In response to Martin Ford's thoughtful article/challenge: Could Income Inequality Lead To Civil Unrest in the United States?
Civil unrest on a small scale may occur, but revolution is unlikely and this is why. Because the puppetmasters who's Right and Left hands are the government/corporate world respectively have long been well aware of the potential for revolution and shadow-regime change, and adjust the Dictator-ishness accordingly. The Big-Time plutocracies are too intelligent to fully materialize; it is just a matter of how much pain they can cause the populace, how much daily bread they can steal and get away with it. How much corporate tax they can unload off into the Caymans, how long they can Kangaroo Court the Debt Ceiling debates, how much wealth they can strip via financial shell games and oligopolies. They've got whole armies of financial consultants, pollsters, think tanks dedicated to taking the temperature of the public's anger and making sure it never reaches a boil. We're living in an economic climate-controlled room where they are constantly fine-tuning the fuckedness quotient; they've learned from old King Georgy Porgy and Haiti circa 1791, saw the writing on the Tunisian walls long before Mubarak painted them with his own peoples' blood, dark and anemic from malnutrition. How else do you think The Money People have kept the majority of Americans believing they're doing better than they actually are, anethetized by the fading fumes of "The Greatest Nation on Earth" mythology for the past half century, despite a constant decline of the average American living standard down the economic spiral towards the 3rd world? We're rats in lab cages, watching shadows on our cave walls of flatscreens and touchscreens, telling us how much "opportunity" is out there, keeping us disoriented by disinfotainment and addicted to junk-food media as we're fed a precisely measured dosage of well-being such that we never reach that Jeffersonian threshold of Despotism, never critical-mass and rise up off our couches and Netflix streams of Jersey Shore to "revolt".
Maybe the Overlords have lost control over their capitalism machine, maybe existing webwork will fail. And the HFT shorters and subprime barons with their blood money, like their predecessors, the IBMs and Coca Colas who lifted their Jew skin encrusted gold bars of the Third Reich from that burning viper-den and invested it in America, they will take their spoils and start the seeds of the next Goldman Sachs or the next Stalin to come a few decades down the line
The human desire to compete for wealth and status and prestige and its second-order effects within complex socio-political configurations are routinely glossed over by the platonic hallowed Shangrilahs that permeate much of Marxist ethos and the abundantists, who are its spiritual progeny. You can try to deny that desire to compete, like some communist states and flower-throwing communes and naïve Silicon Valley programmers (now under antritrust investigation), and believe that billions of years of psychological evolution are just going to go away, and we’ve all seen how the Soviet experiment turned out.
Somebody will always come out on top, whether that’s 500 frat brother network of CEOs, a genocidal dictator, an authoritarian People’s Republic, a gated enclave run by robots and AI, defended by uber-Predator drones. Today’s cute anti-authoritarian revolutionary in the bushes is tomorrow’s tyrant on the throne. Today’s “hope n change” presidential candidate is tomorrow’s Wall Street-owned puppet. Today’s grass roots take-back-the-government tea party is tomorrow’s “guns gods n gays” Republican freakshow. Look at Iran overthrowing Teh Dictators in '79, jump-cut to them now repeating history with underground Twitter railroads, riding Ouroboros. Revolution may come, but it is not enough to let the Tzar’s heads roll under your Bolshevik revolution if you wake up the next morning, rub the party hangover out of your eyes, and discover a Stalin at the podium.
It takes, at minimum, an educated, active populace engaged in attempting to create the best of all possible worlds. Closely examine Sweden, Canada, any of the countries with consistently higher well being and happiness levels than the US. The pattern is not "abundance" or per-capita-output but rather the cultural zeitgeist of the general population as a whole, collectively policing their governments and corporations, making sure the next malignant tumor doesn't come into power, actively demanding that their social safety nets remain in place. A populace who is is not checked out of reality into "reality TV" and cyberfantasy worlds, distracted by the nerd-neuroses of Angry Birds and maintaining virtual personas, constantly awaiting the next pellet of online "social" interaction like some wirehead lab rat. And spending the rest of the time watching ten hours of media a day. Marxists/abundantists who prefer to leave these fundamentally non-linear x-factors out of their perfect equations for their model worlds are making their own Procrustean Beds (and the similarly deadly beds of innocent and/or ignorant bystanders). Not unlike the hordes of Gaussian Copula and “Great Moderation” flaunting economists who tried to fit the world to their theories and not vice versa. And we’ve all seen starkly and painfully how that 2008 economic Singularity worked out.
At any rate, dictatorship is a crude, medieval, and ultimately ineffective technique for maintaining control over a large population. A method for South American Banana republics and strategically placed Arabic resource-cows, but not the home town. You don't shit where you eat, or at least, you don't shit so much that the flies start attacking you. Trust that if there are Masters of the Universe -- as there likely always will be lest we genetically hack our brains to quit desiring status, prestige, and wealth (unlikely) -- they will choose Brave New World over 1984. Much more efficient.