Caitlin Johnstone: If Everyone Is King, No One Is

The notion of vast wealth as a hoarding behavior misses the mark.

By Caitlin Johnstone

The concept of “wealth hoarding” has gained traction in the wake of the Occupy movement and the Bernie Sanders presidential campaigns, the idea being that billionaires are amassing treasure like mythical dragons in the same way someone with a hoarding disorder amasses newspapers or clothes.

It’s an understandable way of looking at the problem. The capitalist class is indeed grabbing up a greater and greater percentage of the wealth that’s being generated by the working class, and it just doesn’t make sense that someone would need billions of dollars when you can only drive one car at a time, wear one pair of pants at a time, eat one meal at a time, etc.

For normal people, the idea of wealth is associated with security, so once your family’s needs are met and their future is secure it’s hard to understand the impulse to keep amassing wealth far beyond that point without it being driven by some kind of compulsive neurosis. The fact that they pour so much money and energy into manipulating political systems to ensure they aren’t forced by taxation to share more of their wealth with the public makes them look even more like compulsive hoarders.

But this notion of vast wealth as a hoarding behavior misses the mark. And no, it isn’t because billionaires are awesome beneficent job creators whose wealth is being used by banks to grant people loans for homes and businesses and making the world a wonderful place to live.

It doesn’t work to think of the very rich as wealth hoarders because what they are doing has very little in common with the behavior of a compulsive hoarder. A compulsive hoarder gains nothing from their behavior, which generally ends up being self-destructive and socially alienating. It costs them everything, and gives them nothing. Their behavior is born of neurosis, and is entirely irrational.

The so-called wealth hoarders are not amassing wealth at the expense of others out of neurosis, and the motives driving their behavior are perfectly rational. They’re just a lot more depraved and a lot more uncomfortable to think about.

The ruling class continually extracts wealth from the public not so that they can become wealthier than they already are, but to keep the public from having that wealth. They’re not worried that they’ll be unable to support their needs in the future if they don’t extract another billion dollars, they just understand that the wealthier everyone else gets, the less their own wealth matters. They’re not wealth-hoarding, they’re wealth-obstructing.


Wealth is a zero-sum game, as is its good friend power. The more power everyone else has, the less power our current rulers would have over us. This is why so much energy goes into ensuring that votes have as little effect as possible on the operations of the state and making sure everything stays the same no matter what the public wants.

Imagine if ordinary people started having as much influence over the direction human civilization will take as war profiteers, oil tycoons, globalized wage slavers and Silicon Valley plutocrats. Imagine if the working class had enough disposable income to begin funding grassroots political campaigns, building their own media networks, or even funding think tanks and NGOs to advance their own interests like plutocrats do today. Imagine if everyone could afford to work less and relax more, and finally start learning about what’s really going on in the world.

Wealth is meaningless if everyone is wealthy. Power is meaningless if everyone has power. The kings of our day have a vested interest in keeping everyone poor and powerless, because if everyone is king, then no one is king.

This is why our status quo systems work the way they work, and this is why you see a convergence of interests from such groups as corporate plutocrats, plutocrat-owned politicians and media, the arms industry and military and intelligence agencies. These groups all have a vested interest in preserving the status quo and the ability to put that agenda in place, so they’ve fallen into a natural, de facto alliance with each other toward that end.

It’s why we’ve seen a historic upward transfer of wealth during the Covid pandemic, with billionaires raking in trillions while ordinary people struggle with unemployment and soaring prices. And it’s why that transfer of wealth has been happening for decades since long before Covid. In a system where money is power and power is relative, a ruling class naturally emerges which needs to suppress the wealth and power of its subjects in order to continue to rule.

Rulers do not historically give up their rule voluntarily, so we can expect this continual pattern of wealth obstruction via wealth extraction to continue until people get tired of being kept poor and powerless by those who benefit from their poverty and disempowerment and use the strength of their numbers to force the emergence of a more equitable system. We can also expect our rulers to do everything in their power to prevent this from happening, including propagandizing the public into accepting the status quo and believing that anything better is impossible.

Drastic change in the not-too-distant future does seem to be inevitable, though, if only because we’re headed toward environmental collapse or nuclear winter if we don’t rise to the revolutionary occasion first. Humanity’s self-destructive patterning is in a race with our better angels, and right now it’s anybody’s race.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

12 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: If Everyone Is King, No One Is

  1. Tom Hall
    August 28, 2022 at 03:21

    When we get more houses than we can live in, more cars than we can ride in, more food than we can eat ourselves, the only way of getting richer is by cutting off those who don’t have enough. If everybody has more than enough, what good is my more-than-enough? What good is a wide meadow open to everyone? It isn’t until others are fenced out that the open pasture begins to have real value.

