Economy Ellen Brown Original

How America Went From Mom-and-Pop Capitalism to Techno-Feudalism

The crisis of 2020 has created the greatest wealth gap in history. The middle class, capitalism and democracy are all under threat. What went wrong and what can be done?
Jeff Bezos is one of the biggest winners of this new techno-feudalist system. [Daniel Oberhaus / CC BY 2.0]

By Ellen Brown / Original to ScheerPost

In a matter of decades, the United States has gone from a somewhat benign form of capitalism to a neo-feudal form that has created an ever-widening gap in wealth and power. In his 2013 bestseller Capital in the 21st Century, French economist Thomas Piketty declared that “the level of inequality in the US is probably higher than in any other society at any time in the past anywhere in the world.” In a 2014 podcast about the book, Bill Moyers commented:

Here’s one of its extraordinary insights: We are now really all headed into a future dominated by inherited wealth, as capital is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, giving the very rich ever greater power over politics, government and society. Patrimonial capitalism is the name for it, and it has potentially terrifying consequences for democracy. 

Paul Krugman maintained in the same podcast that the United States is becoming an oligarchy, a society of inherited wealth, “the very system our founders revolted against.” While things have only gotten worse since then thanks to the economic crisis of 2020, it’s worth retracing the history that brought us to this volatile moment.

Not the Vision of Our Founders

The sort of capitalism on which the United States was originally built has been called mom-and-pop capitalism. Families owned their own farms and small shops and competed with each other on a more or less level playing field. It was a form of capitalism that broke free of the feudalistic model and reflected the groundbreaking values set forth in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights: that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, including the rights to free speech, a free press, to worship and assemble; and the right not to be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process. 

It was good in theory, but there were glaring, inhumane exceptions to this idealized template, including the confiscation of the lands of indigenous populations and the slavery that then prevailed. The slaves were emancipated by the US Civil War; but while they were freed in their persons, they were not economically free. They remained entrapped in economic serfdom. Although Black and Indigenous communities have been disproportionately oppressed, poor people were all trapped in “indentured servitude” of sorts — the obligation to serve in order to pay off debts, e.g. the debts of Irish workers to pay for passage to the United States, and the debts of “sharecroppers” (two-thirds of whom were white), who had to borrow from landlords at interest for land and equipment. Today’s U.S. prison system has also been called a form of slavery, in which free or cheap labor is extracted from poor people of color.

To the creditors, economic captivity actually had certain advantages over “chattel” slavery (ownership of humans as a property right). According to an infamous document called the Hazard Circular, circulated by British banking interests among their American banking counterparts during the American Civil War:

Slavery is likely to be abolished by the war power and chattel slavery destroyed. This, I and my European friends are glad of, for slavery is but the owning of labor and carries with it the care of the laborers, while the European plan, led by England, is that capital shall control labor by controlling wages.

Slaves had to be housed, fed and cared for. “Free” men housed and fed themselves.  Free men could be kept enslaved by debt by paying them wages that were insufficient to meet their costs of living. 

From ‘Industrial Capitalism’ to ‘Finance Capitalism

The economy crashed in the Great Depression, when Franklin D. Roosevelt’s government revived it and rebuilt the country through a public financial institution called the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. After World War II, the US middle class thrived. Small businesses competed on a relatively level playing field similar to the mom-and-pop capitalism of the early pioneers. MMeanwhile, larger corporations engaged in “industrial capitalism,” in which the goal was to produce real goods and services. 

But the middle class, considered the backbone of the economy, has been progressively eroded since the 1970s. The one-two punch of the Great Recession and what the IMF has called the “Great Lockdown” has again reduced much of the population to indentured servitude; while industrial capitalism has largely been displaced by “finance capitalism,” in which money makes money for those who have it, “in their sleep.” As economist Michael Hudson explains, unearned income, not productivity, is the goal. Corporations take out cheap 1% loans, not to invest in machinery and production, but to buy their own stock earning 8% or 9%; or to buy out smaller corporations, eliminating competition and creating monopolies. Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis explains that “capital” has been decoupled from productivity: businesses can make money without making profits on their products.  As Kevin Cahill described the plight of people today in a book titled Who Owns the World?:

These latter day pharaohs, the planet owners, the richest 5% – allow the rest of us to pay day after day for the right to live on their planet. And as we make them richer, they buy yet more of the planet for themselves, and use their wealth and power to fight amongst themselves over what each possesses – though of course it’s actually us who have to fight and die in their wars. 

The 2020 Knockout Punch 

The final blow to the middle class came in 2020. Nick Hudson, co-founder of a data analytics firm called PANDA (Pandemics, Data and Analysis),  argued in an interview following his keynote address at a March 2021 investment conference:

Lockdowns are the most regressive strategy that has ever been invented. The wealthy have become much wealthier. Trillions of dollars of wealth have been transferred to wealthy people. … Not a single country did a cost/benefit analysis before imposing these measures. 

Policymakers followed the recommendations of the World Health Organization based on predictive modeling by the Imperial College London that subsequently proved to be wildly inaccurate. Later studies have now been done, at least some of which have concluded that lockdowns have no significant effects on case numbers and that the costs of lockdowns substantially outweigh the benefits, in terms not just of economic costs but of lives

On the economic front,  global lockdowns eliminated competition from small and medium-sized businesses, allowing monopolies and oligopolies to grow. “The biggest loser from all this is the middle class,” wrote Logan Kane on Seeking Alpha. By May 2020, about one in four Americans had filed for unemployment, with over 40 million Americans filing jobless claims; and 200,000 more businesses closed in 2020 than the historical annual average. Meanwhile, US billionaires collectively increased their total net worth by $1.1 trillion during the last 10 months of 2020; and 46 people joined the billionaire class. 

The number of “centi-billionaires”– individuals with a net worth of $100 billion or more – also grew. In the US they included:

  • Jeff Bezos, soon-to-be former CEO of Amazon, whose net worth increased from $113 billion in March 2020 to $182 billion in March 2021, up by $70 billion for the year; 
  • Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, whose net worth increased from $25 billion in March 2020 to $164 billion in March 2021, up by $139 billion for the year; and 
  • Bill Gates, formerly CEO of Microsoft and currently considered the “global vaccine czar,” whose net worth increased to $124 billion in March 2021, up by $26 billion for the year.

Two others are almost centi-billionaires: 

  • The net worth of Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, grew from $55 billion in March 2020 to $95 billion in March 2021, up by $40 billion for the year; and 
  • The net worth of Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway grew from $68 billion in March 2020 to $95 billion in March 2021, up by $27.6 billion for the year. 

These five individuals collectively added $300 billion to their net worth just in 2020. For perspective, that’s enough to create 300,000 millionaires, or to give $100,000 to 3 million people. 

Philanthrocapitalism

The need to shield the multibillionaire class from taxes and to change their predatory corporate image has given rise to another form of capitalism, called philanthrocapitalism. Wealth is transferred to foundations or limited liability corporations that are designated as having charitable purposes but remain under the ownership and control of the donors, who can invest the funds in ways that serve their corporate interests. As noted in The Reporter Magazine of the Rochester Institute of Technology

Essentially, what we are witnessing is the transfer of responsibility for public goods and services from democratic institutions to the wealthy, to be administered by an executive class. In the CEO society, the exercise of social responsibilities is no longer debated in terms of whether corporations should or shouldn’t be responsible for more than their own business interests. Instead, it is about how philanthropy can be used to reinforce a politico-economic system that enables such a small number of people to accumulate obscene amounts of wealth.

With $100 billion, nearly anything can be bought – not just land and resources but media and journalists, political influence and legislation, regulators, university research departments and laboratories. Jeff Bezos now owns The Washington Post. Bill Gates is not only the largest funder of the World Health Organization and the Imperial College London but the largest owner of agricultural land in the US. And Elon Musk’s aerospace manufacturer SpaceX has effectively privatized the sky. Astronomers and stargazers complain that the thousands of satellites it has already launched, with many more in the works, are blocking their ability to see the stars.The astronomy professor Samantha Lawler writes in a piece for The Conversation

SpaceX has already received approval for 12,000 Starlink satellites and is seeking approval for 30,000 more. Other companies are not far behind […] The point of the Starlink mega-constellation is to provide global internet access. It is often stated by Starlink supporters that this will provide internet access to places on the globe not currently served by other communication technologies. But currently available information shows the cost of access will be too high in nearly every location that needs internet access. Thus, Starlink will likely only provide an alternate for residents of wealthy countries who already have other ways of accessing the internet […] With tens of thousands of new satellites approved for launch, and no laws about orbit crowding, right-of-way or space cleanup, the stage is set for the disastrous possibility of Kessler Syndrome, a runaway cascade of debris that could destroy most satellites in orbit and prevent launches for decades…. Large corporations like SpaceX and Amazon will only respond to legislation — which is slow, especially for international legislation — and consumer pressure […] Our species has been stargazing for thousands of years, do we really want to lose access now for the profit of a few large corporations? 

Public advocacy groups, such as the Cellular Phone Task Force,  have also objected due to health concerns over increased electromagnetic radiation. But the people have little say over public policy these days. So concluded a study summarized in a January 2021 article in Foreign Affairs. Princeton professor and study co-author Martin Gilens wrote: 

[O]rdinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States. … Government policy-making over the last few decades reflects the preferences … of economic elites and of organized interests. 

Varoufakis calls our current economic scheme “postcapitalism” and “techno-feudalism.” As in the medieval feudal model, assets are owned by the few. He notes that the stock market and the businesses in it are essentially owned by three companies – the giant exchange-traded funds BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street. Under the highly controversial “Great Reset” envisioned by the World Economic Forum, “you will own nothing and be happy.” By implication, everything will be owned by the techno-feudal lords.

