An anthropologist studying political economy in ethnographic situations or by reading history can get a perspective on the locus of problems in contemporary society. The problem is that anthropologists are almost never consulted in these matters – economists are. As a rule, they lack the ethnographic and historical insights a seasoned anthropologist gets from doing fieldwork and reading history. History is important and it can teach us many things. This applies to what I see happening in the American political economy today.
America is facing stagnation and in its midst there is a vitriolic debate going on between conservatives and progressives (often called liberals) as to whether or not the rich and corporations should be more heavily taxed. Being rich, they can ride out dips in the growth pattern of capitalism and they don’t want their money used to stimulate growth. Note the statement below in this regard.
Marriner Eccles warned in 1933 that the USA was in dire straits because the rich were sitting on their money and that they needed to be saved from their own folly. An excerpt from his testimony:
"It is utterly impossible, as this country has demonstrated again and again, for the rich to save as much as they have been trying to save, and save anything that is worth saving. They can save idle factories and useless railroad coaches; they can save empty office buildings and closed banks; they can save paper evidences of foreign loans; but as a class they cannot save anything that is worth saving, above and beyond the amount that is made profitable by the increase of consumer buying. It is for the interests of the well to do – to protect them from the results of their own folly – that we should take from them a sufficient amount of their surplus to enable consumers to consume and business to operate at a profit. This is not “soaking the rich”; it is saving the rich."
Original document can be read at: http://fraser.stlouisfed.org/docs/meltzer/ecctes33.pdf