The Elites

e·lite [əˈlēt, āˈlēt] NOUN; elites (plural noun)–a select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society.

There have always been elites and always will. In the past, if you read the Bible, the elites such as Moses, David, and the prophets were chosen by God. Through much of history, being an elite was either a birthright or the outcome of a conquest. From the time of the enlightenment until–well, who knows when it ended–elites exhibited special talents or capabilities, such as America’s Founding Fathers, inventors, etc..

Today, being either immensely rich, powerful, or famous is how one becomes an elite. Some are elites because their parents were accomplished (Look at how many actors or musicians are the offspring of parents who succeeded, as opposed to having competed against others on an even playing field). Some elite are elites merely because they are famous for being famous.

The problem is that the Elites achieve their position due to society, and they owe society something in return. Would Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, as creative or brilliant as they are have had the same success if they had been born in rural Afghanistan or Mali? Probably not.

The Robber Barons enriched themselves in the 19th century, however, in the process, they gave the rest of society telegraph and rail systems that connected both coasts and various industries, which provided jobs to regular people. It can be argued that the Elites got the better end of the bargain, however, society benefitted substantially, nevertheless.

Henry Ford, while not the inventor of the automobile, through his invention of the assembly line, changed society. The most radical thing he did–which was condemned by the rich and powerful–was to pay his employees $5.00 per week. Why? Was he beneficent? Was he charitable? No, he was a model capitalist. By paying his employees such an “extravagant” sum, his employees were now able to afford to purchase Ford automobiles.

Not a bad move.

During the twentieth century, elites forgot that they had been succesful and became rich by utilizing the benefits of society–the roads, electricity, clean water, financing systems, etc. They forgot that they owed something back and this tends to lead to disaster. There are some very persuasive arguments that their attitude led to the Great Depression.

The theory continues that people, disenchanted with the Elites in power, turned to the other end of the spectrum. They were not benefiting–in fact they were disadvantaged by the Elites, so they wanted something different–something totally different.

In Germany, their was severe economic hardship. The “different” choice for the citizenry led to the ascendance of Hitler.

Today, many Elites seem oblivious to the plight of others and feel no obligation to contribute to the good of the order. There are exceptions, of course, but for every Bill and Melinda Gates there are a hundred other Elites who lose sleep because their yacht/house/country club is not the biggest and best.

The Elites have their advantage based on what society provides; whether they appreciate it or not, their future depends upon replenishing it.

 

 

 

Law Is Not Justice

The author Anatole France said in 1894, “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread.” 

Our legal system has nothing to do with justice, it is merely a mechanism for settling disputes. Idealists would like to believe that the law is there to ensure fairness, which is romantic, but totally unrealistic. Any system that human beings devise can–and will–be gamed. Somebody, or worse, many  somebodies will figure out how to make the system work in their favour at the expense of others. These people are very competitive and see every situation as one in which one side wins and the other loses.

Take patents, for example; the original idea for patents was to give inventors an incentive–exclusive rights for a finite period of time (originally not to exceed 14 years, but now allegedly 20 years). After the patent expired, the patent holder no longer had exclusive rights and others could produce the same product without having to pay royalties to the patent owner. Prices were then expected to come down, more options become available, and everybody wins, right?

Let the games begin!

Notice that I did not mention the inventor, who may not even be a player.  Some companies claim the patents for anything their employees produce, which, incidentally acts as a disincentive for the employee to produce.

There are companies that exist primarily (or even solely) for the purpose of taking over other companies strictly to get patents. Once the buyer has the patent rights, the purchased company can be dismantled or discarded.

Drug companies are famous for taking an existing drug, whose patent is ready to expire, and making a minor reformulation so that a new patent can be granted. It’s the pharmaceutical equivalent of painting last year’s car a new color and saying it’s a whole new product, which deserves a new patent. This resets the 20 year clock and is followed, in many cases, by the patent holder raising the price by a couple thousand percent, especially if there are no alternative products.

