- Capitalism and Alternatives -

More Critical 'Independant' Thinking I Presume

Posted by: Barry Stoller on October 13, 1999 at 12:16:20:

In Reply to: ok posted by Gee on October 12, 1999 at 14:48:16:

Many of your points do not merit response. I'll discuss the more credible one.

Stoller : Now, this business about '70+% of millionaire business owners who started out "in the labor market" like most Americans do.' Let's see the citation to prove that utterly magical claim! Seriously---let's see it, pal.

: First read "The Millionaire Next Door," by Thomas J. Stanley and State University of New York business professor William Danko to find, much against many a myth, that most millionaires aren't "big fat capitalists", that fewer than 20 percent of millionaires in the survey inherited more than 10 percent of their wealth and that only 19 percent get any income from an estate or trust fund.

OK, an easy read written at an eighth grade level. Been a while since I saw a modern book of putative non-fiction without an index.

The methodology was a joke. See Appendix A, 'How we find millionaires' (p.249, Pocket edition). The authors had the 'inventor of geocoding,' one Jon Robbin, find areas where millionaires were likely to be found by 'determining the average interest rate, net rent income, et. al.'(249)

Excuse me: net rent income? Do millionaires rent their homes?

Moving on...

'Then, using his "capitalization model" [a term never explained], he estimated the average net worth that would be required to generate such incomes.'(249)

Great. Here comes the best part.

'Select sample neighborhoods' were surveyed.(249) How many were included in this survey? A mere 3,000 households.(250) How many actually responded to the survey? Only 1,115.(250)

Out of the 1,110 who responded, 34.5% had an income of a million or more.(250)

What's wrong with this picture? Well, for starters, the baseline is too small.

Secondly---and importantly---the respondents, millionaires who earned their money instead of simply inherited it, would logically be amenable to letting the world know about their 'thrift, intrepidity, Calvinist ethic' etc. Millionaires who got rich by merely being born would not be so inclined. But this is speculation: nearly half of those surveyed threw their surveys away.

The authors then added a second survey to represent 'rural' wealth.(250) That survey 'include[d] affluent farmers, senior corporate executives, middle managers, engineers/architects, health care professionals' and so on.(250) In other words, it specifically targeted the working rich in order to cook their numbers. What about the idle rich in gated communities and private resorts? Just leave them out of the data base altogether!

It's just not credible research at all.

It's pulp fiction. It's---you guessed it---bourgeois propaganda. It's pie-in-the-sky for all those middle class drones, bullshit telling them that all they have to do in order to pay off their mortgage, send the kids to school, and retire in peace is stop spending and start investing in the stock market.

Want to know what the real rich---the billionaires 'next door'---think of those middle class drones? Listen up:

Wall Street has always treasured the small investor. But not so much for his sagacity as his gullibility, less for his courage than his pliability and much more for his impetuosity than his cool. The small investor has long been celebrated by the large wire houses, in particular, for his unfailing willingness to pay the highest commissions, his touching eagerness to act as the receptacle the tag ends of sticky new issues and his enthusiastic response to whatever cockamamie 'product' their marketing geniuses can dream up.(1)

Let us close our debate with some words by Thomas Stanley and William Danko (authors of The Millionaire Next Door):

There has never been more personal wealth in America than there is today (over $22 trillion in 1996). Yet most Americans are not wealthy. Nearly one-half of our wealth is owned by 3.5 percent of our households. Most of the other households don't even come close.(2)


1. Barron's, 3 November 1997, p. 6.
2. Stanley & Danko, The Millionaire Next Door, Pocket Books (a division of Simon & Schuster [part of that giant Viacom-NBC merger] 1996, p. 2

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