Getting Back on Track

The capitalist model has clearly gone off the rails. How to get it back on track? One obvious option is to tax the uber-rich. As Chuck Collins, author of The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions (2021), writes in a March 2021 article

A wealth tax would reverse more than a half-​century of tax cuts for the wealthiest households. Billionaires have seen their taxes decline roughly 79 percent as a percentage of their wealth since 1980. The “effective rate” on the billionaire class—the actual percentage paid—was 23 percent in 2018, lower than for most middle-​income taxpayers.

He notes that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-​Mass.) and co-authors recently introduced legislation to levy a 2 percent annual tax on wealth starting at $50 million, rising to 3 percent on fortunes of more than $1 billion:

The tax, which would apply to fewer than 100,000 U.S. residents, would raise an estimated $3 trillion over the next decade. It would be paid entirely by multi-​millionaires and billionaires who have reaped the lion’s share of wealth gains over the last four decades, including during the pandemic. 

 Varoufakis contends, however, that taxing wealth won’t be enough. The corporate model itself needs an overhaul. To create a “humanist” capitalism, he says, democracy needs to be brought to the marketplace. 

Politically, one adult gets one vote. But in corporate elections, votes are weighted according to financial investment: the largest investors hold the largest number of voting shares. Varoufakis argues that the proper principle for reconfiguring the ownership of corporations for a market-based society would be one employee, one share (not tradeable), one vote. On that basis, he says, we can imagine as an alternative to our post-capitalist model a market-based democratic society without capitalism.   

Another proposed solution is a land value tax, restoring at least a portion of the land to the “commons.” As Michael Hudson has observed:

There is one Achilles heel in the globalists’ strategy, an option that remains open to governments. This option is a tax on the rental income – the “unearned income” – of land, natural resources and monopoly takings. 

Reforming the banking system is another critical tool. Banks operated as a public utility could allocate credit for productive purposes serving the public interest. Other possibilities include enforcement of anti-monopoly legislation and patent law reform.Perhaps, however, the flaw is in the competitive capitalist model itself. The winners will inevitably capture and exploit the losers, creating an ever-     growing gap in wealth and power. Studies of natural systems have shown that cooperative models are more efficient than competitive schemes. That does not mean the sort of “cooperation” coerced through iron-fisted totalitarian control at the top. We need a set of rules that actually levels the playing field, rewards productivity, and maximizes benefit to society as a whole, while preserving the individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. 

Ellen Brown
Ellen Brown

Ellen Brown is a regular contributor to ScheerPost. She is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of thirteen books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book is Banking on the People: Democratizing Money in the Digital Age and her 400+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com.

70 comments

  1. I’m old enough to have directly experienced the mom-and-pop capitalism of the 1950’s. What’s often missed in this context is the quality-mediocrity aspect. I picture myself as a child visiting the local independent hardware store in Brooklyn with my father. It was owned and run by a Scandinavian immigrant whose knowledge seemed unlimited about the products he sold. My dad, an immigrant who’d worked as a carpenter before becoming an attorney, was quite knowledgeable; yet he relied on the hardware store’s owner for advice on several topics. This was genuine competition — business owners knew that their ability to provide both quality products and information about them was key to retaining their customers. In other words, this seemed like direct cause-effect relationship between competition and product-service quality. With this relationship muted or neutered by corporate capitalism, the proliferation of mediocrity has been stunning.

    1. Vincenzo: Well said! I can remember when people spent years learning a specific trade and was respected for performing quality work building things or repairing them. They didn’t have to “advertise” because word of mouth from one satisfied customer to another generated plenty of business for them.

      Your last sentenced summed it up in a nutshell, unfortunately.

    2. I remember the same. We used our local hardware store for the reasons back in the 1950s and 1960s, when I grew up.

      The only hardware store in my area that even has some of the same feel of the originals is our ACE outlet…

    3. Nice memories. When I began working as a carpenter and handyman, I depended on the local hardware store ‘gurus’ for advice and suggestions. Mostly, these were retired tradesmen of vast knowledge and skill. These days, some youth in Home Depot might even know where the bathroom was.

    4. I read one of the articles this links to as proof for some of its more outragous claims. That article called the pandemic fake. This is nonsense. So if that article is used as proof, its all nonsense.

    5. Thanks for a fine essay. I am an old guy who lived through the changes you have remarked.

      But I’d like to say to you and the other fine folk at Scheerpost that what with the increasing censorship at Facebook more share buttons, to other social media should be offered. I admire particularly the way Commondreams.org and Telesurenglish.net do this. Best to you all.

    6. We need to recreate the good half of the ‘fifties.’ I am fascinated by the current phenomenon, seeking the ‘Mid-Century Modern’ look. I was born in 1951 and I remember living in a house with MCM furniture and MCM sensibilities.

