The New Global Elite

The Rise of the New Global Elite“,  Chrystia Freeland, The Atlantic, January/February 2011

The global capitalist economy is booming. Global poverty is improving on a scale undreamed of. From 1973 thru 2002, per capita income in China and India have grown 245 percent. Investment, technology, and innovation are creating huge productivity gains, and increasing wealth world-wide.

Nearly everyone is getting richer, but the rich are getting even richer.  Chrystia Freeland notes that this “new super-rich” are largely first or second generation wealthy, highly educated, very hard working, self-made “meritocrats” who increasingly see themselves as apart from everyone else, a “transglobal community“.

Herself a vendor in this world, (she moderates elite world conferences), Freeland hints at scandal here, or at least an impending crisis. She thinks there is ill-gotten gain. “the vast majority of U.S. workers have missed out on the wind-falls of this winner-take-most economy. . .are ravaged by the same forces that have enriched the plutocratic elite.”

Freeland gives us inside gossip. The daughter of billionaire investment banker Peter Peterson, Holly Peterson, her friend, speaks of New York – “people have no clue about how much money there is in this town” and tells of dinner conversations in which a $20 million salary is considered not quite adequate – $10 million goes to taxes.

This “plutocratic elite” gathers actively in international forums for brainstorming, networking, education, and planning.  With “philanthrocapitalism“, they bestow their wealth entrepreneurally, “they are using their wealth to test new ways to solve big problems”. However, they do not seem interested in trying to help government, and do not want to pay more taxes.  “My money isn’t going to be wasted in your deficit sink hole“.

One has think that this worldwide economic growth, with millions being lifted out of poverty, is a good thing.  And these global elites do not have armies.  They do not take people away in the middle of the night.  But Freeland thinks that some kind of Robin Hood action will be necessary. “There is the simple fact that someone will have to pay for the improved public education and social safety net the American middle class will need in order to navigate the wrenching transformations of the global economy“. But it isn’t clear how a growing world economy that helps the middle classes of the rest of the world hurts the middle class of America.

The lesson of history is that, in the long run, super-elites have two ways to survive: by suppressing dissent or by sharing their wealth.”

One wonders about this ‘lesson of history’. The wealth of this new global elite is not hoarded in vaults. It is, in a real sense, already ‘shared’. It is held in bonds, and securities, and industrial investments that are selected to yield results and employ people to produce products and services that people want. While they pay a great deal in taxes, they don’t want to pay more, and this may be the sharing Freeland has in mind. These elites don’t see the value of supporting failing bureaucracies. They don’t believe that more money for public education will improve the results.

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