The Death of the American Billionaire

 

Similarly to my previous post, ““The Stone Age Man,” I am writing “The Death of the American Billionaire” as a kind of general article addressing issues of wealth, economic disparity and the current cultural comfort level with these. In this article I’m mainly just providing my opinion on what I see in terms of our modern ‘acceptance level’ for economic disparity and quality of life.  It’s not an opinion drawn out of a vacuum though; something I just dreamnt up and now insist to be true. I think opinions should generally have reference and context, especially in matters of politics. For me, interest in economic disparity became more and more interesting the older I grew. I think it finally truly clicked with me when I began looking not just at modern history or recent history but far back, to the way economic disparity has existed for centuries and the level of acceptable disparity that has existed at different points in history.

Now the title, “Death of the American Billionaire”, sounds a lot more interesting than what I just wrote. But bare with me and I think you may find some of my observations thought provoking.

“THE DEATH OF THE AMERICAN BILLIONAIRE”

 

Throughout history there have always existed four classes. No matter what you did you fell( and presently fall ) somewhere within these classes. Let’s break them down. A disclaimer, first. This categorization of our economic classes is neither supportive nor damning of any particular class. This is an objective observation of their economic function; and it is generalized to represent them across history.

The lowest: Non-contributors. These take many different forms; maybe a homeless person, or someone badly disabled. Either way, this is a class that goes unclassified. On the economic scale though, you don’t rate, because you consume but you don’t produce.

The worker: Laborers. Those who utilize basic physical effort to achieve a living. Generally, society as we know it can’t exist without this class. This class is the class that started it all and will always exist until automation replaces literally everything.

The middle class: This is the class that supports what we consider civilized society. The next up from the laborers, the middle class generally make more money, but are not necessarily rich, often saddled with the debt they’ve picked up trying to get where they are. They work hard, but they enjoy benefits the laborers don’t.

The wealthy: True wealth, not just comfortable living, means effectively not having to work to live. You may actually still work; but you could sit down with whatever you already have and never work again. This is a class very few people will achieve; it’s one you’re typically born into or very close to. This is the least functionally useful class; it’s most fundamental qualities are waste and excess, but most damning about this class is we laud it as the most noble, yet it effectively could not exist without the efforts of the other two classes. It has no self-sustenance and has actually historically been one of the more socially dangerous classes as proven but several different periods in history across different cultures when nearly the entire wealthy class has been reigned in, broken or in some cases wiped out.

Now that we’ve established the classes, I can get into the meat of my observations of economic disparity. It’s dangers, how it functions and the myths supporting it.

Instead of starting at the bottom of this economic pyramid I want to start at the top where we find our trans-historic economic villain, the Kings.

KINGS

So this is an odd insert into a piece about economics. Monarchy? What does that have to do with economics? Well, nothing. In this case “Kings” do not represent the heads of state in a feudal system, a King in this context represents the top of the hill. The one that collects everything, establishes policy, lives in an economic world completely alien in every way from those functioning lower on the economic ladder. Why the term King? Because they rule their respective economic state.

Why is the King the bad guy(or girl, we’re being gender inclusive here)? Is there something inherently wrong about being the highest earner? Is being rich just naturally wrong? Seems very judgmental.

It’s not judgmental, Kings are the bad guy. They didn’t get to be Kings through empathetic business practices. The greatest leech on any given economic structure is at the top.

Imagine a mountain top covered in nearly endless amounts of glistening snow; and every winter it’ll get more snow, and never seems to run out. In the spring, the thaw melts some of this snow and it runs downhill forming streams that feed the mountain and it’s ecology. Eventually they form into rivers and flood out across the fields irrigating them and providing life and vitality everywhere you look.

Now, reverse that, and you have our Kings. A King is the snow covered mountain top that siphons the water backwards, pulling it out of the fields, out of the rivers and the streams and adding it back into the snow. Soon, it’s overflowing with it’s wealth of water; it has more than the peak of the mountain will ever need yet contributes nothing into the fields. Eventually the fields dry up and everything living there dies. Suddenly the ecology of the mountain begins the wither as well; it needed the life in the field. The wolves on the mountain needed the deer in the valley to live. So they die too.

