The definition of a parasite (literally para – beside, sitos – grain; food) is any organism that derives benefit from living in or on another organism (the host) at a cost to the host. The cost may be anything from using small amounts of the host’s food to causing a fatal illness. They are fit for nothing but extinction, yet in a scientific sense, the parasites show utmost flexibility and adaptability in their survival skills.
This trajectory tends to bring to mind nasty little creatures such as lice or tapeworms, living off and in others, all the while giving nothing in return. In some cases the outcome of this unequal relationship might only be a substantital loss of energy to the host, in others it will be host’s death, devoured by its unwanted guest. No matter which of the two is the case, though, as long as a relationship is parasitic – as opposed to mutualistic or commensalistic – it implies a fundamental unfairness and inequality.
In modern society, any way of earning income is considered to be as productive as any other way. This is a parasite-friendly mentality, because it denies that there is any such thing as unearned income. It denies that there is a free lunch. Milton Friedman got famous for promoting the idea that there is no such thing as a free lunch, when Wall Street knows quite well that this is what the economy is all about.
So I’ll start with the clearest illustration of modern freeloaders at the top: bankers. Studies conducted by the International Monetary Fund and the Bank for International Settlements have revealed that much of the financial sector has become downright parasitic. How instead of creating wealth – they gobble it up whole.
In other words, a big part of the modern banking sector is essentially a giant tapeworm gorging on a sick body. It is not creating anything new, merely sucking others dry. Bankers have found a hundred and one ways to accomplish this. The basic mechanism, however, is always the same: offer loans like it is going out of style, which in turn inflates the price of things like houses and shares, then earn a tidy percentage off those overblown prices (in the form of interest, commissions, brokerage fees, or what have you) and if the shit hits the fan, let the masses to pay for it in the form of i.e. bailout.
The financial innovation concocted by all the math whizzes working in modern banking (instead of at universities or companies that contribute to real prosperity) basically boils down to maximising the total amount of debt. And debt, of course, is a means of earning rent. So for those who believe that pay ought to be proportionate to the value of work, the conclusion we have to draw is that many bankers should be earning a negative salary; a fine, if you will, for destroying more wealth than they create.
Bankers are the most obvious class of closet freeloaders, but they are certainly not alone. Many a lawyer and an accountant wields a similar revenue model. Take tax evasion. Untold hardworking, academically degreed professionals make a good living at the expense of the populations of other countries. Or take the tide of privatisations over the past three decades, which have been all but a carte blanche for rentiers. One of the richest people in the world, Carlos Slim, earned his millions by obtaining a monopoly of the Mexican telecom market and then hiking prices sky high. The same goes for the Russian oligarchs who rose after the Berlin Wall fell, who bought up valuable state-owned assets for song to live off the rent.
Take the pharmaceutical industry. Companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer regularly unveil new drugs, yet most real medical breakthroughs are made quietly at government-subsidised labs. Private companies mostly manufacture medications that resemble what we have already got. They get it patented and, with a hefty dose of marketing, a legion of lawyers, and a strong lobby, can live off the profits for years. In other words, the vast revenues of the pharmaceutical industry are the result of a tiny pinch of innovation and fistfuls of rent.
Even paragons of modern progress like Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Uber and Airbnb are woven from the fabric of rentierism. Firstly, because they owe their existence to government discoveries and inventions (every sliver of fundamental technology in the iPhone, from the internet to batteries and from touchscreens to voice recognition, was invented by researchers on the government payroll). And second, because they tie themselves into knots to avoid paying taxes, retaining countless bankers, lawyers, and lobbyists for this very purpose.
Characterising this »platform capitalism« in an article, Tom Goodwin writes:
»Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.«
So what do these companies own? A platform. A platform that lots and lots of people want to use. Why? First and foremost, because they are cool and they are fun – and in that respect, they do offer something of value. However, the main reason why we are all happy to hand over free content to Facebook is because all of our friends are on Facebook too, because their friends are on Facebook and . . . because their friends are on Facebook.
Think back a minute to the definition of a rentier: someone who uses their control over something that already exists in order to increase their own wealth. The feudal lord of medieval times did that by building a tollgate along a road and making everybody who passed by pay. Today’s tech giants are doing basically the same thing, but transposed to the digital highway. Using technology funded by taxpayers, they build tollgates between you and other people’s free content and all the while pay almost no tax on their earnings. This is the so-called innovation that has Silicon Valley gurus in raptures: ever bigger platforms that claim ever bigger handouts. So why do we accept this? Why does most of the population work itself to the bone to support these rentiers?
