Jones’ Law Number 2: The superrich get their wealth in one of two ways. They steal it, or they inherit it from someone who stole it.

You can argue with the semantics, and you might even be able to point out an exception or two, but basically if you want to acquire great wealth in this world, you have to take it from someone who is weaker or stupider than you. This is what all the great wars and conquests of history have been about: the spoils.

So now in the 21st century, as the governments of the world morph into giant international corporation-states, we shouldn’t be too surprised to see that the pillaging continues. In the United States and around the world, elites live in regal opulence isolated in fortress-like security, many of them so rich they can’t remember how many homes they own. Bankers and hedge fund managers earn sums that are literally unimaginable. Corporate CEOs pay themselves hundreds of times what their average worker makes, often while the company tanks and jobs are moved overseas. Politicians have been “supported” by corporations for so long now that they have forgotten that they are being bribed, and they look the other way as corporate lawyers and lobbyists write bills legalizing the ongoing money grab. When this corruption occasionally brings down the house, as it did in 2007-08, the corporate-owned government uses taxpayer money to make whole the criminals who caused the crash, and when the bailout money runs out, severe austerity is imposed on the people, as in Britain, Greece, Argentina, and soon the United States. Meanwhile the superrich culprits skate.

Nor, it seems to me, should we be very surprised when people take to the streets in mindless rampage, trashing everything in their path and grabbing for themselves anything of value they can get away with. After all, isn’t this the example they have been seeing at the highest levels of society? When shady-but-legal Wall Street shenanigans have ruined the economy, taken the incomes and homes of tens of millions and wiped out retirement savings and college funds, what’s a few big-screen televisions or a whole boxcar full of tennis shoes? When the bankers have escaped to their mansions with all your money, why not torch the bank?

I am getting nervous about what seems to be developing in this country. Billionaires have usurped the government, leaving no force in its place to temper their greed. The economic and social distance between those at the very top and the rest of us has grown so great that there is no more communication. The story we tell ourselves of justice and equality for all is now mere myth. Some tea partiers have already shown up at Presidential events carrying guns. The violence in the human heart has been amply on display in past decades: the Watts Riots in 1965; in Detroit in 1967; back in Los Angeles in 1992; London just last week. Worldwide there have been literally hundreds of civil disturbances since the middle of the 20 century, with an increasing number of them in the United States.

Our government has not been effective in mitigating the current recession. Saying it’s over and things are getting better does nothing to calm the fear and anger of the common people, especially when unemployment and foreclosures are still at record levels while the upper echelons of society are clearly doing better than ever and seem completely unwilling to share in the burden of rebuilding the economy.

If your job is gone or you fear it might be; if your home has been taken away or you fear it might be; if your grown children are back living in your home because they are broke and unemployed after spending a hundred thousand dollars on a college degree; if you have sent out 500 job applications and got nothing back; if you are sick and can’t get medicine; if you are living in a shelter or a car; if your children are hungry; if your elected representatives bicker like children instead of working toward solutions — how much spark would it take to send you in a rage out into the street to take back what you thought was yours and to wreak vengeance on those who took it from you?

There are sparks every day in every city. At some point will the humiliated working class join the angry, armed tea partiers and the dispossessed Left and start to lash out blindly? I hope not. The people can’t win such a war, and neither can the elites.

As in all wars, there will only be losers.

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3 Replies to “Spoils”

  1. I totally agree. At one time I used the word “if” in relationship to a radical revolution in the U.S. Now the word is “when”. Tho I do think a grass roots rebellion would quickly feel the steel boots of the government. From the civil unrest of the 50s and 60s they learned not to be lax with noisy crowds.

    However, despite the government’s efforts, a French style bloody revolution might be in our future. Anger is power … just look at the Middle East.

    Legitimate civil service would reduce tensions and sincere leadership could move us out of harm’s way.

  2. Bill – I don’t see a peaceful way to correct the mess we are in. Our politicians are owned by the power elite, and change — any change — would “hurt” them, so I don’t expect real help to come from from the top.

    People are unemployed and disgusted now. How will they be when they are starving, too? At the same time, I dread the potential coming chaos.

  3. If there’s to be any change it will have to get much worse before it gets any better. Or have the super rich become so intelligent as to understand that as long as we can feed our families and be distracted enough by the American Dream of becoming a Celebrity or Sports Hero we will always be compliant and weak?

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