Volatility

April 5, 2010

Today’s Stamp Act

 

The Stamp Act of 1765 was the flame which brought a long-gathering stew of ideas and suspicions to boil. From there proceeded an intensifying controversy and a dialectical chain of events which led straight to 1776. In retrospect it looks preordained, and perhaps starting with the Stamp Act controversy, and given British premises, it was. But the pre-existing discontent didn’t have to flare into conscious alarm and rage, and it didn’t have to develop an organized political movement. The Stamp Act was the occasion for that. It was a catalyst as well as a radical accelerant.
 
So what could be today’s equivalent of the Stamp Act? It seems very strange to ask such a question when $14 trillion has already been directly stolen in a year and a half, with the potential further looting in principle infinite (self-granted Fed and Treasury authority to buy MBS, as well as potential Fannie and Freddie guarantees, are proclaimed have no legal, constitutional, democratic limit; in other words, the government has overtly declared that where it comes to the Bailout it recognizes no legal, constitutional, or democratic restraints to kleptocracy). That’s beyond the unfathomable trillions already destroyed in the financial crash, and what has been, is being, and will be destroyed going forward as the general economy slowly sinks into the Second Great Depression.
 
And that’s just the wealth aspect, to be entered on the ledger along with the complete corruption of all institutions of the country, the substitution of gluttony for government, larceny for law, prostitution for politics, mendacity for media, atrophy for academia, enervation for economy, sickness for salubriousness, jeremiads for joy, fetters for freedom, despair for democracy, desolation for democracy, destruction for democracy.
 
When we read down the indictment it seems crazy to wonder what more America could need to rouse it to action. And indeed the people are furious and restless. But so far it’s an inchoate bestirral. The problem is the sheer magnitude of the crime itself. Experts from Sade to Hitler advised that the bigger the crime you commit, the better a chance you have of getting away with it because people will simply be unable to experience it as a discrete crime. They’ll be flummoxed by its complexity, the hazy enormity of its outlines. Or they’ll be intimidated by its monumentality, and despair of the possibility of reprisal. They may even take psychological and moral refuge in admiring and siding with the criminals themselves.
 
Maybe the fuse really has been lit, and it’s just not so easy to see it clearly right now the way men will be able a from a hundred years’ perspective, since we’re living it day to day. The original patriots often despaired of the temper of their times, the lassitude of the populace, the slow circulation of ideas and calls to action, the temporary doldrums where it looked like everything was normalizing, like in 1771-1773.
 
I was going to say, “but aren’t things like communications greatly accelerated today?” But then I wondered, is today’s doldrum, the phony government-goosed “recovery” and the absurd political glare of the health racket bill (they call it a glow), our doldrum of the early 70s? Maybe the TARP will turn out to have been the Stamp Act after all.
 
Or maybe in retrospect there won’t have been one event history will call the clear spark. Who knows, those are just some musings.
 
Just for the fun of it let’s ask, what kind of law today would be most similar to the Stamp Act? The Stamp Act required a payment on every transfer of printed material, business and legal documents, licenses, ship’s papers, even playing cards. It was thus pervasive, intended to extend its clutches into every nook and cranny of commerce and media.
 
If we ask, where does a policy today seek to extract at the point of paper transfers (or their electronic equivalent), we can see how the health racket mandate intends to use the IRS as its enforcer. In filing your tax return, you’ll be required to provide the “stamp”, certifying that you paid the protection money.
 
This is of course just a radical extension of existing practice whereby everything requires that one produce the proper “papers”. For decades it’s already been bad enough to engender rueful recollections of the lies they taught back in school, about how America’s better than the Soviet Union because, among other things, there you have to carry around your papers everywhere. Having to carry such papers is indeed horrid. Those lessons did indeed fill me as a child with a horror of the Soviet Union.
 
Well guess what: As an adult I still feel the same revulsion. But it’s not for any legendary Russian bogeyman anymore. It’s all too real right here at “home”.
 
What’s changed especially in more recent times is how the need to “show your papers” is less and less in order to receive some goodie, but in order to be allowed to function as a so-called “citizen” at all. And now with the insurance mandate they’ve taken a quantum leap. Now you’ll have to show your papers to prove you paid what is nothing more than extortion. With this the government has officially gotten into “protection”. And not even as its own boss, but simply as the hired goon of corporatism.
 
