The Evil 1%
The "occupy" protest movement is thriving off the claim that the 99% are being exploited by the 1%, and there is truth in what they say. But they have the identities of the groups wrong. They imagine that it is the 1% of highest wealth holders who are the problem. In fact, that 1% includes some of the smartest, most innovative people in the country – the people who invent, market, and distribute material blessings to the whole population. They also own the capital that sustains productivity and growth.
But there is another 1% out there, those who do live parasitically off the population and exploit the 99%. Moreover, there is a long intellectual tradition, dating back to the late middle ages that draws attention to the strange reality that a tiny minority lives off the productive labor of the overwhelming majority.
I'm speaking of the State, which even today is made up of a tiny sliver of the population, but is the direct cause of all the impoverishing wars, inflation, taxes, regimentation, and social conflict. This 1% is the direct cause of the violence, the censorship, the unemployment, and vast amounts of poverty, too.
Look at the numbers, rounding from latest data. The U.S. population is 307 million. There are about 20 million government employees at all levels, which makes 6.5%. But 6.2 million of these people are public school teachers, whom I think we can say are not really the ruling elite. That takes us down to 4.4%.
We can knock of another half million who work for the post office, and probably the same who work for various service department bureaus. Probably another million do not work in any enforcement arm of the State, and there's also the amazing labor-pool fluff that comes with any government work. Local governments do not cause nation-wide problems (usually), and the same might be said of the 50 states. The real problem is at the federal level (8.5 million), from which we can subtract fluff, drones, and service workers.
In the end, we end up with about 3 million people who constitute what is commonly called the State. For short, we can just call these people the 1%.
The 1% do not generate any wealth of their own. Everything they have they get by taking from others under the cover of law. They live at our expense. Without us, the State as an institution would die.
Here we come to the core of the issue. What is the State and what does it do? There is vast confusion about this issue, insofar as it is talked about at all. For hundreds of years, people have imagined that the State might be an organic institution that develops naturally out of some social contract. Or perhaps the State is our benefactor because it provides services we could not otherwise provide for ourselves.
In classrooms and in political discussions, there is very little if any honest talk about what the State is and what it does. But in the libertarian tradition, matters are much clearer. From Bastiat to Rothbard, the answer has been before our eyes. The State is the only institution in society that is permitted by law to use aggressive force against person and property.
Let's understand through a simple example. Let's say you go into a restaurant and hate the wallpaper. You can complain and try to persuade the owner to change it. If he doesn't change it, you can decide not to go back. But if you break in, take money out of the cash register, buy paint, and cover the wallpaper yourself, you will be charged with criminal wrongdoing and perhaps go to jail. Everyone in society agrees that you did the wrong thing.
But the State is different. If it doesn't like the wallpaper, it can pass a law (or maybe even not that) and send a memo. It can mandate a change. It doesn't have to do the repainting. The State can make you repaint the place. If you refuse, you are guilty of criminal wrongdoing.
Same goals, different means, two very different sets of criminals. The State is the institution that essentially redefines criminal wrongdoing to make itself exempt from the law that governs everyone else.
It is the same with every tax, every regulation, every mandate, and every single word of the federal code. It all represents coercion. Even in the area of money and banking, it is the State that created and sustains the Fed and the dollar because it forcibly limits competition in money and banking, preventing people from making gold or silver money, or innovating in other ways. And in some ways, this is the most dreadful intervention of all, because it allows the State to destroy our money on a whim.
The State is everybody's enemy. Why don't the protesters get this? Because they are victims of propaganda by the State, doled out in public school, that attempts to blame all human suffering on private parties and free enterprise. They do not comprehend that the real enemy is the institution that brainwashes them to think they way they do.
They are right that society is rife with conflicts, and that the contest is wildly lopsided. It is indeed the 99% vs. the 1%. They're just wrong about the identity of the enemy.
Posted by James Jaeger on 10/22/11 04:18 PM
I like your thinking on this Lew and agree that the 1% the OCCUPY WALL STREET protestors seem to be focusing on are the productive members of society, however I offer some additional considerations to help better identify this 1% group.
