Political government is established among people to preserve and to protect the privileges of a powerful elite. Or as Butler Shaffer recently put it, "It should come as no great revelation to point out that democratically-constituted political systems have interests of their own that conflict with the wills of their alleged ‘principals.'" Folks who believe that our current social situation, that is massive redistribution of wealth, massive debt, American Imperialism, and our growing police state, is a recent or expedient corruption of our federal Constitution need to read Murray Rothbard's Conceived in Liberty. The political elite was thriving in the 18th century as well. Richard D. Heffner described this issue succinctly in A Documentary History of the United States "…of the fifty-five delegates who participated in the deliberations of the [Constitutional] Convention most were substantial men of affairs personally interested in creating a strong central government." The common people, the colonists who had fought and won the war, were back on the farm, too busy to pay attention; of course, they weren't invited either.
True, they had to append a Bill Of Rights for the common people in order to gain ratification, but we have seen how quickly and easily that appendage is amputated when it suits the elite; in 1798, while the ink was drying on the Bill, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Act, which made freedom of speech a crime.
The conflict between the political elite and the common people may be as old as mankind. Some have even elevated it to a quasi-natural law: that 80% of a population will be dominated by 20% at the top. I don't believe it is natural. I think it all depends on who makes the rules, and then enforces them. For example, on the issue of protectionism Murray Rothbard pointed out "that protectionism is out to mulct all of us for the benefit of a specially privileged, subsidized few — and an inefficient few at that: people who cannot make it in a free and unhampered market." A steel company can't do that, only a political government can do that, backed by armed force if necessary. This was one of several special-interest issues addressed by the elite writers of the Constitution, the regulation of commerce. I conclude that the 80/20 "rule" is an artifact imposed by the state, and is not a natural law at all.
Who are these people, the elite, and how many do they number? In terms of power, my own best guess would have to begin with the elite international consortium of bankers who own the Federal Reserve. Next would come the oil industry elite, followed by the automotive industry elite, the military-industrial complex elite, and the communication industry elite. Then the elite puppet politicians turn up, along with the legions of bureaucrats led by their own elite. There are maybe a few dozen people at the very top, with a grand total of around 56 million in the US (20% of the population, or 5% more people than voted for Bush II). One might say that this is a whopping big special-interest group! And, as always, they have the "lawful" use of force on their side.
This social system is manifestly unjust and unfair to the common people, the 80% who always pay for it with their lives in taxes, interest, inflation, and war. But is there a better way?
Imagine a cruise ship. This is private property that belongs to a company that will rent or lease space to you at a price agreed upon in advance. That space may be small or large, depending on the price, and it may include food and entertainment, depending on the price. The ship has a shopping mall, a supermarket, and a hospital, a police department, a fire department, a defense department, and an arbitration court, all privately owned. The company guarantees your safety and security, or your money back; no weasel wording appears in their contract with you, their customer. You may live there, work there, spend your lifetime there, if you choose.
Extrapolate from a cruise ship to a space vehicle with a population of six-million people. Or extrapolate to space-vehicle Earth. Certainly the risk to life, liberty, and property increases as the population increases, but if the vehicle is privately owned, no matter by how many people, and if individual security is guaranteed by contract with the owners, and the contract is insured, then political government by force and fraud becomes unnecessary and irrelevant, a mere footnote in the history of our Dark Ages.
And what happened to the elite of political privilege in this scenario? They're gone.
September 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Robert Klassen