We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

As Mr Monbiot put it in Wednesday’s article, he believes that “… the ultra-rich [have] learned how to buy the political system.” If this were true, what would we expect to observe? For example, would the share of aggregate income tax paid by the highest one percent of earners have increased or decreased? (It has increased.) Would government spending on state schools, to which the ultra-rich rarely send their children, have increased or decreased? (It has increased.) Would Remainers or Leavers have won the Brexit referendum? (Leavers won.)

These look like disconfirmations of Mr Monbiotis hypothesis. He does not bother to explain them away, being apparently unconcerned by consistency with observed facts. Nevertheless, I am sure he could if he tried. This is not because his hypothesis that the ultra-rich have bought the political system is true, but because it is merely a slogan. It has no testable implications. It does not answer to reality in the way that scientific hypotheses do. It is, thus, what Popper deemed pseudo-science.

Jamie Whyte

25 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • If you look at the share of aggregate income tax paid by the highest one percent as a barrier to entry, then it’ll start to make sense. I am pretty sure I don’t agree with Monbiot on very many things, but I suspect he actually understands politics. Not economics. Not environment. But pure politics. The globalist ultra-rich have a lot of power, but none of the responsibilities that used to come with that power.

  • Mary Contrary

    George Soros seems to be making a pretty good run at it.

  • Fraser Orr

    I recently received a big thick prospectus from Disney Inc. trying to influence my vote on the forthcoming acquisition of Fox. They shouldn’t have bothered. I own about 100 shares and my vote is therefore insignificant.

    Just a thought on this: If these ultra wealthy pay most of the taxes, that is to say, they fund the government, doesn’t it seem reasonable that they should have more influence on it too?

  • The ROI on lobbying government is large too. This is one of the problems with a lot of analysis, as we often fail to notice the difference between the economy of scale necessary to build and sell a widget, versus the gargantuan size a corporation grows to in order to co-opt the government.

  • Robert Oachs

    The increased % of taxes being paid by the top tier of those collecting income results from their ever-increasing percentage of the total income gained by individuals and corporations. They have a bigger piece of the whole pie, while working class and middle class incomes remain stagnant, meaning their share of the pie continues to decrease as the size of the pie increases.
    If your income increases by 75%, and the taxes you pay increase by 25%, you’re way ahead of the game.
    Taxes aren’t what influences the government. What does that is campaign contributions and lobbyists. You won’t be able to find out how much cash is funneled to campaigns and lobbyists. If you could you’d see it far surpasses the amount of cash paid in taxes by the wealthy.
    The government, by law, operates for the good of all; not the few, and not those with influence – or does it? Should money be allowed to influence elections and legislation? While Congress continues to make it easier for money to influence elections and legislators, that only skirts the original laws and restrictions created to prevent bribery and the corruption of public officials for the benefit of individuals and special interest groups who supply those funds.

  • Stonyground

    “If these ultra wealthy pay most of the taxes, that is to say, they fund the government, doesn’t it seem reasonable that they should have more influence on it too?”

    If they have so much influence, how come they are paying any taxes at all?

  • Fraser Orr

    > If they have so much influence, how come they are paying any taxes at all?

    Because perhaps they are paying taxes to get the other peripheral benefits of influence? If you pay money into your HOA you get influence and you may well think that influence is more important than the money. In fact you do, because you continue to engage in the voluntary transaction. (Though I’ll grant you in this example there are other considerations.)

    If I owned a big drug company and I could pay a big tax in exchange for the government making it almost impossible for other people to compete with me, would that be a good exchange of value? Probably. There is more to government than taxes.

  • Eric

    Well, one thing the ultra rich would really like is relaxed immigration and low or nonexistent tariffs so they can use labour arbitrage to keep the little people from getting too full of themselves. So that’s one point on Monbiot’s side. They would also like a social and political environment in which pointing that out gets you dismissed as a filthy racist. That should be worth at least another half point.

  • Paul Marks

    Good post – the idea that the state, most of whose spending is on the Welfare State, is run for the benefit of the ultra rich AS A CLASS (which is what the left believes) is nonsense.

    Yes there are individual rich people with far left opinions who are very happy with ever-bigger-government – but that is not what figures such as Monbiot mean. The left hold NOT that there are rich individuals who push big government policies (the idea that people such as Mr Soros do this for their own financial benefit is just wrong) because they BELIEVE in them – the left hold that government is controlled by the “capitalist class” for the ECONOMIC INTERESTS of this “class” (“the rich” – not individual rich people with different . The idea that different rich individuals (with much the same “material interests”) might have radically different political opinions (because political opinions are NOT determined “material class interests”) is unacceptable to the left.

    Reality is unacceptable to the left – whether one tries to demonstrate reality by empirical examples, or by rational analysis.

    Monbiot may deny being a Marxist – but his “analysis” is Marxist, and of the most “Vulgar Marxist” sort (“the ultra rich have learned how to buy the political system”).

  • Roué le Jour

    You could look at it the other way around, it isn’t possible to become ultra rich without the approval of government. In which case supporting the government becomes a given.

  • Monbiot is a classic journalist of our time all mouth and no trousers. He is also blinkered pushing his Guardian agenda against all reason. His ilk cause far more problems than they solve with their pseudo-science. More people need to call him to account and expose him for the completely unrealistic liberal left luvvie that nhe is.


  • Itellyounothing

    The ultra rich buy politicians after before they are elected with donations and after they leave office with jobs for influence.

    Tax is something the ultra rich pass to consumers…..

  • Fraser Orr

    Paul Marks
    the idea that the state, most of whose spending is on the Welfare State, is run for the benefit of the ultra rich AS A CLASS (which is what the left believes) is nonsense.

    That seems a reasonable argument on the surface, but it goes deeper than that. If the welfare state stopped making payments tomorrow their would be a full on revolution in the country.