      My stepmother created a lovely atmosphere for my dad and we kids. My father was a carpenter and our home floated on a current of wild fresh essences of pine, oak, and douglas fir.

      As I have traveled through seven decades of life, my surroundings have grown ever more complex. They catch and harbor dust and other pollutants.

    7. I, too, am old enough to remember the mom-and-pop capitalism, where knowledge of their products and the relationships these small shops fostered was as important, or more important, than the products they sold. One such near me closed its doors five years ago, and I really miss it. The big-box stores just don’t cut it.

  2. I agree with much that was written. But the writer seems to believe that we have a say in the matter. We don’t.

    1. she just said that clearly. you missed it. the whole last paragraph…the Varoufakis and Warren quotes. plus the “Reforming the banking” paragraph.
      how depressing for you it must be.

  3. Fascinating piece, Ellen. Insightful to illustrate your point by bringing in the privatization of space. Not only is low-earth orbit going to be increasingly contentious and in need of international legislation, but even Mars and the Moon will be. Musk is talking of these as if they are there for his taking.

  4. For any working-class or retired or disabled person, and what is rarely mentioned by the oligarchic Republican and Democratic parties, “the working poor” that have the ability to think and discern what they read, see or hear, Ms Ellen Brown’s article is not only a priceless gem of economic information, but is pertinent to the global stranglehold the wealthiest 5% of people are doing to the 95% . Their accumulated wealth, which they zealously protect by trusts, tax avoidance shelters and the like, have turned the clock back over a hundred years, on people who need to who need to work for a living, which includes highly educated professionals in all fields, skilled, unskilled, and semi-skilled men and women trying to maintain a decent standard of living. This article should be widely distributed and considered a “must read” (along with the links Ellen has provided) article to those folks who can’t seem to grasp what has been transpiring for decades – at least since the Regan Regime of the 1980’s, and has continued on it’s course ever since. Thank you Ms Brown!

  5. Ellen,
    The flaw in your argument: it is simply not remotely possible to tax/destroy the uber rich as long as they own and control the Congress, the Media and Academia (and much more) which they do now and have for a very long time. They make the laws and they shape the narrative. The only things that might threaten the oligarchs’ grip on power are other oligarchs. Good luck with that.

    1. Oh, too bad. i wonder what your plan entails. let’s jump on it.

    2. Mr. Markley: I disagree with you about the flaw in Ellen’s argument, but I wholeheartedly agree with you that the oligarchs and uber rich control the Congress, the Media, Academia (and much more). No doubt about it. Yep, they make the laws and shape the narrative, for sure, and pay handsome sums of money to so-called “experts” to sell to the gullible public what their paymasters want us to believe and adhere to.
      Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, made a fortune for Madison Avenue advertising agencies and even wrote a book about it, during the 1920’s titled, “Propaganda.”

      So, what do we do, Loren? How about supporting “alternative” parties rather than the “one capitalist party” with two halves to it — the R’s and the D’s , which unites on the most important issues, but play “tug of war” on smaller issues, giving the general public the illusion that “their side” is fighting in Congress on their behalf. Political theatrics are the rule of the day. Good luck with trying to change it.

    3. Well, if we do nothing? Nobody likes to say this, but when the .01 percent are able to replace human labor with mechanization and AI, they don’t need us. I believe that’s their ultimate global heating mitigation strategy- as soon as they can pull it off, they will off most of the world’s human population. The elite are sociopaths.

      1. Jhobblho, couldn’t agree with you more. The uber-rich are high on greed and addicted to profits. They view humanity as a farmland from which to harvest profits from. Incapable of empathy for the masses. Spending millions to cultivate personal images of themselves as ‘humanitarian’ or ‘hero’. Truly pathological. Tax the hell out of ’em, and lock ’em up!

    4. The are several methods available to limit the sway of oligarchy:

      Term limits on all elective offices, even at the local level;

      Public financing financing of all elections, again even at the local level
      (I recently saw where some sheriff in Podunk was elected with the assistance
      of George Soros!);

      The restoration of the 1 to 10 ratio between lowest and highest salaries
      that prevailed in the 1960s;

      The restoration of Glass-Stegall to annul the incestuous marriage between
      commercial and invensment banking and, as a corollary, the revival of Savings
      & Loan institutions to finance home purchases’;

      The institution of serious protective tariffs that make it prohibitively
      expensive for computers, smart phones and their ilk to be manufactured
      anywhere but her – in short, put an end to free trade; and

      Restructure the tax code so as to reward Mom and Pop and undermine
      the Big Boxes.

      The above would constitute a beginning…

  6. Countries that practiced zero covid protocols succeeded in stopping covid. Now they have relaxed their control and covid is flaring up. Stop with the left libertarian nonsense(or is it centrist libertarian nonsense).Our future is in peril and the same old thinking will not suffice. Fetishizing mom and pop capitalism without fixing its shortcomings will not solve anything. A large percentage of the small businesses that now exist are subsidized by family wealth. If you want mom and pop capitalism then the playing field will have to be leveled.

