Nothing Is More Impoverishing Than Demonization Of the 1 Percent

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We extol the top 1% everywhere, except where it's most important: the economy. If we call a ceasefire to the left's class warfare, it is clear how incongruous their call to accept this exception is. What we have is a conflict between America's quest for the best and the left's goal for control.

In the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY there is a sign in the inductees' plaque room that says of all the men to play major league baseball, just 1% are enshrined there. One percent, where have we heard that figure before? Oh yes, they are the left's enemies of humanity when it comes to the economy.

The left claim this 1% have oppressed and impoverished us - the remaining 99% percent. They earn undue incomes and can only hope to gain some measure of redemption by "giving back" to the exploited 99%. By extension, we would all be better off if this 1% did not exist and barring that, if their "excess income" should be taxed away.

Interestingly, in every other area of endeavor we want - in actuality, we demand - the 1%. In athletics, we have turned a much smaller percentage than the best 1% of all their sport's participants into professionals - with whom America is more fixated than ever before. We then watch their season to see which team or individual will be the best. When their careers are over, we then enshrine just the 1% into their respective hall of fame.

Our quest for the best hardly ends there. If we go to a movie, we watch stars who are well less than 1% of all actors. If we go to a concert, the same selectivity prevails.

Because of television, recording, and other means of transmitting performances, we watch only the 1%, or less. The result has been the demand for lesser, local performers has plummeted compared to that of just a few generations ago. The reason was that we demanded the 1%. Thanks to the internet, this trend is now winnowing the print media, just as it has TV, radio, movies, and sports.

If we fly, our commercial airline pilots are probably 1% or less of all aviators. If a family member needs a serious operation, do we choose the 99% or the 1% of surgeons? The same goes for our lawyers, our accountants, and our investment advisors. No less for our children's teachers - and when it comes time to look for their college, we consult a guide for the best universities, not the list of all the rest.

When we travel, we search for the best rated hotels and restaurants - we do not look for the lists that exclude them.

So great is our quest for the best that there are "best of" lists for everything - plumbers, electricians, carpenters - and we consult them all with increasing frequency. We do so now, just as we did earlier with our demand for the best athletes and performers through television and recording.

Our demand for excellence knows only one limit: price. Only by a pricing differential can we limit our demand for the best. If pricing did not - and when technology has made the best increasingly available economically - we accept nothing less.

In the product marketplace, our choice is even more demanding. Of all the patents issued and products offered, just fractions of 1% probably ever make a profit, and of these, an even smaller fraction ever comes to sweep the field of their competition and create a new standard.

In the marketplace, not only is the best demanded, it is the only survivor. And it survives only so long as it keeps successfully updating itself. If not, it too is rapidly supplanted.

Such innovations have changed our lives immeasurably, giving us products and services that are cheaper, quicker, better, smaller, more efficient, safer, cleaner, healthier, and with more variety - the improvement list is almost endless. Compare any aspect of our lives today to that of just twenty years ago, and then name the product that you would willingly revert back to.

Yet somehow the 1% who have led the changes that have changed our lives are demonized by the left, even as their contributions are demanded by the rest of us. The left wants their services but not them - for there to limits on their rewards, but not on their creativity.

The left claim their concern is for society as a whole, the same society that has demanded and rewarded the 1%. Churchill's description of Russia as "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" applies to the left's blatant conflict with the reality we have repeatedly chosen in every area of endeavor.

It is choice where the answer to the left's real animosity lies. In choice, there is limited control, and in the innovation constantly reinvigorating choice, there is none. Ultimately it is control the left cares most about, not society and not the 99%. Seeking to make common cause - at the expense of common sense and common experience - with the 99% is simply the left's best path to control.

The left's anti-1% diatribe could not be more removed with every other area of society's interest. Nor could it be more misdirected onto a more important area of society's endeavor. And ultimately it is for the left's most selfish of reasons.


J.T. Young served in the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004, and as a congressional staff member from 1987 to 2000. 

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