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Old 07-28-2019, 04:37 PM
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Who do you really think is controlling the levers of power in the modern world?


I know this sounds like something that comes out of a 19-year-old's brain after a bong rip, but I really am curious.

I personally believe most people are just "people." They're helplessly human. Even senators, congressmen, etc. are all VERY personable and regular people when you meet them in real life...so where does the corporate life come from? We talk about the people at the top, but who exactly are they and why are their corporate cultures so un-human?

When so many people believe in a certain radical change from our aggressive capitalist economy that is catered to the rich...who's out there benefitting from the status quo?

I guess you could say the leaders of large corporations but that doesn't seem quite on the nose. While they actively oppose progressives, I refuse to believe the CEO of HomeDepot is the guy controlling all the levers. Who is in the echelon above him? And then above him? How many levels higher does it go?

Bill Gates, Buffett, and Bezos don't seem to be the answer. Bloomberg feels too public. The Kochs and Waltons seem to be close, but seems too obvious in some way. It was probably Cheney for a long stretch of time in the 2000s, but he's not around anymore.

My personal theory is that the McKenzie Consulting group is at the center of this circle. Their corporate culture, shameless advocacy for the status quo, and promotion of the worst excesses of capitalism seem the infest each thing it touches...
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Old 07-28-2019, 04:56 PM
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My personal theory is that the McKenzie Consulting group is at the center of this circle. Their corporate culture, shameless advocacy for the status quo, and promotion of the worst excesses of capitalism seem the infest each thing it touches...
"Mckinsey"
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Old 07-28-2019, 05:03 PM
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Old 07-28-2019, 05:19 PM
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There is no one person calling the shots.

What's happening is a few tens of thousands of people with a lot of power and influence (business leaders, political leaders, military leaders, etc) shape the world according to their own self interest.

The self interest of one may or may not align with another.
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Old 07-28-2019, 05:23 PM
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To your point, I don't think it's just "one firm". Certainly Bain and Boston Consulting Group would be competing in the same corridors of power as Mckinsey. But they are just management consultants. Think of them like the Tywin Lannisters and Davos Seaworths of the corporate world. Giving questionable advise to those in power, yet having little of their own.

You also have the major investment banks, in particular Goldman Sachs (the so-called "Vampire Squid"). Goldman executives have held a number of high-level positions in the Fed and other government agencies where they have had the ability to define and influence policy. Not to mention the companies themselves have a great deal of influence by what they choose to invest or not invest in.

The "Big-4" accounting/consulting/advisory firms (Deloitte, EY, KPMG, PwC) also wield a great deal of influence globally and have their hands into everything.

Let's not understate the role of Silicon Valley tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google as they gather every bit of information about everyone and everything.

Then of course, you have massive, controversial companies like Walmart, ExxonMobil, Monsanto, Haliburton, etc with their massive resources and political connections.

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Old 07-28-2019, 06:14 PM
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You also have the major investment banks, in particular Goldman Sachs (the so-called "Vampire Squid"). Goldman executives have held a number of high-level positions in the Fed and other government agencies where they have had the ability to define and influence policy. Not to mention the companies themselves have a great deal of influence by what they choose to invest or not invest in.
Don't forget private lenders, non-public 'banks' that weird considerable power and influence. Some of these 'companies' go back hundreds of years and have assets well into the hundreds of billions of dollars. I heard about one a few years back that nearly controlled all of Europe's forests via different paper and lumber companies and thru conservatory ownership as well, IIRC.
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Old 07-28-2019, 06:24 PM
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There is no one person calling the shots.

What's happening is a few tens of thousands of people with a lot of power and influence (business leaders, political leaders, military leaders, etc) shape the world according to their own self interest.

The self interest of one may or may not align with another.
This.

In addition, all of those people are less in control than they (or some other people) think they are.

That doesn't mean they don't have a lot of influence; they do. But even when most of their interests align, what happens isn't always what they had in mind.
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Old 07-28-2019, 06:53 PM
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Rich people. Same as always.
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Old 07-28-2019, 07:29 PM
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Old 07-28-2019, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Oedipus View Post
I know this sounds like something that comes out of a 19-year-old's brain after a bong rip, but I really am curious.

