Plutocracy is not new in the United States. Our Modern Cons (not conservatives they only conserve money), do inherit a legacy of anti-Democratic feeling and action that dates back to both the "Tories" who supported the British during the American Revolution and the "Whigs" who were often family members of the Tories, and made money off of the revolution. Self Aggrandizement is human nature, and I've talked about the Pirates of the American Revolution, but there were pirates and their Money Men Admirals in every subsequent war.
"The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time profits -- ah! that is another matter -- twenty, sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent -- the sky is the limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let's get it." [http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html]
And war-profiting goes with industrialism. It's documented that much of our industry has been the product of the need to provide war-materials. The rest has been the product of the more prosaic and legitimate need to provide consumer goods, but the profits have been in the war and the profits from war were used to build plutocratic power and wealth. And these people came to define the 19th century:
"The first class of multimillionaires had made their fortunes in the Civil War, and during subsequent decades they began to consolidate holdings in a number of industries with national and international reach. Among the most famous were Carnegie Steel and John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company." [http://projects.vassar.edu/1896/trusts.html]
The first class of multimillionaires were people like the Goulds, Harry Payne Whitney, the Vanderbilts and the Astors. Technically the Rockefellers and Carnagies were second generation Millionaires. Carnagie made his millions building bridges for millionaires out of Steel using the Bessemer process he got from hiring Bessemer to work for him. And Rockefeller made his millions by refining oil into standard volume and quality Kerosene and then getting a monopoly over the distribution. The millionaires of the 1860's turned into industrialists and by the turn of the 20th century were an aristocracy. And some wealth does trickle down from the top .01% to the top .1% to the top 1%, in a hierarchy of diminishing returns. Bessemer may have invented the Bessemer process, but it was Carnagie who made the millions. Plutocracy forms pyramids. Eventually some "fearless leader" stands on top the pyramid, but the energy is in the social dominance of the wealthy.
Plutocrats hate Democracy:
Bill Moyers takes an excerpt from the book and writes:
"Wall Street Brahmin Henry Lee Higginson, fearing “Awful Democracy” — that whole menagerie of radicalisms — urgently appealed to his fellows to take up the task of mastery, “more wisely and more humanely than the kings and nobles have done. Our chance is now — before the country is full and the struggle for bread becomes intense. I would have the gentlemen of the country lead the new men who are trying to become gentlemen.” [http://billmoyers.com/2015/04/06/plutocracy-first-time-around/]
This was naked aristocracy, and the attitude is coming out of the closet again. Because these aristocrats don't have a sense of social contract to others. Many of them are heirs to the privateering, piracy approach to wealth. If you can't earn it steal it. If it's illegal to trade it smuggle it. It's the Ferenghi ethos, nothing can standing the way of profits and "gold pressed latinum". These people were and are:
"sea-dog capitalists, dynasty builders, for whom accumulation was a singular, all-consuming obsession. They reckoned with outside authority if they had to, manipulated it if they could, but just as often went about their business as if it didn’t exist. Bred to hold politics in contempt, one Social Register memoirist recalled growing up during the “great barbeque.” He was taught to think of politics as something “remote, disreputable, and infamous, like slave-trading or brothel-keeping.”" [http://billmoyers.com/2015/04/06/plutocracy-first-time-around/]
Then as now the goal was social and economic dominance not benevolence. A disdain for "politics" is usually a preference for brute force.
They may have eschewed "politics" but they had no trouble with buying politicians, hiring private police, or enforcing their power. Then and now their corporate libertarianism and rejection of "government" led to violence not paradise.
"The frequent resort to violence that so marked the period was thus the default position of a ruling elite not really prepared to rule. And of course it only aggravated the dilemma of consent. Those suffering from the callousness of the dominant classes were only too ready to treat them as they depicted themselves — that is, as aristocrats but usurping ones lacking even a scintilla of legitimate authority." [http://billmoyers.com/2015/04/06/plutocracy-first-time-around/]
"The American upper classes did not constitute a seasoned aristocracy, but could only mimic one. They lacked the former’s sense of social obligation, of noblesse oblige, of what in the Old World emerged as a politically coherent “Tory socialism” that worked to quiet class antagonisms. But neither did they absorb the democratic ethos that today allows the country’s gilded elite to act as if they were just plain folks: a credible enough charade of plutocratic populism. Instead, faced with mass social disaffection, they turned to the “tramp terror” and other innovations in machine-gun technology, to private corporate armies and government militias, to suffrage restrictions, judicial injunctions, and lynchings. Why behave otherwise in dealing with working-class “scum” a community of “mongrel firebugs”?" [http://billmoyers.com/2015/04/06/plutocracy-first-time-around/]
In the 19th century the wealthy could rely on a corrupt and aristocratic Courts. What the Right Wing called "judicial activism" in the 20th century was merely the result of years of efforts to clean up these very actively oppressive courts of the 19th century. Using absolute notions of property rights to justify repressing workers was standard practice until the New Deal. These "sea-dog capitalists" haven't changed. The only difference is that, Sadly their descendents have learned to play politics. They still see the rest of us as "scum" and "mongrels". Just ask John McCain about Code Pink or Romney about the "47 Percent".
International Sea Dogs
And that is not just true of the United States. It is true around the world. War attracts sociopathic and "Sea Dog" businessmen like flies. In the Iran Iraq war:
"According to "Crimes of the President" Markups of weapons during the period when it was enforced were more than "ten times more than ordinary sales prices." "During the time of the embargo the numbers of countries selling weapons to Iran boomed from 40 countries to 53 countries." An embargo raises the profits for illegal arms sales." [http://holtesthoughts.blogspot.com/2015/04/arms-lobbyists-and-war-mongering.html]
War mongering and war-profiteering aren't new. Many of our wanna-be plutocrats got their fortunes from it. And these people no longer just dominate the USA, they dominate the world.
- Further Reading:
- War is a Racket:
- Plutocracy First time around: http://billmoyers.com/2015/04/06/plutocracy-first-time-around/
- From the book The Age of Acquiescence by Steve Fraser. Copyright (c) 2015 by Steve Fraser: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0316185434
- Cartoon and some background from: [http://projects.vassar.edu/1896/trusts.html]