(Ben Green) #1

44 Time December 2–9, 2019

business go to prison while people in the business
of selling ads to Russian intelligence go on maga-
zine covers. Normal that bankers could shatter
the world economy with their speculating, and
that they would be among the few to be made
whole after the crisis.
For years, there have been voices trying to
denormalize this state. There were protests in
Seattle in 1999, there was Occupy in 2011, there
was the DSA, there was the World Social Forum to
rival the World Economic Forum, there was, eter-
nally, Bernie Sanders saying the exact stuff he is
still saying today, there were civic groups trying
to organize workers and poor communities, there
were outcasts in Silicon Valley warning that Mark
Zuckerberg wasn’t really about human connec-
tion. But America was in the grips of the ideologi-
cal consensus that Buttigieg described. Hyper-
capitalism was the intellectual stadium in which

A democratic socialist—Bernie Sanders—is
among the top contenders to be the next Demo-
cratic nominee for U.S. President. His rival and
fellow Senator, Elizabeth Warren, is also among
the top tier of candidates, declaring herself a capi-
talist who wishes to transform American capi-
talism as we know it, with a wealth tax, a Green
New Deal and the elimination of private health
insurance. A more centrist candidate, Mayor Pete
Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., illustrated the shift-
ing winds when he recently declared that “neo-
liberalism is the political- economic consensus
that has governed the last 40 years of policy in
the U.S. and U.K. Its failure helped to produce the
Trump moment. Now we have to replace it with
something better.” In 2016, the Democratic Social-
ists of America (DSA) had 5,000 members; since
then, its dues-paying membership has multiplied
more than tenfold. This new energy on the left
terrifies chief executives and billionaires, and yet
many of them have been voicing similar alarms
about a crisis of capitalism. Ray Dalio, the billion-
aire co-chairman of the investment firm Bridge-
water Associates, warned in April that America
faced a “national emergency” in capitalism’s fail-
ure to benefit more people, and he pronounced
the American Dream lost. The anti capitalist im-
pulse has some purchase on the right too. Before
he pushed a tax cut that lined the capitalists’ pock-
ets, Donald Trump ran, most improbably, as a Re-
publican skeptical of the financial elite’s loyalty to
Americans. On Fox News, Tucker Carlson has en-
tertained a surprising skepticism of capitalist doc-
trines and said positive things about Warren.
America loves a capitalist reckoning the way
the NFL loves Colin Kaepernick. But it is hav-
ing one anyway. And if this year that reckoning
seemed to reach new intensity, it was because
the economic precariousness, stalled mobility
and gaping social divides that have for years fueled the backlash now
had an improbable sidekick: plutocracy itself and the win-win ideology
that has governed the past few decades. This year, America’s ultra-elites
seemed to bend over backward to lend support to the idea that maybe
the system they superintend needs gut renovating. As a political move-
ment bubbled up to challenge their wealth and power, the elite’s own
misbehavior trickled down. And where the two met, ideas that once
seemed unutterable started, to many, to sound like the future.

History is tHe story of conditions that long seem reasonable until
they begin to seem ridiculous. So it is with America’s present manic
hyper capitalism.
Until recently, it seemed normal that a technological revolution that
began with promises of leveled playing fields had culminated in an
age of platform monopolies. Normal that businesspeople should try to
make as much money as possible by paying as little as possible in taxes
and wages, then donate a fraction of the spoils to PR-friendly social
causes. Normal that economic security for most Americans was becom-
ing a relic of the past. Normal that people in the street-level marijuana





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