I personally believe most people are just "people." They're helplessly human. Even senators, congressmen, etc. are all VERY personable and regular people when you meet them in real life...so where does the corporate life come from? We talk about the people at the top, but who exactly are they and why are their corporate cultures so un-human?

When so many people believe in a certain radical change from our aggressive capitalist economy that is catered to the rich...who's out there benefitting from the status quo?

I guess you could say the leaders of large corporations but that doesn't seem quite on the nose. While they actively oppose progressives, I refuse to believe the CEO of HomeDepot is the guy controlling all the levers. Who is in the echelon above him? And then above him? How many levels higher does it go?

Bill Gates, Buffett, and Bezos don't seem to be the answer. Bloomberg feels too public. The Kochs and Waltons seem to be close, but seems too obvious in some way. It was probably Cheney for a long stretch of time in the 2000s, but he's not around anymore.

My personal theory is that the McKenzie Consulting group is at the center of this circle. Their corporate culture, shameless advocacy for the status quo, and promotion of the worst excesses of capitalism seem the infest each thing it touches...
It is the few thousand people who own the major corporations and the dictators of the various dictatorships around the world. It seems to me that your underlying assumption is that because they are "helplessly human" that they are fundamentally decent. ISTM that most of the really reach, however, are mostly greedy SOBs who care only about their own personal benefit. The ones that you mention like Gates and Buffett, who are good guys, are outnumbered among multibillionaires by people like Rupert Murdoch, the Koch brothers, the Waltons, the Mercers, Saudi royal family, the Russian oligarchs, third world dictators like Kim Jong Un, etc. Any single one of them runs only their slice of the global economy, and yes they may have different interests that are not alway the same. One of their interests that they do have in common, however, is that they do not benefit by trying to increase the living standards of the people at the bottom of the economic ladder. Since helping out the poor is a progressive cause, this goes against the interests of the greedy members of the multibillionaire class. The reason this class has a higher number of greedy SOBs compared to other classes is because being a greedy, ruthless SOB is a beneficial trait to someone trying to build such a fortune.

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Old 07-29-2019, 01:27 AM
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Higher level social structures are emergent, in the same way the behaviour of a bird flock or an anthill is emergent. No bird or group of birds is in control of the flock, or influencing the flock to behave in a certain way. Rather, each bird simply flies according to its own internal rules, and flocking behaviour emerges from the interactions between them.

Society is a complex adaptive system. Individuals have instincts, goals, and rules of behaviour. When individuals interact with each other by the millions in a social system governed by those rules, culture emerges.

If you choose different rules, you change the way the system evolves. Unfortunately, you cannot predict the way in which the system evolves or what it will become, because the system is inherently complex, chaotic, and unpredictable.
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Old 07-29-2019, 02:09 AM
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Bill Gates, Buffett, and Bezos don't seem to be the answer. Bloomberg feels too public. The Kochs and Waltons seem to be close, but seems too obvious in some way. It was probably Cheney for a long stretch of time in the 2000s, but he's not around anymore.
These people are visible, and financially strong as individuals. But their combined financial assets don't come close to the annual national budget of the US, which is funds being actually deployed, and not mere stock value. So the simple answer are those people who actually influence the amount and allocation of that money. That's the US. Apart form the US, China is the only other country that can apply the principle of exceptionalism for its citizens and whose policies can influence other economies.
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Old 07-29-2019, 04:18 AM
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Old 07-29-2019, 08:40 AM
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No one is calling the shots. Attributing "the shots" to individual people's intentions shows a misunderstanding of how sociological processes work.

The institution we call the free market is calling the shots.

Go play a game of Monopoly (the Parker Brothers board game), in fact play several rounds of it with your friends.

Which of the players' priorities and behaviors are responsible for the amassing of all the wealth in the hands of the winning player at the end? What horribly selfish person is making that happen?

