A while back in ancient times (i.e., September 16, 2014) there was an article about how “the rich” who were tired of associating with us peasants were starting their own social network called “Netropolitan.” Netropolitan bills itself as a sort of Facebook for the elite, as “the online country club for people with more money than time.” We’re reminded of Robert (formerly “Bob”) Hope’s opening to Fancy Pants: “No popcorn during my performance, peasants.”
Interesting . . . but it takes what little fun there is out of being rich by separating them (even more) from the rest of us. Consider: the ancient Romans used to make a point of gathering as many “clients” around them as they could so they would always be assured of a cheering crowd when they went out shopping for slaves or to a sporting event to see criminals and captives hack themselves to pieces. You could always be sure there would be enough people to invite for dinner, or vote your ticket, or anything else you needed to be admired for and praised.
Adam Smith even built this in to his economic theories. He assumed human labor would always have a permanent place in the production process because, one, he didn’t take into account the productive potential of advancing technology, and, two, he thought that, out of “beneficence,” any rich man would choose to be served by human servants instead of by technology because of the admiration and praise he would gain by employing as many people as possible.
Perhaps this is why, as technology advances and displaces increasing numbers of people from production, we see a diminution in the perceived value of human life, and the increasing isolation of “the rich” from the rest of society. That is why more and more people look to the most powerful thing they know, the State, to take control.
What they should be looking to, however, is some way for ordinary people to own the technology that is displacing them. As Louis Kelso noted in an interview in Life magazine in 1964, “If the machine wants our jobs, let’s buy it.” He then outlined a proposal to do just that, without redistribution of existing wealth. This has been refined and expanded into the “Capital Homesteading” proposal of the Center for Economic and Social Justice.