David Hines
Porky and the barrel
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By David Hines
August 2, 2011

When and why did greedy capitalist pigs arise?

The guy who built the first plow was a capitalist. Instead of hunting or foraging for immediate gratification, he created a capital good. With it he could produce more at a much later time, enriching his entire community. He wasn't the first; earlier capital goods included the bow and arrow and the dugout canoe.

The additional wealth produced by the ploughman was often taxed and redistributed to friends of the ruling regime. The investor and producer was to be kept poorer than his kleptocratic masters. The power of sword and spear — capital goods producing no useful commodities, instead producing only coercion — dominated plows and pottery wheels. It still does, which is a reason we are in a recession.

The Black Death democratized wealth. With the untimely demise of as much as a third of Europe's population, labor could command a premium. Peasants could afford more goods and better lifestyles.

The additional flow of money changed taxation by enabling lords and kings to demand coin rather than payment in goods. The greedy capitalist peasants could take pride in the opulent lifestyles in places such as Versailles that redistribution provided for the elite — so much pride that they revolted.

For centuries most people had to be content with plain-looking fabric. Fancy patterns were beyond their reach. Then a capitalist named Jacquard invented a distant ancestor of the computer. The Jacquard loom brought fancy patterns within reach of lower-class budgets. Naturally, the silk weavers opposed a capital good that could challenge their hegemony on fancy weaving. No doubt their objections mirrored many arguments used against "capitalism" today.

Even many defenders of "capitalism" don't get it right. Many think that savers are not necessary to the process, and instead government can merely print money for investment. This is not capitalism; it's corporatism. It penalizes savers as well as consumers. It removes the reward for delayed gratification, fostering a culture of conspicuous consumption. No real resources are created by politicians. Instead, resources are removed from the general economy and directed into malinvestments concocted by their fantasies, and those of their constituents.

Who gains from this cheap government money? Not the family saving for a big-ticket item such as a house or a car. Not your retirement account. Not the middle-class person's rainy day fund. No, the ones benefiting are those who first get the newly-created money — the bailed-out CEOs; the banksters; the bureaucrats. It's no accident that the DC area is largely immune from the recession hitting everywhere else.

Many people mistake government for a magical cornucopia, dispensing wealth arising from the ether. Thus they support the friends of politicians getting the tenderloins while they themselves settle for chitlins — if even that. Savers — the creators of capital — are called "greedy pigs," but it's the politicians delivering the pork. I guess that makes them butchers.

© David Hines

 

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David Hines

Born in a mill town, David Hines has seen work as a furniture mover, computer programmer/analyst, and professional musician... (more)

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