The extreme right-wing, strict father, authoritarian family model, which is represented in many ways by the Romney/Ryan twosome, includes the principle of the self-made individual – each person is totally responsible for their success. This is what George Lakoff calls “individual responsibility and direct action.” The strict father has taught his children that their success is solely dependent on their moral and fiscal self-discipline.
What makes this principle extreme is that it excludes systemic causation – the many external factors we all have no control over. These external factors include who our parents are and their level of wealth and education, who our parents know and who those friends know, siblings and other relatives, preferential experience – the 10,000 hour rule, when you were born – The Matthew Effect, what county, state, city, and neighborhood you were born into, the early education you were given and how well that education was funded, the quality of your teachers and their choices as to where they wanted to teach, other neighborhood members, etc.
Forbes magazine recently published their 2012 list of the Forbes 400 richest Americans. In their article, Forbes initially stated that 70 percent of this individuals “made their fortunes entirely from scratch.” Now, this 70 percent is referred to as “self-made.”
This same basic observation was made by Forbes for last years 400. Since the 2011 list was published, however, researchers at United for a Fair Economy, took a closer look at it and concluded that most of the Forbes 400 benefited from a level of privilege only dreamed of by most Americans. Using some baseball analogies, here is what they found:
- 12, or 3%, of the Forbes 400 left no paper trail for their path to wealth
- 140, or 35%, made it to the top while starting in the batter’s box, where 95% of us live
- 88, or 22%, were born on first base – inheritances up to $1 million
- 44, or 11%, were born on second base – family business provided inheritance of between $1 and $50 million
- 28, or 7%, were born on third base – over $50 million in inheritance
- 88, or 22%, were born on home base – inheritance alone put them on the Forbes 400 list
None of these billionaires had a choice for what family they were born into, but that was obviously a major factor in the success for at least 248 of them who were already ‘on-base.’ Their family membership, and other factors these billionaires could not choose for themselves probably out weighed their innate talent, which was affected by the genes from their parents, in determining their success.
No one is self-made.
“I personally think that society is responsible for a very significant percentage of what I’ve earned. If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru or someplace, you find out how much this talent is going to produce in the wrong kind of soil … I work in a market system that happens to reward what I do very well – disproportionately well. ” — Warren Buffet, #2 on the 2012 Forbes 400 Richest Americans
Notice that the ‘industry’ with the most billionaires is Financial Services and Hedge Funds. This group does not manufacture anything and creates few if any jobs for the middle class – just makes money with other people’s money. So many billions of dollars and so few employees to spread it between.
- The blue line – total number of employees in private industry in the U.S.
- The red line – number of employees in the “financial services” industry, which includes Wall Street
- The green line – number of employees in the securities industry, just Wall Street.