top 1 percent

Has anyone heard of Thomas Perkins?

Me neither.

At least, not until he wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal, where he said this:

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 descendant “progressive” radicalism unthinkable now?

Now frankly, I’m going to facetiously say that I was taken aback by his observation that San Francisco is the epicenter of progressive thought. I feel like that title belongs to Amsterdam. Or somewhere in the Scandinavian countries. You know – places that have tried left-wing welfare policies and succeeded without driving themselves into bankruptcy.

But that’s an aside – because obviously, there was some outrage. From everyone. The Huffington Post, in particular, has been splashing disgust and exclamatory punctuation across its home page.

Here’s a CBS clip*:
*a note to my email subscribers – the clip doesn’t always appear in your inbox. Here is a link to the youtube page.

The real question: is his observation valid? 

I guess that really comes down to whether you view the rich as a racial group that the world wants to ethnically cleanse, or if you see them as being a social class that the lower classes wish to overthrow. Because the presenter in the CBS clip might be obnoxious and morally superior – but she does have a point. Income inequality has greater parallels with the French and Russian revolutions than it does with Kristallnacht.

At the same time, let’s not pretend that the French and Russian revolutions didn’t involve their own forms of holocaustic purging. Robespierre led the Great Terror and the Bolsheviks annihilated the old aristocracy. And the middle and lower classes suffered in the aftermath. No one won.

So in some ways, the metaphorical difference is almost irrelevant.

Why The 1% Should Pay Attention

It’s true – there is threat of attack and such.


To me, the problem seems like a more economic one: rich people do not spend their incomes.

The world’s economy, in the end, is a closed ecosystem. Energy, in the form of wealth/income, flows through it. But if you have the rich welling up energy, extracting it from the normal flow, then the ecosystem starts to die.

If the middle class cannot spend, then there is no customer base for the companies that are owned by the rich. The top 1% will be forced to become subsistent on the meagre (by comparison) spendings of their fellow 1-percenters, as opposed to the spending of the other 99%. After that, what’s the point of innovation?

It all just becomes a bit pointless. And stagnant.

Surely it makes more sense to pay a bit more in taxes and allow a bit more social mobility. It’s good for the future incomes of the rich.

It’s just a thought.

For more on this: