November 28, 2010

The Seed War (part 2)


In part 1 of this piece I described the neoliberal corporate-government plots against seeds and the accumulated agricultural practices of ten thousand years. The Food Tyranny bill which may be voted upon as early as tomorrow is potentially part of this assault. It will expand the power of both the corporatized FDA and the WTO globalization cadre.
We should take this not only as an assault on food freedom but as an example of how the WTO is intended to serve as the blueprint for corporatized government everywhere. The unconscionable contracts of adhesion it forces upon the politically weak populations of the Global South with the connivance of indigenous kleptocratic “governments” were a trial run for the imposition of corporate domination in the West itself. We’ve already seen how in every case where it was a power struggle between multinational corporations and the peoples of the world outside the West, the globalization cadre acted as a weapon against the people.
Western governments of course were aggressive promoters of this process, and the middle classes of the West shamefully approved it. That’s because they were foolish enough to believe these governments were “their” governments, and not like the corrupt governments of the victim countries who acted as local agents for the rackets, against their own people. Now the peoples of the West are reaping for themselves what they thought they sowed for others. It turns out the US government is exactly as corrupt on behalf of rootless, alien globalization against the American people as those of Romania and the Ivory Coast were on behalf of Smithfield against their own peoples.
The Food Tyranny bill explicitly subordinates all US food policy to the WTO and extends the domestic range of the rootless ruling principles of the Codex Alimentarius. It legally defines all food within America as being technically imported, as coming under Maritime Law, and any production or distribution of food contrary to the law’s provisions is technically “smuggling” according to this law. What we see here is nothing less than a major step in this domestic government’s explicit abdication on behalf of the anti-democratic, anti-sovereign alien globalization bureaucracy.
I don’t mean the abdication of power, of course. Just as the “libertarians” want, the government intends to continue acting as bailout bagman and thug enforcer on behalf of the corporations. But it wants to abdicate all authority to the globalization cadre itself, since this is explicitly a totalitarian branch of corporatism completely detached from the nominal national sovereignty. The corporations want to effect an actual secession of power and authority from sovereignty. The globalization ideologue Dani Rodrik described this as the “trilemma”: It’s not possible to maximize corporate power through globalization authority other than as a zero sum game assaulting national sovereignty and democracy. He was simply honest enough to say aloud what every globalizer always knew and intended, that globalization is the vicious class war of all rootless elites combined against all the peoples of the world. It’s the vicious war of extermination on sovereignty and democracy in themselves.
This food bill is just one example, but wherever the rackets can achieve a global market, the same process is already advanced or intended to advance. The whole world is to become one big Free Trade Zone concentration camp. (That’s of course economically impossible, since how could the impoverished inmates also serve as the consumer base? But this contradiction never stopped capitalism before. It’ll simply drive itself to its own eventual destruction this way, but it will also do all it can to destroy us all in the process.) It’s all about power and domination.   
When the Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia, in addition to pre-emptively assaulting the cities on behalf of the farmers (supposedly to turn the tables and do unto others before they do unto you), they also embarked upon their own version of Stalinist collectivization, their own war upon the farmers. This involved forbidding the growing of indigenous rice cultivars, the knowledge of which was the basis of the Cambodian food supply and in a broader sense the human culture of the country. Instead the regime mandated the growing of imported Chinese varieties which were ill-suited to the conditions of Cambodia, and completely alien to the knowledge and culture of the peasantry. The predictable result was an 85% decline in production. But this was a price the Khmer Rouge was willing to pay, since over the short run the point wasn’t to maintain production. It was to impose power. Since a key power tactic is to completely uproot the people, detach them from every frame of reference, every anchor they have, and force them to look to the regime itself as the one and only stable point amid the chaos, it follows that destroying all existing knowledge of food production and forcing the people to start from scratch is a potent way to enforce domination over them.
This same Khmer Rouge strategy has been imposed by capitalism (and industrial communism) right form the start. The goal has always been to drive people off the land and into slums. This maximizes the number of people who are completely detached from any food production whatsoever. Meanwhile those who still do farm are to be subjected to the forces of capitalist production. That means the constant revolutionization of the procedures, technology, and basic concepts of production. Synthetic fertilizers, the crop lien, dependence upon cash crops, mechanization, collectivization, dependence upon federal subsidies, the chemicals of the Green Revolution, total monoculture, dependence upon global markets, the fencerow-to-fencerow Stalinization of American farming, the rise of Monsanto, and now GMOs – all of these are milestones in the history of the farmer’s complete passivity in the face of power imposed upon him from on high. What the Khmer Rouge did was firmly in the mainstream of this whole process (their only innovation was to reverse the ideological line: they weren’t extracting for the cities, but drove people back out of the cities).
In all of this, domination of food, and in particular the eradication of all food culture, is the totalitarian goal. Stewards of heirloom seed varieties have long consciously seen themselves as stewards of human culture and history itself. They saw how they were literal culture warriors in a very real war of extermination on culture itself. In 1994 Michael Pollan wrote an article which first tried to bring this to the mainstream.

The alternative seed catalogues paint the “F-1″ hybrid, in particular, as an environmental menace and make a point of refusing to handle the dread seed. In the last few decades F-1 hybrids, which are simply the first generation produced by the crossing of two plant varieties, have become the stock in trade of the commercial seed industry, and they are gradually crowding traditional “open pollinated” varieties (ones pollinated by bees, birds or wind instead of plant geneticists) out of the marketplace. According to the Seed Savers Exchange, an organization established in 1975 to encourage backyard gardeners to preserve certain open-pollinated varieties, almost half of all the nonhybrid vegetable varieties on the market just 10 years ago have been dropped from mail-order catalogues. This often results in extinction, since many domesticated species will not survive unless they are planted over and over again by humans……

These are not the only ways in which modern hybrids remake nature in the image of capitalism. Given heavy doses of fertilizer, F-1 hybrids grow swiftly and produce high yields. They also produce genetically uniform plants. What could better suit factory farming than a robust field of identical tomato or corn plants genetically coded to ripen all at once, thereby facilitating mechanical harvesting?

But the same uniformity that smoothes capitalism’s way into the farm and garden also violates one of nature’s cardinal principles: genetic diversity. A field of genetically identical plants is much more vulnerable to disease, as American corn farmers discovered in 1970 when a blight decimated the nation’s crop, which had grown dependent on a few genetically similar hybrids. After such blights, breeders have historically turned to traditional varieties of corn, found in places like Mexico, to refresh the gene pool and provide new resistance. But what happens when Mexican farmers have been sold on fancy new hybrids and their traditional varieties have become extinct?……

To order Illini Xtra-Sweet would be a vote not just for a particular kind of corn but for a kind of agriculture—indeed, for a kind of culture. You could probably deduce a great deal about contemporary America from the genes of Illini Xtra-Sweet; for example, that this is the product of a capitalist economy whose farms rely on petrochemicals (which most hybrids require to thrive) and are typically located a long truck ride away from their consumers, who prize sweetness over nutrition and tend to boil rather than roast their corn……

Hudson’s catalog is such a vast, teeming democracy of seeds that it makes room for common weeds such as mullein and burdock, four varieties of leaf tobacco (including one grown by Zapotec Indians), even seeds for giant sequoia trees. As one of his cranky, enlightening catalogue essays makes clear, Hudson believes in preserving human as well as genetic diversity—hence the Zapotec tobacco and the Mandan Bride corn, both of whose genes encode specific cultural practices he’s bent on saving. And who knows, one of the old Indian varieties he carries might turn out to contain a trait we will desperately need someday, perhaps the gene that will help us adapt corn to a warmer, drier climate.