When attempting to assign responsibility (or blame) to our economic problems, the argument seems to come down to two main agents: the STATE or the MONEY. Put another way, the GOVERNMENT or the CORPORATIONS. I maintain this questions is difficult to resolve because it's sort of a CHICKEN or EGG question. Why? Consider this: certain social scientists maintain we live in a universe that's built on a 180-degree reverse vector. i.e., you get what you resist, and you don't get what you want.
One could consider this a type of Catch-22. You can't have A unless you have B, but you can't have B unless you have A. Applied to money and the state: you must have MONEY in order to create a STATE, but you must have a STATE in order to create MONEY. More accurately, you must have FIAT MONEY in order to create a RUNAWAY STATE, but you must have a RUNAWAY STATE in order to create FIAT MONEY. When Congress passed the illegal (unconstitutional) Federal Reserve Act in 1913, that was a RUNWAY STATE.
Later-day Rothbardians, and other anarchists, have decided that the sole source of all the problems we face today is the STATE. And the reason for this is because the STATE is based on the principle of "iniatory violence" set forth by Ayn Rand. This, unfortunately, is only half the truth, for, as I stated above, economies and governments are based on a Catch-22. The state's monopoly over violence is only made possible through TECHNOLOGY. Technology is a function of research and development, both by the government AND the private sector. In either case, technology cannot proceed without lots of money, i.e., you have to HIRE and PAY the scientists and engineers that make the atomic bombs and cruise missiles. Thus, MONEY enables TECHNOLOGY which enables the STATE which enables FIAT MONEY. That's the equation. You can't have A unless you have B, but you can't have B unless you have A.
Whereas sound money is an organic emergent property of the free market, FIAT MONEY is a scientifically-designed artificial currency that emerges from the partnership of the STATE and elite CENTRAL BANKERS. If a class of people (the 1% you mention) have devised a way of creating unlimited amounts of money, through the technology of mathematics, that class will be able to purchase unlimited "iniatory force" to ensure the continuance and expansion of their interests.
So actually, this 1% consisting of 3 million people in the government is actually comprised of three (3) elements: the government officials, as you suggest, the monetary scientists, that Ed Griffin discusses in his books, and the scientists in the military industrial complex that are paid to keep BOTH factions in business and in power. To this mix you COULD add the MEDIA who's job is to obfuscate these mechanisms from the general populations.
Reply from The Daily Bell
Chicken or Egg - hey we were gonna use that line!
Posted by codrus on 10/22/11 03:36 PM
Thank you Lew Rockwell for the voice of reason, wisdom and acumen. You're a welcome eye of clarity in a seeming storm of confusion. I agree with you, this is the main underlining issue that needs to be addressed and which gives rise to the problems discussed here at The Daily Bell.
After all, were the institutionalized initiation of aggression to no longer be viewed as legitimate or accepted as proper social behavior then the issues of Central Banks and fiat currencies and the rest of the problems that arise from it would fine themselves resolved as well. Good job.
Posted by DarbyJie on 10/22/11 02:50 PM
"And to HAVE THEM ALL ARRESTED ASAP !!!!!"
Easier said than done, for we live in *lawless times*.
And *THAT* is the problem that has so far evaded all solution, despite the fact that reams of prose have been devoted to it.
Posted by panzerfaust on 10/22/11 04:55 AM
The time has come for the people to NAME THE 1% PARASITES AND HOLD THEM INDUVIDUALLY AND COLLECTIVELY RESPONSABLE for the misery and suffering of the entire global economic fiasco !
And to HAVE THEM ALL ARRESTED ASAP !!!!!The root-cause of THE INTERNATIONAL PROBLEM should be removed like a cancerous growth TO STOP THE ROT !! OWS does till this day NOT NAME THE CRIMINALS ( except for BENJAMIN SHALOM BERNANKE ) -I wonder why not ? BENJAMIN SHALOM BERNANKE is only ONE OF THEM -THERE ARE HOSTS OF OTHERS THAT SHOULD BE ID'D AND ARRESTED !
Greetings from CAPE TOWN
Posted by bewer on 10/21/11 11:11 AM
Right on hoss.
Posted by Hoss on 10/21/11 08:15 AM
The protests are a test balloon, floated to see whether 100 years of government indoctrination have had the intended effect -- which is to get the people to demand their own direct enslavement.