#Occupyhistory 1789: Sieyes on the 2nd estate
by Frances A. Chiu
In my last post, I addressed Sieyes’ game-changing pamphlet on the 3rd Estate. Let’s turn now to his discussion of the nobility–the second estate–and their political privileges:
As for its political rights, it also exercises these separately from the nation. It has its own representatives who are charged with no mandate from the People. Its deputies sit separately, and even if they sat in the same chamber as the deputies of ordinary citizens they would still constitute a different and separate representation. They are foreign to the nation first because of their origin, since they do not owe their powers to the People; and secondly because of their aim, since this consists in defending not the general interest, but the private one.
In other words, the 1% legislated for the 1%–just like in James Murray’s England. Sieyes goes on to observe:
If you consult history in order to verify whether the facts agree or disagree with my description, you will discover, as I did, that it is a great mistake to believe that France is a monarchy, with the exception of a few years under Louis XI and under Richelieu and a few moments under Louis XIV when it was plain despotism, you will believe you are reading the history of a Palace aristocracy. It is not the King who reigns; it is the Court. The Court has made and the Court has unmade; the Court has appointed ministers and the Court has dismissed them; the Court has created posts and the Court has filled them … And what is the Court but the head of this vast aristocracy which overruns every part of France, which seizes on everything through its members, which exercises everywhere every essential function in the whole administration?
Much the same applies to our democracy, which–as more and more are rightly claiming–has become a government of the 1%, by the 1% and for the 1%. How else do we explain our government’s no-strings-attached bailout of Wall Street, a bailout eerily reminiscent of GW Bush’s personal bailout from his father when he and his buddies were sent to jail during college? Or the continuing reluctance on the part of our DOJ to investigate and prosecute those who caused the financial crisis of 2008–as well as Jon “Where did the money go?” Corzine of MF Global? This lackadaisical treatment conveys all too clearly that our politicians have not learned their lesson, perhaps because it does not affect the 1%–a class that many of them long to join themselves if they are not already in it. They are no less clueless than head JP Morgan bankster Jamie Dimon who remains ambivalent about Frank-Dodd regulations even after the “London whale” trading debacle last spring. (Such would go some ways to explaining the House’s limp questioning of Dimon on June 19.) Perhaps that’s why there’s been such reluctance, if not hostility, to reinstate the uptick rule–and more importantly, the Glass-Steagall Act (1933).
Let us sum up: to this very day, the Third Estate has never had genuine representatives in the Estates-General. Thus its political rights are null.
Say it again, Sieyes. This is the plight of our 99% in 2012.
So what can be done? We need to examine the words and deeds of those running for office–and call them out on it. Let’s take the current Chicago school strike, where former investment banker and Obama’s right-hand man, Rahm Emanuel, is trying his damnedest to keep teacher salaries down and demand “performance testing.” (Funny how “performance testing” never applies to Wall Street…) Where did Emanuel and his union-bashing billionaire “philanthropist” backers on “education reform” attend school–and more importantly, where are they sending their own children to school? Because if they’re enrolling their sons and daughters at either private schools–most notably, Rahmbo sending his to the expensive Chicago Lab schools–or the best public schools while calling out for “cuts,” they’re arrant hypocrites. And the same goes for those decrying higher education as “elitist” when they’ve not only attended college and graduate school but are also sending their own children to college (e.g, Rick Santorum). Methinks that these attempts to reduce funding to schools and deter students from entering college are intended to keep the children 99% from receiving an education on par with that of the 1%.
It’s worth drawing some attention to other instances of doublespeak and double standards on the part of the 1%. These are the very folks who call for “austerity” for everyone else yet proceed to argue for retaining the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest without missing a beat. I’m referring here to the complaints to Larry Kudlow from bankers’ wives. It never ceases to amaze me how (supposedly) educated, TARP recipients who live in 15,000 sq foot houses, own multiple residences, send their children to $40,000+-a-year prep schools, and drive one or more several hundred thousand dollar vehicles, etc. have the gall to tell others “live within their means” and to quit squandering “public money.” They always manage to tell the same, tired apocryphal story or two about the man they saw buying filet mignon and porterhouse steaks with his EBT card. Or the welfare cheat driving a Mercedes. (A variation, of course, on Reagan’s infamous Cadillac-driving welfare queen.) They lash out at the bottom 50% not paying taxes while they themselves tolerate, if not practice outright tax evasion. Then they roll their eyes at the supposed feckless unemployed woman sitting at home, venturing out only to collect their unemployment checks: as if these 1% bankster
whores, oops, wives did anything more taxing (pun intended) than lunch and shop in preparation for that big “charity event” where 80% of the donations are squandered away on food, drink, entertainment, and renting of a hotel or symPHONEY hall.
These are also the same folks who openly deplore “special interests”–particularly when they pertain to minorities and women–but have no problems about their own special interests as they lobby politicians for lower taxes on the wealthy and corporations, fewer environmental and safety regulations, etc. No doubt they also instruct them to opine that the 1% creates jobs and that tax cuts spur growth. And the politician all too willingly obliges. A bit more subtle and covert than 18th-century aristocrats lobbying their government for favors, we might concede, but no less crooked or self-serving.
Here’s what more of us need to tell the 1% and their sympathizers not just on Bastille Day and the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, but every day–
1%ers, if YOU lived within YOUR means, maybe, just maybe you could afford to pay higher taxes just like your wealthy forebears from 1932 to 1982, when tax rates on the highest earners ranged well over 80%: something to think about when you are lunching with the ladies, or shopping for that new, hot pair of $1200 Louboutins like the shoe-obsessed wife of Syrian dictator Assad. Let’s not forget, after all, that some of the best economic growth in the U.S. took place during the 1950s and 60s when tax rates were at the highest.
Or perhaps, you could learn to be a bit like Marie Antoinette that so many of you sympathize with? Although many of you are aware that she never said “Let them eat cake,” you have probably conveniently forgotten that Marie was able to build cottages for peasants at her Petit Trianon farm and bring up a few of their children along with her own. And that she and Louis also sold flatware to provide for them while distributing food on a daily basis to the poor at Versailles. So, here’s a modest proposal–one that doesn’t involve eating freshly baked, broiled or fricasseed babies. If you have ever outsourced, lobbied for lower corporate taxes, caused and abetted the financial and foreclosure crisis, you might think about helping the poor rebuild their communities. After all, according to your patron saint, George H.W. Bush, “compassionate conservatism” and “a thousand points of light,” are great virtues, correct? Perhaps house the victims of eviction in your multiple abodes: I’m sure there’s plenty of room for innocent victims of foreclosure in your multiple 15,000 sq. ft manses. Or perhaps you can raise funds for their local schools–and allow them to attend the best public schools of their choice. It would be far less a slap in the face than those showy “philanthropy” events designed for nothing more than tax evasion and a caption in The New York Times, Town and Country, or whatever glossy rag.
But given 1%’s endemic selfishness and fervent desire to prosper at the expense of others–to have their cake and eat it, so to speak–we somehow doubt they will heed any of this. They “need” that extra $5 million brownstone on the Gold Coast, that $30,000 Hermes Birkin, that $40,000 yearly tuition for an overrated
finishing, oops, prep school like an aristocratic Count Dracula needs fresh blood from a virgin. That is why we still need Occupy Wall Street and/or a viable third party to redress the ills of a Tweedledee (Democrats) and TweedleDUMB (Republicans) government by and for the 1%.
Copyright © 2012 HISTORY IS ON OUR SIDE (Frances A. Chiu)