How the Few Control the Many

There is a tiny class of people in the world today

who have incomes far in excess of what it takes to meet their necessities, who did nothing to earn this position except for having emerged from between a particular pair of legs. This is not to say by any means that they are all useless people. In many cases they work hard and use their money in socially beneficial ways. However the fact remains that they enjoy a priceless privilege denied to those not born to money, which is that any work they do is voluntary rather than compulsory. There is no condition more onerous to most of the population than the need to meet the monthly nut. It is said that money does not buy happiness but this is not altogether true. A person who is free of that burden, who has enough to live on and more without having to work for it is relieved of a constant and grinding worry. Even those who earn “good” money these days can seldom reach place where they can relax and nor have to worry about the possibility of sudden financial reversals: loss of employment or a major illness or the like. Certainly, being relieved of this burden does not ensure happiness, but it does remove a very large impediment to it. Unfortunately those with inherited money have never known what it is to have to struggle, and so have even less idea of what a privilege it is not to have do so. As Alexandr Solzenitsyn remarks: it is hard for someone who has always been warm to appreciate the position of one who is freezing.

This lack of sympathy for the poor is compounded by the fact that most of the people whose voices are heard loudest, the opinion makers and movers and shakers of the world, are themselves most often among the ranks of the comfortably off. Even if they do not start out wealthy, if they have articulate and persuasive voices they are often co-opted into the system they fight against. They land well-paid positions as commentators or columnists or perhaps as union officials or even elected representatives. In these positions they rub shoulders with the wealthy, eat at their tables, and gradually succumb to the Stockholm Syndrome. It is true that not all follow this path, and there are certainly prominent and articulate voices that continue to fight the good fight in spite of having themselves attained some degree of security, and there are wealthy people who also have sympathy for and work on behalf of the poor. However both groups are fighting an almost all-encompassing system that opposes their efforts. 

The truth is that the wealthy, the ownership classes, are able to make their voices heard effectively where it really counts, in the places where the important decisions are made. They can afford the best lobbyists and the best lawyers and the best political consultants. They can fund think-tanks that can crank out a constant barrage of well-crafted arguments for their points of view.

Meanwhile interests of the poor are vastly under-represented in these same places. In criminal court they have to rely on public defenders who are far too few and underfunded, while the wealthy can afford the highest priced lawyers. In civil cases the poor cannot afford lawyers to represent them, and so are not only vulnerable to being sued but also cannot themselves afford to sue when their rights are violated. Above all they do not have time or energy left over after what it takes to earn a living and have some kind of family life to fight a seemingly impregnable system.

One might think that the overwhelming advantage of the poor would be their sheer numbers. Yet history has shown clearly that a very small number can effectively enslave an entire population. This is achieved by several interlinked methods. Foremost among them is the manipulation of public opinion by means of what was once called propaganda, and now goes by the less threatening term public relations. This is used in a program of divide and conquer. Realizing the danger of being overwhelmed by being in a numerical minority, every effort is expended to keep the rest of the population from combining against them by encouraging them to fight among themselves.

This is helped by the fact that the political right tends to march in lockstep, since they are always seeking to promote the interests of those who pay their bills, and therefore can present a united front, whereas the left seek to promote social justice, which is a much harder concept to agree on. Our society suffers from so many different kinds of social injustice that it is very hard to get agreement on the left as to exactly what actions to take to improve the situation. Different interest groups fight for attention, and the effort is weakened by being scattered in so many directions.

In addition to these disadvantages, the wealthy are able to pursue very long term goals. When they are defeated in a particular sphere they can afford to wait a few years before trying again. The left must each time raise public awareness to once again oppose them. Their supporters become weary of constantly fighting different versions of the same battles, and must often rely on unpaid volunteers, whereas the right is always well funded.