Welcome to the Plutocracy! Bill Moyers Presents the First Howard Zinn Lecture

Howard Zinn, the People’s historian, taught at Boston University for 24 years, until he died earlier this year. In late October, Bill Moyers delivered the first Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture during which, appropriately enough, he focuses on the challenges facing our democracy, and particularly America’s long drift toward plutocracy, where the rich get richer at the expense of the average citizen. The talk (followed by a Q&A session) runs a good two hours, and Moyers himself starts speaking at the 6:40 minute mark. You can watch the video here, or read the transcript here.

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Comments (7)
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  • These remarks by Moyers are right on the money, pun intended. In this speech and another that he gave to Common Cause (text here: http://bit.ly/aXxUSl), Moyers highlights exactly what’s at stake:

    “Civilizations die of disenchantment. If enough people doubt their society, the whole venture falls apart. We must never let anger, fashionable cynicism, or political partisanship blur our vision of this point.”

    Let us hope that one doesn’t have to be a witness to history to understand its implications.

  • Hanoch says:

    The “the rich get richer at the expense of the average citizen”? I think you have it backwards.

    The average citizen’s material well-being has been greatly improved due to the willingness of entrepreneurs throughout the history of this country to take risks to develop products and services that make life better. When those entrepreneurs succeed, everyone benefits. One need only consider the tremendous developments in technology and pharmaceuticals which have improved the average citizen’s life immeasurably.

    The average citizen in the U.S. is materially better off than virtually any place on earth. Further, today’s average U.S. citizen lives like a king compared to the wealthy in the U.S. from prior generations. Consider what the average citizen takes completely for granted today that even the wealthy of 100 years ago could not imagine. This is all the product of free markets and the ability of individuals in this country to enjoy the rewards of their success.

    Unfortunately, these obvious facts are irrelevant to leftists such as Zinn and Moyers who are primarily motivated by their animus toward the wealthy, and not the overall welfare of the average citizen. It is fascinating that those who decry the wealth and power of the capitalist are all too willing to arrogate more and more wealth and power to a centralized government with ever-expanding control over the lives of individuals.

  • Scott Woodward says:


    An examination of ANY recent economic data will indicate how NOT backward Mr. Moyers has it. One might also reasonably argue that the benefits accrued to your ‘average citizen’ have little or nothing to do with the ilk of Pharma or Detroit. Of course the limited world view which allows you to think in such a way is made clear by your pejorative use of ‘leftist’. If it is conservative opinion that speaks to you, you should attend to William Safire as opposed to Glenn Beck. God luck

  • John Q Public says:

    Great Scott! Well said!

  • Hanoch says:


    If you have data showing that the average citizen was materially better off in, say 1820 or 1920, than the average citizen today, I would love to see that. Most people recognize the rather obvious fact that they are materially better off in so many ways compared to their grandparents and great grandparents.

    I appreciate your reading recommendation and your attempt to broaden my “limited world view”. While I have not read anything from Mr. Beck, I was one of Howard Zinn’s students. I have also studied and read a number of books on economics, including those from Thomas Sowell. From the narrow confines of this “conservative opinion” pigeon hole in which you would like to imagine me — when rational argument fails, ad hominem is always a trustee standby — I concluded that Sowell handily demolished the arguments emanating from the likes of Zinn and Moyers. So, as one favor begets another, now you have your reading recommendation.

  • Mike says:

    While everyone is making reading recommendations, Hanoch, I wonder whether you have even read the piece in question. You haven’t addressed the specific issues — much less faced the facts — presented by Moyers in his speech. The years 1820 and 1920, which you mention, are outside the purview of his discussion. (We are also better off materially than we were in 1320, or 20 B.C.E.–thanks no doubt to the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans like yourself.)

    You may be a rightist, Hanoch, but if you said you were a Tea Party member I’d be a little surprised, because Tea Party members at least tend to be keenly aware of the erosion of the American middle class in recent decades. They assign blame to high taxes and large government, but the facts — the data — point in a very different direction. The middle class grew steadily, along with GDP, after the New Deal, and continued to grow after the Great Society. In fact, wages for average Americans continued to grow at a healthy rate right up until (surprise!) Reagan.

  • Scott Woodward says:

    1920 may at this point be a coin toss. I need to review more data. 1950-80 is not. Real income for wage earners is DOWN. The shift in wealth HAS occurred. The middle class IS shrinking. While I can appreciate Sowell’s handy demolishing, the sophistry emanating from the Chicago school of economic thought (Sowell apologist for Friedman apologist for Rockefeller)leaves much to be desired. The evolution of once what was arguably a democratic republic into a corporate oligarchy leaves even more. That was way too strident, but there it is.

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