    1. I agree, the playing field has to be leveled — that was the whole point of my article — but how do you propose to do that? I presented all the solutions I know of.

      1. If you are the author of the article, any point it makes is completely undone by the circular argumentation you make and the ridicilous citations, some false and others quite cherry picked, you put forth. Controversial takes are fine, but they have to be backed up not by notions that rely on faith, but cold, hard, credible facts. When one of those articles called the pandemic fake, it cast everything you said as hookum. Robert, who I do love, has published a lot of badly reported garbage as of late, mostly backed by notions like yours. You have some points, but they are flooded over by the hookum.

      2. Hi Ellen – Good stuff!

        I agree with your position as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. Small businesses lose up to 50% of their gross operating margin or working-capital to broadly-defined payment-card-fees.

        Take the Mini-Pop-Quiz challenge:

        Mini-Quiz:

        1. Which is the greatest amount (per year):

        A. The combined military budgets of the U.S., China, and Russia,
        B. The gross income of the poorest 1.5 billion humans, or
        C. The global aggregate “small transaction charges” on payment-card transactions “to cover the cost of processing the transaction”?

        http://werex.org/pop-quiz-short-answer-key/

        The correct answer is “C” – the grand total of comprehensive fee-payments and rake-offs for access is well over the USD-equivalent of $3 billion a day, or $1 trillion per year ($1,000,000,000,000).

        Of that, about $200 million a day is a direct rake-off from VAT and other government sales taxes that are run through these systems.

        They’ve been skimming the sales tax revenue for over fifty years and the resulting trust is now greater than all the debt in the world.

        It is flagrantly illegal but government does not have the will to enforce the law.

        The system is habituated to dealing with everything with “Nothing to see here, folks – Move along” – but that is the key to victory.

        The payment-card phenomenon is the “Achilles Heel” of the system because there are so many “layers” of racketeering to it and everyone in the business knows it. If people would grab onto this issue like a pitbull and refuse to let it go – things would change.

  7. I get it that this piece is supposed to be a kind of perspective on what some of the leading critics of the status-quo have to say and to highlight some of their main talking points, but for crying out loud – Armstrong Economics? And you even link there… Why not InfoWars while you’re at it?

    Please. Just don’t. This is Scheerpost. You really, really don’t need to reference those kind of places. The piece would not suffer from one less quote and citation link.

    1. My thoughts exactly. Many of the links included here are to questionable, right-wing sources. That makes me rather suspicious of this author and her argument, even if it seems sensible on the surface.

      1. To Erlichmann and Anon: Are you sure you understand the authors message in this article? If some of the links sound or are right-wing and make sense on Ms Brown’s article, why question the content of the narrative which is indicative on some of the problems we are faced with by the ruling-elite, because she didn’t write some oracular piece which could be carved in stone to satisfy your curiosity. No one size fits all. Agree?

      2. My mother was a Republican farm girl from PA and my dad was a Democratic auto worker from Detroit. We were taught to see all sides. I get a lot of email with interesting forwards. I read them.

      3. Grow up – the left isn’t always right and the right isn’t always wrong!

    2. Sorry, that was the only place I could find that video that hadn’t been taken down. I did see it on the WEF website when it was up, but it’s now gone.

  8. Right on Ellen Brown. You’ve always had a good grasp of all things economic and monetary, yet you continue to advocate for the common (wo)man. Thank you for a most clear and helpful analysis of the problems and for providing some solutions!

  9. This is a well of information that each and every one of us regardless of income or status needs to cherish and embrace, so much material demanding a desktop folder dedicated to easy access. As a retired working man with grandchildren albeit in The U.K. I can only worry about their future, but if this message gets out there and becomes a force, perhaps we can start to reconstruct a new financial future. Once again Ellen Brown maintains that rare ability to speak clearly and explain the most complex financial terms

    1. Thanks Paul, that’s what I try to do, put FedSpeak and bank talk into understandable English. I do try to be apolitical, but I see I’m getting pushback here. The country is so divided, I don’t think the sides are listening to each other. We’re only going to win this battle by recognizing our common humanity and rising up in unity.

      1. Ellen, I agree with your attempt to be apolitical because the country has become so divided by the Oligarchs and their corporate owned media whereas we the people need to Unite. I try to be apolitical in my discussions with people. Sometimes that strategy is successful in getting people to focus on the Oligarchs as the root of our problems rather than “the left” or “the right” being the enemy. Sometimes it’s not and I also get pushback. I appreciate what Jason Bermas says in his videos “It’s not about right or left. It’s about right or wrong.” He’s on Rokfin and still on youtube to a certain degree. I read your book “Web of Debt” about 6 years ago and again this year. It really explains how the Private Banks created a Ponzi Scheme and put the whole world in Debt to them. Thank you for all your advocacy work!

