Saturday, January 11, 2014

You Know Nothing About Feudalism. Nothing.

Some ignorant people have attempted to compare medieval feudalism to our modern life.  The ignorance and error of the original comparison burns like a thousand suns.

OK, let's start with the medieval top 1%, perhaps 5,000 households in late 14th c. England.

At the top is the Royal Household, the top .0002%

One step down are dukes and archbishops, about .0014%

The peerage, lords spiritual and temporal, are about .02%, including the level above.

The whole nobility, including non-peerage lords and prelates of similar rank and commoners of similar wealth, about .04%

Knightly rank and above, .2%.

Now, when you look at the left side of the Amendment Gazette pyramid, it really doesn't correspond to medieval feudalism. The presence of the East India Company at level three is something of a giveaway,  as well as the clergy occupying a single level .

I am guessing that the creator relied very much on Gregory King's Natural and Political Observations, and then tossed in some arithmetic errors, such as the one that put the landed gentry at .0001% of the population. The problem, of course, is that King was writing about the post-feudal England of 1688.

Now, in feudalism, there was a very, very strong correlation between wealth and power. Less so today.

The Forbes 400 is a list of what they think are the 400 wealthiest people or households in the US, all billionaires: about .0004% of the population. Since England was a very much smaller country in the Middle Ages, this is equal to the royal household and the richest duke.

Well, it's nice to be a billionaire, but that doesn't necessarily translate to great power. Just ask Ross Perrot.

Now, who are the most powerful people in the US?

Elected and appointed officials: Obama, Bernanke, Roberts, Boehner and Yellen.

People willing to spend a lot of their money on other people, or persuade others to do so: Gates, Buffet and Clinton. Elon Musk fits best in this category: he's gambling a lot on his efforts to create a cheaper launcher. He will bear most of the losses if he fails, and others will reap most of the benefits if he succeeds.

People who run companies that create products or services that a lot of people value: the people running Wal-Mart, Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon, Exxon, Google, Apple, Facebook, IBM and Oracle. Doing this better or worse matters a lot.

People running large financial services companies, with their amazing ability to produce lavish profits if run well and economic collapse if not.

Passionate plutocrats like the Koch brothers and Bloomberg: willing to spend much more than their peers on political causes, they will have more influence as a result.

People running effective media companies.

People whose father was duke? Not so much.

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