Oh, it's the rules of the game...
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Old 07-29-2019, 10:09 AM
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Old 07-29-2019, 10:25 AM
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Old 07-29-2019, 11:26 AM
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In millions of small ways, it's minor intellectuals. They're people who teach our children, write books, make movies and tv shows, write the lyrics to songs, they all add up. Even politicians and comedians and tv's talking heads. And it's yesterday's intellectuals who are driving today's world. Today's intellectuals, who are very different, haven't hit their stride yet. But they will... until they're replaced by tomorrow's intellectuals.
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Old 07-29-2019, 11:33 AM
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Old 07-29-2019, 11:47 AM
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Higher level social structures are emergent, in the same way the behaviour of a bird flock or an anthill is emergent. No bird or group of birds is in control of the flock, or influencing the flock to behave in a certain way. Rather, each bird simply flies according to its own internal rules, and flocking behaviour emerges from the interactions between them.

Society is a complex adaptive system. Individuals have instincts, goals, and rules of behaviour. When individuals interact with each other by the millions in a social system governed by those rules, culture emerges.

If you choose different rules, you change the way the system evolves. Unfortunately, you cannot predict the way in which the system evolves or what it will become, because the system is inherently complex, chaotic, and unpredictable.
This is really the right answer. There's no one group or person, or shadowy cabal that's deliberately causing big stuff to happen. It's more the aggregate of all those small (and large) groups and their interactions with everything else that determines the net direction that things happen toward.
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Old 07-29-2019, 12:14 PM
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Old 07-29-2019, 01:10 PM
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Old 07-29-2019, 01:39 PM
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Monopoly, the game, is a bad analogy. We do not live in a world where everyone starts life with $1,500 and has the same salary. The point of Monopoly is that the bank always wins. Imagine playing a game of Monopoly where one player started the game owning everything built Baltic and Mediterranean, had unlimited access to low interest capital, made $200k for passing Go, and could arbitrarily change rent, and salaries for other players. Also this player pays much less when they land on the tax spaces, and never has to pay for street repair.
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Old 07-29-2019, 01:50 PM
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No one is calling the shots. Attributing "the shots" to individual people's intentions shows a misunderstanding of how sociological processes work.

The institution we call the free market is calling the shots.

Go play a game of Monopoly (the Parker Brothers board game), in fact play several rounds of it with your friends.

Which of the players' priorities and behaviors are responsible for the amassing of all the wealth in the hands of the winning player at the end? What horribly selfish person is making that happen?

Oh, it's the rules of the game...
There are forms of power other than economic power. Political power is more influential than economic power. Arguably military power is more important than political power as military power is what is needed to rule or Overthrow a government. If the entire military decides to Overthrow the dictator, then the dictator goes down.

Putin is worth $200 billion because he used his political power to obtain economic power. But if the Russian military turn on him, he goes down.

It's ironic that in America the power totem pole seems to be inversed. Instead of military > political > economic power we are the opposite. Economic > political > military.

Of course in most wealthy and developed nations the military is under civilian rule for a good reason, to prevent coups. But still, the US seems like an outlier where wealth is more influential than political power.

Either way, to your point the rules of the game can be changed. If you enact progressive taxation, estate taxes, wealth taxes, etc as well as laws to grow labor unions, make housing affordable, higher minimum wage, etc then wealth inequality goes down.

The rules of the 'game' can be changed so that more wealth and power accrues either at the top or the bottom. The issue is that in America both parties enforce rules that ensure wealth and power go upward (the gop wholeheartedly does it and the dems half heartily do it, but they both do).
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Old 07-29-2019, 01:53 PM
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No one is calling the shots. Attributing "the shots" to individual people's intentions shows a misunderstanding of how sociological processes work.

The institution we call the free market is calling the shots.

Go play a game of Monopoly (the Parker Brothers board game), in fact play several rounds of it with your friends.

Which of the players' priorities and behaviors are responsible for the amassing of all the wealth in the hands of the winning player at the end? What horribly selfish person is making that happen?

