Tom Perkins, Godwin’s Law and the Wall Street Journal

The face of a happy plutocrat. That's not an exaggeration. He really believes in plutocracy.

You might have heard about a recent report from Oxfam that tells us that 85 people own almost half the world’s wealth. That top one percent of the population owns the same amount of global wealth as the bottom half of the population.

Some of us have a problem with that. I have a problem with that.

I have a problem with that because there are real human costs to this level of wealth inequality. There are people who do not have access to the resources they need – food, clean water, medicine, etc. – they need to survive. There are people who live their lives as the pawns of a global elite, whose lands are plundered and whose lives are discarded. And there are people whose humanity is diminished by their love of money and possessions own them more than they own their possessions. There are people who live as slaves to Mammon.

And all of these leads me to believe that there is a moral imperative to reorganize the national and global systems that help create and perpetuate this level of inequality. For the sake of the poor and for the sake of the rich.

According to Tom Perkins – “one of Silicon Valley’s pioneers, with a career spanning entrepreneurship, the management of major corporate activities and most importantly, venture capital” (source)1- I and those who agree with me are no better than Nazis:

Regarding your editorial “Censors on Campus” (Jan. 18): Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its “one percent,” namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the “rich.”

From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these “techno geeks” can pay. We have, for example, libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle on our number-one celebrity, the author Danielle Steel, alleging that she is a “snob” despite the millions she has spent on our city’s homeless and mentally ill over the past decades.

This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendent “progressive” radicalism unthinkable now?

Three things have to be highlighted here:

First, as Erik Loomis of Lawyers, Guns & Money points out, we could take this as fear: “that a few fast food workers demanding $15 are actually scaring the plutocracy.”

Second, and again as Loomis points out, we could take this as security: that “they are so secure in their position that they have the luxury of freaking out over each cent or right the poor demand from their betters.”

Third, that Perkins has gone full Godwin on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. The fact that he thinks this is a reasonable argument – and that the Journal thinks that it is worthy of publication – says that any pretense of actual justification for the level of global inequality that exists today has been abandoned. There is no reason here, only the impoverished rhetoric of comparing those who engage in largely non-violent activism on behalf of the poor and marginalized to Nazis.

I don’t want to engage in long-distance armchair psychology, but I suspect that the fear and security that Loomis detects in Perkins’s letter are intimately related. Perkins is secure. He is secure because of his wealth and the global systems that enable him to be wealthy. But that is a fragile security and any threat to it – even the prospect of not being as wealthy – is terrifying. It is so terrifying that Perkins can imagine that his very life is threatened by the fascism of… the Occupy movement.

And that is a powerful demonstration of the power that Perkins’s wealth has over him; that losing even a little is tantamount to death.

  1. He was also convicted of manslaughter in France after his yacht collided with a smaller boat and killed a French doctor. Normally, I would write this off as an unfortunate instance in a person’s past, but then there’s this quote: “I was arrested and tried in a foreign court in a language you don’t understand, by judges indifferent – or worse – to justice, represented by an inappropriate lawyer with the negative outcome preordained.” That – and the mere $10,000 fine he paid – are almost dismissive of the life he took. (source)  

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