Archive for October, 2012

The Disposition Matrix

October 24th, 2012  |  Published in anti-Star Trek, Political Economy, Politics

“The Disposition Matrix” sounds like a dystopian science fiction novel. And indeed it is, but unfortunately it’s being written by the American counter-terrorism bureaucracy, and rolled out as the blueprint for a future of state-sanctioned death squads.

The Washington Post prints a riveting chapter of this story, a sequel to Obama’s notorious “kill list”. We discover the existence of a “next generation targeting list” (the aforementioned matrix), a spreadsheet of doom which will be used to keep track of all the undesirables now targeted for elimination by the CIA.

The story expertly combines bureaucratic tedium with horrific violence, and it is full of bizarre and terrifying lines. “The database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.” Drone assasination is now the first resort of the state.


“‘We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us,’ a senior administration official said. ‘It’s a necessary part of what we do.'” Killing is ineffectual, which is why killing must remain our business forever. “Mitt Romney made it clear that he would continue the drone campaign. ‘We can’t kill our way out of this,’ he said, but added later that Obama was ‘right to up the usage’ of drone strikes and that he would do the same.” We can’t kill our way out of this, so we must keep killing. You must go on. You can’t go on. You’ll go on.

“‘We had a disposition problem,’ said a former U.S. counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix.” The problem was that there remained some people that the U.S. government was unable to kill.

Once, a man was captured off the coast of Yemen. “‘Warsame was a classic case of “What are we going to do with him?” ‘ the former counterterrorism official said. In such cases, the matrix lays out plans.” Perhaps we require “camps . . . used for ‘suspects’ whose offenses could not be proved and who could not be sentenced by ordinary process of law.”

“The proposal, which would need White House approval, reflects the [CIA]‘s transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-Sept. 11 focus on gathering intelligence.” This will be very different from the Tonton Macoutes. There will be no rustic straw hats and denim shirts this time.

“The matrix was developed by the NCTC, under former director Michael Leiter, to augment those organizations’ separate but overlapping kill lists, officials said.” This is typical of the bloated, inefficient government bureaucracy. One day they’ll think to outsource the machinery of death entirely.

“‘The problem with the drone is it’s like your lawn mower,’ said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and Obama counterterrorism adviser. ‘You’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back.'” You kill them and kill them, but they just keep growing back. After a time, “Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.”

“The approach also applies to the development of criteria for ‘signature strikes,’ which allow the CIA and JSOC to hit targets based on patterns of activity . . . even when the identities of those who would be killed is unclear.” Like Google’s search algorithm, the characteristics that will make you deserving of government assasination are obscure.

“For an administration that is the first to embrace targeted killing on a wide scale, officials seem confident that they have devised an approach that is so bureaucratically, legally and morally sound that future administrations will follow suit.” Barack Obama truly deserved his Nobel peace prize after all; he inaugurated the most moral campaign of wide scale killing in history.

“The number of targets on the lists isn’t fixed, officials said, but fluctuates based on adjustments to criteria. Officials defended the arrangement even while acknowledging an erosion in the caliber of operatives placed in the drones’ cross hairs.” Targeted killing used to be glamorous and sophisticated, but these days it’s a bore. All the good targets are already dead.

“A senior aide to Panetta disputed this account, and said Panetta mentioned the shrinking target list during his trip to Islamabad but didn’t raise the prospect that drone strikes would end. Two former U.S. officials said the White House told Panetta to avoid even hinting at commitments the United States was not prepared to keep.” If we stop the killing, the terrorists will have won. If we say that we will stop the killing in the future, the terrorists will have won. If we hint that we might commit to stopping the killing in the future, the terrorists will have won.


It comes back, as it always does for me, to “Four Futures”. The fourth chapter of that essay is titled “Exterminism”, and it suggests the following:

Many of the rich . . . have resigned themselves to barricading themselves into their fortresses, to be protected by unmanned drones and private military contractors. Guard labor . . . reappears in an even more malevolent form, as a lucky few are employed as enforcers and protectors for the rich.

But this too, is an unstable equilibrium, for the same basic reason that buying off the masses is. So long as the immiserated hordes exist, there is the danger that it may one day become impossible to hold them at bay. Once mass labor has been rendered superfluous, a final solution lurks: the genocidal war of the rich against the poor.

