November 15, 2017

The Superstar Economy is Destroying Us

Sherwin Rosen (PDF): The Economics of Superstars

Let me be completely blunt: the only reason I still maintain this blog is to have a platform for advertising my books and tee shirts. I am no longer interested in political arguments, economic debate, or social commentary. I don't even play games anymore. I have become jaded, cynical, and largely disenchanted with people in general as well as with particular individuals in my own family and in society at large. I hate the direction the world is going, both in the isolated and in the overall.

Our global economy has become a two-class system. This is the core issue driving the vast majority of social problems we face. The degree of wealth disparity between the top and the bottom has always been extreme, but never in the history of humanity has it been this extreme. This is insane. The amount of resources and capital being hoarded by the top .01% of the global economy is completely ludicrous. Yes, they earned it. Yes, they are entitled to it. No, it is not the job of any government to strip them of their wealth and redistribute it among the rest of us. Absolutely not! However, this is a reality that must be faced and it is the responsibility of the top 0.01% of the world economy to recognize the danger of their position.

I despise Karl Marx and his insane ramblings. Nonetheless, he is right about one thing: when economic extremes reach a critical mass violent reversal becomes inevitable. I fear we are almost at that point. I really do.

This is not a social problem, this is not an economic problem, nor is this a governance problem. This is an individual problem among rich individuals, poor individuals, and individuals all along the economic spectrum in between. This is a problem rooted in ethics and morals, or more accurately, the complete lack of ethics and morals that has become the norm throughout human society.

Human society now enjoys more pure liberty and individual freedom than it has at any time in our history. No society has ever enjoyed the freedoms present throughout our world. Only a few isolated countries still have absolute dictatorships. North Korea and Iran are perhaps the most extreme of these dictatorships, with limited dictatorships still present in Russia, China, Venezuela, and a few dozen other countries. This almost universal human freedom has come at a huge expense. Two bloody world wars, hundreds of bloody civil wars, and a decades long campaign of violent terrorism have brought us to this point. We are not yet at that place in history where every individual enjoys the ability to carve out their own destiny. Sadly, we are still quite far from it, but we are also much closer than we have ever been before.

The downside of freedom is that it empowers individuals to choose greed, self-interest, and self-aggrandizement above compassion and empathy. The real problem with NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem is not the disrespect they are showing to those who have sacrificed so much to give them the freedom to kneel. No, not at all. The real problem is the disrespect their kneeling demonstrates for their fans, their employers, the taxpayers who build the stadiums where they play, the police officers who protect them from terrorists, and the commercial sponsors who support their luxurious lifestyles. Every player who kneels is telling the world that everyone who contributes to their multi-million dollar salary is a racist bigot supporting rogue white cops hunting down innocent young black men. This is a huge insult that should not be tolerated, especially not when the number one cause of death among young black men in America is black on black violence related to drug gangs. There are no rogue white cops hunting young black men for sport! Or, at the very least, there are very few. On the other hand, there are in fact and in reality tens of thousands of young black men hunting each other down and killing each other in the most violent ways imaginable over nothing more substantial than minor drug territories and small prostitution rings.

And why is that? Why do these young inner city men slaughter each other over trivial thousands of dollars in illegal goods and services? Because those players raking in millions are spending their money on the cocaine and prostitutes the gangs supply! If those kneeling players really want to make a difference, then they need to take their millions back to their hometowns. They need to spend that money on schools, extra-curricular activities for youth, local businesses that can employ local youth, and other such enterprises. Instead of spending millions on a fancy European sports car, go back to your hometown, build a gym at the high school you graduated from and fill it with brand new sports equipment. Build a bookstore or a library with a reading club and a writing circle. Build a free art studio where young people can learn to create. Build a free or nearly free trade school where young people can learn a marketable skill. Finance a tutorial program at your local high school for young people who are struggling to learn.

Not just the athletes. There are superstars in business, in entertainment, in academia, in politics, and in every circle of life. People who at the top of their industry and the top of their game. They earn millions every single year. They invest those millions in stocks, bonds, commercial real estate, and empty farmland that collects subsidy checks from the government. This is a complete and total waste. These investment schemes increase their individual wealth and resources while doing nothing to support their peers or society at large. Why do they invest in such a destructive pattern? Because society reinforces the idea that accumulation of wealth and resources, hoarding, is the ultimate proof of individual value. The downside of the freedoms we all enjoy is the insane obsession we all now have with watching rich people being rich while continuing to grow ever richer.

Back when I was young, there was a television series, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous". This has exploded into hundreds of "reality" television programs dedicated to glamorizing greed, self-indulgence, and self-aggrandizement. We are using the most powerful information platforms ever invented, television and the internet, to teach young people that their self-worth is strictly measured in the amount of resources and capital they are able to accumulate and hoard. We are teaching the world that greed is good.

There is only one way to reverse the mass stampede into global self-destruction. Successful people must change their priorities. They must use their wealth to improve society and to empower those who are struggling just to survive. I'm not talking about political campaigns aimed at forcing the government to raise taxes and create more social welfare programs. No. Not at all. What I am saying is exactly the opposite. Those who have succeeded, those who are now comfortable, if they truly want to preserve their ability to remain comfortable then they need to stop hoarding and start sharing. Yes, they are entitled to their wealth. Yes, they are free to keep their wealth and continue expanding it. They absolutely have that right and no one should ever deprive them of it! However, they should also realize that every time their net worth increases by another hundred thousand or another million or another billion, they are moving the world one step closer to their own violent destruction at the hands of those who are not superstars.