We should ponder that. As stupid as tax policy has long been, it’s still quite a leap from having to itemize to get stuff like a mortgage deduction, to having to show the stamp to prove you paid an extortionist, and otherwise you owe more, upon penalty of arrest and imprisonment. Is this a Stamp Act?
 
Another way of looking at it is the Stamp Act as choke point for communication. In the colonies every newspaper, every pamphlet, had to display the stamp. The regressive tax could therefore impose de facto censorship by the cost of communication route. What issue conjures a similar specter today? Net neutrality.
 
Where it comes to the internet, we’re in a position similar to that of the colonies entering the 1760s. We currently have a decent level of freedom, thanks to the ad hoc way the system developed, and to how many of the developers originally believed in some of their libertarian propaganda.
 
But the sector has matured, and that always means rent-seeking and neo-feudalism to whatever extent the sector can achieve it. Sure enough, some years ago various barons who have castles overlooking the rivers started making noise about wanting to construct toll booths. In this case the rivers are the “pipes” through which the electronic bits flow. Just like with a river, the pipes are already constructed (and not by the guy who happens to be living on the riverbank) and cost little to maintain. When a boat goes by, it’s the current and the oarsmen who are doing the work. Anyone who pulls a chain across the river and demands you pay a toll is simply a thug demanding protection money. And today’s little telecom fiefholder who whines, “why should they get to use my pipes for free?”, is that same worthless thug.
 
It’s easy to see how, if these feudalists get their way, the internet, which for the time being is the final, the one and only, public medium of communication, as all other media have been fully corporatized, will also be subject to enclosure. As with the Stamp Act, it will be stamped with the censorship of a regressive tax. (And then, once the precedent has been set that messages can be segregated according to whether or not the tax was sufficiently paid, they’ll go further to censor based on political content as well. Just as how the British intended, among other things, to use their newly imposed tax policies not only to extract revenue but eventually to impose social and political control.)
 
With net neutrality, the future of American politics for the duration of the high-technology age is at stake. Here if anywhere we have a Stamp Act issue, since what looms is the very doppleganger of the Stamp Tax. The same feudal theft, the same economic strangulation, the same intended political censorship, the same incipient tyranny. 
 
There’s no tax more profoundly worthless than a feudal toll. But that’s what those lobbying against the official enshrinement of net neutrality have in mind. And the imposition of this kind of tax is the one and only activity of the finance racket and the health insurance racket.
 
In the end, the idea of “today’s Stamp Act” may be a very direct parallel, or more figurative. By now any issue may serve as a tipping point. For me, while the health racket debacle didn’t teach me anything new intellectually, it has been a kind of spiritual milestone.
 
Similarly, the people’s perceptions may become clarified and their spirit reinvigorated by any of the battlefronts of our clamorous, chaotic war zone. There can be a tipping point at any time. And as I said, maybe the new Stamp Act fuse has already been lit. The TARP, the AIG bonuses, health racketeering last summer, the permanent war escalation in December, now health racketeering’s political climax (and, I really hope, some clarity for the public interest activists America’s going to need), net neutrality going forward. (If we can make that a public flash point as well; so far people in general don’t seem all that concerned about it. Horribly, on its face they might even stupidly side with the chainpuller simply because he loudly claims to own the river. The initial polls right after the Citizens United decision showed small majorities in support of corporate “free speech”. It’s easy to see why – most people are basically ignorant and lazy and evince a stimulus-response mechanism where it comes to a term like “free speech”, while understanding corporatism would take considerable effort. But I was heartened to see that within a few weeks the polls were less favorable. Maybe people really are wising up. It’ll have to be the same kind of struggle with the internet.)
 
So here we are, getting clobbered by stamps. Will we respond as did our forefathers?
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8 Comments

  1. Well, since The Stamp Act was a tax, and since it’s all about taxes, I have a candidate regarding what will become the nation’s next Stamp Tax.

    But before I spill the beans, a relevant digression.

    The ten year bond market has broken out today.

    I would argue that it is more likely that rates are rising in response to sickness (anticipation of more QE for starters) than in response to health (a pickup in economic activity) We shall see, but the great (stealth) tax, that has been in place for as long as fiat has held sway is one that effects the purchasing power of the currency.

    Because we can not hope to service our national debt, even as spending does nothing but increase, we can expect the purchasing power tax to loom ever larger with each passing season. When this phenomenon reaches escape velocity, and it will, watch and see how the populace reacts to the dramatic loss of purchasing power.

