Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Defining the One Percent

The Tea Party movement and the Occupy movement both have some things right; but they also have some things wrong, at least when viewed from the perspective of this Tireless Agorist.

First let's find some common ground between the Tea Party and Occupy movements, as expressed in this diagram.


While Tea Partiers rail against big government, and Occupiers rail against big business, they both often fail to consider that area in the middle, that shows that big government and big business work together.

What this illustrates, above all, is that the One Percent is mostly successful at spinning a narrative to divide us. Tea Partiers recognize that big government gets in the way of the free market, over-regulating production, over-taxing the productive, and ignoring the limits placed on their behavior by reinterpreting the Constitution as they see fit. Occupiers recognize that big business has run amok, wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few, and social programs created with good intentions regularly fail to meet their promised goals. Both groups recognize that taking from Main Street to bail out Wall Street has serious implications for the long-term health of our society.

What they both often fail to recognize is why these things are the way they are.

Occupiers recognize the sins of the capitalists, but tend to lump all capitalists together, and believe that the free market is responsible for the ever-increasing accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few, which they call the One Percent.

Tea Partiers recognize the sins of big government, and argue that if only government would get out of the way, there would be more than enough for everyone.

Neither group seems to recognize the difference between those businesses that compete freely in the marketplace, without government assistance or guarantees, and those massive global entities that make their way, not by honest competition in the free market, but by the power of legislation. Legislation written to protect those corporations from competition through various barriers to entry such as permits and expensive inspections, distort the marketplace in ways that benefit these crony capitalists at the expense of their customers, provide special tax breaks and research grants paid for by the middle class, and offer a financial safety net that protects them from the consequences of their actions, introducting moral hazard into the marketplace and allowing for the unchecked growth of corporations until they are declared "too big to fail."

Which is exactly the distinction that those crony capitalists and the legislators they finance hope that people will fail to recognize.

When viewed from the perspective of this Tireless Agorist, it's obvious that a clear distinction between competitive capitalism and crony capitalism is the issue missing from the debate that keeps Occupiers and Tea Partiers believing they're on separate sides in a war against each other.

Wall Street, the financial marketplace, is one area that both sides readily agree is out of control, but few people understand that Wall Street is purely the creation of governmental action. The Tireless Agorist will devote a full column to the financial system sometime soon.

So the Occupy movement is right to be upset with a subset of capitalists; those crony capitalists who collude with their pals in government to stifle innovation and competition by promoting legislation that prevents new companies from entering their markets, and legislation that places requirements on businesses that are easily absorbed by huge corporations but prove too expensive to comply with for smaller firms.

The tea party is right to be upset with a subset of the government; those crony legislators who work with big business to pass the types of legislation discussed in the previous paragraph, and those government executives and judges who execute and uphold those acts of legislation.

But they both miss the boat when they point the finger at the other movement of composed of citizens just like them and proclaim they are in the wrong. Because when they do that, they are ignoring the enemy they both have in common.

The Occupy movement is wrong when they define the One Percent as capitalists. By doing that, they include the business on Main Street who's trying to make a living and a profit by providing the goods and services they need and want. They're also excluding those politicians who work with the mega-corps and the financiers to rig the playing field in their favor.

In sheer numbers, the Tea Party is much closer in their general condemnation of government meddling, but they too need to be aware that there are some few politicians who work to reduce the burden placed on small businessmen instead of increasing it.

From all of that, it seems very easy to define the One Percent from this Tireless Agorist's viewpoint. The One Percent is composed of both those who would seek to influence those who write the laws to create legislation that prevent competition and force business their way, and those politicians and bureaucrats who gladly pass and enforce the legislation that provides those benefits.

The One Percent includes both Crony Capitalists and Crony Politicians. We ignore their collusion at our peril.

Bottom Line: If you're a Tea Partier who's prone to give a pass to mega-corps that use government to increase their wealth at the expense of small business and the citizen because you love capitalism, or if you're an Occupier who gives a pass to politicians guilty of the same collusion because you think they stick up for the little guy -- you're wrong.

The situation is much more subtle than that, and until people on both sides of the argument recognize their own set of blinders and learn to work together against the One Percent, nothing will change.

...and that's all I have to say about that.


  1. Thanks, Robert. That means a lot coming from you. :)

  2. I think this is one of the most important points that can be made in the current political atmosphere. Too many people from both sides are taking a superficial glance at the other movement and deeming them the enemy instead of realizing that we have the common goal of returning the power to the people. We all want to disentangle government and big business. The agorist dude with the ponytail is right that in order to stop abusive corporate practices we also have to get rid of the politicians working for them, which is the vast majority of our current power structure.

    Thanks for posting such a simple and articulate explanation.

    ~~ Chasing the Horizon from AW (who really needs an account with which to reply to blogs)

  3. Great article and spot on regarding the collusion that goes on, but ultimately the government is at fault here and the so-called Tea Partiers (does the Tea Party really even exist any more?) got it way more right that the occupiers. We *expect* corporations and other fat cats to attempt to enhance their competitive advantage and hamper their competition by any means available to them, this is essentially why we don't give them the right to use force. Government, with its monopoly on use of force, is expected to be above this.