Instead of rewarding the inventor and making new inventions available for the general good of the population, patent law–like most law–has become a mechanism for certain individuals to obtain unfair profits at the expense of everyone else.

In corrupt countries in which a small group of people control the production and distribution of drugs (e.g., cocaine, opium, etc.) these warlords or drug cartel bosses becomes rich and powerful because others have become addicted and cannot live without the drugs. In a corrupt society, these people are referred to as “the elites.”

In democratic societies, in which corporations control the production and distribution of drugs (e.g., injectable epinephrine to prevent death from allergic reactions) major stockholders and executives become rich and powerful because people with certain medical conditions cannot live without those drugs. In a democratic society, these people are referred to as “the elites.”

Elites don’t have to be evil, but we’ll discuss the role of the elites later.

Coming Soon

hourglass
justhourglasses.com

Since this blog is so new, I’ll give it a little time, but in the near future I plan on writing about:

The Elites, and How They Screwed Things Up

Beware the Backlash!

The (Political) Devil You Know vs. the Devil You Don’t.

How Crooked Are Politics?

How Big Business Abused the Privelige

When the Press Becomes the Media, Everything Goes to Hell

Interested? Tell your friends………

 

How Did Washington Get Broken?

The United States is sometimes referred to as an experiment in liberty; we were the first to try a Democratic Republic, so calling it an experiment–even after 229 years–is not inappropriate. The formula, if you will, for the experiment is the US Constitution–an imperfect document written by imperfect men–but a masterpiece nevertheless. Thirty-three amendments to the Constitution have been proposed, of which 27 have been ratified by the states and become law.

The Constitution created three branches of government: the legislature, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, to write law; the judiciary, which interprets law to ensure that it is not in conflict with the Constitution; and the executive branch to carry out the laws.

At some point, it seems that the legislature abdicated much of its authority and many of its responsibilities. Their focus was on getting re-elected, rather than looking out for the country as a whole, at least for anything that might be politically unpopular. The change happened so gradually that no specific time can be discerned as to when it happened. Some say during the Kennedy Administration, others point to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” while others say it’s always been that way.

The Judiciary picked up some of the slack, using judgments to fill in the blanks where written law was insufficient or inadequate. Much of the credit for whatever progress we’ve made in civil rights, especially for African-Americans, belongs to law created by judicial rulings.

In the meantime, the Executive Branch also got into the fray–with a vengeance. Many agencies under the Executive Branch were able to write their own rules, have internal administrative law judges to interpret them, and act as law-giver, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner.

Then, of course, there are the Executive Orders that look like law, walk like law, and quack like law. Executive orders are much more effective than the bully pulpit.

So, today, we have a Congress that is essentially a theatrical production. Members spend most of their time promoting their own particular interests; this is why, if you watch C-SPAN, you’ll see members of Congress making impassioned speeches to a virtually empty room. The judiciary, for good or for ill, tries to make sense of the law that does exist, and the Executive branch charges off in whichever direction the current president pleases.

Who Was Diogenes?

Diogenes was a Greek philosopher known for his cynicism and general ill behavior. He fancied himself a cosmopolitan–a citizen of the world–rather than owing allegiance to any one place. This was appropriate since he had been exiled from the town in which he had been born, losing both citizenship and all his earthly possessions.
Diogenes was particularly fond of criticizing other philosophers, often by rudely disrupting their discussions. His treatment of those with whom he had an argument was particularly nasty; let’s just say it involved bodily fluids and such.
There is plenty of bad behavior in this world already, so I will not emulate that. However, Diogenes is probably best remembered for one particular stunt. He would carry a lamp while walking through town during daylight. He claimed that he was looking for an honest man.
That is that spirit in which I will be writing. Not so much looking for an honest person, but instead, searching for honesty itself. That is a much more difficult task than it might seem.
The honesty I seek is what happens when people practice open-minded critical thinking.
I intend for this to be a forum, much like the ancient Greek and Roman meetings in which issues are debated, facts discerned and challenged.