Unfortunately, Pollan’s warning has not been widely heeded.
More recently, we had a stark case study in what happens when corporate globalization is given total power, violent and bureaucratic, to impose exactly what it wants. When the US attacked Iraq, part of its extermination campaign was against all Iraqi culture. As Naomi Klein described in Shock Doctrine and several articles, the goal was to wipe everything clean and impose a blank slate upon which corporate domination could be directly and fully encoded. One example was the assault on seeds and indigenous farming. The seed bank at Abu Ghraib, a priceless repository of thousands of years of Mesopotamian cultivation, knowledge likely to be of critical importance in the age of climate change as more arid conditions expand, was attacked and destroyed by a mob.
Iraq’s agriculture was disrupted in general, as always happens in a war. When the farmers tried to rebuild, they were confronted with a typical globalist Catch-22. The same invaders who had destroyed their agricultural heritage now offered them aid in the form of proprietary seeds. At the same moment Paul Bremer, the US equivalent of Hans Frank in the General Government administrative zone of Poland, decreed that all proprietary globalization “law” applied in the case of Iraqi agriculture. This was a direct violation of international law, but we see what kind of law of the jungle really prevails with globalization.
Bremer’s Order 81 applied all the strictures of patent domination to the farmers who were at that moment being offered the choice of accepting the proprietary seeds or facing total ruin. (All other aid was conditional on taking the patent deal. It was a textbook example of an unconscionable contract of adhesion, in other words no contract at all according to human law.) This domination includes the truly obscene notion that when through natural inertia, negligence, or deliberate release, the patented seed spreads to the fields of a farmer against his will, he’s declared objectively in violation of the patent and subject to draconian legal penalties. This obscenity has already been enshrined in Canada. So Monsanto’s agent here tried to accomplish directly, by main force, what they’re trying to accomplish more gradually and insidiously everywhere else, including at home in America.
How is it possible that if your neighbor is negligent and lets his pollen spread to your field, or if Monsanto deliberately disperses it there, or if the wind simply blows, that you become a status criminal, an IP violator? Why, on the contrary, isn’t Monsanto guilty of a tort against you, by strict liability? The answer is that it would be under any accountable, human rule of law. But the law has abdicated. This is the anti-sovereign corporate law, which is an exact inversion of human law, just as the corporations are existentially anti-human, their very existence an affront to human dignity. They’re literally satanic according to Judeo-Christian theology.
What is to be done? Since this post was about seeds, let’s consider what is to be done about seeds. One thing’s clear – we cannot rely on seed vaults like the one in Norway. Even if these weren’t vulnerable to corporate domination, the basic idea is wrongly conceived – one big fort rather than a decentralized dispersal.
What do most individual plants do? They don’t hoard their seeds at one spot in the soil. They disperse them as widely as possible by all sorts of vehicles.
So the real Seed Banks we need will have to prize resiliency and redundancy over reinforcing one site as a hard target. They must be outside of official control mechanisms. Our seed banks have to be our own stewardship and propagation of our own heirloom seeds. Here’s one innovative idea for a legal framework for the seed commons. It would apply existing cooperative licensing to enshrine a system where anyone can innovate and sell his innovation, but not control the subsequent innovations of the buyer, and so on virally.
So it’s a fair dispensation in itself: If you’re truly innovative, you can benefit from your invention, but you can’t clamp a stranglehold on further innovation stemming from your work. Contrast that with IP concept and law: Maybe there was once innovation, but now a few monopoly rackets hoard the patents. They want no further innovation at all, only the strictly controlled “innovation” of their own tyrannical processes.
(This P2P concept highlights the essential fraudulence of all IP law applied to plants. The commons licence is correctly based on the fact that you have the right only to your own particular contribution to the collective effort, and only in proportion to it. Anyone who contributes anything to a plant variety is merely adding an increment to thousands of years of work, all of which is in the public domain, not to mention millions of years of nature’s work. So on its face the very concept of a seed patent is absurd, and would clearly be inadmissible under any legitimate rule of law. The very fact that we have to seek legal alternatives like this seed commons license is proof of the corruption and corporatization of the general law.)
We have to grow heirloom plants, save and trade heirloom seeds. We have to engage in guerrilla gardening. If we have extra seed we should simply spread it wherever it might grow. Who knows what kind of attics our heritage plants may need as shelter. These are political acts. They’re acts, not just on behalf of food sovereignty and food freedom, but on behalf of freedom itself. 

November 26, 2010

The Seed War (1 of 2)


Food sovereignty is a human right. It’s utter nonsense and fraud to even speak of democracy, freedom, or human dignity if people are chronically hungry under conditions of food abundance. Nature and human labor collaborate to produce a great bounty, and yet it disappears. It is stolen. The power structure seeks to artificially generate food scarcity. This has always been the case with food.
The situation is far more dire than is the case with mere money. The worst of the banksters’ crimes isn’t the theft of mere money itself, but that they have organized the mass plunder of our very food. This is the starkest metric of how our governments have abdicated sovereignty. They have surrendered control of our food to corporate monopoly rackets, whose only interest and will is to commodify, monopolize, drive us into economic ghettos to dominate and starve us.
It’s out of this dire need that there has arisen one of history’s most important movements, the Food Sovereignty movement.

Food sovereignty is the RIGHT of peoples, countries, and state unions to define their agricultural and food policy without the “dumping” of agricultural commodities into foreign countries. Food sovereignty organizes food production and consumption according to the needs of local communities, giving priority to production for local consumption. Food sovereignty includes the right to protect and regulate the national agricultural and livestock production and to shield the domestic market from the dumping of agricultural surpluses and low-price imports from other countries. Landless people, peasants, and small farmers must get access to land, water, and seed as well as productive resources and adequate public services. Food sovereignty and sustainability are a higher priority than trade policies.

So says La Via Campesina, a pioneer of this movement for human redemption.

· The right to food and food sovereignty: NGOs/CSOs affirm that the right to safe, adequate and nutritious food and healthy water is a fundamental human right of individuals and groups and food sovereignty that of peoples and nations, as well as the right of farmers, peasants and fisherfolk to produce food for their own families and their domestic markets. These fundamental human rights have to be respected by international institutions, governments and the economic actors.

That’s the words of the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty.

Our Commitment to the Land
*Translated from a poster that hangs in many MST offices, settlements and encampments throughout Brazil.*

MST Commitments to the Earth and to Life

Human beings are precious, for their intelligence, work and organization can protect and preserve all forms of life.

1. Love and care for the Earth and all natural beings.
2. Always work to improve our understanding of nature and agriculture.
3. Produce food to eliminate hunger. Avoid monoculture and pesticides.
4. Preserve the existing forest and reforest new areas.
5. Take care of the springs, rivers, dams and lakes. Fight against the privatization of water.
6. Beautify the settlements and communities, planting flowers, medicinal herbs, greens, trees…
7. Take care of trash and oppose any practice that contaminates or harms the environment.
8. Practice solidarity and revolt against any injustice, aggression or exploration practiced against a person, the community or nature.
9. Fight against latifundia for all that possess land, bread, studies and freedom.
10. Never sell conquered land. Land is the ultimate commodity for future generations.

