29 August 2016

“To My Fellow Filthy Rich Americans: The Pitchforks Are Coming”

 Capitalism and the Reformer, by Art Young, 
from The Best of Art Young © 1936 The Vanguard Press, Inc., New York City, via Harper's.

Excerpts from an open letter:
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...

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...

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...

The model for us rich guys here should be Henry Ford, who realized that all his autoworkers in Michigan weren’t only cheap labor to be exploited; they were consumers, too. Ford figured that if he raised their wages, to a then-exorbitant $5 a day, they’d be able to afford his Model Ts...

Which is why the fundamental law of capitalism must be: If workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators. Which means a thriving middle class is the source of American prosperity, not a consequence of it. The middle class creates us rich people, not the other way around.
Fulltext of the letter here.  Via Jobsanger


  1. This kind of thinking is what Bernie Sanders was offering all of us -- I believe that was his appeal to most of his followers even though it wasn't spelled out as clearly as this article does.

    1. He spelled it out in ALLCAPS in his speech at the rally I attended here in Madison.

    2. Too many people still believe in the American dream, that if you start working at a company you may some day own that company... Hard work is a thing of the past, nobody has seen results of it in years. Everyone just does their job, never expect a promotion, never expect a raise. Keep up with your credit card bills and then die. This is where they want us.

  2. Buy from small local businessmen whenever you can (local brewery, burger chain..), even if you pay little bit more.

  3. Not everyone has a pitchfork, but it seems everyone has at least on weapon, if not more than enough to make a loud bang on the doors of the .01%ers .
    """ Eat the rich, eat the rich
    Don't you know life is a bitch
    Eat the rich, eat the rich
    Out of the palace and into the ditch"" ~~ Krokus

  4. Historically, when one small group owns a very large percentage of the wealth of a country, there will be a correction. It remains to be seen what form the correction will take, but I suspect something a bit more sophisticated than pitchforks will be the undoing of the 1/10th of 1%.

  5. This forbes article claims that Ford raised wages due to a large turnover in his workforce which resulted from the grueling nature of the work.

    I'm not buying that the pitchforks are coming anytime soon. Large inequality or no the fact remains that the poor in the US live better than the much of the world. The lower classes in France were in a crushing poverty that Does not exist here.

    1. Also, capitalism (the private ownership of property and operating business for profit) has increased the well being of more people than any other system in the history of mankind. It's demonization by the ignorant (not stupid) is disappointing.

      The perversion of authority to undermine private property rights and to pick winners and losers in the market should be opposed no matter what name it comes under.

    2. When I see a sentence like this (in the Forbes article) -

      "It should be obvious that this story doesn’t work: Boeing would most certainly be in trouble if they had to pay their workers sufficient to afford a new jetliner."

      - I immediately dismiss the author as a hack. What kind of bullshit logic is that as a refutation?

    3. I would note also that you're quoting someone's personal opinion as to why Ford raised his workers' wages, not citing Ford himself. This is a more relevant quotation:

      "But Ford had an even bigger reason for raising his wages, which he noted in a 1926 book, Today and Tomorrow. It’s as a challenging a statement today as it as 100 years ago. “The owner, the employees, and the buying public are all one and the same, and unless an industry can so manage itself as to keep wages high and prices low it destroys itself, for otherwise it limits the number of its customers. One’s own employees ought to be one’s own best customers.”

      That's from the Saturday Evening Post:


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