In the United States, we inherit much of our Constitution and political thought from English common-law models. Throwing off the tyranny of inherited privileges, every citizen was deemed equal under the law, with basic rights that were not to be trampled by government; government’s role was to defend those rights against infringement by others, whether other citizens or external states. In Enlightenment England, the Crown came to be viewed as the abstracted ideal of government power, to be used only for the mutual benefit of all citizens. The US Revolution further clarified this doctrine by eliminating the Crown and replacing it with the written Constitution.
So whence came the impulse to take from some citizens to give to others who had been treated unfairly? One of the early movements in the English Civil War, the Levellers of 1645-46, were intellectual forebears of the idea of redistribution. They wished to remove the special rights of nobility and landed gentry, and make all citizens equal under the law, a radical thought at the time. But of course the system they were rebelling against was, by our standards, a kleptocracy, with the privileged early warlords taking and holding landed estates which were the primitive support for the early centralized governments. In return for providing fighting forces and support for the Crown, local warlords were given title to large territories and worked the land using serfs, collecting taxes for the Crown. Under the feudal system, trade and industry were looked down on, and wealth could be stolen by authorized brigands from those who had worked for it, since power came from arms and ultimately could not be held without the protection of the Crown. So the tale of Robin Hood, seen today as stealing from the rich to give to the poor, was a story of a true social justice warrior, taking from the tax collectors and the wealthy thieves of feudal government, returning wealth to those who had earned it, the serfs and free citizens.
Much of the belief system of European-style Labor and Socialist parties dates back to the feudal days when the Balzac quote was true: “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime,” which morally justifies efforts to redistribute wealth from rich to poor. The United States went further than England in establishing a system of free citizens, equal under the law, who could usually rely on the protection of their rights and property by the new government. Inherited titles and lands were absent and power and wealth more broadly distributed and more often acquired through hard work and intelligent enterprise. Until recently, the US was home to great wealth generated primarily by free enterprise and innovation, and there was little moral justification for redistributive policies.
There are many places left in the world, however, where wealth is generated by government influence and corrupt monopolies, where business must bribe and pay tribute to pols, and where the wealthy support the corrupt government that has favored their special privileges. And some of that corruption is coming back to the United States as our corrupt pols have figured out how to peddle their influence to foreign powers and interests in return for contributions to their own power and campaign financing. The Clintons have been especially successful at this, with just one example being their Haitian exploits. In the late 1990s, kickbacks from the Haitian telephone monopoly enriched connected Clinton Democrats at the expense of every poor Haitian family calling relatives in the US.
The Clintons and their foundation are at the center of a new feudal network of patronage and influence-peddling. Vassals do their dirty work and protect them from consequences, and in return get contracts or jobs with nonprofits or government agencies. Protected by their influence, the Clintons and their minions lie, cheat, and cover up malfeasance with impunity.
Kleptocratic regimes grow very slowly if at all, with advances mostly due to imported technology. Individuals in kleptocracies know hard work that raises them to the level of being noticed will result in a powerful person stealing what they have earned, and often killing or exiling them. The explosion of growth in the West only came about because the rule of law and protection of property rights became more reliable there; and the most ambitious people in poorly-governed countries around the world worked to reach the US and other liberal states to escape the punishment of success in their homelands.
As this lesson has been buried under layers of permits and bureaucracy in the US, the rule of law has degenerated into rule of administrative law, with smothering red tape and overregulation. The black markets in labor and goods that are prominent features in kleptocracies are becoming more and more important here, with cash labor combined with social welfare payments keeping more people in the gray zone, dependent on government and trapped by the high price of going aboveground.
Growth has been steadily declining across the developed world, with central bankers trying to keep the game going by artificially pumping created cash into the economies and mispricing debt to force investment in more risky enterprises. This has inflated stock and property markets and made the already-rich richer at the expense of workers and savers. The levers of the power squelching growth and limiting new housing in desirable cities are held by an elite class of property owners, government, and academics, and the situation of young workers in places like San Francisco and New York is analogous to the situation of serfs in feudal systems: attracted to the cities by opportunities and the clustering of other young creative people, they work hard and spend all of their income on bare survival. Like the Levellers, they wonder how the deck was so stacked against them by the previous generations, and call for a new deal. And like the Levellers, many see theft from the wealthy as just, never having been taught economics or the horrendous history of socialist regimes, because their schools were dominated by progressives who indoctrinate them in the goodness of government solutions to the problems of global warming, pollution, and economic inequality.
The better remedy is removing most economic activity from the grasp of government. Having thrown off the monopolies imposed by Britain on tea, for example, the framers of the Constitution did not include regulation of commerce among the enumerated powers, and until the New Deal, it was common for the Federal courts to strike down state and local laws that tried to restrain commerce by granting monopolies or fixing prices. But since the New Deal, FDR’s effort to run a managed economy, the Supreme Court has allowed almost every kind of commerce to be regulated by Federal and State law, applying a rational basis test — if there is at least some chain of reasoning provided that connects the law with a general government purpose, the court has deemed the law constitutional. This has given us restrictive zoning, rent control, local cable TV and telecomm monopolies, local minimum wage laws, licensing of even the most harmless services like hair-braiding, and set up legislators as the ultimate collector of tolls on business in the form of campaign contributions and lobbying.
Of course there are externalities requiring regulation; the most obvious example is pollution, which imposes costs on others that justify regulation. But laws that were originally promoted for the general welfare, like zoning, eventually were used to capture benefits for certain people — notably owners of existing homes and buildings — at the expense of others, notably newcomers and landowners. When the word “unregulated” began to be used as a scare word by popular media to imply danger in any commercial activity not regulated by a bureau or government, the triumph of the bureaucrats was complete; now we pay more and get less for everything from housing to medical care to cable TV and Internet service, because competition in those areas has been suppressed by law. Incomes are high for many of those employed in those sectors, but millions of young people are un- or under-employed because the businesses they might have worked for can’t start up under such restrictive conditions.
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations
[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]
Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”
Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.
More reading on other topics:
Jane Jacobs’ Monstrous Hybrids: Guardians vs Commerce
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor
Levellers and Redistributionists: The Feudal Underpinnings of Socialism
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
Trump World: Looking Backward
Minimum Wage: The Parable of the Ladder
Culture Wars: Co-Existence Through Limited Government
Social Justice Warriors, Jihadists, and Neo-Nazis: Constructed Identities
Tuitions Inflated, Product Degraded, Student Debts Unsustainable
The Morality of Glamour
On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:
Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism
The greatest hits from SubstrateWars.com (Science Fiction topics):
Fear is the Mindkiller
Mirror Neurons and Irene Gallo
YA Dystopias vs Heinlein et al: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again
Sons of Liberty vs. National Front
“Tomorrowland”: Tragic Misfire
The Death of “Wired”: Hugo Awards Edition
Hugos, Sad Puppies 3, and Direct Knowledge
Selective Outrage and Angry Tribes
Men of Honor vs Victim Culture
SFF, Hugos, Curating the Best
“Why Aren’t There More Women Futurists?”
Science Fiction Fandom and SJW warfare
More reading on the military:
If you have a good story or anecdote from your organization, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I can use a few good tales (anonymized, of course) to illustrate the problems.