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Monday: Connexions

Remember when Lady Catherine De Bourgh condescended to pay Miss Elizabeth Bennet a visit to warn her not to quit her sphere because she had no connections (or connexions in my edition) to benefit her wealthy young nephew?  I always wondered what the heck she meant by “connections”.  It seemed to mean more than just embarrassing relatives.

I didn’t really get it until recently when I listened to my podcast of the day recommendation, The Aristocracy- How the Ruling Class Survives by BBC-4’s Melvyn Bragg.  You’ll note that although the aristocracy in England had its salad days back in the 18th century, Melvyn is using the present tense in his title.  But I’ll get back to that in a minute.

The aristocracy took hold in England after William the Conqueror lucked out at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.  The Norman ruling style was radically different from the Anglo-Saxon’s.  To the victor go the spoils might not have originated with the Normans but they did have an efficient way of administering and organizing it as the Doomsday Book will attest.  By the time the aristocracy finally reached their zenith, a little over 700 people owned more than two thirds of all of the land in England.  Pretty sweet if you were an aristocrat; not so much if you were a tenant farmer who owed your lord’s fields more attention than your own measley strips of land.  And since the land was all when agriculture was everybody’s business, you could say the aristocracy had a lock on the country’s wealth.

The English  did hang on to one nasty little artifact of Norman administration a bit too long however.  Primogeniture was the practice of bequeathing estates to the first born, preferably males. This was a way to keep the land intact and power undiluted.  The artistocrats who were peers were also ensured seats in The House of Lords.  The problem with primogeniture was that it left out a lot of very well-born children who had inherited no wealth or title.  These children became commoners and their only hope of advancement was through good marriages and connections, which I interpret as some sort of patronage system.  Meanwhile, the eldests went on to lead lives of wealth and privelege regardless of intelligence or character.  They spent lavishly because, well, it was their money and they deserved it.

Those younger sons, some of them tired of waiting around for their older brothers to die off so they could get an instant promotion, took matters into their own hands.  They couldn’t become members of the House of Lords but lo and behold! the House of Commons was wide open!  What better way to rig the game in their favor than to run for office.  And so many of them did.  Before long, both houses of Parliament were run by aristocrats.  Then the peasants started to get restless in the 19th century and pointed to the French Revolution across the channel.  That lead to the Great Reform Acts of the 19th century that allowed more commoners the right to vote.  The rest, as we say, was history.

Which leads me to the second podcast for the day.  (Whoo-hoo! a twofer!)  This is a recent podcast from Planet Money about the compensation of the busy little worker bees in the finance industry.  Oh, these poor souls, so put upon, moving columns of numbers around a spreadsheet and forced to make the same trades day after day.  Certainly they deserved those multi-million dollar bonuses.  Turns out, not so much.  These modern day aristocrats and their connections who have cornered the country’s wealth in their 1% sphere are ridiculously overpaid according to studies.  They just might not deserve it after all.  But the way they got their greesy little mitts on all that money is very instructive.  It all has to do with deregulation that happened in the early eighties when Ronald Reagan was in office and Congress was amenable to a little experimentation.

And then it hit me.  I made my own connection.  Hasn’t the Republican party been the party of entrenched wealth?  By American standards, the GOP is the home of the Rockefellers and the Forbes.  But in the past couple of decades, we’ve seen a lot of very wealthy businessmen buying their way into the Democratic party as well.  Jon Corzine, multimillionaire and former CEO of Goldman-Sachs is a prime example.  These days, you can’t even start a campaign for Congress or the Senate without a massive warchest.  If it turns out that Congress is not responsive to the wretched poor and middle class anymore, it could be that for the most part, they have no connection with us anymore.  We’re in the grip of the aristocrats.

It may seem obvious but the connection goes deeper than one of mere money.  It’s a mindset, a social sphere.  They won’t respond to us because it’s not our country anymore.  It’s theirs.  They own it now.  They appoint the judges to look after their wealth.  And we are going to have to be very clever and tenacious to get it back.

Like, what would happen if everyone who has a 401K stopped contributing en masse?

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66 Responses

  1. What with the incumbent protection racket practiced by both parties and the massive amounts of $$$ it takes to play, I don’t see this changing anytime soon.
    Turns out the People’s President is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street too.

    • I don’t believe that. We just haven’t used our noggins. We need to protest in a way that will get their attention and I don’t mean marching on the mall. THAT kind of protest will go uncovered by the media. We need a protest that will hit them where they live- in the pocketbook.
      It’s all about money.