We must fight to realize this vision of Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement.
Any contract abdicating food sovereignty is the equivalent of a contract for slavery. Even by our rigged law, this is considered an impossibility. Or let’s consider what the author of The Social Contract, Rousseau himself, has to say about it:

If an individual, says Grotius, can alienate his liberty and make himself the slave of a master, why could not a whole people do the same and make itself subject to a king? There are in this passage plenty of ambiguous words which would need explaining; but let us confine ourselves to the word alienate. To alienate is to give or to sell. Now, a man who becomes the slave of another does not give himself; he sells himself, at the least for his subsistence: but for what does a people sell itself? A king is so far from furnishing his subjects with their subsistence that he gets his own only from them; and, according to Rabelais, kings do not live on nothing. Do subjects then give their persons on condition that the king takes their goods also? I fail to see what they have left to preserve.

It will be said that the despot assures his subjects civil tranquillity. Granted; but what do they gain, if the wars his ambition brings down upon them, his insatiable avidity, and the vexatious conduct of his ministers press harder on them than their own dissensions would have done? What do they gain, if the very tranquillity they enjoy is one of their miseries? Tranquillity is found also in dungeons; but is that enough to make them desirable places to live in? The Greeks imprisoned in the cave of the Cyclops lived there very tranquilly, while they were awaiting their turn to be devoured.

To say that a man gives himself gratuitously, is to say what is absurd and inconceivable; such an act is null and illegitimate, from the mere fact that he who does it is out of his mind. To say the same of a whole people is to suppose a people of madmen; and madness creates no right………

To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties. For him who renounces everything no indemnity is possible. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man’s nature; to remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts. Finally, it is an empty and contradictory convention that sets up, on the one side, absolute authority, and, on the other, unlimited obedience. Is it not clear that we can be under no obligation to a person from whom we have the right to exact everything? Does not this condition alone, in the absence of equivalence or exchange, in itself involve the nullity of the act? For what right can my slave have against me, when all that he has belongs to me, and, his right being mine, this right of mine against myself is a phrase devoid of meaning?……

So, from whatever aspect we regard the question, the right of slavery is null and void, not only as being illegitimate, but also because it is absurd and meaningless. The words slave and right contradict each other, and are mutually exclusive. It will always be equally foolish for a man to say to a man or to a people: “I make with you a convention wholly at your expense and wholly to my advantage; I shall keep it as long as I like, and you will keep it as long as I like.”

(Since the entire passage is relevant and profound to our purpose, I reproduced it whole here.)
Along with the land itself, the most important battlefront is the Seed War. The biotech rackets want nothing less than world domination through control of the seed supply. They’re getting lots of help from our corrupt anti-sovereign governments. As one example, take a look at the Food Tyranny bill looming in Congress. The House version, passed in 2009, implicitly clamps the government’s metallic grip onto the life-giving seed:

(3) include with respect to growing, harvesting, sorting, and storage operations, minimum standards related to fertilizer use, nutrients, hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, animal encroachment… and water….

Ah, such a little paragraph, and so much evil packed in it. Notice they mention harvesting, sorting and storage operations? Notice they never mention seeds, but they are precisely what those words cover.

Now, watch how they will be able to easily criminalize seed banking and all holding of seeds. First, to follow how this will be done, you must understand that:

1. There is a small list inside the FDA called “sources of seed contamination” and
2. The FDA has now defined “seed” as food,
3. So seeds can now be controlled through “food safety.”

Those seeds (so far) include:

*seeds eaten raw such as flax, poppy sesame, etc.;
*sprouting seeds such as wheat, beans, alfalfa, most greens, etc.;
*seeds pressed into oils such as corn, sunflower, canola, etc.;
*seeds used as animal feed such as soy ….

That includes most seeds. It may even be all seed, given how they are skilled at ‘new’ definitions.

And what are the “sources of seed contamination” per the FDA? They include only six little items:

*agricultural water;
*manure (but not chemical pesticides or fertilizers);
*transporting equipment;
*seed cleaning (sorting) equipment; and
*seed storage (storing) facilities.

Did you know that seed cleaning equipment is THE single most critical piece of equipment for sustainable agriculture? It is how we collect organic seed. It is the machinery used after the season, when plants “go to seed,” to separate out (sort) the seeds from the plant material so the farmer can collect (harvest) and then save (put in storage) seed for the next year at little cost. With his own seed, the farmer also stays free of patented, genetically engineered, corporately privatized seeds.

This is typical of the governmental assault on seeds on behalf of the corporate pirates. But most of the assault is more oblique and ideological. “Intellectual property” (IP) is one of the key concepts corporations are using to force their version of a command economy upon many sectors which are vulnerable to economic relocalization and detachment from predatory rents. In the case of food, the goal of Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, ADM, Cargill, Tyson, Smithfield, and others is to force us to use only proprietary Terminator seeds. These are seeds which sprout only once as sterile plants.
GMOs should not be tolerated regardless.
1. They don’t work. They don’t increase yield, contrary to the lies of MSM hacks. They only reinforce monocropping industrial agriculture. Farmers were foolish enough to like this at first. Although they weren’t producing more per acre, what they did produce was cheaper to produce. But this was predictably a false economy. How reliable was faith in Monsanto, that it wouldn’t jack up the price once you were hooked?

Mr. Begemann [a Monsanto cadre] said that Monsanto used to introduce new seeds at a price that gave farmers two thirds and Monsanto one third of the extra profits that would come from higher yields or lower pest-control costs. But with SmartStax corn and Roundup Ready 2 soybeans, the company’s pricing aimed for a 50-50 split.

