Perfect for Labor Day is this amazing conversation from last week between NPR’s Josh Johnson and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer where the latter artfully defended his arguments for a progressive wealthy elite to save the world and (for?) capitalism. For some of us, however, Hanauer exposed, quite beautifully if inadvertently, how genuine redistributive economic policies – socialism – are indeed what is necessary to create the potential for an improved humanity. And for my own narrow focus on the myth of buying power i would only encourage folks to catch how one of Hanauer’s primary arguments for saving his beloved capitalism is to force his fellow elite to pay working people enough to continue shopping. Anyway, below i’ve provided the entire interview and also a playlist of clips from the interview which i’ve then subsequently annotated to highlight important admissions in this exchange between Johnson and Hanauer.
- By all means enjoy the full interview and/or the following annotated clips
- “The Pitchforks Are Coming…” Note how Hanauer recognizes that: a) any country that ends up “radically and unjustifiably unequal” breeds either “revolution” or a “police state” and that b) “our country most certainly is on that path” and most importantly, c) that a “secure middle class and a stable democracy” society is most beneficial to those who have “wealth and power,” d) how people must be convinced of their “material” inclusion in society to prevent revolution and to protect the position of those currently in power and e) that violence is coming, will get worse and is produced by an anger at worsening material conditions that is “valid.”
- Here Hanauer explains the basis of anger on the Left and Right as all emanating from worsening inequality and the share of the country’s wealth going increasingly to a decreasing number of people and describes accurately the process by which there is a massive transfer of wealth from the poor and working classes to the top 1%. Of course, as a proud venture capitalist worth hundreds of millions of dollars Hanauer’s solutions are deeply self-interested and his solutions are, music please… redistribution! Now, remember, he wants a “secure middle class and a stable democracy” not a revolutionary society (though that would be one relative to where things are now and where things are headed). The solution of this venture capitalist is not an end to classes or even necessarily poverty, just a greater degree of redistribution, primarily through an increase in wages and a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour (while honestly recognizing that given production rates that minimum should be well over $21 an hour) so as to make it possible for working people to buy the products they help create and sell while – most importantly – reducing the risk of those “pitchforks” or revolutionary hordes overthrowing Hanaeur’s class. Though it is always funny to hear an honest answer like the one he gives to the question of whether “raising wages kills jobs” that, of course, there is no evidence at all that shows this and that the claim is a “trope” to protect the greed of employers. He goes on to say that at the current rate of wealth transfer to the rich the country in 30 years will see that the top 1% will have roughly 35-40% of the nation’s wealth while the bottom 50% will have to share a remaining 6%. Hanauer says this is not “market capitalism” but a “feudal” and “unsustainable” system the promotes/propagandizes a “trickle-down” economic growth which he goes on to accurately label a “lie.”
- “… either capitalism is a good system or its not.” Exactly. Here is where myth, perception and analysis come crashing down upon Hanauer, the self-proclaimed ardent defender of capitalism. If, as he asks, capitalism is a good system then it should be capable of meeting a “standard” where companies can, despite the perception of most of his business elite colleagues, survive paying their workers enough for those workers to shop where they work or to at least “lead stable and dignified, secure lives.” Otherwise, says Hanauer, we need to “chuck” capitalism aside in favor of socialism – which of course is dreaded. But, says, Hanauer, “the good news” is that there is only a 1% who truly benefits from this system so it should not be impossible for there to be developed a large enough “political coalition” that can impose a political power upon those who will never accept any form of redistribution so as to create a system that “works for everyone.” Among the many problems with this analysis is the absence, for instance, of any discussion (on NPR!) of the stranglehold held over the country’s media and communication systems by that same 1% who of course assure their ownership and control to first discourage any consideration of these issues at all and then by coercing belief in core national myths such as democracy, equality of opportunity and “buying power” aka the consumption method of attaining freedom. Mostly, however, Hanauer accepts and further distributes one of his class’ greatest propaganda gems, the redefinition of what it means when society is properly functioning. In his view the capitalist socio-economic model Hanauer is so desperate to save “works for everyone” when the most wealthy have slightly less simply so the rest of us will remain in place only with less anger or hostility directed at those – he has already acknowledged – are living off their “theft” of our labor. As Fanon warned, the attempt here is to reduce even our ability to dream of liberation, where the idea of our freedom is wedded to having just a bit more than we do, having what all know we should already have and then some.