Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.
Friends of Campbell are making very, very worried sounds and aren't able to get in touch so it's very alarming, I find the tone of the latest update veers uncomfortably between "I am not coping well currently" and "I am making an inflammatory political statement and I refuse to even apologise for not honouring a commitment I entered into with you completely voluntarily".
(Incidentally, I note that the Kickstarter doesn't include money for postage and reading the titles of the backer-only updates it sounds to me like Campbell simply couldn't afford to post the books to people.)
@Tamara: How's the sound quality on the underwater MP3?
@Adrienne: Which novella? I looked around and Amazon has copies of all of them.
The mechanism of this is interesting too. As the minimum income is not enough for people to make a living, those working these jobs are dependent on food stamps and other public help to make ends meet. At the same time the industries depending on minimum wage workers are making great profits, for example Walmart. So, in effect, the help for those who need it come from taxes, the taxes are mostly paid by the middle class and instead of helping those who need it to get forward, they are subsidizing those who own the companies.
So the 99% protesters might not be protesting just the right things and might be oblivious and privileged idiots, I still feel that they are still on the right side of the issue. In addition, the wealthiest in the US don't even have to pay taxes as much either, or such is my understanding. Warren Buffet has remarked that his tax rate is actually lower than his secretary's and I assume he knows what he is talking about.
On the UK politics, I of course do not know how it works, but if the situation truly is so that the politicians are doing things so that the wealthiest benefit the most or solely, then it might give reason to suspect that something is amiss. That perhaps those with greater degree of means and the associated power are able to influence politics though outer-parliamentary views, for example through control of the public opinion. The middle class is a large portion of the population and a big part of the electorate. And while the voters can always be blamed for how they vote, large masses of people are in some circumstances manipulated. And of course this might be even easier with the middle class, who are usually only shaken out of their complacency and apathy by fear against themselves or their property. But still, wealth does exchange into power at some rate, although social status and privilege are a significant part of it.
Generally, societies lacking a powerful middle class are not very thriving societies precisely for the reason that the few wealthy and powerful, which go hand in hand really are able to dominate the politics. This is the situation in Russia for example, which is further exacerbated by the brain leak going on, where young people seeking a better life are leaving to study and work abroad. And of course the middle class holds the doctors, engineers, scientists, educators, accountants, lawyers, dedicated bureaucrats and small to medium business owners, whose existence is a sign of a functioning society. So while I do understand this dislike of the petit bourgeoisie and their conservative narrowmindedness, when and if the imbalances in the world start to change, this will lead to more middle class people everywhere, which unfortunately, might be unavoidable. The nordic welfare states were born out of an alliance between the moderate right and the moderate left, so there's that at least. Aren't most people in Ferretbrain middle class though? At least by level of education?
Of course, I don't presume to know more about the US or the UK than you all living there, but living in a small fish in a big pond where the US is the giant fish, one usually tries to have some picture of what is going on.
On what I was trying to say with the differences between the rich and the rest, I have no real idea now. It's not like they're vampires or anything. Or perhaps they are? Anyways, perhaps the point was that most middle class people still get their income through working a job or selling their skills, even if it is paid better and most are dependent on public schools and public services for which they mostly are happy to pay taxes. At least here they are. Whereas rich people are able to to live a rarefied existence in separation from the rest, where they really can just live off the dividends to their existing capital. Of course many of them work hard, but still, if the wealth disparity is moving more into the hands of the view than surely it is bad news for the rest, unless oligarchy(even a greater than now) would somehow improve on things. Hmm... I don't think I abbreviated anything at all. Too bad this is so late into the discussion. It is an interesting one, though.
@Adrienne: I'm in Yellow Springs; looks like I'm practically on the other side of the state.
Do you still have my e-mail address?
@Tamara: How do you manage to listen to podcasts while swimming?
I don't have anything to add to the 1% discussion - other than to agree with Dan. During the Occupy happening, I kept reading comments by POC, working class Americans going basically "What, now that you white middle class kids get a taste of what this society is like for the rest of us, NOW you suddenly want a revolution?"
While this reaction is understandable, does it really say anything against the "revolution?" Since the late 70s in the US, wages have stagnated and man costs have gone up. From what I've seen a lot of the focus actually has been on people who might call themselves middle class, but really probably aren't, like people making minimum wage. It's far more likely now that someone born into poverty will stay there, not because Bill Gates has too much money personally, but because government policies is designed to help him make as much as possible and has lost all interest in investing in the middle and lower classes.
Compared to many many people in the world a bank teller in the US has a pretty awesome life, but that's no reason the bank teller shouldn't prefer the far better economic system a bank teller would be living in in the 1960s. There's always a lot of talk about people not knowing how good they have it in discussions about this on US TV, for instance, and it's usually applied to people on the lowest ends of the economic scale.
None of this, of course, is at all useful or even relevant to debates about actual class politics, in any kind of Marxist sense.
Very broadly speaking:
*manual jobs and customer service jobs are working-class
*desk jobs, retail or owning a business are middle-class
*things demanding a degree (like medicine and law) have over the centuries descended from upper-class only to middle-class once education was more accessible
But there's a lot of arbitrary variation around that, and many jobs fall between the cracks. There's a fairly convincing (to me) argument that the old class structure no longer makes any sense because the nature of many jobs has changed substantially, the kind of jobs that exist have changed, and old power structures have shifted. The BBC had a bash at offering new ones.
In the US it's an income classification. How much money you make determines what class you're in. In the UK, where you work is relevant as well, so e.g. a tradesman is always lower class no matter how much money he or she makes? While if you're an office manager, you are middle class, even if you make less money overall than the tradie.
(Neither American nor British here, so please correct me if these are ignorant stereotypes.)
In particular, I get the impression that in the US the line between "working class" and "middle class" is different - that in the US everyone likes to think of themselves as middle class, whilst in the UK nobody likes to think of themselves as the same.
I'll be the first to agree that people with medium and high levels of wealth have plenty of illusions about ourselves and our privilege that we need to unravel, but I think positing our political power as equivalent to that of people with extremely high levels of wealth would be incorrect.
More or less what Arthur says.
In the UK at least, politics is a middle class game. Can the very rich hire lobbyists and run adverts and own newspapers? Of course they can. But the actual strings of power are held by middle class people with middle class values. When it comes to representation, what really matters is who makes the decisions, not who can spend money to put pressure on them.
Yes an *individual* very rich person can exert disproportionate personal influence over the political process, but the middle classes as a whole make up damned near 100% of politicians, civil servants, journalists and ... well ... basically everybody else with political influence. Middle class interests are at the heart of government policy because everybody in government knows what it is like to be middle class because they all *are*.
Working class people, on the other hand, are routinely ignored, because politicians neither know nor care what working class people's lives are like. This is why you keep getting things likeIain Duncan Smith talking about how easy it is to live on £53 a week. I believe there was one a couple of years ago who insisted that being waterboarded wasn't that bad as well.