    Nelson Algren, A Walk on the Wild Side

  2. RR
    August 26, 2022 at 23:59

    ‘Wealth is meaningless if everyone is wealthy. Power is meaningless if everyone has power. The kings of our day have a vested interest in keeping everyone poor and powerless, because if everyone is king, then no one is king.’

    Wealth is product of human labour, acting upon nature-given materials, that is capable of satisfying needs. We work, they take and pass on. Some of today’s capitalists have many centuries of legalised theft behind them. The richest families in Florence have been at it for the past 600 years. This fact was confirmed recently by two economists doing useful work for a change. Guglielmo Barone and Sauro Mocetti studied the records of Florentine taxpayers in 1427 with those in 2011 and after comparing the family wealth to those with the same surname today, concluded the richest families in Florence six centuries ago remain the same now.

  3. Common Sense
    August 26, 2022 at 16:06

    No kings needed ;)

    Some ancient Greek philosopher supposedly once said that no one should be able to call more than 6 times more his own than the poorest can claim his own.

    That sound quite reasonable :)

  4. Rudy Haugeneder
    August 26, 2022 at 10:48


  5. Frank Lambert
    August 26, 2022 at 10:31

    So very true, Caitlin! I would only add my belief that capitalism, or better yet, the desire for accumulating vast sums of money and possessions than a person can ever spend is an insatiable and pathological illness. No matter how much they have, it’s never enough!

    Back in the day, it was said: “Easier for a camel to pass through the head of a needle than for a rich man (or woman) to see the kingdom of God.”

    Gaius Julius Caesar was stabbed to death because he asked the rich filth of his day to give up some of their wealth to help the common people and for debt forgiveness and to institute some egalitarian measures popular with the common people.

    I bestow on you, Ms Caitlin, an honorary degree in human psychology! You nailed the narrative again!

  6. Jean-Michel Longval
    August 26, 2022 at 10:05

    Thanks, I would say in addition to propaganda, the best tool our rulers have to keep the status quo is violence, either through external war against “the other” or internal repression of grassroots movement through the current legal system.
    When WW1 broke out, there was a moment where the socialist/worker movements in the various imperialist states could have supported each other, but they chose to support their states through nationalism and war. We are basically still in the same mentality … Inequality has to be fought across national borders with solidarity of the masses or répression by the state will generally win.

  7. shmatahari
    August 26, 2022 at 03:36

    We CAN have disposable income to fund grassroots, build media networks, fund think tanks and NGOs, work less, and relax more.
    It’s all obtainable with an Online Direct Democracy parallel government that runs by referendum. Maybe someone knows how to do this? I think Switzerland operates this way?

    Power is NOT meaningless if everyone has power.

  8. Tsuvia
    August 25, 2022 at 17:35

    Thanks Caitlin and co., one of your best yet, which is a very high bar!

  9. Caroline
    August 25, 2022 at 17:24

    Great article thanks Caitlin. I think you have nailed the cause of wealth non-distribution and also the eventual way to break the impasse – the everyday sensible people saying ‘enough’ and acting for change no matter what the cost.

    • Bushrod Lake
      August 26, 2022 at 11:25

      I agree! And in the “race with our better angels” is a very pretty phrase.

  10. Em
    August 25, 2022 at 13:38

    Cogito ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am”) was a momentary leap of congruence in the innate conscious mind of one individual (Rene Descartes), and his recognition that there existed an infinite, evolutionary, elevating separation between it, and ‘lower’ animals’ natural instinct.
    Apparently these faculties, which Descartes discovered within ‘self’ are not on a continuum with physical form alone!
    The ‘inner space’ of conscious is not derived, necessarily, solely from organic matter, neither is it alone of natural physical substance. It is not a specific component of physical matter. It is not of a solid state; it has no finite organic boundaries.
    The full awareness of the infinite depth, and expansiveness of one’s own inner conscious state seems to consist of only fleeting duration. It is not a constant, in that it ebbs and flows; as in expands and contracts continuously. Apparently, its expansive growth in evolutionary terms is not uniformly exponential – developmentally.
    What has come of the scientific theory of an ever expanding Homo sapiens sapiens’ conscious state of mind since this one philosophers discrete recognition (1596–1650) of one momentary flash?
    WE ARE THE ALIENS, in that we do not seem to recognize that mutual conscious animation extends beyond the parameters of our individual selves, and is in the reality, a universal, on this finite planet never mind in the infinite cosmos.
    On a broader societal level, especially in the ‘West’, it appears not to have expanded, in fact it appears to be diminishing, without trace. Without its resuscitation, and continuous in-depth critical thinking functioning, humanity is doomed to go the way of other, now extinct, animal species.

    • Sherry
      August 27, 2022 at 01:13

      Profound comment on consciousness and society. Thanks.

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