A Contemporary Fable: Looking Ahead to Days Gone By

In the city at the center of the civilized world lived a boy who was born into all the privileges and pleasures appointed to a certain class of people. Namely, educated, wealthy individuals. Families, really. And associations of families. It was an orderly, prescribed, and proscribed system that seemed to be working well—at least for those of a certain station in life. People living the high life in places like inside the golden circle at the heart of Manhattan during the Roaring Twenties. Not the 1920s—the 2020s. But any circle can become a tightening noose, and this circle had begun to shrink in concert with the rising waters of the Atlantic.


The idea of placing billionaires’ mansions increasingly distant from the masses—vertically, atop ever-higher skyscrapers—ignores the fact that a strong base is vital to the support of any superstructure. Anything heavy at the top and feeble at the base is bound to fall eventually. It was a metaphor. Change was coming. It always does. The emergence of some new economic configuration was only a matter of time. The details would be determined by the unfathomable flow of the winds and waters of fate.


“In the year 2525, if Man is still alive” goes a 1969 song by Zager and Evans. Their timing for disaster was off by half a millennium. America’s unsustainable economic model crumbled in January 2025, when the president-elect vanished. The sitting president, at the cusp of the close of his second term, instituted marshal law and cancelled the inauguration by fiat—only temporarily, he assured the public. Time was needed to sort things out.


Time was working in the tyrant’s favor. The economic model allowing unbridled mergers and acquisitions had become a cancer overtaking its host. Or maybe it was more like the big fish eating the smaller ones. The point is that as the supply dwindled the system became unsustainable. All over America, more than just banks became too big to fail. From Boston to Chicago to Denver to San Francisco, and from L.A. to Houston to Atlanta to Miami, circles of power and influence were growing. Corporations became legal bubbles insulating and separating the wealthy from the majority of the population. The Supreme Court had ruled a corporation was a person. But corporations can’t go to prison for corruption. In truth, each company was a machine controlled by a powerful oligarch locked safely away in the control room—the corporation’s Boardroom.


Each city had its share of oligarchs. And each sphere of influence expanded until it touched another bubble—economically, if not physically. When bubbles touch, the walls collapse between them. They grow with each consolidation. Some thought the oligarchs’ competitive interests differed enough to keep everything in check. That image of counterbalanced power was a mirage.


To understand why free-market capitalism with no constraints failed, consider this. Jewelry isn’t made of pure gold. The element is simply too soft. A wedding band of pure gold would become scratched and warp out of shape, negating its value as a polished object symbolizing rounded perfection.


Pure capitalism was soft in much the same way. Once the people were tricked into phasing out government regulations, money bought lawmakers who increasingly skewed the laws toward the rich.


Oligarchs purchased the news media and made maximizing profits the sole motive. No more investigative journalism.


Unions, likewise, were strangled under the guise of “Right to Work” laws. The working people’s growing unrest was fanned and focused on accumulating guns for self-protection. It was us against them. But who was really the endangered “us” and who was the dangerous “them?” The real “them” won the class war without firing a shot. Well, many common folk were shot, but the masterminds of the takeover were literally above it all. Focusing the public’s attention on guns had been the perfect deflection.


The magician’s trick of distracting watchful eyes worked so well that no attention was given to “that man behind the curtain” who was pulling the levers on the laws and manipulating the strings on the puppets.


The middle class dwindled with remnants becoming totally dependent on the crumbs of the wealthy. The lower-class problem took care of itself. Starvation is a silent killer of the powerless, the voiceless, the doomed. People of means can simply look away and no unpleasantness need apply. The economy morphed into two classes—the true takers and the truly taken. A beautiful but malleable center of glittering gold developed.


But Robert Frost once warned us, “Nothing gold can stay.” And this treasure, while not fool’s gold, exactly, turned out to be foolish gold. Foolish because one oligarch saw the ultimate political opportunity presented by the collision of societal unrest and growing environmental change. Fear is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of a megalomaniac.


The grand American experiment suddenly closed. The economy that had been the envy of the world collapsed. People who had clung for centuries to the compassionate Christian values of shared abundance, of feeding, clothing, and protecting the poor were now hobbled. The middle class that had incubated the dream of America and then brought it to fruition had become the servant class to oligarchs.


America—the beautiful, the bountiful, the proud and the glorious—fell to one person who took sole control of the laws of the land. A boy born into the wealth and privilege of old America, which had been formed by and for the people, had climbed to the pinnacle of a new landscape created by and for himself. He was the financial equivalent of “The Highlander”—the last man standing—well, the last with legal standing—in a New America. Once he played his trump card of running for and winning the presidency, he made himself king. He demoted his fellow oligarchs to barons in fealty to him and his United Estates of America. At his coronation he said, “It’s good to be king, and I’ll be the best king ever—okay?” Then he added, “That I can tell you.”

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