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The Fifth Estate?

February 2, 2009 - Rob Weaver

The term “Fourth Estate” has been applied to journalists. A long time ago, the term referred to newspapers and/or the reporters and editors who worked for them. Nowadays, it can be applied more broadly to those who work in electronic media. 

For a long time, I assumed the first three “estates” the phrase implies were the legislative, administrative and judicial branches of government. But subsequent research has traced its origin to Edmund Burke, who was a politician in Britain in the 1700s. At least according to Thomas Carlyle, who wrote "Heros and Hero Worship in History" that "Burke said that there were three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sat a fourth Estate more important far than they all."

I'd like to update that concept by calling the news media the Fifth Estate. The modern Fourth Estate, due to its close, direct ties to the government, would be the banking industry. This industry not only is intrinsic in helping to carry out U.S. monetary policy, but has been crucial — some might say complicit — in fostering U.S. housing policy.

This thought occurred to me when pondering why the administrative and legislative branches have been loath to loan U.S. automakers a fraction — as in about one-thirtieth — of the hundreds of billions of dollars being poured into the financial industry.

Automobiles are just personal transporation. Money is the lifeblood of the economy.


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