Have We Reached “Peak Self-Glorifying Billionaire”? | Desultory Heroics


By Charles Hugh Smith

Source: Of Two Minds

Perhaps we should update Marie Antoinette’s famous quip of cluelessness to: “Let them eat space tourism.”

As billionaires squander immense resources on self-glorifying space flights, the corporate media is nothing short of worshipful. Millions of average citizens, on the other hand, wish the self-glorifying billionaires had taken themselves and all the other parasitic, tax-avoiding, predatory billionaires with them on a one-way trip into space.

Have we reached Peak Self-Glorifying Billionaire? If so, where does the downhill slide take us? Let’s start with a bit of history. Correspondent Jim B. summarized historian Arnold Toynbee’s study of the rise and fall of civilizations thusly: “Civilizations fail when their elites change from an admired dynamic creative class to a despised Establishment of corrupt rentiers, an entrenched governing class unfit to govern.”

Despised, check. Corrupt, check. Entrenched, check.

The 2013 book Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty discusses the differences between failed states and successful states, and concludes that the failed states are fundamentally kleptocracies that answer to a self-serving elite while successful states are answerable to the broad populace.

To summarize: When the few benefit at the expense of the many, the resulting kleptocracy ends up a failed state. When states maintain meaningful, transparent ways of responding to public needs and demands, the result is a successful state.

From the point of view of how systems fail to maintain dynamic stability, three factors pop out:

1. Elites become too successful in sluicing the nation’s income, wealth and political power into their own hands.

2. Since the system continues to thrive
despite their dominance, then there is obviously no need to change
anything–especially if it reduces their share of the nation’s wealth and
political power.

3. The elites ignore the intangible decay of leadership, the real-world dynamics of scarcity and over-estimate their own capabilities and the resilience of the system.