2. They don’t work, but they do have tremendous risks. I’ll get to those shortly. First let’s get back to the command economy assault.
There are several tactics here:
1. Attain an expansive pseudo-legal concept of IP in the first place. This means:
  A. Trying to patent the genome itself. This concept is universally rejected by everyone but biotech cadres  and globalization extremists. Even the US government recently backpedaled from this extreme position, its previous default.
  B. Patent any synthetic modification of it, and make the legal range of this modification as expansive as possible. This too is invalid. The genome is a creation of nature, and modifications of it are simply tinkerings. (That is, from any “innovation” perspective, the one we’d have to be taking if we’re talking about the alleged validity of IP. I’m not referring to the potential effects, but only how much work a corporation contributed.) The research on this was publicly funded. The USDA developed the Terminator seed.
Most crop varieties are the result of thousands of years of breeder selection. All such work is in the public domain. Genetic engineering is just a tweak, in terms of the work done. If somebody changes a light bulb in your house, does he now own your house? That’s basically what the biotech rackets are claiming.
For both those reasons – the “innovation” is merely a minor adjustment of public ideas, and the research was public funded – it’s not legitimate to grant patents for GMOs. If the genome belongs to anyone, it belongs to society. As the modification of the genome is a cooperative effort, that definitely belongs to society. All IP in plants is invalid.
IP in food is also unacceptable from the points of view of national sovereignty and national security. If a society as a society is unable to control its own food supply, if it’s impotent before either external or internal enemies (and by now who knows which kind of enemy a multinational corporation is), can it be said to exist at all?
According to Hobbes himself, such a “sovereign” would have abdicated, and we’d be in the state of nature. Since the corporations want to put us there, and the government is putting us there, why don’t we respond by calling only ourselves the society, let the outlaws be outlawed, and restitute all that’s ours? We worked for it, we paid for it. And the Earth itself provides all the materials.
2. Force proprietary seeds upon the producers. The basic plan is to use GMOs as a form of Walmartization, drive out all non-GMO producers, render all alternatives uneconomic, indeed cause the literal extinction of many heirloom varieties, get all farmers hooked, and then jack up the price.
A. Market pressure – dumping, lowballing, other anti-competitive practices, the whole fencerow-to-fencerow government propaganda and subsidy policy.
B. Globalization adhesion contracts – These allow the “protection” of only GMO varieties, which gives them another monopoly advantage.
C. Structural adjustment and “austerity”, the extortion born of the globalist debt-sharecropping system, also force it.
D. The seed contracts themselves are also indentures. If not literally crop liens, they impose lots of restrictions extending far into the future for any farmer who chooses not to renew the contract.
3. Ban alternatives. For example, I mentioned above the FDA’s definition of “seed” and how the Food Tyranny bill modifies that. In principle, this bill would empower the FDA to ban any particular heirloom seed, or heirloom seeds as such. [Heirloom seeds are those which can be saved to replant the same plant variety. Hybrid seeds are prone to have screwed-up offspring, and are therefore too unreliable for the grower. Therefore hybrid seeds can’t be saved but must be repurchased each year.] We already know they have the corporate corruption motive. The raw milk raids and the FDA’s legal brief in a lawsuit over this demonstrate the intent. This bill seems to provide the opportunity.
(Once again, we must always remind ourselves and others, if the health racket mandate is allowed to stand, there will be ZERO constitutional barrier to the government’s mandating any private product upon any flimsy pretext. In this case, the FDA will feel it has added authority to mandate proprietary hybrid or GMO seed purchases. Or for that matter to mandate that food be bought only from approved sellers, like ADM and Kraft, and only at approved retailers like Walmart. If the logic of the health insurance mandate is valid, then that of Orwellian “food safety” sure is.)
So there’s how they want to enclose the natural and cooperative food wealth and then force us to buy it back from them in infinite extortion increments. Monopoly is the water torture of civilization itself. Every rent extraction is both an injury and an insult.
And in this case it’s literally a threat to our lives. Islamic terrorism is no existential threat to America. But corporate food monopolies are. They constitute a clear and present danger to all the world’s people.
This joins the two types of threat, biological/environmental and socioeconomic. What is this IP Sword of the Terrorist Damocles?
1. It’s a terrorist assault on biology itself.
A. They intentionally seek monoculture, heirloom variety extinction, and all the biodiversity knock-on effects of that. (Monocultured fields are a desert, inhabited mostly by vermin species like rats and cockroaches, and invasive weeds.) And with the total dependency upon synthetic herbicides, we’re seeing the predicted rise of Superweeds. That’s why Monsanto has been paying farmers to use competitors’ herbicides against the Superweeds impervious to Monsanto’s poisons. They’re trying to get everyone to sign legal waivers.
B Seed homogenization renders us extremely vulnerable to any kind of economic or ecosystem collapse. (All of industrial agriculture encourages this vulnerability.) Picture the subprime bubble, but instead of trillions in digital “wealth” being vaporized, picture vast amounts of our food failing to be produced because of a superbug, soil collapse, acute oil or natural gas crunch, etc.
C. If the Terminator technology escapes, it can have horrific effects.

This hybrid is produced only to prevent the germination of anything a farmer might grow in her field. This strips the productive, life giving quality from the earth and turns it over to a research lab. This product will mean much more than massive profits and high food prices. Besides violating the age-old techniques of farming, the engineered seed also poses immediate risks to the environment and entire ecosystem as well. It has already been shown that genetically altered seeds can spread its sterile pollen to other plant species also making them unable to reproduce or otherwise altering the genetic makeup of the species. Molecular biologists reviewing the technology are divided if there is a risk of the Terminator function escaping the genome of the crops into which it has been intentionally incorporated. Many biologists warn that there is a threat of the crops moving into surrounding open pollinated crops or wild, related plants in fields nearby (Shand and Mooney, 1998). There have already been dozens of instances of genetically modified foods creeping into the general food supply and threatening food safety. In the case of the Terminator seed, the means of this “infection” would be by way of pollen from Terminator altered plants. Given nature’s incredible adaptability, and the fact that this technology has never been tested on a large scale, the possibility that the Terminator may spread to surrounding food crops or to the natural environment is a real risk of potentially limitless proportions.

This leads to:
2. What if they intentionally release Terminators into the ecosystem, as anti-ecological terrorism? Of course, their negligence and the inevitable leaks of any such system have already allowed and will continue to allow this technology to enter the environment.
A. This could in theory wipe out non-GMO crops.
B. It’s already being used as a tool of persecution.
We already know Monsanto’s goal is to achieve world domination through seed domination. As we’ll see in Part 2, even before GMOs, seed hybridization was already recognized as sublimated human genocide. This virtual mass murder, by now very literal, has advanced tremendously. We’re entering upon the final conflict.

Rousseau on Contracts and Slavery

Filed under: Neo-feudalism — Tags: — Russ @ 12:02 pm


This is Chapter 4 of Rousseau’s great work, The Social Contract. I’m excerpting it for my next post, but I wanted to include the whole thing, since it’s directly applicable to our economic situation.
SINCE no man has a natural authority over his fellow, and force creates no right, we must conclude that conventions form the basis of all legitimate authority among men.

If an individual, says Grotius, can alienate his liberty and make himself the slave of a master, why could not a whole people do the same and make itself subject to a king? There are in this passage plenty of ambiguous words which would need explaining; but let us confine ourselves to the word alienate. To alienate is to give or to sell. Now, a man who becomes the slave of another does not give himself; he sells himself, at the least for his subsistence: but for what does a people sell itself? A king is so far from furnishing his subjects with their subsistence that he gets his own only from them; and, according to Rabelais, kings do not live on nothing. Do subjects then give their persons on condition that the king takes their goods also? I fail to see what they have left to preserve.

It will be said that the despot assures his subjects civil tranquillity. Granted; but what do they gain, if the wars his ambition brings down upon them, his insatiable avidity, and the vexatious conduct of his ministers press harder on them than their own dissensions would have done? What do they gain, if the very tranquillity they enjoy is one of their miseries? Tranquillity is found also in dungeons; but is that enough to make them desirable places to live in? The Greeks imprisoned in the cave of the Cyclops lived there very tranquilly, while they were awaiting their turn to be devoured.

To say that a man gives himself gratuitously, is to say what is absurd and inconceivable; such an act is null and illegitimate, from the mere fact that he who does it is out of his mind. To say the same of a whole people is to suppose a people of madmen; and madness creates no right.

Even if each man could alienate himself, he could not alienate his children: they are born men and free; their liberty belongs to them, and no one but they has the right to dispose of it. Before they come to years of discretion, the father can, in their name, lay down conditions for their preservation and well-being, but he cannot give them irrevocably and without conditions: such a gift is contrary to the ends of nature, and exceeds the rights of paternity. It would therefore be necessary, in order to legitimise an arbitrary government, that in every generation the people should be in a position to accept or reject it; but, were this so, the government would be no longer arbitrary.