      • “It’s all about money.”

        Lather, rinse, repeat.

      • I stopped my 401K and refuse to play in the stock market. I am paying off my house. Saving thousands in interest.

        What did Bin Laden say? Something to the tune of – I want to break America’s piggy bank.

  2. When the printing press was invented vellum became more valuable so many landowners evicted tenant farmers and used the land for grazing.

    The former tenants moved to the cities, triggering a homeless crisis.

  3. Many of the men (and they were ALL men) that received land grants here in the “New” world were non-first born sons and nephews of aristocrats.

    They weren’t going to work for a living and the only other options were joining the military or the priesthood. (the privileged few insist upon their privileges)

    BTW – the original difference between officers and enlisted men in the military was the officers were members of the aristocracy.

    • Actually there were quite a few women homesteaders in the Old West (after the Civil War), amazingly enough. That was a more egalitarian time.

      • Is homesteading the same as land grants? I always think of land grants as coming from a European monarch. But, homesteaders (I thought) were granted by the US Government.

        • Didn’t the railroads get a lot of land that way? I forgot about that.

        • No, I just thought it was an interesting aside. But their were land grants from the U.S. gov’t. There are “land grant” colleges all over the midwest.


        • Yep, corporate welfare yet again.

        • Having said that, I have no problem with the tax payers funding such infrastructure. But then they should own it and not the little robber baron toads.

        • Thanks to everyone for the explanations. It’s an interesting part of our past.

          • The homestead Act was really interesting — because women could and did own land (farms) thanks to that Act. In doing the genealogy of my family I discovered that it was my great-great grand mother who owned the Kansas homestead. She had inherited money from her mother and bought the property in Kansas — which was one of the early homesteads (which may still be owned by the same family). Many women did take advantage of the fact that they could own homesteaded home.

            It was a good thing that my great-great grandmother owned the farm in her name because after her husband lost his money on the horses — they had a home to return to.

        • My school was founded by one of those robber barons, Leland Stanford, and the students tried to make the school mascot be a robber baron. The school admin didn’t allow it. So there is no mascot still and they’re just referred to as cardinals. And just think, this VA Cardinal could have been VA Rich Uncle Pennybags.

      • I was referring to the huge grants of land that were given away by QEII’s predeccessors.

        James Webb (among others) has written about the cultural differences between the various colonists and immigrants during our history, and how that affected the regions where they settled (and where their descendants later migrated west to live)

        Jamestown nearly failed because the colony had a bunch of “gentleman adventurers” who wanted to imitate Hernando Cortez and the Pizarro brothers and find some wealthy NA civilization to conquer and loot. They wanted to explore, not work.

        • The Southwest was essentially given to nobles by the Spanish crown. Same song, different singers.

  4. The Southern US and Latin America were settled by people who wanted to be landed gentry.

    The Northern US was settled by small landowners and merchants.

    Guess where the greatest economic growth was? Guess which area had the smallest disparity of wealth?

    Without slavery the Southern landowners couldn’t keep workers on their lands.

    • Some of the Southerners wanted to be landed gentry, myiq. Many of them were “released” from British prisons only to be forcibly shipped to the colonies as indentured servants. Many more were exiles from the Stewart uprisings of 1715 and 1745. The white half of my family were dispersed to various remote corners of the Empire following “the ’45”–one son to the Americas, another to New Zealand, a third to Australia. Those mass exiles are why there are so many “Scotch-Irish” in the South.

      • Yeah, but they weren’t given chunks of land when they arrived, were they? They were the ones that became craftsmen (and other jobs not performed by slaves) or settled in the hills and backwoods areas. I was referring to the economic and political elites – the plantation owners.

  5. Excellent issues to bring up. The fourth branch of government, the media, is very similar. We see multimillionaire news readers and pundits telling us what to think and who said what and who’s acceptable and who is not. And they’re all very close friends with politicians and business executives.

    • And no way to get a job in “Big Media” in the first place without having gone to a snooty school and have been wealthy enough to do unpaid internships while in said school. How many prominent journalists/commentators can you think of who come from working-class or middle-class backgrounds? I think maybe Maureen Dowd (one of five kids, father a police detective) and Nicholas Kristof (1st generation American, grew up on a farm in rural Oregon, although he was fortunate enough to attend a fancy school before it cost 120K to do so), and that’s about it.

