the national interest

Voting Also Reminds Tom Perkins of Kristallnacht

Tom Perkins of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers attends Day 3 of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013 at San Francisco Design Center on September 11, 2013 in San Francisco, California.
Want to hear my positive solutions? Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Tom “Progressive Kristallnacht” Perkins expounded on his views once again last night, and was asked for positive solutions. He’s definitely thinking outside the box:


The Tom Perkins system is: You don’t get the vote if you don’t pay a dollar in taxes. But what I really think is it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars, you get a million votes. How’s that?

This little rant, which he later portrayed as somewhat fanciful, does bring us a bit closer to the heart of what so agitates Perkins and his social cohort. (And it is very much a cohort, not some addled-old crank: Sam Zell recently spoke up to defend Perkins, joining the Wall Street Journal editorial page and other conservative luminaries.) The source of their anxiety is the existence of a political system that at least aspires to force them onto an equal level with the unwashed masses.

Now, in reality, Tom Perkins commands many, many times the political power of the average American. But the ratio of political power is still dwarfed by the ratio of wealth – and, what’s more, the unwashed masses are just so numerous. The 2012 election produced so much anxiety because it demonstrated so clearly that plutocracy is a losing proposition, and people like Perkins are not accustomed to losing.

The consequences for the rich of that loss are manageable – some tougher financial regulation, a restoration of the 39.6 percent top tax rate. At the same time, the election implanted the idea that there’s no logical endpoint to the prospect of the middle- and working-classes ganging up on the rich at the ballot box. It can start with higher taxes, but can end with Kristallnacht. The reality of life for the one percent may be comfortable, but the principle of democratic control over economic policymaking terrifies many of them.

Voting Also Reminds Tom Perkins of Kristallnacht