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The Aristocratic Illusion

The Aristocratic Illusion

They’re not as smart as they think they are.

If you draw your sustenance from the government—as an employee, contractor, or beneficiary of redistributed funds—the money you receive comes from someone who had no choice whether or not you got paid. Except for those jobs the government mandates, private sector workers’ compensation comes from employers who have freely chosen to pay it. The jobs they perform are worth more to their employers than what they’re paid, or the jobs wouldn’t exist.

Here’s a new definition of aristocrat: a person legally entitled to take money from other people without their consent. This definition focuses on what aristocrats do and have done throughout the centuries, regardless of their labels.

If you’re an aristocrat, the thought that you’re living on somebody else’s dime may cause psychological stress. All sorts of rationales have been concocted to justify this privileged position. The most straightforward is the protection racket. In exchange for their subjects’ money, aristocrats protect them from external invasion and preserve domestic order. It’s not a voluntary trade—the subjects can’t say no—but at least both sides get something from it.

However, “protection racket” doesn’t have quite the moral gloss aristocrats crave. Deities may not have been an aristocratic invention, but they jumped on the concept of divine favor to justify their position. It makes it harder to oppose the rulers if authority is bestowed by the gods or the government is a theocracy. Ultimately, regardless of rationale, the ideology always come down to: The aristocracy is superior to those they rule. The aristocrats have no trouble believing it; they have to psychologically justify their positions to themselves. The trick is to get the subjects to buy in.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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