To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the rights of humanity and even its duties. For him who renounces everything no indemnity is possible. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man’s nature; to remove all liberty from his will is to remove all morality from his acts. Finally, it is an empty and contradictory convention that sets up, on the one side, absolute authority, and, on the other, unlimited obedience. Is it not clear that we can be under no obligation to a person from whom we have the right to exact everything? Does not this condition alone, in the absence of equivalence or exchange, in itself involve the nullity of the act? For what right can my slave have against me, when all that he has belongs to me, and, his right being mine, this right of mine against myself is a phrase devoid of meaning?

Grotius and the rest find in war another origin for the so-called right of slavery. The victor having, as they hold, the right of killing the vanquished, the latter can buy back his life at the price of his liberty; and this convention is the more legitimate because it is to the advantage of both parties.

But it is clear that this supposed right to kill the conquered is by no means deducible from the state of war. Men, from the mere fact that, while they are living in their primitive independence, they have no mutual relations stable enough to constitute either the state of peace or the state of war, cannot be naturally enemies. War is constituted by a relation between things, and not between persons; and, as the state of war cannot arise out of simple personal relations, but only out of real relations, private war, or war of man with man, can exist neither in the state of nature, where there is no constant property, nor in the social state, where everything is under the authority of the laws.

Individual combats, duels and encounters, are acts which cannot constitute a state; while the private wars, authorised by the Establishments of Louis IX, King of France, and suspended by the Peace of God, are abuses of feudalism, in itself an absurd system if ever there was one, and contrary to the principles of natural right and to all good polity.

War then is a relation, not between man and man, but between State and State, and individuals are enemies only accidentally, not as men, nor even as citizens,3 but as soldiers; not as members of their country, but as its defenders. Finally, each State can have for enemies only other States, and not men; for between things disparate in nature there can be no real relation.

Furthermore, this principle is in conformity with the established rules of all times and the constant practice of all civilised peoples. Declarations of war are intimations less to powers than to their subjects. The foreigner, whether king, individual, or people, who robs, kills or detains the subjects, without declaring war on the prince, is not an enemy, but a brigand. Even in real war, a just prince, while laying hands, in the enemy’s country, on all that belongs to the public, respects the lives and goods of individuals: he respects rights on which his own are founded. The object of the war being the destruction of the hostile State, the other side has a right to kill its defenders, while they are bearing arms; but as soon as they lay them down and surrender, they cease to be enemies or instruments of the enemy, and become once more merely men, whose life no one has any right to take. Sometimes it is possible to kill the State without killing a single one of its members; and war gives no right which is not necessary to the gaining of its object. These principles are not those of Grotius: they are not based on the authority of poets, but derived from the nature of reality and based on reason.

The right of conquest has no foundation other than the right of the strongest. If war does not give the conqueror the right to massacre the conquered peoples, the right to enslave them cannot be based upon a right which does not exist. No one has a right to kill an enemy except when he cannot make him a slave, and the right to enslave him cannot therefore be derived from the right to kill him. It is accordingly an unfair exchange to make him buy at the price of his liberty his life, over which the victor holds no right. Is it not clear that there is a vicious circle in founding the right of life and death on the right of slavery, and the right of slavery on the right of life and death?

Even if we assume this terrible right to kill everybody, I maintain that a slave made in war, or a conquered people, is under no obligation to a master, except to obey him as far as he is compelled to do so. By taking an equivalent for his life, the victor has not done him a favour; instead of killing him without profit, he has killed him usefully. So far then is he from acquiring over him any authority in addition to that of force, that the state of war continues to subsist between them: their mutual relation is the effect of it, and the usage of the right of war does not imply a treaty of peace. A convention has indeed been made; but this convention, so far from destroying the state of war, presupposes its continuance.

So, from whatever aspect we regard the question, the right of slavery is null and void, not only as being illegitimate, but also because it is absurd and meaningless. The words slave and right contradict each other, and are mutually exclusive. It will always be equally foolish for a man to say to a man or to a people: “I make with you a convention wholly at your expense and wholly to my advantage; I shall keep it as long as I like, and you will keep it as long as I like.”

November 25, 2010

The Self-Repair Manifesto (for the real Thanksgiving Spirit)

Filed under: Freedom, Relocalization — Russ @ 1:53 am

The Self-Repair Manifesto:

The True Spirit of Thanksgiving, our productive work toward our plentiful prosperity.

Peak Oil Video

Filed under: Peak Oil — Russ @ 1:46 am


Here’s a video from the Post Carbon Institute which gives a good rundown on the history of fossil fuels. I could quibble with a few of the details, and there’s one major lapse where it says the Cold War was a showdown between market and planned economies. Of course, “the market economy” is in fact a planned economy. “Markets” is an ideological term and concept, not a neutral denotation. Assertions to the contrary are lies which are part of the market fundamentalist ideology. The video implicitly recognizes this, for example when it posits globalization as a sentient force which does this and that. That’s exactly right, but that’s because market globalization is a command economy.

