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Wealth, Power, and Happiness

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One billion dollars ($1,000,000,000.00) as an electronic notation in a computer effectively weighs nothing, and can be moved around the world in less than a second with a few key strokes.

That may be the most telling statement of how little one billion dollars ($1,000,000,000.00) is actually worth in the great scheme of things today. After all, how much real intrinsic value can anything have that can be moved with such ease?

Ownership versus Acquisition

When you speak of the "ownership" of this one billion dollars, Mark is once again correct: ownership denotes some sort of direct, day-to-day control over a physically existing asset, not a nebulous, artificial creation such as one billion dollars worth of stocks, bonds, or credit derivatives, let alone an electronic notation in a bank's--or several banks'--ledgers. Stocks and bonds at least at one point had a direct, positive impact upon the nation's economy: they provided capital for the expansion of corporate or governmental facilities that created jobs and material wealth. Credit derivatives, on the other hand, are worse than the "numbers" slips that organized crime used to fleece millions out of the poorest neighborhoods of New York City, Chicago, and other urban centers, because they are less honest, and potentially capable of destroying the whole world's economy.

Reagan's Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Paul Craig Roberts (in his 6 October 2009 OpEdNews article "Marx and Lenin Revisited"), wrote, "Lenin foresaw the subordination of the production of goods to financial capital's accumulation of profits based on the purchase and sale of paper instruments." This method of accumulating wealth is in reality the wealth of the gambling hall, not of the farm or mine or the factory floor, because it is based solely on belief and not on any physical assets. It is extremely dangerous for any economy, as we saw in 2008, because if the belief in the basis of that wealth is shaken--or worse still disappears--then there is nothing with which to support and redeem that wealth, and billions, even trillions of dollars, can disappear from the economy in a heartbeat.

However, today's wealthy entrepreneur prefers this method of obtaining wealth, because there are no facilities to maintain, no contract deadlines to meet, no suppliers with which to haggle, no unions to deal with, no storms to delay transport of material, and few if any employees to get sick, have relatives die, or object to overwork, because all--or nearly all--of them are as greed-driven as the entrepreneur. More (apparent) profit, less responsibility" who could ask for anything more?

In the Thrall of the Super-Plutocrats

When I write about people at this level of wealth, I am not writing about the top One Percent of our population, those who make $400,000.00 annually, or have 5 to 10 million dollars in personal assets. Those individuals are nothing but the upper-level management of the corporations, foundations, and trusts that are controlled by those whose real economic power Mark alluded to in his comment. These highly-paid--relative to the rest of us--lackeys support their superiors in the corporate scheme of things not only because it is lucrative, but because they hope that through luck or marriage, they or their children will be able to join that elite group. These managers are the people who are "owned" that Mark is writing of when he states "... they [OWN] people...." All of these wannabe masters of the universe are at the beck and call of the exceptionally small minority (2 or 3 one-thousandths of one-percent) who really run things in this corporatist oligarchy that we increasingly find ourselves trapped in.

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Interlocking boards of directors in the multitude of corporations, foundations, and trusts, both foreign and domestic, control much of the world's economy as surely as any Communist Central Planning Committee ever did. These super-plutocrats--individuals and families whose personal worth exceeds $100,000,000.00--have only one axiom by which they run their enterprises: ever-greater profits, and influence. This is how they measure their status in comparison with other super-plutocrats, no matter what the cost is to the public, their employees, the nation where they are headquartered or resident, or the world itself. The only group that I can think of with a similar outlook is Organized Crime, particularly the Syndicate of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky in the 1930s-50s. But the first group who is always asked to sacrifice are the employees, starting with those on the lowest rung of the corporate ladder.

Nor is the requisite wealth an automatic guarantee of acceptance within this hierarchy: ask Bernie Madoff and Michael Milken, or any one of a number of professional sports figures who made the requisite cash during their careers but lost it later in their lives through "bad" investments. They made their fortunes, but then tried to stay independent of the super-plutocrats. The super-plutocrats used the government to bring both Madoff and Milken down, as a warning to others. The sports figures--like Joe Louis--were put back in their "place," as a reminder who are really the "champions." I believe that elements of the super-plutocrats of the time were also responsible for the deaths of John and Robert Kennedy, as well as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., because they could not be brought down by legal means. (See my recent four-part OEN article. "The Judgment of History; Or Why the Breaking of the Oligarchs Avenges President Kennedy's Assassination," for more on this theory. Parts One, Two, Three, and Four are available through the embedded hyperlinks.) This is class warfare at the highest and most despicable level: an attempt to establish an inviolable aristocracy of wealth who makes all of the important decisions in our lives, while dumbing us down through a carefully controlled corporate media that brooks no real opposition, and shouts down or works hard to discredit any opposition that appears.

Visual Aids to Better Understand Differences

Mark Sashine sent me a great chart comparing the tactics and effectiveness of America's Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests against the super-plutocrats with the demonstrations of the Ukrainian political dissident movement. The Ukrainian movement is supported by various plutocratic groups seeking a share of political power in his native Ukraine:

Mark told me in an e-mail about his chart that talks between the Ukrainian government and its dissidents have begun in Munich, Germany, in order to firmly establish a partition of power among the plutocrats in Ukraine. Both OWS and the Ukrainian dissidents were in their own way effective, however it is OWS that supports democratic ideals, and continues to try and grow from the bottom up, not the top down, as seems the case in Ukraine. Mark states that the plutocrats in Ukraine have betrayed the ideals of the demonstrators who supported them.

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There are lessons to be learned from both sides of this chart. The reaction of mainstream political movements and media in Ukraine was markedly superior to that of mainstream political organizations and media here in America, but that was because of the influence of the Ukrainian opposition plutocrats and their wealth. OWS needs to learn how to get the media on their side. Both sides could learn from the others' demands and logistics, because you do not always have time to organize a protest like a military campaign, although protesters of America's OWS could learn from their Ukrainian brethren, as well as the military, the advantages of not only that sort of planning, but of contingency planning as well. When it comes to hostility to ethnic and other groups, the Americans far and away outshine the Ukrainians in terms of inclusiveness, and of not depending on plutocrats who will use a nation's pro-Democracy elements, and then betray them. Americans on the other hand need to learn that police and security forces always have agents provocateur ready to go at a moment's notice to undermine and disrupt pro-Democracy political movements. Americans also need to learn to be more definitive in what we desire from movements like OWS.

Finally, there is the violent side of the coin: police brutality/anti-police equipment, attacks on government buildings, disruption of normal activities (disturbing the peace), vandalism of property and architecture; the Ukrainian dissidents were far and away better prepared than OWS, but this was due as much to the Ukrainians' willingness to use violence as it was to the non-violent, organic nature of OWS. However, preparations for the inevitable police crackdowns on OWS were pitiful; occupation of government and other buildings in peaceful protest were few and far between; disruption of the peace in the forms of marches and other active demonstrations of people power non-existent; non-permanent vandalizing of property to make a point (making a large papier-m ché pig's head to cover the Merrill-Lynch bull's head comes to mind) non-existent. As I have stated before: the super-plutocrats know how to deal with violence; they don't know how to deal with well thought-out, Gandhi-King type non-violence. If you don't believe me, look at the protests in Wisconsin two years ago.

"Armchair generals study tactics, real generals study logistics." -- Quote from Russia's Frunze Military Academy

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Richard Girard is an increasingly radical representative of the disabled and disenfranchised members of America's downtrodden, who suffers from bipolar disorder (type II or type III, the professionals do not agree). He has put together a team to (more...)

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