    • Also think about “big media” in terms of the change brought (bought, maybe) in the late 1980’s where we have 24 hour cable news paid for by advertisers. That was quite a change from the money pit the local stations *had* to provide in order to get free broadcast airspace.

  6. I think refusing to give them our money in the form of a 401K is a great idea. Maybe we should just put that money into gold. I also think a boycot of Cable TV or Satelite TV would be a good way to make them sit up and take notice. Their spin and lies would have little impact if we wouldn’t be able to watch. Amazing how the internet has to be controlled by Cable companies or Phone companies. You can see that wide spread WiFi will never fly in this country.

    • Not watching that pollution is definitely a great idea. There are much better sources of information. I’m not sure about gold though. It’s price is high. And frankly gold always seemed like a really creepy thing to buy. I’d rather invest in myself and in other ventures I thought could make a positive difference in the world. It takes much more research than your basic ETF’s or other funds, but it’s worth the effort.

      It is quite interesting that the internet and other communications infrastructure run by telecom and cable/media companies was of course, like so many things, actually paid for by tax dollars. So that’s our infrastructure. But the greedy little toads control it.

  7. Good post.

    But I thought you were going to suggest that the 21st century Democratic legislators were the younger siblings who used their elected status to gain back door entry into the aristocracy.

    I think it applies and suggests why we’re having such a hard time getting our legs (legislators) to walk in our direction.

    • Agree completely.

      Enjoyed the post and comments very much, but found the assumption that only the GOP was interested in the aristocracy , to be a little naive.

      But of course Democratic legislators do the same.

      I’ve never believed it to be Repubs vs Dems. Instead, it’s haves vs. have-nots.

      And the Democratic Party of today, while saying otherwise when standing at any microphone, clearly belong to the haves, now.

      Even James Clyburn steers $$$ and grants right to his own sons and son-in-laws.

      And Joe Biden is working hard to make sure “his” Senate seat will be safe for his son Beau, as soon as he returns from Iraq.

      What’s the difference?

      • I’ve never believed it to be Repubs vs Dems. Instead, it’s haves vs. have-nots.

        Indeed. There is no doubt those are the real political parties. I mean, Caroline ( along with most of her class) thought she could order up a Senate seat like a pizza.

        • I’d forgotten that. Thanks for reminding.

          Uncle Teddy thought he could just make a few calls and Caroline would be get whatever she wanted.

          Connexions. From the Democratic aristocracy.

  8. Hi Riverdaughter, a most excellent post, with lots of sharp little points, all good!

    This is the meme… Congress is the wholly owned subsidiary of an Oligarchy, which chose for a figurehead administration the oily Televangelist Grifters of Obama Inc to act as Figureheads. They even let that Silly Obama run around and act like he is in charge, but we all know he is not, since he would not make much sense unless the Teleprompter Duo did not keep him straight. He was expressly chosen for his capability to swivel his head back and forth and read from each in kind.

  9. RD! If you just how much this piece resonates for me this am…..


    at any rate, I thought you’d get a giant kick out of the question that appeared behind the scenes at my place this am:

    “did second wave feminists go to far?”


    Ya know?


    and ps: I love that last graf.
    What would happen if people stopped that?
    Maybe they should. Maybe they should invest in gold, instead.
    Coins o’ the realm — like all those ads on TV of late.

    Go for it…..


    did feminism go too far?

    Well, what else was there to do given the times we have lived, no?
    There wasn’t a support system for so many women was there?
    And, boy does Hillary have a hard damn job. I mean, do you see any of those clowns she is surrounded by working as hard as she does?



    • pss: Didn’t the Democratic party used to seem liike the party of Robin Hood?

      I always thought so, growing up.
      But not this year.

  10. But if we all stopped contributing to our 401Ks, wouldn’t they be even more worthless than they are now? If my 401K collapses, that’s it for me.
    Maybe I’m too old for that idea.

    • Stopping future contributions is different than closing out the 401K. The people who happily take those contributions are in full power of how much of it you will ever see again. If they stop getting it, of course they will panic and beg the people to return to the scam.

      I don’t have a 401K; never have trusted that whole concept of penalizing. But, if I did have one, I would now be looking at IRA’s and annuities and other more secure investments to move the money to. What happened with the stock market not only can, but will happen again the next time the big boys want to take the jackpot off the table.

