We live in an age of great inequality. In fact, some economist think America may have greater inequality now than at any time in human history. Americans don’t think about it too much, as generations of indoctrination about class envy have made questioning such things seem un-American. That and the middle-class may be swamped with debt, but they have all the trappings of prosperity. Even poor people in this country are fat. People tend to worry about how much the rich man has, only when their bellies are growling.
Few people on the Dissident Right have much to say about economics. The main reason, obviously, is that demographics and multiculturalism take up most of the space. A big part of the aesthetic is ignoring the trivial things like tax policy, in order to remain focused on the bigger topics that are assiduously ignored by our rulers. That and the subject is full of libertarian hucksters, peddling apologies for globalism and the billionaire class. They have framed the topic in such a way that it is impossible to say anything meaningful.
Progressives in American and Leftists in Europe have always argued that inequality is immoral on its face. They may not use that phrasing, but that is the underlying assumption behind their arguments for taxing the rich and redistributing wealth. Perhaps that can be debated, but there’s little doubt that great inequality brings with it great social and political change. A society with relatively small differences in wealth, where there is economic equilibrium, is unlikely to lurch into unrest or reckless adventures.
When Henry VIII ascended the throne in 1509, he became king of a country that could be described as a three-legged stool. The Church held 25-30% of the land in the country and had a monopoly on moral authority. The aristocracy, including the king, held an equal amount of land, but had a monopoly on secular authority. The rest of the land was owned by the commoners and petty nobles, who had the advantage of numbers. The result was a balance of power between the three key elements of English society.
Henry is best known for his serial adultery and his habit of having wives sent to the gallows, but his biggest contribution is the destruction of the Church as a force in British political and economic life. The Acts of Supremacy, passed in 1534, recognized the King’s status as head of the church in England and, with the Act in Restraint of Appeals in 1532, abolished the right of appeal to Rome. The king had effectively assumed the moral authority that had once been the monopoly of the Catholic Church
This was made possible by the oldest of political tactics. When Henry seized Church lands, he used these to buy support from other nobles, as well as large land holders who also sat in Parliament. Naturally, Parliament was strongly in favor of not only seizing Church lands, but supporting their good friend, the King, in his efforts to assert his authority over the Church. When he seized Church lands, the crown ended the economic power of the Church and used the proceeds to assume the moral authority of the Church.
This had a radical effect on the politics and culture of England. Hilaire Belloc argued in The Servile State that it was this reorganization of capital in England that gave birth to capitalism. In this case, capital was land. When land was distributed between the people, the state and the church, the concentrated use of capital was impossible. Once the crown and nobility seized the property of the Church, capital was for the first time concentrated in a small number of hands. This allowed the propertied class to dominate English society.
This was clear after Henry VIII died. A dozen years of turmoil followed his death. Edward VI never made it to adulthood. Lady Jane Grey was queen for nine days until Mary I, with support of the nobles, deposed her. Bloody Mary made it five years before dying and then began the reign of Elizabeth I. This also corresponded with the birth of the British Empire. Whether or not any of this would have happened if Henry had not sacked the Church is debatable, but it is clear that the change in English economic order was an inflection point.
Another example is what happened to the Roman Republic after the defeat of Corinth and Carthage. The Republic had been at war with both city-states, off and on, for over a century. In 146 BC, the Romans finally defeated and destroyed Carthage and then provoked a war with the Greeks. They defeated the Greeks at Corinth, destroying the city and its population. The male population was killed and the females and children were sold into slavery. Rome was the undisputed power in the Mediterranean.
Something else happened. Those slaves that poured into the Republic from the conquered lands first ended up in the hands of the wealthiest landowners. This influx of cheap labor allowed the large land holders to replace their native labor, which flowed into the cities, not having anywhere else to go. The small landowners suddenly found themselves at a disadvantage, as the larger landowners had an army of slaves to work their land. The result was a great economic re-ordering of the Roman Republic.
It is not an accident that this sudden change in political and economic of fortune changed the nature of the Republic. The constant campaigning created a class of soldier that was more loyal to his general than to the Republic. The turning over of large tracts of land to slave farming resulted in a new problem, slave revolts. The Servile Wars, the Social War and two civil wars dominated the Late Republic. It has this title because the Republic came to an end with Julius Caesar and the founding of the Roman Empire under Octavian.
The relevance of all this to our age should be obvious to those who have been following what is going on with our tech oligarchs. A generation ago, Progressive arguments about taxing the rich had no salience, because no one had any real fear of the rich. That and they were not so rich as to feel alien to the rest of us. Today, the billionaire class feels like they are from another planet and more important, they are a real threat. They are advocating for policies that promise to dissolve the ties that bind the nation together.
A popular issue on the Dissident Right is that the old framing of politics, based on the blank slate and egalitarianism, is no longer relevant. Race and demographics are what will define politics going forward. That’s true, but none of that will matter if the West is going to succumb to what amounts to techno-feudalism, where a relatively small number of oligarchs control not only capital, but information. Addressing the threat to free speech means addressing what may be the ultimate red pill, the Billionaire Question.
In order to address the BQ, the Dissident Right is going to have to break free from the old moral paradigm with regards to class, inequality and economics. The fact is, no one will care if Mark Zuckerberg drowns in his bathtub, other than his mail order wife. The same is true of Jeff Bezos. The things that the vast bulk of Americans care about don’t depend on getting cheap stuff on-line at Amazon. The billionaire class is no more essential to society than any other luxury good. They are tolerable unless they become a burden.
That’s going to be hard for our side and it is going to be even more difficult for the sort of people attracted to the Oaf Keepers or the PoofBerries. That’s the effect of a few generations of telling people that it is un-American to think ill of the rich. Even so, part of breaking free from the old thinking will be adopting a new brand of economics, along with tackling the realities of demographics. You can be pro-white all you like, but that’s of no use if you’re a serf living on the modern version of a feudal estate, run by an oligarch.
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