November 23, 2010

Guns, Butter, and Bonuses (MMT, Money, and Deficits) Part 2


In part 1 I discussed some of the core lies of neoliberalism: That money creation is based on deposits; that we need the banks in order to create money; that money creation without risking runaway inflation is constrained by anything other than the capacity utilization of the economy; that under today’s Depression circumstances America faces any “deficit problem” at all other than the political one created by the criminals who are looking for a pretext to steal yet more trillions under the rubric of “austerity”.
Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), the latest incarnation of a much older idea once called producerism, greenbackerism, chartalism, and other names, teaches these truths. So in these senses MMT is objectively subversive of the particular status quo which afflicts us today. It means the banks have no legitimacy and shouldn’t exist at all.
Money creation is a sovereign power of the people, and a core responsibility of government if we’re to have a government at all. Whether done directly by the government or through the middleman of the banks, money creation is done out of thin air, simply by crediting the account of a loan or payment recipient. The right way to create money is to gauge the money supply to the productive capacity of the real economy. If there’s capacity underutilization, the government should engage in deficit spending to fill the gap, until it has done enough to stimulate the full productive capacity and full employment. This is MMT’s prescription, according to many of the MMTers I’ve read.
The most direct, efficient, rational, and productive way to do this is for government to directly issue money, directly credit accounts.
Contrary to popular propaganda, the banks don’t create money as a multiple of deposits, but simply create it out of thin air. They do this not for the sake of economic health, but for their privatized rent-seeking. They want nothing but control of money in order to steal as much of every transaction as possible. The banks tax economic activity at least as much as the government does, but bank taxation is far more destructive in principle. Government taxation, although usually excessive and tyrannical in practice*, can in principle be measured and used for the sake of rearranging wealth so that economic well-being and productivity is maximized. But bank taxation is never anything other than purely greedy, purely destructive, and never has any measure other than how much they can get away with stealing. That’s what the financialization of the economy is, the attachment of a permanent financial parasite to the real productive activity of a people. This parasite does nothing but suck ever larger amounts of our life blood, steadily weakening us and even achieving motor control over our actions.
[*Today we have terminal kleptocracy, and this government, itself a creature of the banks, will never tax for any purpose other than to help the banks and corporations steal. So I’m certainly not calling for this particular government to tax more. On the contrary I say we must reject and resist all new or extended taxes on the non-rich.
In this discussion I only want to establish the principle that, as a matter of reformist philosophy, for the government to resume the full money creation and taxation power from the banks would be a progressive step.
But in the end we must get rid of centralized government as well.] 
Once the banks have financialized the economy, they believe in and demand rampant deficit spending, but they want it detached from all real production. Under financialization, the currency becomes mere funny money for bankster gambling and speculation, while all losses and destructive effects are socialized on the productive people.
Toward this end, the bankster-bought government has alienated its sovereign currency and its sovereign power. Thanks to the government’s corruption and abdication, the banks create money, not for socially and economically productive ends, but for destructive profiteering.
But the government could just as easily reclaim its money sovereignty and directly issue the money, and do so toward the goal of a healthy, productive real economy. We wouldn’t need the big banks to exist at all, and could be rid of them. There would be no threat of destructive inflation from this money issuance so long as there’s major capacity overhang and unemployment in the economy, as there is today.
Meanwhile the banks encourage unhealthy corporatist deficit spending (A2 = C, in my terminology from part 1, instead of the healthy A1 = B), and neo-austerity-mongers like Krugman embark upon their own bait and switch, wanting to surreptitiously switch in A2 for the A1 they previously advocated, and the C for the B. But they face two prospects of change: The possibility of having to capitulate to deflation at some point; and the possibility that the old greenbacker idea, in today’s MMT form, will get more and more traction.
As a contingency plan, they’ve started floating trial balloons for a restored gold standard. This is an old bankster trick. In the short run, it’s standard political misdirection. In the 19th century they used to call it “sound money” and “honest money”, and this does have a surface plausibility.
In the long run, any metal standard is always used to artificially constrict the money supply among participants in the real economy, in order to force them into debt. Whether it’s a time of real inflation or real deflation, the gold standard is used the same way, as a depressant and control over the non-finance sectors, and especially the non-rich. In our circumstance, as deflation definitively sets in, a gold standard would be used by the banksters to accelerate it beyond its natural pace, in order to more effectively impose debt indenture and strangulation. A gold standard would simply be austerity by other means.
So there’s more evidence that the true reform solution, if we’re to continue with a centralized economy at all, is that:
1. The government should directly issue greenbacks;
2. toward economically productive goals.
No “finance sector” necessary.
So the reformist MMT idea is an attempted end run around the criminal hoarding of social wealth on the part of the banks and corporations. The call for direct government issuance, including deficit spending when the economy is depressed, would be an attempt to bring the circulating supply of money in line with the economy’s productive capacity and counteract the intentional withholding of money from the economy by rent-seeking criminals who hoard that money (all stolen), and who do so in order to prop up those same rents.
There are various proposals which mean in effect crediting the accounts of the unemployed. Right there we can already see a structural weakness in the concept, since it seems to assume the continuance of bank accounts. Well, maybe it could refer only to local banks, credit unions, state banks. (I’m going to expand on a few of these ideas in an upcoming post on state banking.) The proposals could be called partial refunds of our money the banks stole through the Bailout.
While I’m not calling for such a program myself, let me stress that Washington already does “credit the bank accounts” of the unemployed. It’s just that these particular unemployed are the parasites of the FIRE sector, Pentagon sector, Big Ag, and all the rest of the corporate welfare recipients who do no work at all, who only destroy. Meanwhile to give money directly to the nominal unemployed would in fact be giving the money to productive workers who are unemployed only because those same banks intentionally destroyed their jobs.
This is in fact what MMTers advocate. Here’s a typical proposal from Marshall Auerback:

What we desperately need to do is to increase our deficit by several percentage points of GDP and offer public sector jobs to all those who want one. Government as Employer of Last Resort is one idea I have been pushing (along with Randy Wray, Bill Mitchell and a host of other people). As I said in an earlier post,

The U.S. Government can proceed directly to zero unemployment by hiring all of the labor that cannot find private sector employment. Furthermore, by fixing the wage paid under this ELR program at a level that does not disrupt existing labor markets, i.e., a wage level close to the existing minimum wage, substantive price stability can be expected. Other benefits could be provided, including vacation and sick leave, and contributions to Social Security and, most importantly, health care benefits, providing scope for a bottom up reform of the current patchwork health care system……

At any rate, what we desperately need to do is to increase our deficit by several percentage points of GDP and offer public sector jobs to all those who want one. We thus have to aim to ensure public spending fills the gap left by non-government saving (a consolidated position combining the private domestic and foreign sectors) and keeps aggregate demand growing at such a rate that it provides scope for the private savings desires to be realised without compromising our public purpose goal to ensure there is sustained full employment and inclusive income distribution outcomes.

But by far the majority of the unemployed workers could be offered a minimum wage job to work on community and environmental care projects for as long as they desired. I would suggest we also raise the minimum wage so that everyone has access to decent housing and health care etc. But the ELR scheme would only be offering a wage to workers who have no market bid for their services by definition. It will give them a job, some income security, will add to aggregate demand and help stimulate a broader recovery and, in itself, will not be inflationary.

