyday I want to throw up when I see how he is “changing” the country. Read some of Lenins writings. ..including the parts about “democratic socialism”. Lol! Nothing new here

    3. 4.3

      Jeff Baldori

      You and Donald would make a good couple Elnar

    4. 4.4

      Einar Nordgaard

      Jeff Baldori You even misspelled my name, that says enough about your education,

    5. 4.5

      Einar Nordgaard

      Mike Skory Always better than copying someone’s work.

    6. 4.6

      Jeff Baldori

      Let’s see we have “Lil Marco” “Lying Ted” “Crooked Hillary” and “Nasty Elnar” Sure looks like Elnar to me. Is that l an I? as in Weiner?

    7. 4.7

      Jeff Baldori

      Or Wiener? One must use upper case once in a while.

    8. 4.8

      Einar Nordgaard

      Jeff Baldori and then we have one to many chromosomes Jeff

    9. 4.9

      Jeff Chelf

      Einar, it seems they are picking a fight with you in your fourth langauge again. Seems a bit unfair.

    10. 4.10

      Einar Nordgaard

      Jeff Chelf this is the only way they dare to (speak out)

    11. 4.11

      Jeff Baldori

      How badly does Donald Trump scare you? Just a little bit??

    12. 4.12

      Mike Skory

      Doesn’t scare me. Let’s open up those spread sheets. Let’s get a close look at that budget. Let’s find that 2nd and 3rd set of books.

    13. 4.13

      Jeff Baldori

      I directed that to wiener or weiner. I think he feels something slipping.

  5. 5

    John Duffy

    uh… did anyone in this thread actually read this piece, or did we all come here just to complain about stuff?

    1. 5.1

      Mike Skory

      Complain…..it’s the Facebook way

    2. 5.2

      Jeff Baldori

      Trying to discuss this piece in this forum is lunacy. If people are not educated enough to know that money controls both party’s which implies “plutocracy” from both, then don’t point the finger. For example, are not John Kerry and Mitt Romney both monied interests? The list goes on and on.Time for a change.

    3. 5.3

      Richard Ivans

      Jeff, An educated person like yourself needs to educated us hicks. What does our Constitution say about the government awarding money and special favors to rich people? Implement socialism, the forced redistribution of wealth, Bernie style? Is that what it says?

    4. 5.4

      Richard Ivans

      In a free society SuperPACs or any other entity can give as much money to anyone they want. If one man wants to give another man a zillion dollars it is nobody’s business but the zillionaire’s.

      If the recipient of the zillion, or anyone else violates the US Constitution then there is a problem. Our Constitution says the federal government can spend money on defense and general welfare only. If Congress obeys that law then no special interest group, superPAC or otherwise, can get special treatment from Congress. So yes, the Constitution takes SuperPACs into account.

  6. 6

    Richard Ivans

    I have to admit John Duffy, I did not read all of it.
    I love Joe, but I find his writing heavy. I prefer Hemmingway’s clear concise style, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style style.

    My comment was about the parts I did read, where Joe talks about the causes of plutocracy, and where he talks about the idea that wealth is like a pie, more for you means less for me.
    —————
    As usual some of the actors here act like you insulted their mother when you talk issue substance. So instead of a discussion it descends into name calling.

    When a character disrupts discussion like that on my Facebook page I give them private warnings. If it continues, on the third strike they are out, I censor them. Then I post, for general viewing, an explanation of what I did and why.

    1. 6.1

      John Duffy

      Hey, Richard. Right on. Yeah, I hear what you’re saying about how tough it can be to maintain a certain level of discourse on FB. This kind of threaded discussion doesn’t seem very conducive to informed debate.

      One thing I appreciated about this piece was how it uses a few literary sources (e.g. Jarry’s experimental play Ubu Roi, references to the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard) to position the argument outside the realm of what we think are the kinds of taken-for-granted rules that guide our everyday lives (e.g. neoliberalism). We might term these rules “ideology.” In short, we’re asked to check our assumptions at the door and entertain another set of ideas–a counter-history perhaps, or a reshuffling of the order of things–that has lead us to our current moment. For what it’s worth, I don’t see your position (that entrepreneurs like the Waltons create cost-savings that help all people) and Joe’s position as mutually exclusive. Rather, Joe’s whole argument for a “pataphysical” reading of our current economic and political climate asks us to consider a realm beyond the kinds of unspoken rules of the market (e.g. wealth is an infinite resource, anyone can create it through hard work, all lives are made better by free markets, etc.).