A King sits upon a throne carried by every laborer working beneath him; without those laborers he wouldn’t have a throne or anyone to carry it. Knowing this, he still reaps from the laborer. He’s higher, they’re lower. They reap the fields to give him the grain that he will scarcely pay them for and then sells it back to them for more than he is paying them, maintaining a never ending cycle of dependency and debt where the least contributing person is the one reaping every gain and the most contributing person reaps the least.

That seems an extremely unfair analogy. People with money work hard too; eighty hour work weeks, back breaking stress and all while being taxed so tremendously all so that people that don’t want to work can take their hard earned money and do nothing.

Of course it seems unfair. It’s a harsh and extremely severe criticism of an economic class and seems to make out anyone with money to be a villain trying to take advantage of poor working class people.

Therein lies one of the ugliest truths that has existed since there has been some resource to make someone wealthy. The one at the top; the one with it all; is no one’s friend. They reap and rely on others to sow. The supposed voluntary agreement between he who reaps and he who sows suggests an equitable relationship and of course if the one sowing just tries a little harder, they could climb until they became the one that reaps. Correct?

Our economic system is supported as much on myths as anything else and that is another myth. The notion that there is an honest and equitable ladder through success to achieve the greatest level of success; no longer needing to work, while inheriting all the wealth, is one of our ongoing struggles. It is easily one of the most common sources of disconnect within our societies. An economy breathes and heaves like a chest wanting for air and if that system is fair; the lungs draw in and out without strain, but when it isn’t, they struggle and gasp and every gasp is a period of crushing hardship that unevenly affects the poor more than it ever does the rich. Thus, there can never be true equity in a system where one reaps and the other sows.

So the point of this extremely long and ongoing analogy is that the King is the villain not because he or she is a bad person, but because a system in which there is a King is naturally flawed, and the position of King is the greatest weakness in that system. It’s the poison in it’s veins; the cause of it’s trouble. It takes out more than it puts back in; for the sake of a single person’s comfort ten thousand must labor. So no matter how kind or good the King may seem; no matter how fair and honest their hard climb to riches was, now that they are there, they are a part of the problem.

This, more than anything, brings me to the very title of this piece, “The Death of the American Billionaire”. The very heart of this piece is the notion that wealth does not prove effort. That what one collects does not represent what one has earned. That the want of one does not take priority over the needs of a million. To truly earn one must labor; one must give up something of themselves in exchange for an equitable compensation. The more you give up, the more you get in return. That is fair; that is earning. When you are collecting with less and less contribution in return, you have become a parasite within the system.; The host body now, instead of working to keep itself alive, works to keep the parasite alive.

There may be elements of the commonly looked at notions of Communism in what I’m stating; but understand, I’m not suggesting the existence of classes is the foe, nor that seizing the wealth of the wealthy is fair. What I suggest is that there are no honest billionaires.

You can no more earn a billion dollars than you can earn the Atlantic ocean.

At a certain point; when wealth reaches the level where it has outgrown the very society that created it, a person becomes greater than the thing that provided them the opportunity to achieve their wealth. No one achieves wealth in a vacuum; no one climbed out of nothing, and through pure spirit and hardship and sacrifice earned everything they have. From the very rich to the very poor, every person has participated in a grand experiment called civilization. Within that society, structures exist to enable the means to achieve. Sometimes very little and sometimes very much, but no matter the amount gained, every person owes what they have to that society because without it, they’d have no means to work, live and earn.

A King is not just the one denying the sick man the cure for his illness unless he has X amount of money. A King is the one that enabled the man to become sick and then turned around and charged him for the cure. A King relies on the complacency and participation of peasants to exist; because a King couldn’t exist on his or her own. A wealthy person might be able to; through hardship and sacrifice, but not a King, a King needs the support of the people making his or her life style possible.

History is littered with examples of this very notion that I am claiming now. When the working populace; tired of the few that benefit off of the many, turns against those few. The world will always need someone to sow the fields, harvest the grain, scrub the toilets, weave the clothes and cook the food. What it doesn’t and has never needed is the one that hides billions in off shore accounts, sits on mountains of gold and builds with the wealth of ten thousand an extravagant mansion for one.

