11A043 Parasites by Jim Davies, 2/12/2011    

Recently there was an unusual and very fine article on Strike the Root by Paul Hein, which compared the fawning way his many servants treat the US President, with the social arrangement of any European aristocrat of a century or so ago; typified by the fictional Earl of Grantham in Downton Abbey, a well-acted Masterpiece presentation recently ended on PBS. Paul made the powerful point that both are entirely useless, yet are treated as if greatly superior to ordinary mortals.

We might take that theme a step further, and speculate how the two structures may fare in the coming free, zero government society.

The presidential entourage will obviously have no future at all; it will collapse like a punctured balloon. The reason is that its large expense is met only by the forceful extraction of money from others, and in a ZGS no such extraction will be possible - so that party will be well and truly over. The principal players will go their separate ways, some to get honest work and some, perhaps, to live out their lives on any fortunes they may have looted. Some such may even use it to purchase grand European estates and surround themselves with servants, to continue the fantasy that they are someone special. They will history's footnote, and will be tolerated but generally despised for the harm they caused while in office.

The aristocrats are somewhat different, yet money forms the common thread between them. His Lordship of Grantham ran an establishment with revenue coming in from voluntary sources such as tenants paying rent, and in his particular case he covered an expense shortfall by marrying an American heiress. So however bizarre the social rules set for their households, some rich and landed gentry may well survive the transition. But that being so, is it quite correct to say, as Paul did, that such aristocrats are "useless" and parasitic, in the same sense that politicians are?

To answer that we need to follow the money, and while that's simple for Pols (it's all stolen at gunpoint) it gets really complicated for the landed aristocracy. There is a common factor - force and theft - but in their case it goes back a very long way. In the English example, their class begins after the Norman conquest nine and a half centuries ago; William divided the land among his lieutenants and they began the dynasties which survive in some form to this day. So it was stolen from the defeated, Saxon landowners and farmers, who were turned into serfs and tenants. The property was never earned in voluntary exchange so there is no right of ownership, any more than a government truly owns assets it buys with stolen, tax money; but the injustice is so ancient I fear it's impossible to correct. The situation might be compared to the injustice of black slavery in the USA, or to the wholesale disposession of Native Americans. It's all outrageous, but no actual victim or aggressor is still living and to force those alive today to restitute their descendants would introduce a fresh round of gross injustice. Like it or not, the ownership is there, de facto.

The scene is further complicated by the fact that throughout the 20th Century, inherited wealth was heavily punished by taxation so as to cut the legs off dynastic power centers that might rival government, so very many of the old estates had to be sold off and the titled owners reduced to gentile poverty. Some were given to charities (which maintains them for tourism) and others to those who prospered in trade (including mega-wealthy pop stars) and a few survive in the traditional form because their owners were savvy enough to put the properties in trust and earn money in the world outside them. Being productive, these would survive in the ZGS.

As Paul Hein wrote, the key criterion is whether a member of society lives by voluntary interaction with others. It's nobody's business to accuse a person of being "useless" if someone places such a value on his services as to pay him money in trade, or give him an inheritance or other gift because of the pleasure he may bring the donor. Anything voluntary is good; everything coerced is anathema. That's the difference between people and parasites, between freedom and government.

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