      One thing you said that gave me pause had to do with all people enjoying their positions as retailers in a large chain like WalMart. Surely we can acknowledge that this can’t be the case for the many thousands who work there. I worked at a chain retailer once while I was at MSU (and taking Joe’s class, no less!). Please believe me when I say it was TERRIBLE. So I’m wondering if we can also consider the many thousands of people whose labor is required to create the Steve Jobs, the Sam Walton, or the Roger Smiths of our world. We can look to these figures as titans of industry, but left out of this story is the exploited labor of those who make their success possible. Miya Tokumitsu says it more eloquently than I can, so I’ll leave this here. Food for thought, I guess.

      https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/01/in-the-name-of-love/

    2. 6.2

      Richard Ivans

      .
      GOVERNMENT’S JOB
      The Declaration of Independence says the government’s job is to ensure your rights.

      One of those rights is the right to conduct business with whomever you like, Walmart, Goldman Sachs, or other.
      ———–
      FREE MARKET CAPITALISM IS A NATURAL
      When government does its job, when government doesn’t allow anyone to violate your unalienable Creator-given rights, then we have free markets.

      In a free market you are free to sell your labor to Walmart or Goldman Sachs. Of course your right is matched by the rights of WMT and GS stockholders, the owners. They can ignore, hire or fire you. They and you negotiate for the best deal. They want the best workers for the best price. You want the best price for your labor.

      No one side in a business transaction gets everything they want. But, both sides get more than they had, otherwise they wouldn’t transact.
      ————-
      HAPPINESS IS RELATIVE
      Folks are happy to work at Walmart because the job is better than they had before hiring on.

      If they are unhappy at Walmart then they can seek work elsewhere, where they will be more happy, where their skills will be more appreciated. I assume that is what you did with your retail job situation.

      Now there are some people who will bitch and complain no matter what their station in life is. No government, no system, will satisfy them. It is not government’s or anybody’s job to satisfy the unsatify-able.
      ————-
      CHINESE STUDENT DRIVES MASERATI
      There is no system in the history of mankind that has brought more prosperity to people of all skill levels than has free market capitalism.

      At MSU these days there are students driving BMWs, Mercedes, Porsches, and Maseratis. Chinese students. China is moving towards free market capitalism, and away from Socialism. Its people now have vast opportunity.

      When Joe and I were students at MSU there were no mainland Chinese students at MSU. They were confined to dreary socialism in China, where the poor were horribly poor and the rich were government officials. No middle class to speak of.

      China now has more billionaires than the US.

      From Wikipedia:
      “Between 1981 and 2008, the proportion of China’s population living on less than $1.25/day is estimated to have fallen from 85% to 13.1%, meaning that roughly 600 million people were taken out of poverty.”

      China is moving away from socialism.
      The USA is moving towards socialism.
      Good for them. Bad for us.
      ————-
      WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MY HAPPINESS?
      Behind all this philosophical analysis of society are two basic notions.
      1) You are responsible for your outcomes.
      2) Others are responsible for your outcomes.

      Miya Tokumitsu thinks #2.

      Once you accept Miya’s conclusion then it is a tiny step to, “Well fukc those bastards! We have to do something to stop them.”

      And how do you stop them?
      Thru government. Thru Bernie. Thru armed US Marshal’s showing up at their door, taking their money, then redistributing it to us downtrodden unappreciated slaves who have been supporting those rich bastards.
      Right?

    3. 6.3

      Richard Ivans

      In a free society some win the trophies, others don’t. Some become rich some don’t. Some get the pretty wife some don’t. Not everybody is 7 foot tall and good at dribbling and dunking. And when the Oklahoma Thunder win the title (I hope) it doesn’t mean any of us are being robbed of something. The ways to happiness are unlimited, like wealth.

      Miya’s and Bernie’s class warfare, on the other hand, tell you that you should be outraged that a 7ft guy can land a 20 million dollar contract. Miya and Bernie want the government to forcibly take a lot of his honestly earned money from him, and give it to others who didn’t earn it.

  7. 7

    Jeff Baldori

    The only thing that slipped for you was that  your mom didn’t get an abortion. You bring me into the Trump fold. 

  8. 8

    Jeff Baldori

    Because with Trump you lose control of your fascist goals and a rebelling working class is fighting back. FYI the republican establishment hates him. Figure that one out. I am libertarian with no fondness for Trump. You argue like him with no substance.

  9. 9

    Jeff Baldori

    And by the way, crawl back into the fascist hole that you crept out if. Join the nazis! And stay out of the U.S. We own guns here.

  10. 10

    Richard Ivans

    Jeff,
    Cute. Your personalized abortion “joke”.
    —————
    Fascism is a cousin of socialism. Both are centrally controlled economies. Both tell you what, how much, and at what price things are made and sold. Bernie Sanders is much closer to fascism than Trump. Like Sanders, when rising to power Hitler and Mussolini had supportive mobs roaming the streets, fighting police.
    —————
    Jeff,
    That “we own guns here” sounds like a threat. Who are you threatening, Jeff?

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