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Ah, to be a billionaire ...

Absorbing essay by James Petras. Before I get the usual flak for posting from a non-"credible source" or being a commie, let me hasten to add it's but an interesting perspective from Petras. The picture at the top of the essay must surely be that of Scrooge McDuck, the richest duck in the world, who arrived in the US penniless from Scotland.

The dynamic growth of billionaires in the BRICs has led to the most egregious inequalities in the world. Among the BRICs, China leads the way with the greatest number of billionaires (115) and the worst inequalities in all of Asia, in sharp contrast to its Communist past when it was the most egalitarian country in the world. An examination of the source of wealth of China’s super rich reveals that it has resulted from the exploitation of labor in the manufacturing sector, speculation in real-estate and construction and trade. China has surpassed the US as the world’s biggest manufacturer in 2011, as a result of the super-exploitation of labor in China and the growth of parasitical financial capital in the US.

The wealth of Russian billionaires on the other hand resulted from the violent theft of public resources (oil, gas, aluminum, iron, steel, etc.), developed by the previous Communist regime. The great majority of Russian billionaires depend on the export of commodities, pillaging and devastating the natural environment under a corrupt and deregulated regime. The contrast in living and working conditions between the western oriented billionaires and the Russian working class is largely the result of the siphoning off of wealth to overseas accounts, offshore investments and extraordinary personal luxuries including multi-million dollar real estate. In contrast to China’s industrial elite, Russia’s billionaires resemble the parasitical ‘rentiers’ found among Wall Street speculators and Persian Gulf sheiks.

India’s billionaires are a combination of old and new rich drawing their wealth by exploiting low wage industrial workers, dispossessing slum and tribal peoples, as well as from diversified holdings in real estate, IT and software. India’s billionaires accumulated their wealth through their class-kin linkages to the very corrupt higher echelons of the political class, securing monopolies via state contracts. India’s high growth over the past decade (averaging 7%) and the upsurge in billionaires upward to 55 by 2011, are both linked the neo-liberal policies of deregulation, privatization and globalization, which have concentrated wealth at the top, undermined small scale producers and dispossessed tens of millions.


Faculty (Undercover)
I'm not really sure how to take this piece. If he's trying to be a pampheleteer, then his writing is hackneyed and as a result lacks rhetorical punch; he also fails to include a call for any sort of real action, so the impression ultimately is that the piece is a litany of cliches. I can't imagine, though, that this is meant to be taken as serious analysis. Within that genre, it seems a feast of generalizations only lightly sugared with facts, and the result tastes to me mainly of intellectual laziness.

This bothers me because I'm personally rather inclined to agree with the general world-view out of which writing like this springs, so when I see it done so weakly I tend to be bothered, whereas a similarly shallow piece from the "greed is good" quarter would give me a perverse sense of satisfaction.
This bothers me because I'm personally rather inclined to agree with the general world-view out of which writing like this springs, so when I see it done so weakly I tend to be bothered ...

What would be a better way of doing it? More numbers, more statistics, more break-up by category? And out of genuine curiosity, where should the rhetorical punch come from? And for an unsolicited personal opinion, I don't think a "call for action" will lead anywhere -- something Petras undoubtedly knows.


Faculty (Undercover)
I'm no ace at political writing, but there are all sorts of things to try that I think would be more interesting to read. One way would be via the particular: Rather than making assertions about "billionaires in region X," actually give us a billionaire perp walk. I desperately want to know how Mr. Nasty Horrible-Evil made his money, because chances are there's a pretty good story somewhere in it, and I may actually learn something by knowing it. (This, of course, requires the author to actually know something first.) I learn nothing by hearing some guy on a website call billionaires "parasites" and "exploiters." If I want that, I'll go read a Yahoo! discussion board.

If the ideological bent is the point, then the author should argue it, not insinuate it. It's insulting as a reader to be treated this way, particularly when no effort is made to do it gently. The piece so relentlessly takes its own obvious value judgments as self-evident that it could never possibly persuade, and the tone is so bludgeoning that not even the most ardent convert can take real pleasure in it. Most successful manifesto-type documents argue their points carefully and are rhetorically aware that they are apt to meet resistance. Letter from Birmingham Jail is a great example of a document that is so intent on breaking down its readers' preconceived notions that, at a historical remove, it seems a bit overwrought; still, I love the way this piece is not only logically careful but rhetorically lush.