    Comment by Edwardo — April 5, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

  2. Well, we’ll see.

    Comment by Russ — April 5, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

  3. “I would argue that it is more likely that rates are rising in response to sickness (anticipation of more QE for starters) than in response to health (a pickup in economic activity) We shall see, but the great (stealth) tax, that has been in place for as long as fiat has held sway is one that effects the purchasing power of the currency.”

    Totally agree. The so-called recovery is nothing more than manipulated numbers, and what growth there is, comes mostly from government spending.

    There’s a lot to think about here, Russ. I too often think about the “tipping point.” What will it be? How much can we take? At what point does the average person realize they’ve traded their freedom for…what? Some sort of quasi-safety?

    Jefferson believed very strongly in the people/voter. He figured that even though the voters may go wobbly now and then, they will always come back to liberty. I hope he’s correct.

    Comment by Bloodgroove — April 5, 2010 @ 10:57 pm

  4. Yes, they traded it first for consumer junk and then for the false husk of “safety”.

    Today they feel less safe than ever, in every way, and even their ability to “go shopping”, to keep buying expensive worthless junk, is slipping away.

    So will they come back to liberty? Unfortunately it’s clear their first instinct is to hunker in the bunker, double down on the whole Gomorrah. The Washington parties and the MSM are doing all they can to encourage this.

    And if they are capable of finding themselves again as citizens, then when? Time’s passing….

    Comment by Russ — April 6, 2010 @ 3:46 am

    • “And if they are capable of finding themselves again as citizens, then when? Time’s passing….”

      Honestly, Russ, I don’t know. I’m not sure I agree with Jefferson. I want to believe he was onto something, but as you well know, he came from a different era – a different time with a mind steeped in ideas and philosophies out of the “age of enlightenment.”

      “Unfortunately it’s clear their first instinct is to hunker in the bunker, double down on the whole Gomorrah. The Washington parties and the MSM are doing all they can to encourage this.”

      Could you elaborate on this a bit more? Forgive me if you have blogged this in the past. I haven’t read all of your blogs yet, but I am working on it. As you know, there’s a lot to read here, and your blogs…well…at the risk of blowing up your head – I find just about every sentence you write worthy of thought – and often on a deep level. At least for me. Anyhow, I’m not sure I get what you’re driving at here.

      Comment by Bloodgroove — April 6, 2010 @ 8:38 am

  5. I just mean that most people are still utterly invested (brainwashed), emotionally and psychologically, in consumerism, in “progress”, in the “growth” economy, in the “American dream” as propagandized for so long by government, advertising, and media, in the whole “we’re number one!” notion, no matter how fraudulent it is in most cases, that even as the whole system is so obviously unsustainable, even as the middle class is now being economically liquidated wholesale, and even as the corporate-government nexus is so obviously nothing but a gang of vipers, most people are still so desperate to believe in it all that they’ll believe or at least accept any lie and let themselves be enlisted for any attempt to prop up the structure, even though it’s all at their own expense. More and more it looks like they’ll let themselves be rounded up as fascists and as serfs, rather than give up the exceptionalist/consumerist delusion.

    Meanwhile they could instead renounce it all, reject the system, work on rebuilding their economies and societies on a relocalized basis. In the process we could redeem justice, morality, fairness, simple decency, all the things which have been bled out of us.

    That’s it in a nutshell, hunkering in the bunker, digging in, doubling down, dead-ending.

    I sure hope it won’t end up like that. Little by little, more and more people are awakening to the reality, realizing what we’ve lost, how it was stolen from us, and who did it, and how to fight back.

    It’s gonna be a long, hard, but fulfilling road.

    Comment by Russ — April 6, 2010 @ 11:36 am

  6. Ah, ok, I get it. I wanted to be sure since I’m still getting to know how you write. And yes, I see that all around me with my friends and neighbors. Some of them say they “get it” with what is going on, but I have a hard time telling by the way they go about their lives.

    “Meanwhile they could instead renounce it all, reject the system, work on rebuilding their economies and societies on a relocalized basis. In the process we could redeem justice, morality, fairness, simple decency, all the things which have been bled out of us.”

    Wow, I wish I knew how to bold that, but let me just say, “RIGHT ON!”

    Comment by Bloodgroove — April 6, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

  7. Your style is so unique compared to other folks I have read stuff from.
    Thanks for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess
    I will just bookmark this page.

    Comment by Sökmotoroptimering — December 5, 2015 @ 8:22 pm


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