So, in the tradition of Anti-Think, Weaponized Empathy, and Progressive Magic, I have another useful term for you: Political Liquidity. Wherever you may stand on this bizarre election, one thing must be acknowledged openly and honestly: Hillary Clinton is more powerful than Donald Trump. That doesn’t mean she will win, mind you, but with the media firmly on her side, from major news networks down to the local business journal in my hometown, it is clear that this a home game for Hillary. Wall Street is behind her, also. The big donors prefer her, while Trump’s own party withholds support from him. Now, we know how divisive Trump is, and how those who oppose the Left have divided into three camps: NeverTrumpers, the Trump Train people, and the Reluctant “anything over Hillary” folks, of which I am a member.
But that alone doesn’t explain what we’re seeing here, why the system, so to speak, is so strongly in favor of Hillary. Remember, this same system favored her over Bernie Sanders, and whatever else his failings may have been, Sanders was not Trump. There’s a simpler explanation: Hillary Clinton is wealthier than Donald Trump.
Does this sound strange? How could the Clintons, whose net worth is difficult to estimate (figures are all over the board, but $100 million or so may be close), be more wealthy than Donald Trump, who is estimated to be worth around $4.5 billion?
That’s just it. Money and net worth is a poor measure of wealth these days. When we talk of assets that we own, we often speak of the asset’s liquidity, how quickly it can be converted to cash. We say this as if cash was the most liquid form of wealth. It isn’t. Political arbitrage is one level above cash. Allow me to explain.
So most of my readers will be familiar with the Uber fiasco, wherein many cities are banning Uber, or requiring Uber drivers to hold the same tokens and certifications that taxi cab drivers have. The logic, they say, is that taxis are regulated, and taxi drivers have certain checks and certifications, and so on, which improves taxi service and keeps it safe for everyone. That’s the excuse, anyway. I spoke with the Uber drivers I’ve used about this. Get this: every single one of them was a taxi driver. Now, I’m betting this is partly because of my small Uber driver sample size, but nonetheless it’s interesting. These drivers explained that they make more money under Uber. Why is that?
My brother-in-law explained the problem to me in more detail. Most cities issue tokens, a sort of taxi license provided by the city, which is required to operate a licensed cab. The tokens are limited in quantity, and there are typically far too few for all of those who want to drive cabs. Usually big taxi companies will buy up the available tokens, driving up the price of what few may remain on the open market, and so if you want to be a cab driver, you must work with one of these companies. You rent the cab from them for an exorbitant amount of money ($100/day, minimum, for some outdated crappy crown vic or minivan). The lion’s share of the profit goes to the cab company. Uber, of course, bypassed all of this. Drivers could use their own car, and business was constantly coming in. The lion’s share went to the driver instead, with Uber getting a cut for hooking up driver and passenger.
It’s not cab drivers who are angry with Uber. It’s cab companies. Suddenly, their political monopoly on cab licenses (under the excuse of regulation) was threatened — the bottom had dropped out from under them. Cab drivers could freelance and make as much, or more. People could enter the industry without paying them. Yet it is mostly liberal cities that are angry with Uber, and banning them from operating, or requiring them to use taxi licenses, which puts everybody back to square one: pay the cab companies a ton of money, only now in some cases, pay Uber too. Way to fight for the little guy, right?
The reason is that these liberal cities are hotbeds of political trading. Just as we might have an auction house, or a stock exchange, or some other marketplace for buying and selling things, so does politics have an exchange mechanism, even if it’s not as obvious and well understood to those of us without such power to trade. The cab companies had enough political liquidity to convert some of their cash into political power sufficient to combat (or, more likely, to co-opt) Uber. Just as cash is a more liquid form than, say, real estate, so is political power more liquid, even, than cash.
In simple terms, the cab companies exist solely (or mostly) because of political arbitrage. It’s an exercise in rent-seeking behavior. Nobody would need them, otherwise. They must agitate for political regulation favorable to their existence and continued profit, or they would be replaced. A certain amount of their value is transmitted upwards, liquidated politically, to the powerful in exchange for royal favor.
Consider a theoretical example. Hillary decides she wants a yacht. A normal person in such circumstances would need to save up the money for a yacht, to purchase one, maintain it, crew it, etc… But someone with Hillary’s level of power need only casually say “I want to go yachting” and some big donor would surely lend her his yacht and crew for however long she should need it. She doesn’t own the yacht. It’s not on her balance sheet in any way, and her name is not on the title. And yet whenever she wants to go yachting, a yacht and crew are available to her at no cost, because she has political power, and she can convert it into a lesser asset anytime she wishes.
When you or I decide to go to a restaurant, we must pay a bill. When Hillary goes to a restaurant, people pay tens of thousands of dollars to her just to be in the same room. So how does this factor into her net worth, into how rich we perceive her to be? We only look at the official balance sheet of her official assets. The media largely ignores her foundation, and the perks and favors that someone of her level of power are given freely. Put another way, does anybody think Senators live off their $174,000 salary?
She doesn’t need to convert much of her power into cash, and then convert the cash into something else. She can simply snap her fingers and go directly from power to desired asset. Her wealth is political, and it is more liquid than Trump’s mountain of cash and ponderous towers of real estate (which are even LESS liquid). She need only carry as much cash in her name as is convenient for smaller, everyday transactions.
They say money is power, but that’s not accurate. Money can be converted into power, and power can be converted into money. But of the two, power is the more liquid. Power is more widely accepted as the coin of choice among the aristocracy. They may have to buy their toilet paper with dollars, though the time may be short before they are more or less the same thing, but great transactions are ones of political arbitrage. The money is incidental, like the moldy bread you throw to the slaves to keep them just healthy enough to work for you. Yes, the slaves will trade the bread, but the masters… their real coin is power.
So it’s very hard to estimate how wealthy Hillary truly is. But she’s much more wealthy than Donald Trump, at least. And the Leftist elite has been more wealthy than the Conservative Right for a very long time — at least as long as I’ve been alive. They speak of privilege and the oppressive nature of this group and that group… but they are, quite literally, the most privileged and powerful of all human beings on this Earth. They have Political Liquidity. You and I do not.