A country awash in money but going broke.

Author:Lawrence, Raymond J.
Position::Collapse of Capitalism? - United States economy - Viewpoint essay
 
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There is plenty of money in this country. Most of it just happens to be held by a very few people.

Those who know history are aware that an extreme imbalance in the possession of goods and power will at some breaking point result in the unraveling of the social fabric. Such unraveling is seldom a pretty sight. It's best to be "out of town" when it occurs. The late 18th century French Revolution and the early 20th century Russian Revolution are two stark examples of wide discrepancies of wealth and power that resulted in disintegration of the old order. Sometimes the unraveling can be contained, as in the American Revolution, during which the powerful English king was made the object of contempt, and being for away and untouchable, the revolution proceeded with relatively little excess and instability.

The problem with predicting such break points in history is an intractable one, especially when one lives in the midst of it. However, the current situation in the US is cause for at least a measure of concern. Vast amounts of wealth and power are currently vested in a relatively few people in the US. The political process which is allegedly free and open is largely determined by money, and a relatively few people currently have most of the wealth.

They are not likely to give it up voluntarily, and it remains to be seen as time goes on how much tolerance will be shown by those who live from paycheck to paycheck, or worse. If the social fabric unravels it will likely do so with great speed, too fast for any rational response. We can imagine a scenario in which all are swept downstream, such as has occurred previously in history.

There is unimaginable wealth in this country. There are more than 400 billionaires and a great many more fabulously rich persons whose wealth amounts to something less than a billion.

It is not easy to wrap one's mind around a billion dollars. A billion is a thousand million. To grasp the difference between a million and a billion dollars, consider the following: If a millionaire spent or gave away a dollar a second, or 60 dollars a minute, continually around the clock, the million dollars would be exhausted in 13 days. On the other hand, if a billionaire were to do the same, the money would last for 32 years. This fact was pointed out in a New Yorker book review by John Lanchester, and it is so counterintuitive that I thought it a factoid. I had to stop reading in order to do my own multiplication before I could accept...

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