  11. I was just reading, in Foreman’s biography of Duchess Georgiana, that peers, members of the House of Lords, were not allowed to campaign for the proteges they wanted installed in the House of Commons. So political wives like Georgiana would campaign for them. Just an interesting insight into women in the political sphere.

    Then the peasants started to get restless in the 19th century and pointed to the French Revolution across the channel. That lead to the Great Reform Acts of the 19th century that allowed more commoners the right to vote. The rest, as we say, was history.

    IMO, the French Revolution had a deep and lasting impression on the psyche of the rulers of Britain & Western Europe.
    Sadly, the French Revolut5ion did not seem to have as much an impact on the psyche of the USA elite. While the founding fathers certainly were inspired by the ideals of liberte, egalite, fraternite, the American ruling class never had the trauma of living through a popular uprising wherein they (or their relatives) were the targets.

    • To be fair, the United States was less than ten years old when the French Revolution went down and still finding its way through that new-fangled Constitution thingie.

      It would not, however, be a bad thing at all to remind the current American aristos of how the French dealt with their problems. Now, where are my knitting needles. . .?

  12. Yes. Both major parties are one in the same. They use social issues to pit the masses against each other. Face it–none of them give a hoot if gay people get married or women have choice or not! It’s all about the money, so let’s not take our eyes off the mark. Support HR 1207 to audit the Fed–it has a stunning 190 co-sponsors in the House already! It is a completely bi-partisan bill, a first step towards transparency. Information for the people gives power to the people.

  13. So this “blog Her” conference representative sent me this message:

    Hi Afrocity (Sorry, I could not seem to find your real name):

    I am one of the co-founders of BlogHer, we found your blog while researching potential speakers. BlogHer’s fifth annual conference is coming to Chicago this July. We have a panel scheduled on Friday July 24th that we think your voice and perspective may be a wonderful addition to. BlogHer is an omni-partisan organization, and we are very committed to having a balanced panel. The current description is as follows:

    What is “Pro-Woman” in a Post-Palin World?2008 was a volatile year for women in the public eye. Not just for those women, but for all women as we watched them in action and the reaction to them. BlogHer.com featured substantive, weighty and (mostly) civil conversations that dug up ongoing questions that dog all of us that consider ourselves “Pro-Woman”:
    # How do we address the rift between many women of color and the perception of the mainstream feminist movement?
    # Can pro-choice and pro-life women find common “pro-woman” ground?
    # If we believe that women are true thought leaders and change agents for the world and that women’s leadership is more important than ever in turbulent times, how do we reconcile this with the fact that women certainly do not all agree?!
    # What does it mean to be “pro-woman” when woman are anything but a monolithic bloc who think…or vote the same?

    Join the conversation to answer all these questions and more, and hear what conservative libertarian blogger Emily Zanotti, liberal feminist blogger Veronica Arreola, and liberal civil rights activist Joan Garry have to say about being Pro-Woman in today’s world.

    As you can see, we need another conservative voice, and your transition to that place in life is particularly interesting! (Not to mention the fact that you are a pro-choice, feminist Republican…and therefore someone we need to hear more from!)

    I am not sure about this guys. They are sponsored by Huff Po and other liberal outfits. They also want me to talk about PUMA and why I am a Republican PUMA

    • Hi AfroCity – I’ve been casually following BlogHer for a couple of years. In the early days they didn’t have an affiliation with HuffPo so I don’t know what to think about that.

      But, I was impressed (at the time) with the vision and goals of the founders.

      I had a couple of friends who attended their first couple of conferences and I always thought I’d go myself if I had the chance.

      I don’t know what the Obama Year did to the organization though. I’ve drifted away from it.

      PS – Did you get the email I sent?

    • Well, I’d go. If it’s mostly women, I doubt you’ll be bullied like if it was full of blogger boyz. You probably intrigue them. You can always walk out if it’s a set up.

      • also they are making a point of showing there are other similar voices out there

        • Looks like I am the only conservative. I do not want to do anything that will bring harm to PUMA. I also don’t wnat to be part of a liberal ha ha look at her ‘freak show”.

    • If it’s Huff and Puff, then it sounds like they want to strengthen the idea that Puma =Republican….and while it can , since you are both, I believe they want to foster the idea Puma means Republican always…….instead of admitting most of Puma are disgusted Dems . IMO

      • Did we ever answer the question of what is a PUMA and our mission. This has always been why I have backed off from PUMA because my party affiliation is a liability in the eyes of some PUMAs. If I did it, I would most likely not mention PUMA.