Oh, it's the rules of the game...
There are forms of power other than economic power. Political power is more influential than economic power. Arguably military power is more important than political power as military power is what is needed to rule or Overthrow a government. If the entire military decides to Overthrow the dictator, then the dictator goes down.

Putin is worth $200 billion because he used his political power to obtain economic power. But if the Russian military turn on him, he goes down.

It's ironic that in America the power totem pole seems to be inversed. Instead of military > political > economic power we are the opposite. Economic > political > military.

Of course in most wealthy and developed nations the military is under civilian rule for a good reason, to prevent coups. But still, the US seems like an outlier where wealth is more influential than political power.

Either way, to your point the rules of the game can be changed. If you enact progressive taxation, estate taxes, wealth taxes, etc as well as laws to grow labor unions, make housing affordable, higher minimum wage, combat racial inequality, auto enroll people into private retirement accounts, match retirement account investments with public funds, invest in education, etc then wealth inequality goes down.

The rules of the 'game' can be changed so that more wealth and power accrues either at the top or the bottom. The issue is that in America both parties enforce rules that ensure wealth and power go upward (the gop wholeheartedly does it and the dems half heartily do it, but they both do).
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Old 07-29-2019, 01:55 PM
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Higher level social structures are emergent, in the same way the behaviour of a bird flock or an anthill is emergent. No bird or group of birds is in control of the flock, or influencing the flock to behave in a certain way. Rather, each bird simply flies according to its own internal rules, and flocking behaviour emerges from the interactions between them.
True, but to continue the analogy to the breaking point, while most of us are sparrows whose individual actions subtly shift the emergent effect, some are hawks whose individual actions can have dramatic effects.
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Old 07-29-2019, 02:23 PM
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Monopoly, the game, is a bad analogy. We do not live in a world where everyone starts life with $1,500 and has the same salary. The point of Monopoly is that the bank always wins. Imagine playing a game of Monopoly where one player started the game owning everything built Baltic and Mediterranean, had unlimited access to low interest capital, made $200k for passing Go, and could arbitrarily change rent, and salaries for other players. Also this player pays much less when they land on the tax spaces, and never has to pay for street repair.
Slightly different but not meaningfully so. The point remains: the outcome that you see is a product of the rules of the game, which in this case include having different starting points.

(You don't, by any remote stretch of the imagination, think that I was defending the status quo, do you? Or are you one of those who absolutely need a Culprit in order to argue that how things are is not fair?)
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Old 07-29-2019, 06:48 PM
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Higher level social structures are emergent, in the same way the behaviour of a bird flock or an anthill is emergent. No bird or group of birds is in control of the flock, or influencing the flock to behave in a certain way. Rather, each bird simply flies according to its own internal rules, and flocking behaviour emerges from the interactions between them.

Society is a complex adaptive system.
This is true, and should be the starting point for any discussion about how power works, at least where pluralistic representative democracies are concerned.

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Individuals have instincts, goals, and rules of behaviour. When individuals interact with each other by the millions in a social system governed by those rules, culture emerges.
This is also true, but it would be a mistake to focus only on individuals. Institutions, organisations, movements, and interest/identity groups are not merely aggregations of their individual members. They are also actors in their own right, with their own internal logic and power dynamic.

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If you choose different rules, you change the way the system evolves. Unfortunately, you cannot predict the way in which the system evolves or what it will become, because the system is inherently complex, chaotic, and unpredictable.
It's entirely possible to predict the ways in which a system will respond to a given change. It happens all the time. Thus are elections won and fortunes made.

It can certainly seem as if all predictions are bullshit. Firstly, because nobody is ever completely right. And secondly because the times when people are wrong tend to be more salient. In general, we attract much less credit for being right than we attract scorn for being wrong.

But, for the most part, when power takes action the intended changes are achieved to a reasonable degree of reliability. Improve safety standards and fewer people die in accidents. Increase education budgets and you'll get a more productive workforce. Cut taxes on a group and that group will have more power.