  10. Ellen what’s new. I have seen these proposals for years and you must know that they are just the SAME proposals. And what HAVE we gotten but more wealth AND POWER to the FEW. We have no power with a government run by and for the few. Nothing has changed, in fact it has gotten much worse.

    Chris Hedges has it right. Revolution is the only answer but…

    1. Mr. Romano: I share your frustration and agree with Chris Hedges, but try uniting “we the people,” and so far, nothing has worked. Marches, demonstrations, writing letters to the editor, Congressional representatives, etc. I’ve done them all. A nationwide General Strike until the demands of us common folk are satisfied, and all we really want is a just and more egalitarian society. Before people have enough knowledge and some historical perspective on who’s fleecing who, nothing will change for the better. Chris Hedges knows this too!

    2. Sure, but we don’t want a violent revolution, at least we women and mothers don’t. There must be a peaceful, legal way to pull it off. If you have ideas, I’m all ears.

      1. I prefer a peaceful revolution myself if it’s possible. There is a peaceful, legal way, and it is what I call the 7 magical words. “Take to the streets, withhold your labor.” (peacefully). In other words, a general strike to shut down commerce. To use the term “concerted effort,” it needs to be well planned and organized. The only people who work are real “essential workers,” like the medical profession, (including veterinarians), police and firefighter, and utility workers. Pilots don’t fly, truck drivers don’t drive, warehouses and department stores shut down, factories shut down, and the much maligned farm workers don’t work in the fields. Commerce stops until our needs are met. I don’t think it would take to long before the politicians get the message. During the General Strike, we have to do our best in helping each other with food, money, resources, shelter, etc. It won’t be easy, and it just may work.

    3. Ellen Brown has been doing a lot of educating people about the real underlying root cause of our problems. That is extremely useful because if we’re ever going to have a Revolution as Chris Hedges says, then people need to understand what the true root cause of our problems is, the monetary system and the banking system that the Oligarchs created to enslave the whole world in a system of Debt.

  11. I would like to offer that the more advanced our knowledge and technology becomes, the harder it becomes to justify poverty or deprivation of any kind. Right now, we’re in a kind of transition period between a feudal way of thinking, where people can hoard wealth and knowledge, and a more cornucopian way of thinking, where we have the technology to heal any disease, to have zero waste, advanced 3D printing, etc.

    The wealthy will want the advantages of AI and robotics, genetics and other technologies, but in doing so they will undermine their own power, as there are likely unintended consequences from these technologies. I don’t think it’s a fantasy to expect AI to evolve past human intelligence and perhaps begin to evolve on its own one day.

    Bill Gates is a good case study, because he has great PR with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but my understanding is his charity is partly a cover for spreading neo-liberal ideas (such as patent protection) and does as much harm as it does good. Microsoft is in bed with the US military-industrial complex, so he is indirectly part of the resistance to a more humane society in America. Now in fairness, if Bill Gates did have a change of heart, in would be a herculean task to undo all this, as the military-industrial complex would turn on him, too.

  12. I appreciate Ellen Brown’s insights and expertise on this subject. To enact one or more of the fixes that she suggests would likely require an enormous shift in how society exists and functions as compared to the present day.

    For instance, a wealth tax is only as effective as the custodians appointed to ensure the money’s spent for the common good, and not back in the pockets of the ruling class. Such system integrity does not currently exist.

    As I attempt to wrap my mind around our complex monetary system and ever expanding wealth gap, I keep returning to the fragility of a system built around a worthless currency.

    When one considers that, in our modern monetary system, a seemingly unhinged and unaccountable Federal Reserve can print money at the press of a button, it becomes apparent that any system change must be accompanied by some new form of money.

    What form this new money takes remains to be seen, however, I’m certain that the ruling class is hard at work on its creation.

    1. Yes and that’s why we need to come up with an alternative and rather soon. The Federal Reserve was originally set up to service industries (per Prof. Robert Hockett). They could return to that even without congressional action, he says. But it seems unlikely that they will.

    2. There is nothing wrong with ‘money’, a popular invention used for at least 5000 years, and any “new form of money” would just be another money. There is a deficit in the Fed’s understanding of money, as well as a lack of political will to democratize money, and current fiscal and tax policy reinforces inequality. I recommend studying a bit of MMT to understand how the Fed actually works and how it could wor,.

  13. Ellen Brown has once again collected the work of others and presented them in a manner understandable to most. The links are a library of economics and society. To get the full implications one must understand that the oligarchs are pathological narcissists. They have no empathy and look upon the 99% as lesser beings not worthy of anything but control. The worst nightmare of the oligarchs is that the 99% will awaken so they operated in the dark as much as possible.
    The 2006 acquisition of 300,000 acres in Paraguay by the Bush family illustrates that. The event became public only because Jenna who was representing the family went bar hopping in Buenas Aires with her Secret Service escort. Her purse was stolen under their noses so it became news. This particular piece of land bigger than all 5 buroughs of NY City is right over the Guarani Aquifer, the largest fresh water reservoir in the world. Even the business press missed the significance of that because they speculated it was acquired because it was near the gas fields of Bolivia.
    The .00001% can create almost infinite amounts of money digitally but they know true wealth lies in land, labor and resources that cannot be created digitally and fresh water is the most important resource.

