I wonder… Is the natural state of human beings to be ruled by someone else?
I’m reading A Game of Thrones (actually, it’s a series and I’m onto the second book called A Clash Of Kings) which is about a fictional kingdom. Obviously, there are similarities between historical feudal times and the depiction in the books.
What is very noticeable is the nature of life and liberty when ruled by monarch, and especially what happens to the concept of upward mobility. Life and liberty for anyone who is not royal (kings and queens, lords and ladies) is at the whim of the monarch, even when that person is semi-decent. The point is keeping the rabble in line and working for the benefit of the realm. Upward mobility is impossible for the rabble, except by proper amounts of bowing and scraping and service to a ranking Lord, and then you get only what you’re given, and if you try to take too much, you find out how cheap your life is. Even the Lords and Ladies must bow and scrape before the monarch and be of use or their position is troubled.
Does this remind you of anything? It’s cronyism writ large. Big, powerful government, controlling the population. Lickspittles who serve the government can do well. Everyone else can move up only so far. Bureaucrats wield unearned power as people have to submit to their will. Only by putting coin in the pockets of the powerful can the “lords” of business (obviously, big business because small business doesn’t have the coin to spare) retain their position.
You can just hear the conversation about a rebel start-up company, “Why… He’s trying to start a new business without so much as a ‘by your leave’ from us. We must make an example of him.”
There has been much made recently of a video about the disparity in income between the wealthy and the rest of us. First of all, if you read your Thomas Sowell, you know that the initial folly in the presentation is that it looks at static percentiles, rather than people over time. In other words, the person in the bottom quintile of earners when they enter the workforce is actually unlikely to remain their throughout their working life, and a large number will obtain solid middle class, upper class, or even wealth. The bottom quintile will always be low earning, but the people in that bottom quintile at any snapshot in time will not be the same people (for the most part) over time.
However, there is a huge disparity at the highest end of the scale. Who are those guys? Increasingly, one could argue, they are the cronies. How much of the upper middle class is made up of bureaucrats (non-wealth producers)? How much of the upper crust is made up of people who got their status, or retained their status through favorable treatment by the government, bought and paid for with lobbying money?
The huge, controlling state, admired so by the Left, is not an antidote to wealth disparity. It is a cause. Just like in feudal times, it keeps people stuck in their “birth bracket.” They’ll get just enough, but they can’t do better for themselves. The only way to rise is to serve the government by becoming a bureaucrat, and even then you can rise only so far, because you are not high-born. You are an example of the good that can come from serving your masters well, living in a better house and having more to eat, but still bowing and scraping in the presence of your betters. The “lords of business” have their own “keeps”, and with their keeps, their riches, but they pay tribute to the government or they too will be crushed.
The American idea was a land where the government served the people, and the people did with their lives all they could do. There was no class, and certainly no “birth bracket” you could never escape. Upward mobility was the norm, the expectation. If you could generate a way of providing a good or service that others wanted, even if that was simply your own labor, you could move ever upward as far as your creativity and work could take you. No one could tell you that you couldn’t. The only barriers before you were the barriers of fair competition, not a government that told you what you could and couldn’t do.
In a crony system we are well on our way to developing, we are back to bowing and scraping before our betters. We can do only what they allow. The more we have already attained, and it has to be a LOT, the more likely we are to be useful to our lords (paying them tribute in the form of lobbying money) so that they will let us retain our standing.
Income disparity is not such a big deal. Some people will always do better than others because they have better ideas and/or they work harder or smarter. Indeed, income disparity means very little when snapshots in time show people over time rising in great numbers to higher income levels. However, when it starts to become codified through cronyism, when you find yourself in a “birth bracket” and held there by a government that stands in your way and its cronies who are locked in their positions, we have a very large problem. I fear that that is what we are seeing. And, worse, I fear that people do not see that the actual cause is the very thing that they think is the solution: more government.