Until now, we have relied on the prison system to warehouse the unemployed and unemployable, but there just seem to be more and more of them. How long until someone like Pete Peterson demands, in the name of fiscal responsibility, that we begin liquidating these stocks of unproductive bodies?

Fortunately, the disposition matrix has nothing to do with such fears. The targets of the lists are not surplus labor, after all, we are merely terrorists.

Finishing the Civil War

October 22nd, 2012  |  Published in Politics, Shameless self-promotion, Socialism

A month or two ago, Bhaskar Sunkara came to me with the idea that we could, on a short deadline, turn our long-running discussions about the future of progressive politics in the United States into a “Piven-Cloward plan for the 21st century” for the cover of In These Times magazine. This was, of course, an insane proposal, combining the intellectual hubris of a mid-20th century French philosopher and the slapdash work ethic of an undergraduate pulling an all nighter. But I’ve learned by now not to doubt Bhaskar’s crazy schemes, so naturally I signed on.

You can read the resulting product here, and Francis Fox Piven herself also weighs in with an editorial in the issue. I don’t know whether we accomplished our grandiose aims, but I’m happy we at least made a case for something that’s long been discussed on the left, and which doesn’t get nearly enough attention: the need to shift responsibility for social policy from states and localities to the federal government.

In the essay, we make our case primarily on fiscal grounds, pointing out that the limited ability of sub-national governments to run deficits almost inevitably leads to a politics of austerity. But there’s another aspect to this that we didn’t really talk about, which is the regional structure of American politics. Reactionary approaches to the welfare state are particularly characteristic of the south, both its culture and its political economy. Federalizing social policy is therefore both an act of solidarity with the working class of that region, and a move toward completing the class project of the civil war.

As we note in the essay, Republicans—Romney and Ryan included—favor the inverse of our strategy, and advocate devolving social policy to the states. This has broadly negative consequences for the beneficiaries of such policies, but it has particularly bad implications for the residents of conservative states. Those states, as Jonathan Cohn explains in The New Republic, are markedly stingier about social welfare spending. They also happen to be, by and large, the states with the most poor people. (This is, incidentally, what gives rise to “What’s the Matter With Kansas”-style fallacies about poor people voting against their economic interests, due to the phenomenon of rich people living in poor states being more strongly Republican.)

This bifurcation of state-level social policy, which Cohn glosses as “Blue States are from Scandinavia, Red States are from Guatemala”, also has a strongly regional pattern. Consider the following image, from the sidebar to Cohn’s article:

The division between our local Scandinavias and Guatemalas tracks a very old north-south division in American politics, which is where the civil war comes in. Michael Lind recently argued at Salon.com that:

The core of today’s Democratic Party consists of the states of New England and the Great Lakes/Mid-Atlantic region that were the heart of the Union effort during the Civil War. The core of today’s Republican Party consists of the states that seceded from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America.

Lind goes on to argue that:

Notwithstanding slavery, segregation and today’s covert racism, the Southern system has always been based on economics, not race. Its rulers have always seen the comparative advantage of the South as arising from the South’s character as a low-wage, low-tax, low-regulation site in the U.S. and world economy. The Southern strategy of attracting foreign investment from New York, London and other centers of capital depends on having a local Southern workforce that is forced to work at low wages by the absence of bargaining power.

Centralizing welfare policy is therefore a way of avoiding a situation that pits the residents of the liberal states against an immiserated workforce in the south. This is an act of principled solidarity—a refusal to simply leave southern workers to deal with their conservative elites on their own—but also a pragmatic necessity. We may not yet be able to demand a global social democracy, but we can at least avoid an invidious race to the bottom with our fellow Americans.

Our essay concludes by envisioning the welfare state as a foundation for freedom:

Freedom to give their children an education without rival. Freedom from poverty, hunger and homelessness. Freedom to grow into old age with pensions, Social Security, and affordable and accessible healthcare. Freedom to leave an exploitative work environment and find another job. Freedom to organize with fellow workers for redress.

The decommodification of labor that’s entailed by egalitarian social policy is a partial emancipation from the unfreedom of the workplace. The stakes in this debate are therefore much higher than simply the existence of a “safety net” or a rudimentary social wage. It’s about giving workers the confidence and the material security necessary to make bolder demands for social change.