And the same is true for those broader social and cultural matters. Movements can change the things they want to change, albeit never to the degree they wish. The civil rights movement of the 1960s successfully changed the culture in ways it intended. As did the neo-liberal movement of the 1980s.

The trick for a politician is to find a wave that's ready to break, and bring enough people with you to ride it through to real, substantive change.
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Old 07-29-2019, 07:19 PM
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My personal theory is that the McKenzie Consulting group is at the center of this circle. Their corporate culture, shameless advocacy for the status quo, and promotion of the worst excesses of capitalism seem the infest each thing it touches...
"Mckinsey"
No, the OP had it right. The Canadian McKenzies are the real power pulling all those levers at places like McKinsey & Company, Goldman Sachs and so forth. Everyone thinks the Canadians are nice, polite and harmless. But they're secretly controlling the world.
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Old 07-29-2019, 09:21 PM
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Everyone thinks the Canadians are nice, polite and harmless. But they're secretly controlling the world.
Well they're not exactly making it look like they've got an idea where it's going, do they?
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Old 07-29-2019, 09:29 PM
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That just goes to show how devious they are.
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Old 07-30-2019, 12:16 AM
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Old 07-30-2019, 03:07 AM
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Old 07-30-2019, 06:29 AM
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No, the OP had it right. The Canadian McKenzies are the real power pulling all those levers at places like McKinsey & Company, Goldman Sachs and so forth. Everyone thinks the Canadians are nice, polite and harmless. But they're secretly controlling the world.
Now I understand global warming!
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Old 07-30-2019, 08:09 AM
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It's entirely possible to predict the ways in which a system will respond to a given change. It happens all the time. Thus are elections won and fortunes made.
At best it's educated guesswork, and if I had to venture a guess, I'd say that the ability to predict anything concrete is right up there with tea leaves, entrails and chicken bones.

I mean, we can deduce SOME of the rules that govern the emergent behavior that Sam Stone is talking about, but only in very specific circumstances.

Otherwise, the system is too large with too many actors to accurately predict much of anything. It's like the weather- it's the product of a bunch of local phenomena combined with larger-scale regional and global things. And it can be predicted to some degree of accuracy, within very vague parameters, and within very short time frames. And with some of the world's most powerful supercomputing resources applied to it.

Emergent behavior is like that- we can confidently say that the swarm of bugs is going to avoid the flaming tree, but we can't predict with any certainty what else they'll do.

I'm not sure why it's even an argument- it's clearly an emergent behavior, and does what it's going to do. If it was, economics would be less contentious and more akin to math or a hard science like chemistry. Same with politics.
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:45 PM
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Systems manage systems. It doesn't matter as much as anyone thinks who is "in charge". The system needs some people to be in charge and they are surprisingly interchangeable, almost as much as the rest of us. What does the system want? It just wants to keep existing. It re-calibrates whenever there's a disturbance, to absorb that disturbance and turn it into more system. And more about cybernetics that I don't understand, personally, but I've sure seen how it works. You can see it at the family level, at the local politics/economics level, and all the way on up.

The real reason climate change, which will kill us and all our systems, isn't being addressed, for example, is that there is no function in the system to address anything long-term, except via disaster, when change is forced. The system doesn't think or plan, it just continually reacts to maintain itself.




Unless it's the Lizard People after all.

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Old 08-07-2019, 08:55 AM
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...One of their interests that they do have in common, however, is that they do not benefit by trying to increase the living standards of the people at the bottom of the economic ladder. ....
If they weren't so short-sighted, they would realize that a strong middle class consumer base is needed for them to make money. There are not enough oligarchs and despots to buy each others' product if the masses don't have enough income.
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Old 08-07-2019, 09:01 AM
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If they weren't so short-sighted, they would [...]
history dot txt.
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Old 08-07-2019, 09:10 AM
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If only someone wrote a book on this subject....

