Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Concentrated Wealth as an Enemy of the People and their Liberty

Some obsess over the idea that the only enemy to a person's liberty is a tyrannical government.  This seems to be a carryover from the Cold War, where, in the East, the government was indeed its own instrumentality. Disallowing the private accumulation of capital, the governments of the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China had no rivals in their power to oppress their people.
In the United States, in 2014 however, the government has become the instrument of wealth, and it is the wealthy who use it to oppress the people. Thus the source of this oppression, and the ultimate enemy to a person's liberty, is concentrated wealth.  

A person's liberty comes in different forms.  First is the time to do things.  Time spent in labor is time spent which cannot be spent doing other things.  

Second is the freedom to do things.  The nation's laws forbid some activities, mostly those that harm other people.  And the law grants persons the freedom to do other things, things which a person finds desirable to do, which do not harm other people.  

Third is having the resources, or the money,  to do things.  There are many things a poor person cannot do, that a rich person can.  A poor person cannot pilot his yacht, or vacation in distant places, or buy expensive cars and houses.  Neither can he invest his financial capital, since he has little.

The laborer gives up his liberty for his labor. He may enjoy his labor, but it is a loss of liberty all the same.    In exchange for this liberty, he is paid.  Depending on  how much he is paid, and how he values the liberty his time provides him, he gains or loses liberty.  Indeed, it might be said he exchanges one form of liberty for another.  He exchanges some of his time for money.  But money is necessary for him to profitably employ his time. What is time, when you have no money, and no resources? 

Some of what he is paid he must spend on his subsistence.  The longer he has to work for his subsistence, the more liberty he must surrender.  If he is paid above his subsistence, and he has the time to do things, he gains liberty, for that money he may spend on what he chooses.  It grants him the resources to do things.  If he is paid less than his subsistence, he must make up the difference, somehow, if he is to survive.  If he makes up the difference by borrowing, he loses liberty, for he must pay back the lender, with interest.        

So when the wealthy take an increasing share of his income, they are taking liberty away from the worker.  First, by making him work longer for his subsistence.

Second, by leaving him less income, and fewer resources to do and buy things.

Third, by charging rent, by taking more than normal profits on all activities, they reduce the quantity of the goods and services his money purchases.  He must work even harder for his subsistence, and has less discretionary income.  

Further, the goods and services his discretionary income buys are less, thus reducing his liberty in a fourth way.

Fifth, the wealthy, by avoiding taxes, reduce the common wealth, which is the liberty shared equally by all.  

Sixth, the wealthy run up the national debt.  Much of what the government spends is on them.  Since they are responsible for it, as they effectively  control the government, they thus devalue the commonwealth.  

And who is the debt owed to?  Why, the wealthy.  So seventh way they take from the liberty of the people is by charging rent on this money, which interest reduces the amount available to the people. They are charging rent on money, loaning money to the government which they should be paying in taxes.  

Eighth, they force the worker to pay more for his government, for the commonwealth.

Ninth, by privatizing public services, and taking extra-normal profits for them, they further reduce the liberty of the people.    

Tenth, by compromising the regulations, the wealthy enable themselves to charge more and deliver less in the way of goods and services. 

In each of these ways, the wealthy take from the liberty of the people, using the government to oppress.  Yet the wealthy are not oppressed.  They grow even wealthier, while the people do not.  And the laws that seek to bind the wealthy, to limit their depredations on the people, grow ever looser. Their crimes, the harm they do to society, is ignored or pardoned, while great numbers of t he people lose liberty for doing small or even no harm to others.  And from even this imposition of tyranny, some of the wealthy profit.