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David Horton Headshot

Grab the golden ring

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Members of the public vote for conservatives, it is said, in spite of the (you would think) blindingly obvious fact that they are voting against their own interests, because they believe that one day they will be rich, and therefore won't want to pay taxes or send their children to public schools or use hospital emergency rooms. One day, the mythology goes, one day, in a capitalist society, everyone will have not just 15 minutes of fame, but $15 million (or $15 billion for that matter). All you gotta do is hang in there babe, you can make it up the slippery pole to success.

And this is why the poor not only vote conservative but hate and fear socialist countries like Cuba and Venezuela. Hate Castro and Chavez, want to kill them, for trying to show that there is another way of organizing a country's affairs than the mirage of the pot of gold at the top of the beanstalk (a mixed metaphor you say? So be it). Because if there is another way, if socialism is adopted, if Eugene Debs could get elected, then Joe and Jan Public will never get their millions, will be dragged down by the faceless and fearful socialist apparatchiks who will stop them ever being rich

And the rich of course foster this belief because it suits them very well, will keep in power the front men for the billionaire's club. Who in turn will promote policies that widen the gap between the super rich and the aspiring masses, maintaining a system in which truck loads of cash roll in convoy through the guarded entrances to the billionaire mansions, an occasional greenback floating off the top to be eagerly grabbed by the working stiffs watching from the sidewalk, rather like bridesmaids fighting over the bridal bouquet. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

Problem with the mythology is that capitalism can only work with great imbalances of wealth, and when it is working really well it will always work towards increasing those imbalances. The more successful the capitalist system the more wealth will be concentrated in the soft hands of a few, and the less will be available for the calloused hands of the many. The more successful a socialist system, the less the gap between rich and poor and the more wealth available to be spread around. Under a socialist system everyone can aspire to be rich. Under a capitalist system very few can ever become rich, and while this has always been true, the rich have become more and more skilled at maintaining their closed club, with the minimum price for entry rising and rising each year. That the public believes the opposite to be true is a credit to those super rich owners of the old media, playing their part in never letting the public see that there are alternative ways for human societies to function.

Adam Smith said "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise wages", the Watermelon Blog thinks Adam was right in 1776, but in 2007 it would read "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to lower wages"