As Auerback says, many of his colleagues support similar ideas. While I reject the specifics*, it’s good that the basic idea is spreading. It’s a cognitive rebellion against the structural bank paradigm itself, and against the deficit terrorist “austerity” propaganda and policy demands.
[*What’s wrong with specific MMT-related job creation programs:
1. They still want this job creation within the capitalist framework, and explicitly don’t want to create living wage jobs. (Edit: Cf. comments below for more on this. My critique here may not apply to every proposal.)
2. Nor are the jobs supposed to compete with the inefficient, uncompetitive private sector. So these proposals want the worst of capitalism in every aspect, the structural inefficiency and incompetence as well as the exploitation of the worker.
3. No doubt in practice the disbursement and administration would be corporatized. We saw how Obama’s idea of “job creation” is employer tax credits, i.e. another useless, expensive corporate toll booth. No other job creation program under corporate circumstances is likely to be executed any differently.
4. What these proposals really want to do is deliver a modest direct payment, but because they think it would be more politically palatable, they want to launder it through degrading makework. But I don’t think even the politics would work out that way. Nobody seems willing to learn, you can’t appease neoliberalism. Anything you try to do, good or meager, will be equally demonized. So why not demand the good, instead of a program which looks like real-life version of a caricature from a conservative polemic?
If you want a job creation program, go for the jugular, and do it with pride. Let it be real work at a real wage. Compete directly with the inefficient private sector, and proclaim that competition as a selling point, not a matter for fear and shame the way these guys seem to think it is. One can never win politically through timidity and appeasement. The best chance is always to seek to compel respect through an honest, frontal assault.]
In the end this is will all still be academic if it takes the current political parameters as given. For there to be effective fiscal policy change presupposes a general, radical political transformation. I think MMT can be part of the mix of transformative ideas, but is doomed to be relegated to arcana if its advocates see themselves as mere “reformers within the system”, and maybe not even that.
Here’s how I see things. My moral derivation from MMT (which I’m not claiming is part of MMT, but which I do claim morally and rationally follows from it) is that since money in itself has value only on account of government fiat (because government will accept it for tax purposes), therefore it follows that money can never legitimately serve as a “store of value”.
It can count as “property” only where it’s actually circulating or fermenting as a truly productive investment. Only then is it participating in the public life of the society which gives it life in the first place.
Money being hoarded, antisocial money, money as a store of value, in effect has no right to exist at all, and should be restituted to its proper owner to be put to its proper use. “Store of value” represents unproductive, parasitic hoarding of the public resource. Resources must be used productively in order to confer legitimacy of possession upon the possessor. One is a participant in the economy to the extent he is an agent of the velocity of useful, constructive activity (not mere “velocity of money”). One who’s not such a participant has no valid claim on society’s resources. That includes all rentier parasites. Hoarded “property” is nothing but stagnation, rot.
Hoarded wealth is both useless and pathological. Since all wealth is produced by people working together, even if we agreed to channel more of it through some hands than others, this could be fair and efficient only if the intent were to give them greater opportunity to enjoy the wealth only through the act of recirculating it, spending it in the real economy.
But for someone so blessed to instead hoard and financialize is a double-cross. It’s breaking the deal which distributed that wealth in the first place. (As for the “investment” justification, history has empirically proven that beyond a modicum, concentrated wealth is not productively invested but is used for unproductive, destructive speculation and gambling. In the same vein, corporations which aren’t producing but merely hoarding, as so many are today, have no right to be “taking profits” at all. By definition any such extractions are just looting. Under today’s post-capitalist conditions, the forms of capitalism are no longer valid. They’re worthless and worse than worthless. Pernicious.)
This is the basic critique of idle, useless “property”: Since all value is a cooperative endeavor, and the only rationale for allowing property rights would be to increase the cooperative value and happiness, therefore as individuals and groups we have a legitimate right to useful possession, but none to stagnant hoarded “property”. We should apply this to money, purging the “store of value” concept.
So that’s why I say sitting on wealth, relegating it to unproductivity, is useless in any practical sense, and has no moral validity because it abrogates the social contract under which it was unequally distributed in the first place. Only constructive velocity can justify inequality of distribution. (Again, wealth is cooperatively generated in the first place. Even the greatest thinker still stands on the shoulders of his predecessors, and on the education society provided him. And he then depends upon the resources of nature and the work of many others to bring his ideas to fruition.)
In all this I’m referring to large wealth concentrations. I’m not referring to attempts at saving on the part of the non-rich under this system, where people are forced by circumstances to try to save for the hardships of the future, since we have no adequate social support system or safety net. The neoliberal barbarians of today want to do away with civilization itself.
But in a human community there would never be any need or justification for unproductive hoarding. Useful possession is the measure of legitimate possession. MMT supports this with its proposition that since money is created only by the government, and only as an economic lubricant of the productivity of the people, money as a “store of value”, that is the hoarding of it, has no rational or moral legitimacy.
So getting back to MMT’s accounting identity, here’s the course of action to render things morally and rationally valid: The government can run a deficit in order to stimulate the depressed real economy (this depression being accounted for by the “surplus” hoarded by the banks and corporations), so its production recovers from the vandalism inflicted upon it by the banks, and counteracts their depressive criminal assaults which destroy jobs and relegate resources to uselessness. The government could even redeem its sovereignty and smash the criminals, restituting this stolen “private surplus” and restoring it to the productive people who are its true owners. In all this, there would be no practical reason nor moral right for the big banks to exist.
In the course of this restitution the economy’s productive potential could be focused on the transformation from the fossil fuel based “growth” economy to the post-oil steady-state economy.
Once this was done, there would no longer be a need for a government deficit, or for a centralized government at all. This could be retired as the now fully employed, fully productive steady state economy rationally and prosperously proceeds.
These ideas will become more and more apparent as the criminal disease metastasizes. For now the point here is to be aware of these facts:
1. Government will spend on anything it wants. (And so long as the economy is depressed, it can spend as much as it wants without fear of triggering inflation.) The elites, whether aware of the real nature of money or not, all implicitly agree that deficits don’t matter. Their actions prove this.
2. But the elites tell the lie that spending is constrained in order to justify cutting public interest spending and raising taxes on the non-rich.
This conjunction of 1. and 2.  explains the obvious, grotesque contradiction of a government hemorrhaging borrowed money and deficit spending on bailouts, wars, and corporate welfare at the same time it calls for “austerity”. (This juxtaposition is so patently idiotic and obscene that I don’t understand why just by itself it doesn’t trigger a revolution. Is it really possible to be so dense and/or compliant that one can’t see the manifest bad faith, indeed total criminality, of such a government?)
3. For now we can’t do much about 1., but we can expose the lie upon which 2. is based. That’s the mission of MMT.

November 22, 2010

Bailouts = Monopoly, Health Racket Version

Filed under: Bailouts Intensify Monopoly, Health Racket Bailout — Russ @ 3:00 am


I have a whole category dedicated to the fact that Bailouts Intensify Monopoly. We recall how, as soon as the TARP was on the books, Paulson and his people started saying, “our real intent is mergers and acquisitions, and we want the TARP and the rest of the bailout to help achieve this.” We want greater concentration, greater monopoly.
We’re already receiving confirmation that this is a core goal of Obama’s extension of the FIRE bailout to the health rackets. We’ve seen it with insurers, we’ve seen it with waivers and exemptions as an indirect tool toward concentration in general, in all sectors. Now we’re seeing it with providers as well.
Under the Orwellian name of “accountable care organizations”, hospitals and doctors in theory are supposed to combine to hold down costs and deliver better care. Under corporatist conditions, in practice this can only mean shift more costs onto patients and the people in general. Actually holding down costs is not a real goal; shifting them is. Indeed, the system encourages bloating costs. The smoking gun proof of this is that all “stakeholders” reject the one and only proven cost-cutting measure, Single Payer.
That proves that no one among the elites ever wanted to control costs or deliver better care. It proves that the very word “reform” was an Orwellian sham right from the inception.

When Congress passed the health care law, it envisioned doctors and hospitals joining forces, coordinating care and holding down costs, with the prospect of earning government bonuses for controlling costs.
Now, eight months into the new law there is a growing frenzy of mergers involving hospitals, clinics and doctor groups eager to share costs and savings, and cash in on the incentives. They, in turn, have deployed a small army of lawyers and lobbyists trying to persuade the Obama administration to relax or waive a body of older laws intended to thwart health care monopolies, and to protect against shoddy care and fraudulent billing of patients or Medicare.

No one who knows anything about the way the system works can be surprised by this for a second. Obama, the Dems, the liberal groups and bloggers, the MSM, Krugman – they all knew this is exactly what would happen. Therefore this is what they intended to have happen.
This is a form of disaster capitalism. Facing what’s in this case a real problem (often the problem itself is fake), you misdirect concern and use the problem as the pretext to not only extend the reach of greed, but to launch assaults on pre-existing safeguards. So here we see how Obamacare was, in addition to its many other crimes, a Trojan horse against existing anti-monopoly regulation.
Need I say it again? Under kleptocracy, regulation doesn’t work. You can never regulate oligopoly rackets. You can only destroy them.
And in this case, the “regulation” is designed to generate new rackets.
This is what we can expect from each and every policy advocated by liberals or conservatives. (Or in this case both, since Obamacare is just a rehash of the Heritage Foundation’s Romneycare. Obama himself called it a Republican policy.)

“If accountable care organizations end up stifling rather than unleashing competition,” said Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the trade commission, “we will have let one of the great opportunities for health care reform slip away.”

There’s Orwell again in that quote. This is the shock doctrine “opportunity”. Remember what Rahm said about not letting a crisis go to waste?
The law itself is inherently reactionary, and now it’s being applied in further reactionary ways, to gut what little regulation existed in the first place:

Elizabeth B. Gilbertson, chief strategist of a union health plan for hotel and restaurant employees, also worries that the consolidation of health care providers could lead to higher prices.

