Let me turn my blogging in a somewhat more political direction, at least for this post. Working on higher education as a futurist, I have to wrangle dozens of major contextual factors from the worlds of politics, economics, and society. In the course of doing so a hypothesis has come to mind, and I want to try it out here.
The idea is that American society is becoming an extractive democracy.
Short version: our economy and political institutions are now constructed to draw money and other resources from the lower half of society in order to transfer it to the wealthiest. It’s a kind of plutocracy.
Longer version? Let me draw together the intertwining strands. Ten of them, in fact. Ferguson will play an exemplary role.
First, local governments have ramped up their extraction of money from citizens through fees and bureaucracy. This is probably obvious to most readers, but let John Oliver explain.
Note that Oliver relies on what the nation has learned about Ferguson and surrounding areas.
Second, such practices scale up to the business and federal government levels, as David Graeber observes. Hence the epic-Kafka bureaucracies and exfoliating fee-charing systems. (No, I haven’t read Graeber’s most recent book)
“Almost every institution in America—from our corporations to our schools, hospitals, and civic authorities—now seems to operate largely as an engine for extracting revenue, by imposing ever more complex sets of rules that are designed to be broken.”
Once more, Ferguson’s shakedown policies are in view, but here as microcosm for the bigger machinery.
Third, American police forces are increasingly militarized, as Radley Balko has most extensively documented. This gives local authorities more power to extract wealth from citizens.
Fourth, financialization. That means an ever-increasing proportion of the American economy is based on financial services, rather than on manufacturing things. For a neat example, some readers may recall when General Motors made more money on loans than on actual cars. Continue reading