  14. I think the point being that the pursuit of theft was a major cause of establishing the US and was often how we found our way forward. But at this time in our history, the vast resources and such have been used up, there’s nothing left to steal, except the small portion that the middle class has worked for .

  15. HI, I am the co-founder who wrote you, and I can address both your concerns:

    1. HuffPo is not a sponsor. During the election we syndicated content from both the HuffPo and TownHall.com’s sites. Some of our liberal editors write for HuffPo as a second side gig. That’s about it.

    2. Actually, I didn’t mention PUMA at all because that’s not really the point…the point is that you’ve transitioned from Democrat to Republican and articulated it very clearly and strongly. All while still maintaining your identity as a feminist. That kind of voice should be heard.

    We currently have two liberals and one conservative on the panel. I need another conservative voice, and I hope it will be you 🙂


    • Hi Elisa,
      Thank you for stopping by and sharing this information.

    • I’ll repeat the thanks. I think it’s important to hear all women’s voices even when there is disagreement.

    • Elisa to clarify you are not the only one who wrote to me from Blog Her. The other person asked about my PUMA affiliation.

      Okay. I will do it.

    • Thank you PUMA sisters for your continued support. We have been through many battles and I have become perhaps fearful of due to the emails I receive. I must learn to trust again.

      • Congrats on the invite. I wish I could be there to see you set the panel on fire.

    • Afro will represent conservatives well at this conference. She is living proof that the media cannot put us into a box, as if we are all evangelical, or all white bigots, or whatever else they try to paint us as on MSNBC and on the HuffPoop and Kos, et al. Afro defies all of them.

      • Thank you Kathy. To you and all of the women at Smart Girl Politics. I will represent the conservative voice as best I can.

  16. Well surprise, surprise.

    Tommy Christopher lied about why he was fired.

    It turns out they wanted real journalists instead.

    (h/t Cinie)

  17. I think F.Scott Fitzgerald makes the same point in “The Great Gatsby”. The rich do live by different rules, and birth, not accomplishments is what matters.

    • Well said. Tom & Daisy represent the “upper crust” (or so they think) of American society.

      Ole Tim Russert…..the guy who was marketed as a regular boy from the middle class???? $9 million beach house on Nantucket, schmoozing the very, very wealthy and connected.

  18. or the mason jar in the back yard,

  19. In many ways the early States were founded by the younger sons of the Aristocracy, persons with the right connections and wherewithal to acquire land, in the colonies.

    Sir Walter Raleigh who was granted a Charter for the Settlement of Virginia by Queen Elizabeth I, for example, was well known as a cadet son who never ceased to to bemoan his position and to emphasise the importance of the yeoman and the small land owner.
    The country gentry are in England the most liberal in the world, he affirmed, while our noblemen and our gentlemen are more than ever servile.

    Skip forward 200 years, wherethroughout the nineteenth century, radical parliamentary reform co-existed with attacks on the aristocracy.

    R.W.Emerson called the Norman founders of the peerage “filthy thieves”, while The Poor Man’s Guardian described the English aristocracy of the day as:

    A most tremendous host
    Of locusts from the coast;
    A beggarly, destructive breed,
    Sprung from the BASTARD’S spurious seed’.

    While Julian Harney’s Democratic Review, and Chartist, argued in 1849 that:

    This huge monopoly, this intolerable usurpation of the soil, had its foundation in force and fraud…From the hour of the Norman Conquest…the whole history of the ancestors of the present usurpers of the soil is a crusade of confiscation, plunder, rapine and devastation…The present aristocracy are the descendants of freebooters.

    • Yep. Much like Scotland, where the “nobles” betrayed William Wallace. The King of England knew he could buy them with land and titles, until the true Braveheart (Mel Gibson screwed up the history) finally stood against the King.

      Establishing the “noble” gentry was the way the Normans managed the country they conquered.

      The “Scots-Irish” were actually Scottish 2nd and 3rd born sons who were offered $$ bribes and land grants in Ireland to subdue those “routy” Irish peasants. The land grants were even called “plantations.”

      Not to mention that it was also influenced by the Protestants vs. Catholics issues in the British empire at the time.

      True dat.

  20. I stopped my 401k contributions several months ago. I didn’t see much sense in feeding a lie.

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