The central paradox of the machines that have made our lives so much brighter, quicker, longer and healthier is that they cannot teach us how to make the best use of them; the information revolution came without an instruction manual.
The tendency of mass democracy to produce mediocre politicians is what worries me. The vast majority of human beings today are simply not competent to protect their own interests.
Our serious problem today is not simply that many people routinely tell lies. As I have noted, people have departed from the truth for one reason or another all throughout human history. The problem now is that we seem to be reaching a dysfunctional tipping point in which an essential commitment to truthfulness no longer seems to be assumed in our society. If this is indeed the case, the danger is that the bonds of trust important in any society, and essential for a free and democratic one, will dissolve so that the kinds of discourse required to self-govern will become impossible.
In 1972, altogether 22,887 tax returns were filed with today's equivalent of $1 million in income. By 1985, the number had expanded to 58,603. And in 2009, the most recent year for figures, this bracket had multiplied to 236,893.
While real earnings for the overall workforce have risen only 7 percent since 1985, professions like physicians and professors have done several times better. Incomes of lawyers and executives, for their part, have soared much further than anyone would have forecast a few decades ago.
Today, immaterial labor is hegemonic in the sense in which Marx proclaimed that, in 19th-century capitalism, large industrial production was hegemonic: it imposes itself not through force of numbers but by playing the key, emblematic structural role. What emerges is a vast new domain called the 'common': shared knowledge and new forms of communication and co-operation. The products of immaterial production aren't objects but new social or interpersonal relations; immaterial production is bio-political, the production of social life.
The proletarianisation of the lower salaried bourgeoisie is matched at the opposite extreme by the irrationally high remuneration of top managers and bankers (irrational since, as investigations have demonstrated in the US, it tends to be inversely proportional to a company's success). Rather than submit these trends to moralizing criticism, we should read them as signs that the capitalist system is no longer capable of self-regulated stability -- it threatens, in other words, to run out of control.
In 2001 the United States had five "centers of excellence," as they were called, devoted to bioterrorism. By the end of 2002, more than 100 such centers were named.
Through the government policy of preempting terror, of making terror happen in order to stop it from happening, the alleged author of a crime from which people instinctively recoil -- incest -- gained moral advantage over the alleged author of a crime that did not yet exist. What's more, the younger man was given every possible resource to work toward the fruition of the hypothetical crimes of the older man in order to keep his own ass out of jail. It's a kind of madness ...