You sometimes see Trotskyist sectarians using the slogan “Finish the Civil War! Black Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!” But before we get around to the revolution bit, just getting a robust national-level welfare state would in itself be a big step toward the completion of the emancipatory project.

Ecology, Technology, and Scale

October 10th, 2012  |  Published in Political Economy, Politics, Socialism

In the debate between Alex Gourevitch on one side, and Chris Bertram and Jacobin contributing editor Max Ajl on the other, I’d put myself more on Bertram and Ajl’s side. Gourevitch’s essay was a bit too long on caricatures of environmentalism, and too short on critiques of the particular way in which development operates in capitalism.

I do think, though, that Ajl’s opening is a bit misleading as to the substance of his argument. He ridicules Gourevitch’s call for “control and manipulation of nature” as “pure ideology”, and insists that “ecological problems are not resolvable through endless technofixes”. But the further control and manipulation of nature by means of technology is then precisely what he goes on to advocate. What separates the two positions is that while Gourevitch tends toward an uncritical conflation of “development” and “capitalist development”, Ajl outlines an explicitly ecological (though not necessarily anti-capitalist) path of development, involving things like high-speed rail networks and alternative energy systems.

Ajl’s other important point is to separate the defense of advanced technological society from the praise of large scale, centralized industrialization. As Bertram notes in his post, there is a sort of stagist theory of history implicit in Gourevitch’s argument, in which poor countries must pass through the same kind of industrial development that characterized the imperial metropoles in the twentieth century. In fact, it is possible for poor regions to skip over some parts of the earlier history of industrialization entirely. Hence we see countries skipping the buildout of land line telephones in favor of cellular, and the same may happen with distributed solar power generation.

Thus, while the specific criticisms Gourevitch makes (on Palestinian bicycle generators and the California energy crisis) are mostly on target, he is too quick to dismiss “federated, small-scale self-sufficient production communities” entirely. As Ajl notes, a red-green vision may reject retreating into some pre-industrial past, but it is also about something more than just generalizing current rich country ways of life to the whole world.

I’m jumping into all this because it connects to my last post on 3-D printers and related small-scale fabrication technologies.* One of the appealing things about these technologies is that, as Juliet Schor notes in this post, they have the potential to make high-productivity but small scale production much more viable. This implies that an increasingly productive economy need not be identical with an increasingly centralized and hierarchical one. Which is not to say that big and complex infrastructural systems can be done away with entirely, only that they can be a less important part of our material culture. It may turn out that the industrial age was actually the apex of economic “bigness”, and that the post-industrial future will be both more decentralized and richer, a manifestation of what Ursula Leguin calls a “genuinely mature society” that employs advanced technology but has transcended the capitalist imperative to constantly grow and expand.

This would be very fortunate, and not only for reasons of ecological sustainability. Ashwin Parameswaran, in his many posts at Macroeconomic Resilience, has discussed the way in which contemporary capitalism is the endpoint of the high-modernist “control revolution”. In his view, post-Fordism is merely a completion of the Fordist project of “systematising each element of the industrial process”, and “introducing order and legibility into a fundamentally opaque environment via a process that reduces human involvement and discretion by replacing intuitive judgments with rules and algorithms.” The attempt to stabilize the incredibly complex systems of a modern macro-economy then leads, he says, to a situation in which the rules and feedback loops are so complex that they render “the system fundamentally illegible to the human operator”. According to this analysis, our current version of “too big to fail” crony capitalism actually has much in common with the Soviet project, which ultimately failed “due to its too successful adherence and implementation of the high-modernist ideal.”

In recent times, decentralization of the economy has been rhetorically associated with the libertarian right (even if, as Parameswaran argues, their project was actually a continuation of the control revolution). There is no reason, however, for the Left to respond by fetishizing bigness, which would be no better an answer than the the fetish for smallness that afflicts some of the environmentalists Gourevitch criticizes.

  • As an aside, I should clarify that some of what I discussed in that post was speculative, and not meant to describe the current state of these technologies. In particular, I’m well aware that it’s not possible to manufacture anthrax (or, to be scientifically precise, the Bacillus anthracis bacterium) in one’s home. But there’s no reason to believe such things won’t eventually be possible.

