The Political Class Is In Session

Any number of recent political developments would serve equally well as the “news hook” for today’s column:

  • The US Senate’s determination to spend $1.75 billion on combat aircraft that the Pentagon has said it doesn’t want.
  • The inclusion of punitive tariffs in the Waxman-Markey “cap and trade” climate bill.
  • The Obama administration’s decision to purchase arms for Somalia’s “legitimate” government.

In five more minutes, I could probably find five more items, but these three will do.

Do you often find the operations of government confusing and seemingly counterproductive? You’re not alone. It’s not your fault. There’s actually a simple explanation, but understanding that explanation requires you to mentally rebel against a lifetime of “education,” conditioning and propagandization.

Here’s that simple explanation:

The purpose of all, or nearly all, functions of the modern state is to facilitate and maximize the transfer of wealth from the pockets of the productive class to the bank accounts of the political class.

Take a moment to digest that claim, and come back when the room stops spinning.

Are you back? There, there … have a sip of wine, rub your temples a bit, regain your composure. Unless you’re already a proponent of the stateless society, you’re probably either upset by the obvious truth of the claim (and perhaps berating yourself for not having arrived at that truth on your own long ago), or outraged that I’d dare make it.

If the latter happens to be the case, I’m going to say it one more time, just to help you get used to it, and then I’m going to explain it:

The purpose of all, or nearly all, functions of the modern state is to facilitate and maximize the transfer of wealth from the pockets of the productive class to the bank accounts of the political class.

This isn’t a new claim by any means. It goes back more than a century-and-a-half to Comte and Dunoyer, and if you’re a student of political theory you’ve seen it in bastardized form, courtesy of Karl Marx (he asserted a different set of classes — “labor” and “capital” — and was unwilling to give up the state as an instrument in his own attempts to establish a classless society; we’ve seen how well that turned out).

Government usually starts with the sincere enunciation of some high-flown ideals. For example:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed …

But it’s all downhill from the “governments are instituted among men” part. It’s never very long before a political class emerges — a ruling class composed not only of those who seek to wield power as functionaries of the state, but also of those who aim to profit by gaining influence with those functionaries.

The government-affiliated members of the political class curry favor with the profiteer element by dispensing favors: Sweetheart government contracts, for example, and never mind that the goods or services contracted for may serve no particular “public good.”

The profiteering members of the political class reward their government-affiliated counterparts with campaign contributions, the delivery of constituent blocs to the polls, and lucrative employment opportunities after “retirement” from government “service.”

And you? Well, you pay for it, of course. The political class drinks milk, the productive class gets milked.

If you doubt the truth of this simple explanation, no problem — this is something you can test for yourself:

  1. Pick up (or point your browser at) any newspaper, and find the first ten most visible articles on legislation under consideration by your Congress, Parliament, state legislature, city council — any level of government, anywhere on Earth.
  2. Research those ten pieces of legislation. Look at the alleged “public good” goals … then look behind those goals to where the money’s actually going. For extra credit, research the outcomes of similar past pieces of legislation.

I’m confident that in at least 8 of 10 cases, and probably 10 of 10, you’ll discover that the legislation can’t possibly achieve its stated “public good” (and that past similar legislation hasn’t) … but that as a result of the legislation, a lot of government jobs are secured, and a lot of politically connected companies make money. Come back in five or ten years, and I’m also confident that you’ll find some of that legislation’s political proponents sitting on those companies’ boards.


Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory