Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Piketty, Patrimonial Capitalism, Accidentalness, and Law Professors
I was not aware of the term "patrimonial capitalism" until Thomas Piketty used it in his book. The term describes much of America and the reason why law professors will never be the at the forefront of social change. Piketty's book, everyone knows by now, is about the concentration of wealth. Patrimonial capitalism is the term he uses to describe its passing from generation to generation. Thus, the wealthy pass their wealth on the their children and so on. Unlike Piketty, I would include within wealth so called natural abilities whether characterized by intelligence or athletic talent. Among law professors, all these forms of wealth are evident. Not many people with working class backgrounds make it into the profession and those who do make it can be total fuck ups for life and still inherit wealth and pass it along to their kids. They live the easy life while those who do not share the wealth generally have it tougher.
By what right are some children huge share holders in a system of patrimonial capitalism and some children left out completely? None that I can think of. Everyone, including law professors are simply the result of two people who chose to mix sperm with and egg. They may not have loved each other or they may have mistakenly thought they did and none of that makes a difference in any case. They may have hated each other longer than they felt any affection. In fact, perhaps the sperm and egg only mixed because of a birth control failure. Five times it worked and those kids never existed and then it did not work and there you are. And what about the sperm that missed the egg by a zillionth of an inch. In fact, when you think about it, most of us almost did not happen at all. And here is the kicker, the parents generally love the child regardless of the circumstances leading to his or her existence but don't get a big head about it. They would have loved any child. So, you may feel loved but in a sense it has nothing to do with you. They would have loved a turnip.
How people get from their ultimate accidentalness to the idea that they deserve anything is beyond me. Perhaps what we call humility is a sense of accidentalness.
When you get right down to it, law professors and others who think they deserve or earned something are like lottery winners who wake up one morning and believe they have special lottery skills or earned their lottery earnings through hard work.
I once tongue in cheek suggested that a fair world would be one in which babies in the hospital nursery would be randomly distributed to the parent who gave birth. So, you checked in,had your baby and then got a baby when you checked out. I thought it would mean every child would have and equal opportunity. That was a pretty crazy idea. It would not change anything in a system of patrimonial capitalism.
Of course, law professors are not the only ones living off patrimonial capitalism. Many MDs fall in the same category as well as just regular rich people. The difference is this. None of those people talk and write about fairness and justice and such or claim to be on the side of the downtrodden. Many law professor do but its phony. Patrimonial capitalism is like a drug they cannot live without. It is foolish to expect anything from them. But you knew that didn't you?