The 3-D Printed Future and its Enemies

October 9th, 2012  |  Published in anti-Star Trek, Political Economy

@makerbot store

Lately, it seems like everyone is talking about 3-D printers. Until recently, these devices have been seen either as novelties or as expensive pieces of equipment suited only for industrial use. Now, however, they are quickly becoming affordable to individuals, and capable of producing a wider range of practical items. Just as the computer became a vector for pervasive file-sharing as soon as cheap PCs and internet connections were widespread, we may soon find ourselves living in a world where cheap 3-D printers allow the dissemination of designs for physical objects through the Internet.

The line between science fiction and reality is moving rapidly. Scroll through these links at BoingBoing and you’ll see 3-D printers churning out everything from guitars to dolls to keys to a prosthetic beak for a bald eagle.

Ensconced in the home, the 3-D printer is a step toward the replicator: a machine that can instantly produce any object with no input of human labor. Technologies like this are central to the vision of a post-scarcity society that I outlined in “Four Futures”. It’s a future that could be glorious or terrible, depending on the outcome of the coming political struggles over the adoption of these new technologies. As the title of a report from Public Knowledge puts it, “It will be awesome if they don’t screw it up.”

Battles over 3-D printing will be fought on two fronts, and two mechanisms of power are likely to be mobilized by the rentier elites who are threatened by these technologies: intellectual property law and the war on terror.


I wrote earlier this year (at Jacobin, the New Inquiry, and Al Jazeera), about the fight over laws like the Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have given the state broad and ambiguous powers to monitor and persecute alleged copyright infringers. The intellectual property lobby is currently in retreat on this front, but the general problem of intellectual property stifling progress has not abated. Aaron Swartz, who was the victim of one of the more ludicrous recent piracy busts, is still facing multiple felony counts. Apple and Google, meanwhile, now spend more money on patent purchases and lawsuits than they do on research and development. And the next front in the war over IP is likely to center on 3-D printing.

Like the computer, the 3-D printer is a tool that can rapidly dis-intermediate a production process. Computers allowed people to turn a downloaded digital file into music or movies playing in their home, without the intermediary steps of manufacturing CDs or DVDs and distributing them to record stores. Likewise, a 3-D printer could allow you to turn a digital blueprint (such as a CAD file) into an object, without the intermediate step of manufacturing the object in a factory and shipping it to a store or warehouse. While 3-D printers aren’t going to suddenly make all of large-scale industrial capitalism obsolete, they will surely have some very disruptive effects.

The people who were affected by the previous stage of the file-sharing explosion were cultural producers (like musicians) who create new works, and the middlemen (like record companies) who made money selling physical copies of those works. These two groups have interests that are aligned at first, but are ultimately quite different. Creators find their traditional sources of income undermined, and thus face the choice of allying with the middlemen to shore up the existing regime, or else attempting to forge alternative ways of paying the people who create culture and information. But while the creators remain necessary, a lot of the middlemen are being made functionally obsolete. Their only hope is to maintain artificial monopolies through the draconian enforcement of intellectual property, and to win public support by presenting themselves as the defenders of deserving artists and creators.

This same dynamic will arise with 3D printing. Now, however, it is industrial designers who will be cast into the role of the artists and writers, while certain industrial manufacturers will be threatened with death by dis-intermediation. Designers will still be needed to create the patterns that are then fed into 3D printers, while the factories will be superfluous. Imagine a world in which you could download the blueprints for an iPhone 5, and print one out at home. Suddenly, Foxconn and the Apple Store are out of the picture—the only indispensable part of the Apple infrastructure is industrial designers like Jonny Ive, who are responsible for the putting together the sleek and attractive design of the device. The Public Knowledge report cited above predicts that “as 3D printing makes it possible to recreate physical objects, manufacturers and designers of such objects will increasingly demand ‘copyright’ protection for their functional objects.”

In the last issue of Jacobin, Colin McSwiggen admonished designers to pay attention to the fact that they “make alienated labor possible”. The idea of “design” as separate from production is tied to the rise of large scale capitalist manufacturing, when skilled craftspeople were replaced with factory workers repetitively churning out copies from an original pattern. But the order McSwiggen critiques is one which will be undermined by the dissemination of micro-fabrication technology.

