Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Theory of the Grifter Class

Thorstein Veblen would have a field day today. All the conditions he mentioned in his 1899 book Theory of the Leisure Class are back again -- except today's grifter class is even more rapacious in their grifting than the class that he described.

The deal, the deal... see, here's the deal with grifters: They don't make anything. They don't create anything. They don't produce anything. They are consumers of wealth, not producers of wealth. Every bit of wealth they have was created by someone else.

I've mentioned this before -- about how the wealthy are a drag on the economy because they produce income with their wealth at less than half the rate of the rest of us, about how they don't produce anything but, rather, steal the produce of other people's labor. People like Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, who isn't rated to fly an airliner, who would have no airline if not for the pilots and mechanics and stewards and stewardesses who staff his airline, but who gets the profits of their labor? Not the people who make the planes fly. Rather, Richard Branson, who simply sits back and grifts the wealth produced by the labor of others. Similarly, real estate developers. They don't build houses. Framers and roofers and concrete men and plumbers and electricians and HVAC people build houses. All that real estate developers do is sit back and grift the profits of the wealth created by their workers, but if it wasn't for the framers and roofers and etc., there would be no houses for real estate moguls to profit from.

Of course, the ultimate grifters are on Wall Street. These people don't even have the decency to hire people who actually create anything. They simply stand in the middle of the movement of wealth from point A to point B and grift little bits of it into their own pockets. Yet how many banksters are going to jail? None. Because in Griftopia, the grifters rule and often grift a million a dollars per day of the wealth that we workers create, and those of us who are actually workers -- who actually go to work every day and create something, build something, provide some service that people actually want and need, who actually create the wealth that the grifters are profiting from -- will never see a million dollars in a year no matter how hard we work to generate things that are actually useful.

Welcome to Griftopia, citizen. Report to your nearest feudal overlord ASAP to be given your serfdom assignment, thank you very much.

-- Badtux the Serfin' USA Penguin


  1. "Grifter" is so much more fun to say than "rentier," which is another word to describe them. Grifter has a hard expletive sound to it, like you're growling. Rentier sounds French.

    Tux, you're Southern. Did your slang when you were young include the word "reavers"? I was told that was a Deep South word, from Scots-Irish roots, like Joe Bageant's people. But it covers the same turf as grifter and rentier.

  2. BC, I refer you to George McDonald Fraser's "The Steel Bonnets."

    I too am Southern and never heard the term used except for the Steve McQueen movie - which had no connection to the real borderers or reivers.

    I could be wrong but I think borderers were more likely to have callused hands and basic farming and animal husbandry skills and less likely to be grinning, effete parasites. Or maybe I'm just inclined to have more respect for a forthright bandit than for an educated hypocrite.

    BTW, I don't think my hardworking Scots-Irish forbears were borderers. Borders were more likely the English on the northern border and the Scots on the southern border of the magic line between England and Scotland.

    Of course, I'm talking through my hat here but I still fancy that a rentier smells of cologne, a grifter wears a fake Rolex, but a borderer knows how to shoe a horse as well as how to ride one. :)

  3. so, when I loan a builder money to build a new building, I'm not adding anything to the mix?

  4. These alleged human beings would have to be creating jobs for them to give you a peon assignment. . .

    I'll add the ol' Plantation sure looks white.

  5. Yogi, that task is being accomplished by a bank teller who makes $40K/year maybe, who accepts the money from lenders (err, "savers"), and by bank loan officers who make $80K/year maybe who then move the money to the business that wants to build now then pay back the loan with the proceeds of the sale, rather than wait for years. It's a necessary job for a capitalist economy to work and it's not grifting.

    What *IS* grifting is the bank CEO who grifts millions of dollars per year despite collecting not a single dollar from customers and despite disbursing not a single loan himself to customers. This CEO adds no value to the economy (or minimal value, anyhow, his "executive assistant" who makes $50K/year likely does more of the actual work of organizing the bank's operations than he does meaning that the actual value he adds to the bank is roughly the same as a loan officer at best), yet he is being paid many times more than the tellers and loan officers who do the actual work of the bank. A bank, in short, is a prime example of how the grifter class takes money that the workers (the tellers and loan officers) rightfully earned for the bank, and put it into their own pockets instead of into the pockets of the people who actually earned that money for the bank.

    Bukko: Never heard of the word "reavers". Probably more of an Appalachian word than a Deep South word. I like "grifters" because then you can refer people to the movie if they're baffled as to what a grifter really is.

    - Badtux the Worker Penguin

  6. no, I meant I was catually loaning >my< money to a builder. Don't I get credit for making the new house, and all its associated work possible? SInce it wouldn't ahev ahppened without me, or someone like me.
    And when I put together a package of funds to create a new business, isn't that a good? Shouldn't I get some credit for that, as well?

  7. In revolutionary terms 'rentier' is the grifter path to the guillotine. Now, can we burn down the Hamptons?

  8. Yogi, we have a name for your reward for lending your money to someone else (whether to a bank as "savings" or to a business or to an individual). It's called INTEREST. And you aren't going to make millions of dollars off of it unless you've figured out some way to grift the system -- like the grifter class has managed to do.

    So the question isn't whether you're getting compensated for what you're doing with your money. The question is whether you're being compensated beyond what value you're adding to the economy. That's what differentiates a grifter from everybody else -- the lack of value that he adds to the economy compared to the amount of money he makes stick to his fingers. Scamming the system for profit is *not* a "free market" no matter what the multi-millionaire CEO's try to tell you...

    - Badtux the Intresting Penguin

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. Not in the mood for strawmen today. Sorry.

  11. Uhh, yeah, let's go back to amount of capital we had 200 years ago, when there were far fewer grifters. Or better yet, we could just all move to Senegal (apologies to the Senegalese).

  12. As with everything, MSG, it's a balancing act. The secret is to make the grifters work for a living -- i.e., rather than getting millions through leveraged buyouts and bullshit like that, they have to actually fund something innovative or creative. That was the original purpose of the stock market -- to fund major capital projects such as canals and railroads that resulted in actual *stuff* being added to the economy -- and we've forgotten that, and instead turned the stock market into a giant gambling casino where the dice are loaded to favor the grifters.

    It's all bullshit, and it's bullshit being used to impoverish the majority of Americans on behalf of the grifter 1% who now own 50% of American assets. We need to get rid of the bullshit and get back to fundamentals of things like stock markets being used to actually fund innovation, rather than being used to suck money out of people's 401(k) accounts into the pockets of grifters...

    - Badtux the Reality-based Penguin


Ground rules: Comments that consist solely of insults, fact-free talking points, are off-topic, or simply spam the same argument over and over will be deleted. The penguin is the only one allowed to be an ass here. All viewpoints, however, are welcomed, even if I disagree vehemently with you.

WARNING: You are entitled to create your own arguments, but you are NOT entitled to create your own facts. If you spew scientific denialism, or insist that the sky is purple, or otherwise insist that your made-up universe of pink unicorns and cotton candy trees is "real", well -- expect the banhammer.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.