Democrats & Liberals Archives

Monopoly, Wealth and Capitalism

The eventual end of every monopoly game I ever played as a youth was the concentration of all the wealth in the hands of one individual. I won more than a few of those games but real life and real money are played on a different board. Nonetheless my family has done all right in my generation; most of my siblings went from poor to middle class during their lifetime. While that is a long way from winning monopoly, it is a classic case of why our nation has worked so well to provide growth in wealth for many families in the past. Unfortunately, the future is likely to be another case entirely if the direction in which our society is changing isn�t altered consciously by significant changes in our policies that govern the exchange of wealth.

In my great grandfather�s generation wealth was handed out to people by the government in forty acre plots called homesteads. This was a wise policy that formed the basis of our society prior to the industrial revolution. We were a nation of farmers, with every homestead nurturing a family and many of them surviving only because of their ability to own property and grow their own food. They were able to build their house and otherwise able to depend on their close community for help in those tasks that one or two people could not carry out on their own. Barn raising was an example of the interdependence of those highly independent people and helped define our society in those times.

Now of course all wealth was not handed out in just those little parcels, some was handed out in the huge land grants that were given to the corporations chartered to build railroads. That was one of the first real plays in the concentration of so much of our nation�s wealth in the hands of so few people. The families of the Robber Barons involved in the greatest Railroad Robberies ever perpetrated still form a level of our society that defines Old Wealth. They are among the Upper, Upper Class that theoretically does not exist in this nation. Then, of course, there were the Oil robberies, born of the need for energy, but destined to concentrate wealth in a few other family�s hands during the Trust era. Then came electricity and the automobile, and with them, the ongoing concentration of wealth continued to take place. Finally the media and corporate farming grew and were reformed with the tools created for wealth concentration during the prior periods. Now we have a society threatening to enter the last stages of wealth concentration where even the things we need in order to live are owned by someone with the right to charge us for them. Clean water and clean air are being usurped by the rights of ownership as they are being defined in our society today.

Is this a clear call for class warfare? Not on your life! I no more want to make war on the people who own the armament factories and control the government with their ability to contribute huge amounts to campaigns than I want to die! Nor do I want to make war on those who own the media, their ability to propagandize against even those who are their lackeys in high places, like a Bill we once knew, is too powerful. I simply want to point out that if the way wealth is being concentrated in a few hands today is allowed to continue most of the people in this nation will be poorer in every generation from this one forward. We are in the endgame of this round of monopoly. The primary source of wealth for the huge group of people that includes everyone who derives their family�s income from work is threatened with destruction. If you divided our society up into two groups, those who own most of the wealth, and those who own the rest of it, in what group would you belong? The real answer, unless you own over a million dollars worth of portable wealth, not including your house, is that you belong in the category on the bottom. If you are consuming more money than your income is producing every year, like many of us, you are headed in the wrong direction.

Work has always been our ticket out of poverty. If you homesteaded land and failed to improve it the land was soon taken away from you. Most of us three generations ago were working for ourselves and life was hard. The addition of industrialization to our society created a society of workers who never worked for themselves a day in their life. Of course with the addition of Unions to the equation and enlightened policies by the government that allowed the unions to concentrate some power in the hands of the workers the middle class became possible. Today we are watching as the middle class loses that foundation, well paid jobs are disappearing from our nation. They are disappearing because of two new elements in this game of monopoly, international trade pacts that transfer them out of the nation, and higher levels of automation that eliminate the need for many of them.

Now is this class warfare, recognizing a change that is bound to destroy the middle class by destroying its foundation, the well paid job? I don�t think so! Is total concentration of wealth good for the nation? I don�t think so! Do we need to change this direction in which we are traveling before class warfare becomes inevitable? I do think so! Do I sound like Donald Rumsfield yet, with all of the setups that are not real questions? I hope not!

We are headed down a path that will lead to a lot of pain for those who built the roads and railroads and oil pipelines and other infrastructure elements that make this nation the wealthiest nation on earth. The people of this nation built the wealth around us with their hands and arms and backs and lives given to the creation of value for all. Is it even sensible to suppose that they will allow themselves to be shut out of the ongoing enjoyment of that wealth? I don�t think so! Watch as the erosion of value from the middle class proceeds and see if the propaganda served up by the media continues to work. It is purely propaganda that divides the middle class from the poorer among us. Propaganda and a regular paycheck separates the middle class from the poor, nothing else. That propaganda will not withstand the impoverishment of the vast middle class in this nation. The last time that propaganda broke down was during the great depression. Do we really need to do that all over again? God bless and keep you all safe in these final days of this particular game of monopoly.

Posted by Henri Reynard at December 13, 2003 9:41 AM