3-D printing isn’t going to restore the old craft order, in which design and production are united in a single individual or workshop. What it will do instead is make some designers more like musicians, struggling to figure out how to react to consumers who are trading, remixing, and printing their creations all over the place. At the same time, it will blur the line between creation, production, and consumption, as amateurs delve into creating and repurposing design. Like musicians, professional designers will have to decide whether to scold their customers and join industrial interests in fighting for strong copyright protections on designs, or whether to look for new ways of getting paid and new ways of connecting with their fans.


The dark side of being able to print any physical object is that other people can print any physical object. It’s all well and good when people are just making clothes or auto parts, but recently there have been stories about more unsettling possibilities, like 3-D printed guns. The first of these was ultimately over-hyped, but did show that the day was at least approaching when home-printed firearms would be a reality. Then, there came a story about a 3-D printer company revoking its lease and demanding its device back after it got wind of a collective that intended to make and test a 3-D printed weapon.

This story is significant because it indicates a line of attack that will be used to restrict access to 3-D printing technologies in general. I have no particular love for the gun-enthusiast crowd. Those leftists who think access to guns is somehow useful to revolutionaries are living in the past and underestimate the physical power of the modern state, and having your own gun is more likely to lead to you getting shot with it than anything else. But guns, and other dangerous objects, will surely be used as the pretext for a much wider crackdown on the free circulation of designs and 3-D printing technology.

When the copyright cartels were still only trying to control the circulation of immaterial goods like music and software, they faced the problem that it was hard to convince people that file sharing was really hurting anyone. Notwithstanding a few lame attempts to link piracy to terrorism, the best they could do was point to the potential loss of income for some artists, and the possibility that there would be less creative work at some point in the future. These same arguments will no doubt be rolled out again, but they will be much more powerful when linked to fearmongering about DIY-printed machine guns and anthrax.

This is where the intensification of the surveillance state, throughout the Bush and Obama administrations and under the rubric of the “war on terror”, becomes important. The post-9/11 security state has gradually rendered itself permanent and disconnected itself from its original justification. We will be told that our purchases and downloads must all be monitored in order to prevent evildoers from printing arsenals in their living rooms, and it will just so happen that this same authoritarian apparatus will be used to enforce copyright claims as well. Meanwhile, the military will of course proceed to use the new technologies to facilitate their pointless wars. Readers who are interested in a preview of this dystopia of outlaw fabricators trying to outrun the police are referred to Charles Stross’s novel, Rule 34.

There really are dangers in the strange new world of 3-D printing. I’m as uneasy as anyone would be about unbalanced loners printing anthrax in their bedrooms. But we have seen all too well that the repressive state apparatus that promises to keep us safe from terror mostly manages to roll up a bunch of inept patsies while remaining unable or unwilling to stop a deranged massacre from going down now and then.

Terrorism, like drugs before it, is only a pretext for ratcheting up a repressive apparatus that will be used for other purposes. Today, we are familiar with the statistics showing that terrorism has killed 32 Americans per year since 9/11, while gun violence has killed 30,000. Soon enough we will be able to add 3-D printers to the list of phantom menaces that are trotted out to justify wiretaps, raids, and indefinite detentions.


William Gibson famously said that the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed. In the future, expect the copyright cartels and the national security state to team up to bring you a new announcement: the future is here, but you’re not allowed to have it.

First you get the money, then you get the power

October 1st, 2012  |  Published in Political Economy, Politics

Update, 2 October 2012: Corrected a mistake in the data on the charitable contributions tax deduction. An earlier version referred to the wrong table from the Tax Policy Center.

The American plutocracy’s habit of portraying itself as an oppressed minority has become a source of ongoing amusement, and Chrystia Freeland has the latest chapter of this comedy in the New Yorker. She presents a series of quotations and anecdotes that will be barf-inducing to anyone who hasn’t had their head pickled in Ayn Rand aphorisms. I particularly enjoyed the guy who compared Barack Obama’s treatment of the rich to the oppression of black Americans, and the guy who compared Wall Street supporters of the President to battered wives.