Standard reading for most macro-econ 101 courses, Thomas Dye's Who's Running America is up to it's 8th edition, last updated during the Obama years.
He breaks it down to the corporate elites, the media moguls, and politicians.
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Old 08-07-2019, 09:19 AM
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No, the OP had it right. The Canadian McKenzies are the real power pulling all those levers at places like McKinsey & Company, Goldman Sachs and so forth. Everyone thinks the Canadians are nice, polite and harmless. But they're secretly controlling the world.
I, for one, welcome our Touque-wearing overlords from the Great White North. Someone get me some backbacon and beers!
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Old 08-07-2019, 11:54 AM
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Are we USAians too unworthy for our Canadian overlords to share some of that sweet health care?
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Old 08-07-2019, 01:20 PM
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There are not enough oligarchs and despots to buy each others' product if the masses don't have enough income.
Do they really need that, though?

There's some increasingly convincing evidence that relative prosperity/happiness is more important to people than absolute prosperity/happiness. As long as they had it 100 times better than the next schmoe, they wouldn't mind it so much compared to only having it 10 times better even if it meant having more wealth overall.
  #42  
Old 08-13-2019, 07:26 PM
Kimera757 is offline
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First rung: Large business associations.
Second rung: Politicians.

Politicians aren't necessary greedy for themselves. However campaigns are expensive, and they want to hold onto their job. Offering a politician money gets you nothing; they're watched too carefully. Offer a politician a large campaign contribution and you may get a favor. Offer them large donations from several large companies and you net a real favor. Do that with all major political parties and they'll all say the same things in areas that they're interested in.

Some areas of government are more resistant to this kind of corruption than others. I suspect law enforcement and military are vulnerable to political corruption but not corporate corruption (not as much). They're not completely immune. I'm sure military technology contractors have a reason to have a factory that produces an important jet fighter part in all fifty states, enabling you to effectively but indirectly bribe 100 senators. ("If you close that plant, you're all losing jobs in your districts.")
  #43  
Old 08-13-2019, 07:37 PM
Dr. Crap is offline
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King Brian, House of Mingus
  #44  
Old 08-14-2019, 09:36 AM
DesertDog is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Death of Rats View Post
I, for one, welcome our Touque-wearing overlords from the Great White North. Someone get me some backbacon and beers!
That's peameal bacon and Molson's, ya hoser.

Anyway, I'm just finishing Mr. Robot. It's the Dark Army, duh. Now, excuse me while I answer the knock at the door.
  #45  
Old 08-14-2019, 12:02 PM
bump is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimera757 View Post
First rung: Large business associations.
Second rung: Politicians.

Politicians aren't necessary greedy for themselves. However campaigns are expensive, and they want to hold onto their job. Offering a politician money gets you nothing; they're watched too carefully. Offer a politician a large campaign contribution and you may get a favor. Offer them large donations from several large companies and you net a real favor. Do that with all major political parties and they'll all say the same things in areas that they're interested in.

Some areas of government are more resistant to this kind of corruption than others. I suspect law enforcement and military are vulnerable to political corruption but not corporate corruption (not as much). They're not completely immune. I'm sure military technology contractors have a reason to have a factory that produces an important jet fighter part in all fifty states, enabling you to effectively but indirectly bribe 100 senators. ("If you close that plant, you're all losing jobs in your districts.")

I suspect corporate influence tends to be more single-note than say... politicians or the very rich individuals and families (except where they overlap).

By that, I mean that a large oil company isn't going to have any interest at all in things that don't affect the price of oil, the selling of oil or the processing of oil-related stuff. They aren't going to care one bit about say... privacy laws, or food deserts or any of that stuff. Similarly, a healthcare company may have a lot of interest in privacy laws, but very little in mineral rights legislation.

Meanwhile, some super-rich prick like Charles Koch might actually have personal opinions about all those things and be willing to apply his cash toward those opinions.
  #46  
Old 08-14-2019, 10:41 PM
penultima thule is offline
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If I was to nominate a single person/body/institutions then IMHO the closest would be the bond market.
  #47  
Old 08-15-2019, 01:49 PM
Jackmannii is offline
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C'mon, we all know who controls the levers of power.
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