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The WMail Newsletter Essays
Volume II - Issue #14: September 2001

"The Best Investment: Labor"

        The central problem with the Oligarchy is that their collective psychology holds Things to be valuable and People or Individuals to be their enemy. So the Oligarchy is forever at war with the other 99% of the population, the Citizenry that includes you and me. The Economic Class War has always been around, but the Oligarchy rules with unashamed arrogance these days, and it is now time to end this particular war. (Sorry guys: I can only manage one war at a time. Somebody else will have to take on the undeclared war in the Middle East, the religious wars from Ireland to Afghanistan, and the various genocides currently in progress.)

        I'll cut to the chase: Labor and production are the only source of wealth – one of Ayn Rand's basic Objectivist tenets.
        The desired result of this essay is to plant a seed such that Objectivist Reason takes root and spreads, and that eventually the Oligarchy and the Upper Middle Classes are forced to operate inside a practice of paying Individuals legitimate value for their labors, rather than rewarding corporations – which are, of course, primarily owned and run by the Oligarchy. The principle here is to eliminate the middle-men, eliminate their taking a cut, essentially for no 'value added', merely for their temporary possession.
        Take real estate, for example: Instead, of buying mass-produced mansions, the enlightened buyer could hire an architect to design a house and a contractor to build it, who in turn will hire draftspeople and carpenters and roofers and masons and landscapers – no corporate middle-men need be involved, as payment for services moves along person-to-person channels.
        Instead of buying stock, thru brokers whose income derives from passing along pieces of paper, the enlightened investor could buy 49% of a small business concern, giving the original owner a boost in his/her ability to combat the hegemony of the Oligarchy-owned corporate menace. (I will speak out some other time about the Great Stock Market Casino.)

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        The FLOW of wealth is the key. The Oligarchy can keep everything that they presently own: one percent of the population owns FIFTY PERCENT of everything in America, and yet that is not enough! The members of the Oligarchy and its fellow-traveling Upper Middle Class operate in blind fear of the proletariat, because we outnumber them. Ayn Rand and other Objectivists have reported their strategies of denial and suppression often enough. (I define the Upper Middle Class as the 20% of the population that owns 80% of everything, leaving 80% of the population fighting over a shrinking 20% that 'They' have not yet been able to take away from us.)

        The inept Culture-Structure – the management arm of the Oligarchy – must prevent awareness of the principle that if the 99% of the Citizenry are paid good wages for their productivity, that is, for their labors, then they will use their honestly-earned wealth to build and to improve and, yes, to consume. That without the Oligarchy, life will not only work, but the improvement over the present situation will be incredible.
        We could indeed solve the problem by separating the Oligarchy from the economy completely: Let the Oligarchy keep their present unearned wealth but allow them no more chance to receive further extortive levies derived from the actual labor of the Citizenry. The Oligarchy and the Upper Middle Class could live just fine on unearned income from their bloated principal, while the once-again-free semi-Capitalist economy could simply disregard them.
        BUT: The Oligarchy controls 50% of everything in America, and 'more' cannot happen soon enough. The Oligarchy wants 100% and they want it NOW! – so get out of their way. No vote on this matter will ever be on any ballot.

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        I wrote about Transactional Analysis for the book "Working Minds", producing so much prose that I had to split it into two chapters. But the gist of Eric Berne's concept of 'Game Theory' is that there are only three roles in a human game, in all of the games that humans play: those roles are Victim, Rescuer, and Persecutor. I present T/A in my philosophy because it works very well, it is based in Objective Reason, it can and should be taught to six-year-olds – and because I have added a fourth option.
        You all participate in Game Behavior, virtually every waken moment, not knowing the existence of such. Eric Berne was simply the first to distinguish the details of how Mankind operates. Game Behavior has Mankind entangled in all manner of dis-empowering activity, but without knowing such activity exists, how can one deal with it?
        Once cognizant of game behavior, however, anyone can use Reason to address the problem. The way to stop Game Behavior is to Not Play The Game: this fourth option is to Empower. That is all that need be done.
        By standing out of the Mega Game that is the Economic Class War, you vote for ending that terrible game. (The same principle applies to all other Mega Games perpetuated by the Culture-Structure.)

        To win the Economic Class War, simply Empower by your decisions in earning and spending money. Avoid banks: they make money when you use their services, at 20% APR and above. Forget churning your stocks: invest with the intention to Empower a product or service or Individual or team. Spend instead Time: spend the Time available to you not in consuming, but in dealing directly with Individuals.

        The only occasion that I met billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, he was entering his hideout in Culver City, a Mexican restaurant across the street from M.G.M Studios (which he then owned). This billionaire was savvy enough to obtain complete privacy for his meetings for the price of a couple of bottles of beer. The fact that Kirk does that, and that Warren Buffett drives a pickup truck his own self, says a lot about both men.
        But your typical member of the Upper Middle Class is frightened of the lower classes, as well they should be: The Oligarchy does everything in their usurped power to prevent Individuals from obtaining anything like a Living Wage, devises new ways to thwart the Minimum Wage laws, and spends tax-deductible funds to lobby for reduction in taxes on the rich and on corporations – because they do not yet have it all!
        They fear the power of the Individual, because the only Power is that derived from the Individual.