In an Ant hive, all the workers live and die for the Queen. They need her, without her, they wouldn’t exist and when they die, she will ensure the colony’s survival. Yet human society in no way reflects this; we don’t need Kings. We wind up with them, because our fictional system of money which we simply made up is controlled by the most wealthy and developed to favor the people that control it. If this were an ant hive the colony would have perished long ago; because the Queen would be consuming but not producing. The workers would provide her safety and food and in return she would contribute little to nothing. It’s only the virtue of a human beings’ ability to reproduce an endless line of progeny that supports the economic model we have now and more or less have always had.

Because one possesses it does not mean one has earned.

The most false statement in our notion about wealth is that it’s your hard earned money. This is untrue on every level. On nearly every level you do not have your hard earned money. Either you are making far less than you should be, or far more than you should be.

For the laborer they are and always have made less than they should. The laborer makes production and business possible; without them there can’t be wealth, there can’t be product, there can’t be industry. Society requires that there are laborers, it wouldn’t function without them.

For the middle class many of the burdens of society are shifted off of the extremely wealthy to the less wealthy. You have to work eighty hours a week so that the person above you doesn’t have to. You have to pay tremendous taxes because the earners above you can avoid paying them. So you might be getting compensated for your work; but on some level it seems it’s being taken back.

Then there are Kings, who want the wealth of a society without paying back into it. They want all the grain of the field but not to put seeds back into the ground.

There is an element of our society that does and always has admired this notion. That greed is ultimately good, because it drives and creates ambition. Ambition ultimately pushes us further and though tens of thousands may live and die in poverty, the ambition of a few creates roads, railroads, planes, modern medicine and all the other things which, generation by generation, improve the quality of life.

I defy this notion entirely, greed is not what creates ambition for great things. Greed creates ambition to possess great wealth. Many of the greatest inventions of the last century did not see their creators skyrocketed to wealth; in fact some of these inventions were stolen and appropriated by the greedy, who benefited off the work of someone else. Greed does not equal ambition nor greatness, greed will pursue the path of least resistance to greatest reward. Greed is not a virtue, it’s a debilitating weakness, and when a man or woman argues that it is a virtue, it’s like a drug addict trying to convince you of how their crippling physical dependency is somehow actually better for everyone.

Greed is to ambition as theft is to possession.

What those who favor greed as a great tool for actually benefiting the development of civilization fail to mention is this. They may run the long line of great things that human beings have built and cite greed as the reason for it. Perhaps you could say the Pyramids were created for greed. That our banking system was created for greed, and that the establishment of a system of money enabled the growth of cities and countries. What they fail to address is where in the great accomplishments greed supposedly enabled that it has provided us with a cure to one of society’s greatest and most destructive elements; greed.

To want more than you need, to take more than you’ve earned and to do it all amidst the suffering of others. That is greed. Greed isn’t the pyramids, it isn’t the atomic age, computers or vaccines. Greed is one person putting their personal desires ahead of the needs or wants of everything around them. In the utmost state of greed a greedy man or woman would own literally everything. He or she would own every cent of wealth there is in the world.

Our greatest accomplishment, the thing that made everything else possible, is civilization itself. The establishment of a code of laws and acceptable behavior, the pooling of our mutual abilities into a community where we create sustainability. Civilization by it’s very nature is the anti-thesis of greed; because it is the collective cooperating as one for the better of everyone. The greatest civilizations that have ever fallen often did so because of the infestation of greed; and even if they didn’t fall, often the darkest periods in a society come about due to greed.

We look to our paragons of wealth as though they are something to e admired. Their expensive things; so costly that a year of the average middle class man or woman working couldn’t afford half of what they have in their living room. We treat this as something to strive for and achieve without conceiving of how twisted and repulsive that style of life is. We’ve been conditioned by the greedy to admire greed and to wish we could be living the life of excess and waste that greedy people do. The cycle of economic disparity depends on this; it depends on one very important, perhaps all important notion. Our own cooperation.

