Column by Paul Bonneau.
Exclusive to STR
A while back, lots of conservatives got excited about something called the Laffer Curve. It’s the notion that stolen government loot will be zero at tax rates of both 0% and 100%, therefore looting is maximized at some rate in between. Not the most earth-shattering realization, I admit, but still, if you read about it, you come off with a strange feeling about conservatives arguing how to maximize government “revenue.” Some conservatives!
It would seem that this Laffer Curve notion could be generalized. Governments, after all, are not only about looting, but also about controlling others and enjoying the exercise of power, building empires and other such practices. To do these things requires that violence be either threatened or actually applied to the peons who are the victims of this parasitic enterprise. None of these ruling class ends are attainable at either the 0% level of violence or at the 100% level; at 0%, the would-be ruling class would be ignored, and at 100% all the producers will have been killed, or at least they would be too scared to so much as leave their homes. So, to maximize the ruling class enjoyment of power, the building of empires, the self-congratulation for “improving" our lives, and the looting, some intermediate level of violence is required, applied to an intermediate number of peons. The rest stay in line due to fear of being victimized.
Some may dispute this latter point, saying that there are lots of people out there who have been propagandized to stay in line or who imagine some duty to do so, so that fear is not involved. We can test this notion with taxes. I suspect there would not be much government loot procured, for example, if those in government said and actually meant that taxes are voluntary (in the conventional sense of the word, not how it’s used by the IRS). Remove the fear and compliance vanishes, I think; so I’d conclude their compliance is motivated more by fear than by any “duty.” Rather, “duty” is probably more a rationalization used to protect the psyche.
The question then comes up, what is the optimum level of violence for government to apply to the peons, for these ruling class ends?
I suspect it is actually pretty low. There may be 2.3 million Americans in jail, but there are still over 300 million Americans not in jail. It doesn’t take that much violence to keep the peons in line. Next time you see someone spreading fear of government around (e.g., Alex Jones), ask yourself if that is a good thing. Might the ruling class actually appreciate Jones?
Looting is a special case of ruling class violence that is more liberally applied, and the peons have been well-trained to put up with it.
I suspect the optimum level of violence looks more like the Pinochet regime in Chile. Plenty of head-cracking and torture was going on, but it was still a productive society with a healthy middle class, great for the rulers and cronies, with the peons able to survive as long as they kept their mouths shut and didn’t rock the boat--until Pinochet made the absurd error of actually asking the people if they wanted him as ruling thug (the movie No is an excellent examination of what happened then).
The USA ruling class seems to have gone a bit overboard lately, particularly as the peons are not so accommodating as in most countries. You can tell that’s so, with all those guns and ammo being purchased. A lot of angry folks are out there, these days.
Of course the next question that occurs is, how much higher can the violence ratchet up, and what is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and makes the whole parasitic scheme come tumbling down for the rulers? It’s hard to say, but the USA ruling class seems recklessly determined to find out. Perhaps a comfortable life in an optimally violent society is too boring for them, and they want some excitement.