Monday, November 29, 2010


1st NW Quadrant: The Approval Matrix


Ralph Nader begins Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! with an author's note that attempts to clarify any genre confusion the reader might have. "This book is not a novel," he announces. "Nor is it nonfiction. In the literary world, it might be described as a 'practical utopia.' " It's a smart clarification to offer because, by the aesthetic criteria of either of those two more common forms, it is a colossal, Hindenburgian disaster.

The basic plot goes like this. Moved by pity to travel to New Orleans in the wake of Katrina to oversee relief efforts, Warren Buffett encounters one desperately poor and grateful recipient of his charity who announces, "Only the super-rich can save us." This gets Buffett thinking, and he proceeds to convene a top secret meeting in a Maui resort. There he gathers an eclectic group of the super-rich: Paul Newman, George Soros, Bill Gates Sr., Ted Turner, Barry Diller, Peter Lewis (owner of Progressive Insurance), and, somewhat randomly, Yoko Ono, among others, to create a "people's revolt of the rich."

The group begins fomenting a progressive reformist movement along dozens of tracks: creating an alternative to the reactionary Chamber of Commerce; putting pressure on Wal-Mart to allow its workers to unionize (partly by buying up local competitors and subsidizing them to undercut Wal-Mart's prices); founding a Clean Elections Party to challenge congressional incumbents; and galvanizing public opinion with organized lunch demonstrations and publicity stunts like running corporations for public office and proposing the pledge of alliance be amended so that it ends, "With liberty and justice for some." Oh yeah: and Warren Beatty runs for governor of California. The ultimate aim is to pass a slate of transformational reform legislation through congress, ("The Agenda") that will clean up politics, humanize the economy and usher in a new more democratic progressive era. I won't spoil the ending by telling you if they succeed.

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