Somebody sent me this essay by George Monbiot. In a nutshell, he makes a case that the ultra-wealthy did not earn their wealth through hard work, enterprise or superior intelligence. Instead, they got where they are due to a combination of luck and psychopathic traits.
I must admit I was impressed by the following argument:
Such results have been widely replicated. They show that traders and fund managers across Wall Street receive their massive remuneration for doing no better than would a chimpanzee flipping a coin. When Kahneman tried to point this out they blanked him. “The illusion of skill … is deeply ingrained in their culture.”(2)
So much for the financial sector and its super-educated analysts. As for other kinds of business, you tell me. Is your boss possessed of judgement, vision and management skills superior to those of anyone else in the firm, or did he or she get there through bluff, bullshit and bullying?
But I am deeply suspicious of what the 99 percenters, and Mr. Monbiot, are trying to do. While it is true that, by most of our standards, the wealthiest people on Earth do not deserve their wealth, could it not also be said that the smartest people do not deserve their great intellect, with which they were born? Is it not also possible to claim that the most beautiful women do not deserve their beauty? That those born into loving, and intact, families, do not deserve such good fortune?
At its core, the 99 percenters seem to be upset that life is not fair – and that somebody should make it more fair. Who gets to decide whom, among the wealthy, deserve their wealth? By whose criteria? It is frightening to contemplate the answers to these questions – for images of the French, and Russian, revolutions come to mind.
I have little doubt that the 99 percenters would counter that I am missing the point. That most of us are being reduced to slavery by the one percent. I don’t see it that way. While I admit to having a certain amount of envy toward those whose incomes are measured in billions of dollars, the vast majority of people I know (here in American, at least) have vastly more wealth and freedom than 99% of their ancestors. Those protesters are part of the one percent and they don’t even know it!