Rich people learned long ago that they can capture the political system and ensure that it functions, first and foremost, in their interest. Despite efforts in some countries to limit the power of money in politics – not in the United States, of course, where money has a free hand and a powerful influence – the wealthy classes retain powerful advantages when it comes to manipulating the political system.
This does not require a grand conspiracy, other than the natural conspiracy of belonging to the same country clubs, going to the same elite schools and of course, intermarrying to unite rival fortunes. For the rich, controlling society is as natural as breathing.
Not that they don’t engage in active conspiracies; they certainly do that and as long as they don’t prey on each other they generally get away with it. Bernie Madoff is the only Wall Street banker to serve serious time for the crimes most of them were committing to a greater or lesser extent. Bernie’s mistake is that he stole from rich people instead of just the middle class. I think Bernie was on to something – if you want to hunt ducks you should go where most of the ducks are. Ducats must follow a similar rule.
And of course, there is the notorious concentration of ownership in the media. When you switch channels you are mostly switching between the voices of one rich conglomerate to another; from one fabulously rich family or individual to another. There are a few independent opinions left but they are often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the bought and paid for shills of the larger media. Again, it is terrible in Canada, where most of our newspapers are owned by a single company – but it is almost as bad in the USA.
And then there is the great power of divide and conquer that money wields so readily. The rich or their representatives are always able to find rational sounding voices to persuade the populace that their troubles arise from immigrants or not working hard enough or unions or whatever is most effective. Anything will do if keeps the people from looking at the real source of their problems, the vast piles of wealth that have been extracted from them by those who have seldom done much of anything in their life other than inherit money from their grandparents or skim the cream off the top as the milk flows by.
It’s not that all rich people are parasites – some actually worked for their fortunes but even they owe as much to good luck as to good management. Being in the right place at the right time is as important to getting rich as working hard or being bright.
As for myself, my wife and I can look forward to a comfortable retirement. Not wealthy by any means but comfortable. Did we get it by hard work and genius? Well, we both worked hard and we’re both pretty bright but the real reason that we will be comfortable was because unions fought to get us decent pensions and social democrats fought to make sure our country had a decent – if not perfect – social safety net. Now that’s being in the right place at the right time.
And that’s ten minutes.