        So back to the practical: Charge cards are okay in principle, but debit cards are better. Charge accounts are the tool by which Americans, especially, give Power away to the Oligarchy, in trade for toys and pseudo-prestige, which requires further drain on the workers, the Individuals who are the true source of all wealth. The amount of consumer credit owed in modern times is staggering, and that debt is the unconscious motivation for the hustle and cutthroat rivalry that increasingly comprises business activity.
        The bumper sticker is funny: "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go". But the reality is that the debt-beset creditor must 'wheel & deal' and push & shove in order to fulfill on his/her promise to pay off consumer credit accounts, meanwhile making more purchases to prove the hollow accomplishment of moving up the slippery slope of the Economic Game.
        It is like the child's game of musical chairs: the Oligarchy keeps removing wealth until nobody is left in the Game but 'Them'.
        The Oligarchy produces nothing at all; they simply demand payment for your participation in the Economic Game, which the brain-dead Citizenry agrees to because the Culture-Structure provides no alternative. The Oligarchy raises prices arbitrarily, busts unions and closes factories and files bankruptcies, fakes quality control, bribes inspectors and watchdogs, funds 'spin' campaigns, openly donates to corrupt politicians, moves American jobs overseas, and pollutes your environment – and then flies to Fiji or St. Moritz to get away from the deadly mess.

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        None of this manipulation of wealth can be said to be production of wealth.
        The production of wealth occurs at the human level ONLY! Only an Individual can perform the activity of production. Only an Individual can design the machines that design the machines that stamp out the widgets in 42 colors and a dozen sizes. [Do I sound like Ayn Rand? Gosh, I sure hope so.]
        No corporation produces wealth. Corporations and government departments manage Individuals who must work together in order for any wealth, or value, to be produced. But corporations cannot manage anything unless Individuals perform that task as well!
        Unless people – a stream of Individuals, committed to some common goal – enter the premises of a corporation or government entity, then the production of wealth or value cannot occur. No Individuals, no wealth.

        The people of America, not to mention other parts, are often at each other's throats simply because they don't know any different. The Oligarchy long ago designed fierce competition into the Culture-Structure that we live inside of: The Oligarchy removes a portion of the wealth produced by Individuals and then stands back and lets the destructiveness of competition divert our attention from our innate Individual Power.
        It often seems subtle, and it is indeed a tad more subtle than the animosity between the Arabs and the Israelis (or any other generations-long hatred). But the primary source of stress in modern life is the steady stream of pressure from the all-pervasive Culture-Structure, pressure to perform as a Good Consumer, rather than to be a producer of wealth or value.
        If the Citizenry ever realizes that they are indeed the source of all wealth – none of which they get to keep – then the proverbial apple-cart will be upset indeed.

        Being productive – ignoring or even dis-obeying the Culture-Structure's dictum to consume at all costs – is a heretical act, in that it Empowers. Production of wealth by an Individual empowers the producer along with one's fellow Individuals, which is why Ayn Rand wrote and spoke about Capitalism as the only Reason-based economic ideal. Not being productive, chasing after material reward as one's [False] Purpose In Life, is activity that robs us all of our Natural Power.

        Standing outside the entrenched Game – all the extant Mega Games that constitute our lives at home and at work – is an Act of Will. Such an Individual Act requires only that you choose the fourth option: to Empower. Not Victim, not Rescuer, not Persecutor, but the heretical option of direct, Individual Action that empowers.
        Hand the money in person to the Individual who does the labor. Truly eliminate the middle men.
        Have lunch somewhere that requires you to pay the owner in cash, instead of doing it the Culture-Structure's way, wherein the customer charges the meal and American Express or Visa take their 3% cut off the top, the banks move the money around for days at a time, making a ton of money off the 'float', and a week or two later the restaurant owner receives the reduced payment.
        Give a raise to anybody who does their job completely. Promote any person who has no work backlog. Reward efficiency and innovation, such as thru a suggestion box process. The payback will be increased production.
        Fix things, rather than replacing them – for repair requires labor. At the very least, recycle the materials so that you will not have to purchase new raw materials from mines and wells and farms that are inevitably owned by the Oligarchy.
        Buy art that you admire directly from the artist who produced it. Instead of grabbing mass-produced video entertainment, rented or sold by Oligarchy-owned corporations, seek out live performances. Meet people after such performances and interact in person with Individuals who share your tastes.
        Pay poets to read in public parks and subway stations. Commission public art, the restoration of artistic buildings, and creation of open space in urban ghettoes. Seek out the gasoline station displaying the lowest price. Buy books at an independent bookstore, or even better, directly from the author or publisher.
        All of these activities eliminate corporate involvement and payment for this productivity goes directly to the producer. By removing the Culture-Structure from your activities, you remove another and another chance for 'Them' to extort unearned wealth derived from your productivity.
        You have a hundred choices every day to play the Economic Game per the rules that the Oligarchy thrives on – or you can stand outside the Game and take action to Empower. The Working Mind will be conscious at all times of these and other empowering choices as they arise.

        When you hand a simple dollar bill or coin – the only holy object in all of Objectivism – to the actual producer of the value or service that you purchase, that act of Empowerment, that transaction between yourself and any other Individual, has the potential of overthrowing the Oligarchy and the Culture-Structure, and ending once and for all the Economic Class War.

[copyright 2001 by Gary Edward Nordell, all rights reserved]

        See also WMail Issue #46" 'A Living Wage'

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