  14. <pedant>A small but not unimportant point: a centi-anything is 1/100 of an anything. 100 of anything are, collectively, a hecto-anything. Similarly, millipede is 1/1000 of a pede, while 1000 of them is a kilopede.

    “Centipede” and “millipede” are mistakes in counting as well as naming , and have the same meaning: “that thing has a lotta legs!!!”</pedant>

    (The common stripy house-centipede is quite beautiful, and can increase the observer’s heart-rate when sudden)

  15. As always, Ellen Brown has written a poignant essay covering a vast expanse of issues from our rights to the issues and inequalities to what cooperation might be as compared to competition. This is something very dear to my heart. In the current state of affairs, expertise exists only among a very few individuals whereas in more historic times, apprentices in guilds spent years mastering their crafts and learning about the industries in which they were a part. There was more respect for learning, more dedication to excellence as opposed to quick rewards, and more involvement with the community which involves local residents and the greater trading market.

    In a digitalized world, it may be impossible to turn back the clock, but it is not impossible to set standards for environmental impact, job safety and security, and quality products. As usual, I tip my hat to this banking pundit and wish her voice to be heard ’round the world.

  16. Well, so many doubters. like tht will neve work but with no better ideas.
    ms Brown mostly offers conclusions or tagets to get to, and not the methiods to achieve it.
    OK. then that’s done. now we have to get organized to make it happen.
    i’d say get into the dumbercrap paety and make the DNC think of the future of the people for once. and not just the next electioin reliant ofn the riches of the staus quo.
    we need the progressives in congress to evolve into the leadership party be it Prog or a prog democratic one.
    Ripuglicans might be spliting. dthat would b nice.
    more targets we shoud have are thse:
    electoral college. CIA DEA DIA and remodeled FBI. 4 more justices on the supreme court or any larger number.

    emasculate the Senate. it’s absurd Wyoming has 3 vote with 500,000 people.
    CA with 40 million shoe have 3 X 80 = 240 votes in both the EC or senate and House. every day all the time.
    kill income tax and tax assets from square one.

    cut DOD in half and then 10% less each year.
    now how?
    just do it. pick your poison because this is gonna be a blood bath. or it will be the end of freedom democracy and maybe mammals if we don’t.
    remember ted turner said the correct number of humans is 800 million. this means YOU!

  17. Excellent article Ellen. Capitalism in any form is unsustainable and is the enemy of people and Mother Earth with all its wonderful creatures. In my humble opinion, only democratic socialism or eco socialism is the only system that is suitable for this world.
    In democratic socialism, millions of cooperatives along with thousands of mom and pop small businesses will thrive. The govt. will only enact laws for the benefit common man.
    There will be high taxes but there will be lot of benefits and safety nets for the common man like in Scandinavian countries.
    To achieve this drastic change, people of this country and the world need to unite and demand. Boycotts, peaceful protests, marches, voting for right candidates, massive awareness campaign etc will be needed. The task is monumental but some day will be achieved

    1. Scandinavian countries are very capitalist, even if sometimes a social-democrat party is in power,
      The standard differentiation between capitalism and socialism is in the ownership of the means of production : private in capitalism vs. public in socialism.
      I am a little sceptic regarding the capabilities of cooperatives and/or mom and pop small businesses to produce things like semiconductors, cars, airplanes, mobile phones or vaccines and chemotherapy drugs.
      But perhaps we do not really need them!

  18. Ellen gets many things right, but her brief tirade on lockdowns is not one of them. Case in point: China locked down a lot harder than the USA did, effectively eliminating the virus from its population, and their economy actually grew in 2020 as a result. True they are an oligarchy, but as this article points out, so is the USA, just not one that’s been doing much for its own people lately. Besides, Australia and New Zealand have done nearly as well as China has, probably because their populations have greater faith in their governments. If you would still prefer to live in a country that shuns lockdowns when necessary and almost nobody trusts the government, try moving to India. It has the added benefit that a few US dollars will go a long way there!

  19. American history is used in a number of different ways and the upshot of popular history is to legitimate the present through the glory of the past. America, as a country, was born on third base – free land from the natives, free labor from slaves and a big land grab from the Mexicans – let the country expand to the pacific, create a huge internal market and gain economies of scale.

    In the past five decades the country has shot itself by deindustrializing, economic growth is 1/2 of what it was before the 1970s, a national debt that grows at twice the rate of the economy and stagnant real wages for the non-college educated portion of the workforce.