The typical workday of Goldman Sachs’ CEO may be worlds away from that of King Louis XIV, but their revenue models both essentially revolve around obtaining the biggest possible handouts. »The world’s most powerful investment bank,« wrote the journalist Matt Taibbi about Goldman Sachs, »is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.«
But far from squids and vampires, the average rich freeloader manages to masquerade quite successfully as a decent hard worker. He goes to great lengths to present himself as a “job creator” and an “investor” who “earns” his income by virtue of his high “productivity”. Most economists, journalists, and politicians from left to right are quite happy to swallow this story. Time and again language is twisted around to cloak funneling and exploitation as creation and generation.
However, it would be wrong to think that all this is part of some ingenious conspiracy. Many modern rentiers have convinced even themselves that they are bona fide value creators. When Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein was asked about the purpose of his job, his straight-faced answer was that he is »doing God’s work«. The Sun King would have approved.
Rentierism is, in essence, a question of power. That the Sun King Louis XIV was able to exploit millions was purely because he had the biggest army in Europe. It is no different for the modern rentier. He has got the law, politicians and journalists squarely in his court. That is why bankers get fined peanuts for preposterous fraud, while a mother on government assistance gets penalised within an inch of her life if she checks the wrong box.
One thing is certain: countries where rentiers gain the upper hand gradually fall into decline. Just look at the Roman Empire. Or Venice in the 15th century. Look at the Dutch Republic in the 18th century. Like a parasite stunts a host’s growth, so the rentier drains a country of its vitality.
The primary host nation’s body, like the human body, is alerted to economic predators through its immune system that sounds the alarm and alerts the body’s defenses to attack and destroy the invading parasite. The nation’s defense systems are its media and government systems, that act similarly to the body’s immune system. Media and government systems are supposed to alert the national body through the education and telecommunication systems to provide information, so the nation can respond accordingly by destroying the invading predators. Predatory capitalism systematically dismantles the nation’s immune system by invading it and controlling dissemination of information, so the national host is not alerted to its invasive and destructive domestic and foreign policy actions. They effectively drain all the funding from our education and library systems and gut our universities and natural history museums of faculty, who threaten their power and control. The capitalistic parasite sabotages the nation’s immune system to even attack any forces within the nation working to inform the public of their actions. The media, once infected, turns on the truth tellers and whistleblowers working to inform the public in a systematic campaign of character defamation, that effectively silences their messages and warnings. They edit out critically important information preventing the public from finding truth. Predatory capitalism infects the host nation’s government system ensuring all resource and wealth is transferred to them through legislation and policy actions. Once the infection is complete, the intelligence and military forces now serve the internal parasite exclusively. Any opposing public and whistleblowers become enemies of the state. They are rounded up, prosecuted, vilified, or in many host nations, slaughtered.
Soldiers soon discover the painful lesson that they are nothing more than tools for the capitalist empire. The nation, like the soldiers, further sickens as many populations die from contamination of food, air and water supplies from the same genetic and epigenetic bombs. Their weakened financial and physical health destroys the spirit of the communities and makes organizing any effective resistance against the parasite destroying them very difficult. They feel the weakening, but have no understanding about the causes and are losing all hope for change, so they take refuge in places of worship, who focus on the afterlife. They seek comfort in the only thing capitalism now offers them. Entertainment, shopping, and religion are their only sources of comfort from the pain of their financial and physical destruction, as their purchasing power to provide their basic needs dwindles. Poverty, homelessness, sickness, and chronic unemployment are carefully concealed and hidden by those afflicted, because shame and media prevent the rest of the nation from seeing how widespread the suffering is. Those who have not yet been impacted, blame those suffering for their meritocracy failure instead of the forces destroying the health of the nation. They can find no understanding because the parasite has already taken over the education and communication systems, that should have alerted them to what was happening to them and why. You cannot fight a force you do not even understand.
The capitalist parasite redirects the anger and pain of these communities to those least responsible for their suffering. The disease progresses and controls the media mouthpiece through all telecommunication systems and redirects all the anger and pain of the nation to those not accountable for their economic and physical suffering. Both lie and prevent truth from reaching those who need it most and keep the populations attacking each other instead of attacking David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, Lloyd Blankfein, George Soros, Lester Crown, Jeffrey R. Immelt, Andrew N. Liveris, Lewis Von Thaer, Hugh Grant, Werner Baumann, Bob Dudley, Jame Dimon, David Koch, Charles Koch, Erez Vigodman, Yitzhak Peterburg, David Cordani, Marillyn Hewson, Dennis Muilenburg, the decedents of Otto Ambros and Co, to name just a few. They are the true enemies of the State and the World. They have successfully prevented the nation from fighting off their lethal infection.
We will have to wait and see if they have secured their next host victim. That is their strategy. We will know if they have successfully taken control of a new host nation when their bombs start dropping on New York, LA, and Washington, D.C.