Monopoly, Kleptocracy: Redundant

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / NoHier / Kleptocracy /

Mission: to characterize monopoly and statist government as almost synonyms

In the last years BC Crassus had been the longtime backer of Julius Caesar. Crassus financed Caius Julius liberally, a tally kept, but no pressure to repay. By the time Julius promoted himself to dictator, Caesar becoming Caesar,   Julius owed Crassus some $500 million, c. 1960 value. How much would that be today: $100 billion? More? Julius repaid him in full the first year.

Uh, what was Julius’s salary as dictator?

It’s the same question as the one throughout Catch-22: how could Milo Minderbinder buy cotton in Egypt for $1, sell it in Sicily for ten cents, and earn everyone a profit?
As my friend John Szoke said to (everyone’s enemy) Misha, “Look, I’m a CPA. You let me keep the books and you can have 100% of the net.”

Chinese emperors granted a salt monopoly to some favored individual. The salt business was so obscenely profitable that the monopoly had to change hands annuallly. No emperor could allow one businessman to become richer than the state overnight. [note]

When I can I’ll add comments here on Ivan Illich’s important, all too invisible, conception of radical monopoly (where you can buy a Ford or a Chevy, but not walk; drink Coke or Pepsi, but hate water.

More Monopolies:
In college Dave Kirk and I earned our inheritance of the (also one-year) refreshment agency: yes, another monopoly. We sold the hotdogs at Baker Field; no one else. No neighborhood kids could come in the gates with their own vending kit.
Columbia took five percept off the top of the gross. Dave and I split 50% of what net was left after the vendors and salesmen were paid. The other 50% was divided equally among the five junior managers. In four home football games I paid for my entire senior year’s tuition.
Remember though: Columbia kept all of the previous three years’ tuition. (NYU gave me a graduate fellowship. Oh, goody, I only had to pay 90% of the bill, not 100%.) So, even a monopoly can leave the monopolist bankrupt: unless he has continuing income. [note])

Broke Monopolist:
The same problem of course is ubiquitous for non-monopolists. You don’t have to be a monopolist to be broke. Poor artist paints for twenty years, doesn’t make a sale. Suddenly his gallery sells one for $100,000! Maybe the gallery actually pays him his $50,000, $40,000, $60,000 … He spends it overnight: and never sells another painting! Suddenly people want to buy his paintings: for the $1,000 they wouldn’t pay previously. But now the artists insists on the fluke $100,000. In fact, he wants it to go for $125,000!
Though actually, here’s what’s more common: The gallery gets the museum to accept a donation valued at $100,000 from a patron in league with the gallery. The patron actually writes a check for the full $100,000: how else is he going to prove to the IRS that that’s what he actually donated? The patron saves at least $100,000 in taxes: and gets his name writ in the secular heaven of the museum. Now, unless the artist is a total imbecile (not at all unlikely), the gallery can move all those dead $1,000 paintings in a fire sale atmosphere: 60% off, 80% off …
The perfect patron of such art will also own a deed to the Brooklyn Bridge.
By the way, having revealed so much of agency finances, I’ll add one other run down: the freshmen salesmen got $5 a day. The sophomore runners, the ten promotions from the previous year’s crop, got $10: but had to work a lot more than one day for it: if they wanted to be promoted. My year, the juniors’ 10% came to near $100 a game in my year. Dave and my earnings each came to more than $300 just for the homecoming game. You know drug dealers who make more than that in an hour? Come on, this was 1959! I earned several times more than either of my parents at twenty-one years of age: but only for four days, only for one year.


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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