As for scholarly writing, I would have no idea what to suggest in history or political science. When it comes to scholarship, you have to know a lot even to know how to read; the real content in such writing is often quite subtle.

"An independent research and media group of progressive writers, scholars and activists committed to curbing the tide of "globalisation" and "disarming" the ..."

Ok, so now that we know it is a site for progressive writers we can understand the basic bias. Thanks for not presenting this is unbiased and even handed writing/reporting. I and all of Quantnet appreciate it.

Also, lets look at the author:


"Petras describes himself as a "revolutionary and anti-imperialist" activist and writer.[citation needed] He has worked with the Brazilian landless workers’ movement and the unemployed workers’ movement in Argentina. From 1973-76 Petras worked on the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Repression in Latin America.[1] He has called the United States the "dominant Imperial power" and has called efforts to reform human rights in China "Washington's human rights propaganda campaign".[5]"

"Petras has called American Jews "Israel's fifth column," a synonym for traitors, goes on to stereotype the American Jewish community "primarily defined by their entrepreneurial capacities," and then calls them "upholders of a doctrine of offensive wars."[5] Petras has also called Israel "the most militarized country in the world."[5]"

Hmmmm, little Anti Semitic maybe???

"Petras has defended the 2009 election results in Iran giving "nationalist-populist" President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a 60%+ victory, in a 2009 article entitled "The Iranian Elections: The ‘Stolen Elections’ Hoax".[9] Describing the struggle in Iran as pitting "high income, free market oriented capitalist individuals" reformists against Ahmadinejad's "working class, low income, community-based supporters of a 'moral economy'", he denounced the claim that the election was stolen as a "hoax" perpetrated by "Western opinion makers".[10]"

Wow, so we have a supporter of Ahmadinejad, someone who denies the Holocaust and wants to eliminate Israel.

This guy sounds like a great dude. I want to read his stuff.

Next week I am going to start posting the unbiased and intellectually stimulating writing of Adolf Hitler and Karl Marx. Neither have an agenda. LOL

But yeah, the billionaires in the BRIC nations used corrupt means, in many cases, to achieve their wealth. That is why Democracy, freedom and capitalism need to be strengthened. The BRIC nations are growing, but also largely corrupt.
But yeah, the billionaires in the BRIC nations used corrupt means, in many cases, to achieve their wealth. That is why Democracy, freedom and capitalism need to be strengthened. The BRIC nations are growing, but also largely corrupt.

What does that mean beyond the use of cliches and buzzwords? The "capitalism" in places like Russia is precisely what has created a class of multibillionaires, whose achievements to the national economy are questionable. In India, the per capita calorie intake has actually declined over the last two decades -- this is "growth?" Cheerleaders like the NYT's inimitable Tom Friedman keep applauding these "accomplishments" -- which include by implication growing divided between rich and poor (NYT is of course a "credible source"). Troubling questions about whether contemporary capitalism has itself turned predatory and parasitic are deftly swept under the rug. Incidentally, the same phenomenon seems to be occurring in the US. Ah well, let us don our Panglossian spectacles and blithely announce we live in the best of all possible worlds ....
I don't think you can point to the BRIC nations and say they are perfect examples of capitalism. There is so much corruption and side dealing that you cannot have true competition or consumer choice. Never have I said the USA is absolutely perfect, but no where at no time have any government been perfect.

I think satisficing is probably best in this situation.

India has huge corruption and misaligned practices. I believe they are on the right track, but they are a relatively young and growing nation.
Keeping applauding such "achievements" has proved to be a satisfactory pillar from foreigners since the nation feels more comfortable when its government is said to have made huge achievements whether it's true or just a mirage. As for corruption, I think these two parts (applauding a shit government and floating in the same shit of corruption) are kinda related. You applaud a government since it conducts those deals what you want and in exchange you give them full freedom in terms of corruption, human rights, international relations, etc. and of course they "kindly use" that freedom.