The Pitchforks Are Coming!

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when. Nick Hanauer

I have never made my opinion about the super rich a secret. I think that people who need that kind of money have a serious sickness and at some time in the future we will have special hospitals where they will be helped to recover from it. The disease? Greed, of course.

The following article is written by one of the members of this “elite” and I sincerely hope that his fellow Zillionaires listen to him. But I won’t be holding my breath. Greed is a very hard disease to beat you see.

—————————————————————————

Memo: From Nick Hanauer
To: My Fellow Zillionaires

You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I’m no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about. In 1992, I was selling pillows made by my family’s business, Pacific Coast Feather Co., to retail stores across the country, and the Internet was a clunky novelty to which one hooked up with a loud squawk at 300 baud. But I saw pretty quickly, even back then, that many of my customers, the big department store chains, were already doomed. I knew that as soon as the Internet became fast and trustworthy enough—and that time wasn’t far off—people were going to shop online like crazy. Goodbye, Caldor. And Filene’s. And Borders. And on and on.

Realizing that, seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success. The lucky part was that I had two friends, both immensely talented, who also saw a lot of potential in the web. One was a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Jeff Tauber, and the other was a fellow named Jeff Bezos. I was so excited by the potential of the web that I told both Jeffs that I wanted to invest in whatever they launched, big time. It just happened that the second Jeff—Bezos—called me back first to take up my investment offer. So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller. The other Jeff started a web department store called Cybershop, but at a time when trust in Internet sales was still low, it was too early for his high-end online idea; people just weren’t yet ready to buy expensive goods without personally checking them out (unlike a basic commodity like books, which don’t vary in quality—Bezos’ great insight). Cybershop didn’t make it, just another dot-com bust. Amazon did somewhat better. Now I own a very large yacht.

But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

 I see pitchforks.

At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

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2 thoughts on “The Pitchforks Are Coming!

  1. Shame he doesn’t understand maths. The basics are quite straightforward… Finite World + Economic Activity expanded to push up against Resource Extraction Rate Limits => Reducing Returns on Capital and Efficiency + Globalised Economy with requirement to expand Economic Activity to repay (unrepayable) levels of Debt = Economic Stagnation and Collapse

  2. Nice to see a rich guy aware and caring about the problem.

    I don’t think that there is a problem with the rich being rich. If you work hard and things go your way and you get rich, good for you!

    I think the real problem is the lack of purchasing power in the hands of the “have nots”.

    A good question really is, “What is wealth”?

    Money itself IS NOT wealth. Money is not an earthly good capable of satisfying a temporal need.
    -You cannot keep yourself alive by eating money.
    -To get dressed, you cannot sew together 10 dollar notes to make a dress or a pair of pants.
    -You cannot rest by lying down on money.
    -You cannot cure a sickness by putting money on the cause of the sickness.
    -You cannot educate yourself by putting money on your head.

    Money is not real wealth. Real wealth consists of all the useful things which satisfy human needs.
    -Bread, meat, fish, cotton, wood, coal, oil, a car on a good road, a doctor visiting the sick, the knowledge of a scientist — these are real wealth.

    Wealth is the thing; money is the symbol of that thing. The symbol should reflect the thing.

    Bankers produce absolutely nothing; they only create the figures that allow the nation to make use of its own producing capacity, its own wealth.

    Without the production of all the citizens in the country, the figures of the bankers are worthless.

    I think the solution to the problem of the “Have Nots” not having enough purchasing power is to implement something like the “Social Credit” and the “National Dividend” plan for a fairer economic policy.

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