    Taxes for welfare are basically a payment to keep the masses from rioting so that the country is stable enough for the ultra rich to maintain their situations.

    The biggest benefits that government brings to the ultra wealthy have nothing to do with low tax rates, and the taxes they pay are a charge to keep the machine running in their favor. Think of welfare payments as “anti-guillotine insurance”.

    (BTW, I fully understand some people are poor and powerless through no fault of their own, and private charitable organizations are an excellent way to help them. It’d be great if we, who are relative to most of historical mankind, spectacularly wealthy, would put some of our resources to helping these organizations.)

  • Bruce

    As Fraser Orr observed, “There is more to government than taxes.”

    As Frederic Bastiat observed: “Everyone wants to live at the expense of the State. They forget that the State lives at the expense of everyone.”

    See also:

    A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves:- Edward R. Murrow

    Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.:- George Washington

    A government, which robs Peter to pay Paul, can always count on the support of Paul. – George Bernard Shaw

    No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. – Mark Twain

    There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him. – Robert Heinlein

    Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good, will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. – C. S. Lewis

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    You could also use the argument that the rich put up with extra taxes so that the less-well-off will be appeased, and not resort to overthrowing the established order- a protection racket, by the numerous poor against the few wealthy.

  • If the welfare state stopped making payments tomorrow there would be a full on revolution in the country. (Fraser Orr, July 26, 2018 at 11:48 pm)

    I don’t think that is so beyond the two incredibly trivial senses that (1) those who are always looking to riot would welcome another opportunity, and (2) if the welfare state literally stopped all payment at a single day’s notice, then less (noticeably less, I think) than 50% of what it nominally pays to recipients (which is itself only part of what it costs) would be found immediately necessary and not immediately replaceable by those recipients.

    There has not yet, alas, been a revolution in Venezuela, though its welfare state has been abolished in every practical sense. Greece went though (still is going through, FAIK) a marked, though never admitted, reduction in its welfare state due to the state’s cash-flow problems but its rulers remain more subservient to the EU than to their voters let alone any revolutionaries.

    Revolution, which was supposed to be the solution to all problems, turned out to be the source of a host of new problems, some of them absurdly simple, like finding food and clothes (Kravchenko, I Chose Freedom – quoted from memory)

    People with leisure make revolutions. Starving people are too busy looking for their next meal. The willingness of the left to riot we have always with us.

  • Steve Borodin

    One shouldn’t expect Mr Monbiot to understand complicated concepts like evidence or reason. He is a sophisticated man, probably sabotaged at birth, who rises above such concepts.

  • Fraser Orr

    Niall Kilmartin
    > Starving people are too busy looking for their next meal.

    Yup. In your basement, while carrying a large stick.

  • Matthew

    It’s almost as though people with influence use it to shift the odds in their favour. Of course, under True Socialism that would never happen as there would unlimited access to magical pixie dust or something.

  • mila s

    The ultra rich, such as the Koch brothers or George Soros, do exert a huge influence over contemporary politics. But that does not mean they speak with a single voice, particularly since the mechanisms through which they accrue vast wealth may be very different.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Bruce @ July 27, 2018 at 1:20 am:

    No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. – Mark Twain

    Not Twain, actually. It was Gideon J. Tucker, Surrogate (probate judge) of New York County, in his decision in an 1866 inheritance case.

  • Bruce

    Rich: Thanks. I will amend my “quotes” file.

    That aside, Tucker seems like an observant chap.

    There is another “Twain” quote I rather like:

    “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

  • Runcie Balspune

    It seems to me that the questions we urgently need to ask ourselves are these: is totalitarianism the only means of eliminating capitalism? If so, and if, as almost all of us profess to do, we abhor totalitarianism, can we continue to call ourselves anti-capitalists? If there is no humane and democratic answer to the question of what a world without capitalism would look like, then should we not abandon the pursuit of unicorns, and concentrate on capturing and taming the beast whose den we already inhabit?

    Monboit in 2003, some things never change do they George?

  • Paul Marks

    Frasor Orr – the idea that, for example the British “New Liberals” created welfare programs in the 1900s to stave off Revolution is wrong, utterly wrong.

    It is also wrong (utterly wrong) that American Democrats created welfare benefits to stave off Revolution, or that such welfare benefits were created in any country (in any country) were created to stave of Revolution.

    The theory is not even proper Marxism – it is “Vulgar Marxism”, essentially a very crude and distorted version of Marxism (and even proper Marxism is wrong).

    Rour Le Jour.

    “It is only possible to become ultra rich with the approval of the government”.

    Which is why I can name (and you can name yourself) billionaires with totally OPPOSED political opinions.

    Why do libertarians feel the need to imitate Marxism?

    Is it envy of its power in the world?

    Marxism is a FALSE theory – there are no such things as “class opinions”.

    I should not need to type any of this – everyone commenting should already know it. In fact I think you all already do know it – but (for some reason) feel compelled to imitate Marxism, even though you know it is false.

  • bobby b

    Paul Marks
    July 30, 2018 at 8:05 pm

    “Frasor Orr – the idea that, for example the British “New Liberals” created welfare programs in the 1900s to stave off Revolution is wrong, utterly wrong.”

    Perhaps that wasn’t the reason it grew as a concept in the minds that begat it – the carrot of “moral” thought – but it was certainly a large part of the reason why other people went along with it, and continue to accept it – the stick of reality.

    If this wasn’t true, then it would have been much easier to address the ever-expanding scope and reach of the programs – the unintended consequences of making it too easy – but those programs have become another third rail that we do not dare touch. If we were all simply pursuing the carrot of being humane and moral, we could arrive at compromises concerning welfare, but instead we simply try to avoid the stick of class warfare.