< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: Train Dispatch #3 - Beware the New Aristoi

Monday, December 20, 2004

Train Dispatch #3 - Beware the New Aristoi

I was on the train much longer than usual due to the inclement weather today. Luckily I found a seat, and it was next to one of my usual train interlocutors. Politics and economics are our usual topics of discussion, today was no different, and it was an especially good discussion given the extra length of the train ride.

This particular train buddy was a born millionaire, though he gave up living the trust fund route. So after college, rather than enter Harvard Business School (his birthright, just like W's) he entered today's bourgeois, or I should clarify, today's Northeastern, American, Fairfield County CT bourgeois. On the one hand, he's seen old money, and on the other hand he's seen new. Today we were discussing social classes in America and he gave a discourse, seriously, it was like listening to Socrates for a little while.

"Listen up," he said, "a lot of people just don't get this, but there are really just three classes in America. Investors, Speculators, and the Poor." He described the Poor as people with no money to play with, everyone from the homeless to the working families living paycheck by paycheck. Those in this group are overwhelmingly the largest in number of the three.

"The speculators," he said, "they got some money to burn." In his view, the speculator class is made up by everyone from the near retirement Union worker, the personal tax adviser with a million book value, and even the corporate law partner bringing in seven figures a year. This is also a rather large class. And they are the "largest class of Americans who vote, for sure." What separates this group from the other two is they have some spare cash, and are "always looking for a way to get rich." However, don't assume the class is just about everyone because: "a 401K alone doesn't get you here, you need that plus something more, something you feel like gambling with."

"Then there are the investors," he smiled. Most investors aren't even people, they are giant corporations, insurance companies, multi-national banks, or extremely wealthy families. Investors have so much to play with, they need to hire people to not play with it. This class has few numbers of actual votes, but what they lack there, they more than make up for in campaign finance. They aren't looking to get rich quick, or even get rich quicker, they are simply looking to preserve their fortunes throughout all time. "Investors, above all else, seek immortality."

His analysis of both Bush elections was that it was a grasp of power by the investor class. "Look you gotta realize" he said "these investor types see this as a zero sum game. The more millionaires there are, the less wealth they have." Another line of his I found telling: "investors see rising economic tides as competition. They don't believe in value creation, they think thats a new name for theft."

His view is that Clinton's wonder-economy royally pissed off the investor class because "pothead college students with a powerpoint presentation and a laptop could get enough angel money to last two years." Not only that, he relayed second-hand convesations where Clinton and his ilk would actually claim their goal was to create "a new aristocracy." Well, for the old aristocracy, that meant war. Martha Stewart is a prime example of what the old aristoi mean when they say beware of the new aristoi. Remember, he urged, "investors see the world as a binary proposition. If someone has more, they necessarily have less."

At one point, while discussing the Charles River Bridge Case, he correctly anticipated that the original bridge-building company would claim that the right to build meant that no others could build, that is, that the state had granted them a monopoly. "Monopoly is not the goal of investors, it is their means" he said.

Near the end of our ride, I asked him if he thought this sounded an awful lot like a conspiracy theory. "Look, I know what you're saying. But a conspiracy this isn't." However, he did mention that since investors generally all want the same thing, and since they really don't want more, they just don't want others to gain, many of their interests translate into near-term goals which are surprisingly similar. He also mentioned, "in comparison to other classes, there really aren't that many investors" therefore he figured some sort of coordination was not out of the realm of plausibility, but again, "a conspiracy this isn't. A homogeniety of interests, this is."