Slaves in chains rebel; slaves in debt comply.

The error that economic disparity creates in society isn’t something I’m looking to find a cure for in this post. I’m not here to argue in favor of socialism or communism. I’m not trying to impart notions of splitting wealth or making rich people give up their paychecks to poor people. Not only do I not believe in that, but the issues surrounding poverty, education and the cycle of debt would take up an entire post themselves. The primary purpose of this post is to draw attention to the mythology and fallacies surrounding our economic system. To have a discussion as to how most of our economic struggles are actually voluntary and we are complicit in how and why they happen.

Though the term King seems anachronistic and backwards it’s a fair title for an individual for whom society sacrifices so much but who in return sacrifices very little. Social development has been a long and ongoing struggle with it’s Kings. In one form or another, the power structure of those with all the money is ever at odds with those that don’t, and not because those that don’t have it want to get it. Most people involved in the French revolution didn’t wind up millionaires. The revolutionaries during the Russian revolution weren’t doing it to turn themselves into the very rich people they just brought down. No, the struggle of those that sow against those that reap is no different than a host shaking off a parasite. When the body can no longer sustain the parasite, it does what it can to get rid of it, but when it can sustain it, often it just accepts it.

As we look at civilization today knowing that there is hunger but enough food to feed everyone, that people are denied treatment for treatable illnesses due to money, we are all playing our part in being complicit in a society without empathy or morality. By suggesting that the fictional, human made notion of wealth has a higher priority than someone’s hunger or someone’s health is immediately damning to the way we’ve been conditioned to treat people and money. The most damning part of it all is the number of people that argue mindlessly in favor of it; yet will never in their lives see six figures in their bank accounts, and will spend that life working and struggling.

The society that has cured hunger and poverty, has put aside war and divisiveness will have a flag with a single phrase printed across it and it will read:

There Are No Kings

That society will have promised to itself and it’s future generations that it will never again sacrifice the welfare of a million for the privilege of a thousand, that it is not considered morally acceptable to rely on the labor of the many to support the habits of the few.  That it should not admire excess but vilify it.

In further additions to The Death of the American Billionaire, I’ll address issues such as the cycle of poverty, flaws in the current (American)welfare system and the education system. In this debut post however, I wanted to get directly to the heart of the very nature of the article; the villain that has chased human kind since it’s beginning. Humanity’s greatest foe, it’s Kings.

When there are no more Kings, there will be no more poor.

A lot of fancy notions and high opinions; but it was meant to be a somewhat caustic ridicule of the economic system not just of today but essentially since forever. Often the thing that simultaneously amuses and disgusts me the most from people is the idea that we have “Come So far”, yet we still struggle with the same economic troubles of a hundred years ago, and a hundred before that, and so on. Always remember that for centuries peasants accepted being peasants, until they revolted. A state of predatory economic depravity is something the people must be complicity in; if you want things to improve, the first admission you have to make is that something’s wrong. The second is that you are complicit in it.

A Representative in Congress shouldn’t be able to decide the amount of money they make. A Senator shouldn’t be able to reap life time benefits for being elected once while simultaneously voting to end health care or benefits for working citizens. A man or woman that makes a two million dollars should not be able to shuttle it away to a foreign country to avoid paying taxes on it while someone making forty thousand has no choice but to pay every penny of every tax levied against them. What is worse; men and women who grew up in the privilege afforded them by generations that sacrificed and supported the building of roads, infrastructure and a public education system should not be considered fit members of that society when they claim that healthcare and education are unworthy of people born into less wealth than they were.

There can not be two countries; the one the rich live in and the one for the poor. There can only be one country. One people, one society, acknowledging that some began in better circumstances than others but that providing the highest quality of living for all makes society as a whole, for everyone, better.

That concludes the first of my the Death of the American Billionaire posts; ongoing it will deal further, essentially, with the notion that the biggest enemy to progress is the ongoing struggle against our wealthiest class. Not because they’re bad, not because they’re evil, but because the system which enables it is flawed.

Hope it was an interesting read at least. I hope to be even more soap boxy next time.

Thanks,

Fletcher

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