Lloyd Blankfein is the name of the human who is the Chief Executive Officer (the big man) of the global finance corporation called Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs is one of history's most successful human endeavours, a legal set of contracts that has accumulated over a trillion dollars in wealth. As CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein is an agent of the corporation - the top agent - and so another set of legal contracts rewards him with a share of that wealth in return for his agency service. His share amounted to about 65 million USDs in 2007.
Lloyd Blankfein is ranked among the top 1% of all humans in financial wealth and power by any earthly measure. Except for this fact, and all facts that trail from it, Lloyd Blankfein is a pretty average human in all other regards. There are thousands of Lloyd Blankfeins atop thousands of similar bundles of legal entities - as well as a number of illegal ones. However, there are billions of humans of exact biology on the planet, 99 out of every one hundred (or more) without the wealth, power, and prestige of the very few Lloyd Blankenfein subsets.
One might expect that in a situation such as this, the 99% side would simply knock Lloyd Blankfein on the head with a stick and take all his stuff. There are more of them, after all. Strange, however, that they don't. In fact, on the occasion that anybody ever tries to force a more equitable arrangement (as sometimes happens) members of the 99 club chuck the pushy bugger into jail. Or worse.
How did it come to pass that such a system grew and flourished where the set up is so head - scratchingly inequitable? Why does the near entirety of the human race voluntarily acquiesce to such a system? Why have millions wasted human ingenuity, labour, production...and their very own precious lives to defend a status quo that is grievously unnatural? Are people stupid?
At some distant point in the long forgotten past, in the age where humans became humans, Lloyd Blankfein's direct descendant was among the first to trade his half eaten fish for some other guys stinking hunk of gazelle. This was a time in pubescent civilization where nature was powerful, both giving and taking with equal resolve and mystery. The earth and its gifts were venerated - the fickle bounty of celestial beings, spirits which cowering humans called gods. All beasts took from the earth's natural resources to their sustainable limit, and no more. Homo Habilis Lloyd Blankenfein survived by using his new and wonderfully adaptable brain to sate his desire for sustenance. Community and cooperation improved the human condition. Progress was born.
The "economics" were pretty simple. The earth's resources were abundant and free, belonging to no man. Humans took from the earth, and by applying their peculiar skill and resolve, manufactured goods to meet their desires. From nothing came something; a rock became a tool, a log became a boat, a cave became a home. All the products of human production were composed of only two things - the natural and free resources of the world within reach, and the application of human exertion and creativity. The rock - chipped into a sharp edge - became the reward for human labour. A prehistoric scraping tool the wages of a day's labour to the man who invested the effort.
The confluence of labour and natural resources gave rise to an inventory of human production; that inventory was the created wealth of human existence. Some of that wealth was used to increase the production of more wealth. Some of it was directed to community sustenance. None of it was wasted, as overproduction was pointless. All the produce of human endeavour was added to a pool of wealth from which was drawn by exchange the individual desires of the cooperating community. The wages humans received for their individual effort were retained for use, or traded for the wages of others in the form of goods that met additional desires. Equilibrium was reached where the pooled wealth of the community was enough to sustain mankind, and provide from the pool enough surpluses that some could become capital used to continuously improve production, and thus wealth. Community and equality - where an individual soul could take no more wealth than that which he invested in his own tradeable labour - lifted the condition of man from savage beast to wondrous civilization.
This setup lasted for... a week or so, maybe. Who really knows?
What happened next became a signature event in the history of civilization as we understand it. Until that moment, only a man's labour was his own - the products of that labour by extension his own property to do with what he pleased. Then, suddenly, there arose a class of people who changed the rules forever, folks whose actions have become cemented into modern consciousness as accepted norm, the status quo, and the way it is and always should be. A distant Lloyd Blankfein decided that his share was not enough, and over reached to claim the share of others. Lloyd Blankenfein's lineal ancestor created private property, picked up a weapon, and announced that this land was no longer common, but his alone. Since that moment all of history has been a defence or rationalization of that singular act - the violent appropriation of the free and unbounded by a few, at the expense of the many. And the rest, as they say, is history.
For over twenty thousand years humans have been enshrining as natural law that which is unnatural. The violent expropriation of another's labour has disappeared from view, covered by the complex blanket of social economics we call normal. Free markets, democratic freedoms, patriotism, religion, and dogma off all kinds have celebrated and defended Lloyd Blankfein types throughout the ages. Civilization's measure has become the very uncivilized pursuit of accumulating more than your fair share. All wealth comes - ultimately - from the natural environment. By privatizing that environment and keeping it from free use, we deny others their equal due. That natural environment is finite, and the fencing of one part decreases the balance for the rest. Lloyd Blankenfein can only exist at the expense of others, a fact we just seem to love to death.
Our wretched poverty and excess are firmly buttressed by law and custom - law and custom created and defended over centuries by the established aristocracies of expropriated wealth. We used to call these governments. Now we call them corporations. The vast majority of law in any language is still property law - rules for getting more than your share, forests of tomes on then defending it from others. And lawyers. Lloyd Blankfein is just following the rules, and living within the full extent of both law and custom. Which is, of course, an understatement. Lloyd Blankfein exists because we think we need him to, and so acquiesce despite the fact that deep down inside, every one of us knows that something about that is just wrong somehow.
Wrong somehow. Only the most ideology riddled Luddite amongst us does not question, in some small way, the overwhelming wealth of some at the same time as the spirit breaking lack of same of so many, many others. Every person alive today feels to some degree a deep, gut anger and simmering resentment at the difference between us and ours, and Lloyd Blankfein and his. I know it, and you know it. Why can't we simply admit our basic human instinct, buried deep in our genes and our DNA and every atom of our humanness, that this is wrong and is neither civilization, nor progress. We can't admit it because of the constraints society, culture, and dogma place upon us, built there stick by stick over tens of thousands of revolutions of the earth about the sun. Are we stupid? Sort of. We are conflicted, beaten and subjugated by the rules we were born under, and we know no other. We have a good excuse I guess, and plasma TVs with which to enjoy it.
Of course, there is always the chance that we are wrong, that earth is not meant to be shared, and that poverty and squalor should rejoice at Lloyd Blankfein. Still, it just seems too awfully squishy to accept it the way it is. As that simmering inequity grows, the gap widens and the pie shrinks, don't we all feel more and more like we should do something about it? Don't we just wish someone would step into history and deal with this thing? Or are we waiting for someone else to do it?
Or am I the only person who feels this way?
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