    The mom and pop capitalists have always been a romantic part of the political mindset, they have always been around. So have the big monopoly types, plantations, cattle operations, factories, trusts – the list goes on. Now they have used offshore production to increase their profits while politicians have told us how great it is.

    There are 5 Anglo Settler-Colonial nations on the planet. It is becoming evident that the 2 that got off to a roaring start, the US and South Africa, have had their history catch up to them.

  20. What we are witnessing is simply the logical end of capitalism. Capitalism was always going to lead to a brand of totalitarianism. That’s how it works.
    We need to stop believing the bullshit they taught us in elementary school about capitalism. Capitalism isn’t about the creation of competition in the marketplace. It’s about the elimination of the marketplace.
    If left unchecked, capitalism will lead us to a world where one corporation will control an entire sector. There will one energy company. One food company. One transportation company, and so on. Imagine a more cruel version of the movie “Rollerball”
    Fascism is not the dead end of capitalism. It’s the logical conclusion.

  21. Ms Brown presents a delightful recapitulation of America’s econo/political history, although I wonder why she chooses to not use the term ‘bourgeoisie’–too Marxist? Economic inequality needs to be not just addressed, but reversed, and her prescriptions are right on track, especially for public banking as in China, and post office banking (I had a post office savings account as a youth).
    The Left often speaks of ‘taxes on the rich’ to fund useful public programs, but the reality is that such taxes mainly serve to get rid of excess wealth. Perhaps objections from Republicans to increased taxes would be ameliorated if we just promised to burn all the money raised. They might like that.

  22. I read one of the articles this links to as proof for some of its more outragous claims. That article called the pandemic fake. This is nonsense. So if that article is used as proof, its all nonsense.

  23. This kind of capitalism (I call it crapitalism since so much of what we are told to buy is crap) has been the bain of our American society for over 100 years. Eugene Victor Debs received much of his support from white evangelical sharecroppers from much of Texas, Nebraska, Kansas , Oklahoma and Arkansas – states that voted for Trump this year. So often the worker votes against his/her own best interests because the corporate class keeps social issues up front in the media so they the working class focuses on these issues and never real economic issues. Check out my doc. film American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs narrated by Amy Madigan and learn how this wonderful article was spoken about by Debs 100 years ago. Available on Itunes and Amazon.

  24. With the first high energy solar flare Starlink will probably be toast and so will the dystopian internet-of-things. A recent low energy flare was not handled very well by the Earth’s weakened magnetic field.

  25. Not much of a fan of mom-and-pop capitalism. Small retailers on Main Street may pose a welcome alternative to big box stores like Wal-Mart, at least for the shoppers who can afford the boutique prices. But the class interests of those deservedly designated petty bourgeoisie, even as they’re extolling the virtues of entrepreneurialism, don’t differ substantially from the big bad corporate class when it comes to living off the labor of exploited wage slaves. Their own ‘rights’ of private property trump most any consideration of individual rights, effectively nullified as soon as their ’employees’ cross the threshold of their own minor fiefdoms. And if the more modest range of their influence over civic affairs can’t match the corporate control of ‘development’ and other false promises of progress, their politics usually amount to little more than a bizzness ethic governing city councils and chambers of commerce in just as narrow terms of human development as any profit-making mega-machine.

    Not much of a fan of the middle class, either, especially the Amerikan Dream version. If anything, following the New Deal’s consolidation of the corporate state and WWII’s establishment of military Keynesianism, the proverbial middle class represented the ‘progressive’ incorporation of labor into the corporate economy, far beyond whatever independence may have obtained for earlier stages of capitalist development. In exchange for a salary and suburban homestead, white collar clerks managed a more bureaucratic social system on behalf of the extension of scientific management beyond the factory floor. Reputed expertise notwithstanding, their delegated professional authority is now what largely enables the techno-totalitarian takeover of the masters they long have served.

    As for the “vision of the founders,” count me out there, too. Jeffersonian ideals of yeomanry and artisanship are convenient covers for the constitutional coup the home-rule empire-builders engineered to pick up where the British colonizers left off. Ever since, the body politic has been captive to an increasingly rigged system of governance, before which the original afterthought of the Bill of Rights has become more anemic. Reform is the constant watchword of the coopted and compromised complicit in the lies of the republic. Those who would reform the system remain clueless to, if not actively collaborating with, the current revolutionary situation which has overtaken the world under cover of a manufactured crisis, dwarfing all previous coups in an attempt to lay to rest the class war once and for all.

  26. As a matter of fact capitalism means dog eats dog and eventually the biggest dog eats every other dog. Competition breeds monopoly and it is a law of capitalism. Marx had known it back then, by the way
    “Monopoly is the inevitable end of competition, which engenders it by a continual negation of itself. This generation of monopoly is in itself a justification of it.”
    So, if you guys want capitalism, you will get also monopoly and inequality. This is a deal . And yes, monopoly means the end of democracy – even a bourgeois one.
    On the other hand capitalism is not the only way of life for the humankind. But this is the other story.

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