Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The plutocrat problem, or What Macron hopes to accomplish by lowering the quality of French life

 The paradox of the plutocracy can be x-rayed by the simple application of marginal utility theory. This theory differentiates between percentages of total sums of income and wealth. Thus, the quality of life that is diminished by taking away half the income of a person making 20,000 dollars a year is considerable – it would actually throw that person into poverty. The quality of life that is diminished, on the other hand, by taking away fifty percent of the income of someone who made 100 million dollars a year would be, on the contrary, zero. There would be no effect whatsoever on their housing, their nourishment, their entertainments, etc.

When we extend this insight, we can see that the plutocrat might be abstractly satisfied by the state cutting their tax burden to zero, but in truth, this will not add to their quality of life. Which is why at a certain point in the money chain they switch to the quality of power.

The quality of power of the French upper one percent has long been nagged by the successes of the French working class in the forties through the eighties. This was viewed as an affront to their entire ideology of success: the unsuccessful should be unhappy. This is often presented as an incentive, but it is really a derivative of the plutocrat’s dilemma. To increase their quality of life, when money itself doesn’t do it, one must measure it against the diminishment of the other’s quality of life. This, more than anything else, explains Macron’s social policies. To make the average person work two more years has its economic logic – surplus labor value is always a plus! – but that doesn’t really drive this train. What is desired is that the unsuccessful – that is, the non-upper class – feel that non-success. They feel it in their very bones and muscles. In this way, the upper class can feel that their own quality of life has improved on a moral scale, which is recognized by the state: the moral scale of money. It is a deep counter-movement towards the very enlightenment that “liberated” commerce. It provides relief for those who actually exist for a man like Macron – those who can afford to shell out hundreds of millions to repair Notre Dame without having to sell a single bottle of expensive wine in their cellars, without losing a night of sleep, or a vacation, or a notice in the papers. Those who can afford, as the late head of Renault did, to “rent” the Versailles for a wedding anniversary party.

This is the real battle. The odds, as any Le Monde lapdog can tell you, are on the side of the plutocrats. As Francoise Fressoz put it yesterday: “… the strong opposition of the French to 64 years is from the beginning accompanied by a sort of resignation born of experience: all the reforms of retirement are contested, but none have been put back into question.”

None up until now. Is this the magic moment?

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