But the most illuminating and distinctive part of the essay is the way it highlights this curious argument about the “self-taxation” of the rich:

Many billionaires have come to view charity as privatized taxation, paid at a level they determine, and to organizations they choose. “All things being equal, you’d rather have control of the money than the government,” Cooperman said. “Even if you’re giving it away, you’d rather give it away the way you want to give it away rather than the way the government gives it away.” Cooperman and his wife focus their giving on Jewish issues, education, and their local community in New Jersey, and he is also setting up a foundation that will allow his children and grandchildren to support their own chosen causes after he dies.

Foster Friess, a retired mutual-fund investor from Wyoming who was the backer of the main Super pac supporting the Republican primary candidate Rick Santorum, expounded on this view in a video interview in February. “People don’t realize how wealthy people self-tax,” he said. “If you have a certain cause, an art museum or a symphony, and you want to support it, it would be nice if you had the choice.”

It would, indeed, be nice if you had the choice. Obviously charitable donation is only equivalent to tax-funded government spending if you are indifferent to democratic accountability. So it’s not surprising to hear this kind of rhetoric out of the ultra-rich, who tend to be committed to an ideology of meritocracy that is fundamentally hostile to democracy. The less cautious apologists, like Bryan Caplan, will straightforwardly propose “relying less on democracy and more on private choice and free markets.” Left unsaid is that “choice” in the private market consists mostly of the choices of the people with the most money.

This is why a class compromise over the welfare state is so elusive. It doesn’t matter whether the rich agree that they benefited from their society in the “you didn’t build that” sense, nor does it matter whether higher taxes on the rich and more spending on social programs and jobs will ultimately promote more economic growth. This is about power. Even those who piously declare their desire to “give back” to society insist on doing so only on their own terms.

Traditionally, the socialist movement has emphasized the need to subject the investment decisions of capitalists to democratic accountability, but it’s just as important to talk about democratic control over social welfare spending. The choice we face is not really whether there will be a social safety net, the struggle is over whether we will have a democratic welfare state or a kind of private welfare state run according to the whims of rich philanthropists. The latter, even in the improbable event that it could replace public spending in terms of overall dollars, would be both undesirable as a matter of democratic principle, and a lot less likely to consist of the kind of universal, unconditional income support that is most consistent with individual freedom.

A more specific policy point about this issue of “self-taxing” is that it highlights what an obscenity the tax deduction for charitable donations is. The Joint Committee On Taxation reports that this deduction (including both individual and corporate donations) cost the federal government $41.3 billion in 2012, and the cost is projected to rise to $54.7 billion by 2015. Data from the Tax Policy Center shows that over 95 percent of this benefit goes to the to 40 percent of the income distribution, and over a third of it goes to the top 1 percent. This data also shows that repealing the deduction would be equivalent to a 0.5 percent tax rate increase on the top 20 percent, and a 1 percent rate hike on the ultra-rich top 0.1 percent.

It’s bad enough that this deduction encourages the transfer of social welfare functions from the state to the unaccountable non-profit sector. But a lot of “charitable” spending is of questionable social value anyway. Leon Cooperman, described in Friedland’s article as the “pope” of the whiny billionaire movement, recently gave $25 million to the Columbia Business School, which means that the government is subsidizing his efforts to help the reproduction of the capitalist managerial class. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, one of the largest charitable foundations in the country, is a major promoter of the neoliberal “education reform” movement that played a major role in the battle between Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Teachers Union. And large chunks of charitable donations (including Mitt Romney’s) go to churches, which are more important as conservative ideological and political actors than they are as sources of aid.

Leon Cooperman is both a signatory to the Warren Buffett/Bill Gates “Giving Pledge”, which commits him to giving the majority of his assets to philanthropic causes, and a passionate supporter of Mitt Romney. There is no contradiction there. Cooperman and Romney are both committed to the same principle: there’s nothing wrong with helping the needy, as long as only rich people have the right to decide when, whether, and how it gets done.

You can look at people like Gates and Cooperman as the alternative to the decaying, narrowly rapacious capitalist class I described in this post. They aren’t altruists or class traitors, they’re just demonstrating their enlightened self interest as a ruling class, and a recognition that they need to dedicate some resources to collective projects that help perpetuate the society they dominate. But they’re still the class enemy, and they’ll remind you of that as soon as their power is seriously threatened.