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Rentier Capitalism

The entitled class

I have rented my living space all my adult life. I'm comfortable with that. It means that I pay a portion of my income to the owner of the building in return for permission to stay here. Once I managed a small apartment building so I understand (to a slight extent) how much work is involved in owning property.

But is owning property inside or outside the circle of production? That idea is that some activities increase the amount of material wealth for society as a whole and are within the circle of production. And other activities merely move that wealth around but don't produce more wealth and are outside the circle of production.

Starting from scratch and coming to own property is not easy and it's reasonable to expect people to pay the owner to use it. They are inside the circle of production. But many people don't start from scratch. They come from families that are rich enough to pay for things like down payments or even a whole building. We still pay them rent because they do own the building and you can't live there if you don't pay. But they are outside the circle of production. They are entitled to wealth because they are wealthy.

Let's be clearer here - they are entitled to material wealth because they have a lot of money, not because they produced anything. Yes - I'm thinking of the former guy :-)

In recent decades the idea of a circle of production has morphed a lot. Now making money is seen as productive however it's done. People who are already rich have many ways of making more money and are now seen as the most productive among us even though the money making may be destructive of material wealth. Bains Capital was a good example of that. They'd do hostile takeovers of viable companies whose assets were worth more than their stock value then wreck the company by selling the assets. They made lots of money doing that. And they looked down at the poor slobs who lost their jobs as 'takers'.

We're in a time of rentier capitalism. That is, rich people demanding rents in return for access to resources rather than produce anything of value. And this can cause a positive feedback loop that can cause fortunes to skyrocket. One sign of this is the extreme economic inequality our culture features now.

Another sign is the extreme volatility of speculative media like bitcoin or the stock market which show that the money making is not connected to anything productive. The production of material wealth instead of money cannot be that volatile - reality is harder to change.

Dialectical Materialism has the concept that everything contains the seeds of its own destruction. I kind of watched that happen in the 1970s with the 'tax revolt'. The prosperity of the 50s and 60s led my parent generation into a complacent "keep your hands offa my stack" kind of attitude. We may be seeing a thing like that happening now but in the opposite direction. The manifest injustice of massive inequality because of rentier capitalism is causing social pressure to reduce it.

What do you think?

I

Star I present regular philosophy discussions in a virtual reality called Second Life. I set a topic and people come as avatars and sit around a virtual table to discuss it. Each week I write a short essay to set the topic. I show a selection of them here.

I've been thinking and reading about philosophy for a long time but I'm mostly self taught. That is I've had the good fortune to read what interests me rather than follow a course of study. That has it's limits of course but advantages. It doesn't cost as much and is fun too.

My interests are things like evolution and cognition and social issues and economics and science in general.