Monday, April 21, 2014

Noblesse Oblige. Or One Of The Consequences of One-Dollar-One-Vote in American Politics

Given the Supreme Court Republican majority views on democracy and free speech, the way politics and various institutions will be financed and molded is going to increasingly depend on the small percentage of people who have a lot of money.

Thus, one might argue that president Obama was very smart to invite the philanthropically-minded young billionaires to the White House.* After all, the Democratic party should court them before the Republican party does, right?

On the other hand, wasn't all this supposed to be something that happened during the Robber Barons era of the American history?  Wasn't the idea that more people should have a say in how those institutions are created and how politics is run?  As Digby writes:

It's very nice that many of these young idealistic aristocrats want to do good deeds. But this is really nothing more than good old fashioned noblesse oblige which basically leaves the betterment of man to the whims of rich people. One of the big improvements democracy was supposed to bring was that the people themselves decided how to organize society rather than depending on the kindness of aristocrats. Even great philanthropists of the gilded age like Andrew Carnegie believed in a huge confiscatory tax of great estates in order that the government of the people might make the decisions rather than the heirs of great fortunes.
*The story appeared in the Style and Fashion section.