Piketty Moment of Inertia

Voice-of-labor-191001

 

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine Paris Hilton's stiletto-heeled boot stamping on a human face...forever." Washington Post WonkBlog.

So tagged the best summation of Capital in the 21st Century and helped me pull out this old cover from John Reed in The Masses. Musically, Lordes' Royals sums up the zeitgeist perfectly. The problem with 90% of the 99% is they'd prefer to be viewed as on the other team. Consumption Culture seeds itself on the notion that "You're not Paris Hilton but you can live like her." Thomas Piketty has laid out the statistics and the bad news you can't.

The pendulum may be about to take a long swing back. 30 years on in the Great Disinflation and Capital Owner wave, global labor may be a bullish bet. Somewhere between violent revolution in the EM and tiresome slow growth in the US, the notion that workers are the consumers may find footing. The moment of inertia would be characterized by several years of continued faith in the last paradigm, just as it was with 15% bonds and 6% inflation. Today's stream was full of "why you need to buy duration now" rear view mirror-ing.

We disagree. We sense a massive change in orientation coming. The shift is subtle and incredibly slow compared to 400 millisecond trading. But, and its a Kardashian -Rentier  sized But, the revolution will need more than an exciting economist to lead it. Hilary hardly fits the bill (Obama lost out to bad timing on the crisis). To paraphrase Hunter Thompson: "5 years later I think I'll be able to look back, with the right kind of eyes, and see the high water mark, where the wave broke and rolled back."

Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run… but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.…

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket… booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change)... but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that…

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda.… You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.…

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.…

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almostsee the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. HST

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