“In some markets,” Ms. Gilbertson said, “the dominant hospital is like the sun at the center of the solar system. It owns physician groups, surgery centers, labs and pharmacies. Accountable care organizations bring more planets into the system and strengthen the bonds between them, making the whole entity more powerful, with a commensurate ability to raise prices.”

She added, “That is a terrible threat.”

Doctors and hospitals say the promise of these organizations cannot be fully realized unless they get broad waivers and exemptions from the government.

The American Medical Association has urged federal officials to “provide explicit exceptions to the antitrust laws” for doctors who participate in the new entities. The F.T.C. has accused doctors in many parts of the country of trying to fix prices by collectively negotiating fees — even though the doctors do not share financial risk and are supposedly competing with one another.

Hospitals and doctors have also asked the administration to waive laws intended to prevent fraud and abuse in Medicare.

In a recent letter to federal officials, Charles N. Kahn III, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, said, “To provide a fertile field to develop truly innovative, coordinated-care models, the fraud and abuse laws should be waived altogether.”

These laws are an impediment and, in some cases, “a total barrier” to creation of accountable care organizations, Mr. Kahn said, making it difficult for hospitals to reward doctors for cutting costs or following best practices.

It’s a lie that anyone wanted to cut costs, just like it’s a lie that anyone cares about deficits. Anyone who wants to cut health care costs wants Single Payer. Anyone who cares about the deficit wants Single Payer.

A major purpose of accountable care organizations is to encourage doctors to work closely with selected hospitals, and the rewards paid to doctors — typically, a percentage of the money saved — could run afoul of this law, hospitals and doctors say.

Dr. Donald M. Berwick, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, hails the benefits of “integrated care.” But, Dr. Berwick said, “we need to assure both patients and society at large that destructive, exploitative and costly forms of collusion and monopolistic behaviors do not emerge and thrive, disguised as cooperation.”

But this monopoly was part of the purpose of the law. We see it right there – the law’s impetus runs directly counter to all existing antitrust legislation. (Of course, the Stamp rackets already had an antitrust exemption, which the bill wants to help them leverage even further.) Just like all the other bailouts, it rewards monopoly and wants further monopoly. This is what Obama wanted, this is what the Democrats wanted, and going forward this is clearly what any supporter of the whole policy wants.
But liberal myopics are congenitally incapable of understanding this.

Peter W. Thomas, a lawyer for the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, a national advocacy group, expressed concern about the impact on patients.

“In an environment where health care providers are financially rewarded for keeping costs down,” he said, “anyone who has a disability or a chronic condition, anyone who requires specialized or complex care, needs to worry about getting access to appropriate technology, medical devices and rehabilitation. You don’t want to save money on the backs of people with disabilities and chronic conditions.”

He’s unable to understand the underlying, immutable conflict of interest which defines the system. It’s intractable. You will the end, you will the means. Obviously the system “wants” to do this. And if you don’t want that result, you have to reject the entire system.
If you want decent health care for all the people, then you have to want and fight for Single Payer. If you don’t want Single Payer, you don’t want non-rich people to get care at all. 

November 21, 2010

Relocalization vs. Neoliberalism

Filed under: American Revolution, Freedom, Land Reform, Neo-feudalism, Relocalization — Tags: — Russ @ 6:17 am


Another day, another Naked Capitalism exposee, this time an analysis of how the servicers screw the MBS investors because the fee structure favors mass foreclosures, even though no one but the servicers benefits from this.
I participated in the comment thread (including a quick rundown on the residential developer racket), and a fellow commenter asked me:

attempter, what do you want instead? I think your argument is that there is no benign form of capitalism? That all forms of it, because of profit seeking, regardless of the nominal legal structure, in fact end up promoting criminal activity, theft, dishonesty, fraud.

I don’t agree, I think modern markets with sensible regulation, if we can figure out how to stop regulation being captured by the regulatees, is probably the least bad way of organizing economic life.

But what would your way be?

Since I thought my answer was a decent epitome of my thoughts on that question, I decided to reproduce it here:
Maybe it would be, who knows. But we do know that you’ve had innumerable shots at doing that and they all failed. I’d say that by now regulated oligopoly capitalism has been empirically proven to fail, if the measure of failure is that it devolves into kleptocracy.
I’ve said many times what I want, and what the end of the fossil fuel age will force anyway: Economic and political decentralization. Beyond that I want true federal democracy, since representative pseudo-democracy is also a proven failure, again by the measure of degradation into kleptocracy.
Direct democracy and true federalism means all real power, political and economic, stays at its natural level, among the productive people themselves.
This is the only way which any longer has any moral, rational, or practical validity.
Now, within that framework there’s still lots of room for experimentation with various economic forms. “Market” is not necessarily synonymous with “rentier capitalist”.
But I think one thing that’s proven NOT to work is propertarianism over natural resources, the land, or the means of production. These are all clearly either the produce of the earth itself, and/or a cooperative endeavor. Anything other than cooperative management and usufruct over these has no moral or rational validity.
And, not just in addition to, but precisely because it doesn’t work morally or rationally, it also doesn’t work on a practical level. That’s why it always degrades to oligopoly stagnation, bottlenecks, anti-innovation, inefficiency, strangulating rent extractions, kleptocracy. That’s what I call the Rule of Rackets – no one competes or innovates for one day longer than he has to. The second he can switch to rentier racketeering, he does. That’s why all the promises of the capitalist textbooks about how in a mature sector the profit rate would fall to a minimum have been proven false.
Because capitalism doesn’t work.
So the existing dispensation is not only immoral and irrational, but doesn’t even work, if the goal is to spread prosperity among all the productive people.
In case people have forgotten, that was the point of civilization in the first place.
But neoliberalism is an anticivilization ideology, strategy, and set of tactics. It is post-civilizational barbarism. It wants to restore the worst of feudal enslavement and misery where even the consolations of medieval religion no longer exist. (But I do expect new cults to arise.)
That’s what I want to prevent. That’s why I’m trying to oppose to it the idea of relocalization as the vehicle of redemption for economic prosperity, democracy, freedom, and human dignity.
It’s the only way forward for civilization itself.

Student Loan Indenture

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Freedom — Tags: — Russ @ 6:11 am


This morning at Naked Capitalism Yves asked the question, Is Student Debt the Next Front in the Consumer Debt Crisis? I’ve been meaning to write something about this, and the comment I made there is a good summary of my thoughts, so I decided to reproduce it here:
I’ve already heard of a few cases of law students suing their law schools for having fraudulently represented the value of the degree and the jobs that would be available to them, and inducing them to take out student loans on that fraudulent basis.
The moral soundness of such a suit is clear. This is a clear-cut case of predatory lending. You fraudulently represent an expensive asset as being an investment which will always appreciate in value, and induce the mark to take out a usurious loan in order to purchase it.
The parallel with housing is clear, and the fraud is even more direct. In the case of mortgage lending fraud, the seller was usually technically the previous homeowner, with the banks and their flunkeys managing the sale (and the government only propagandizing for it).
Here the school and the government themselves, along with the banksters, are active participants in the loan fraud.
It’s even worse in this case because there are no non-recourse student loans. There’s no house collateral to repossess. There aren’t even recourse loans which can be discharged in bankruptcy. Instead the “repossession” on a default can be nothing other than indentured labor. Legally, there’s no walking away from a student loan. Once the distressed student borrower can’t pay, he’s placed in the Hobbesian state of nature vis the indenturing system. The 2005 bankruptcy law has only made this worse.
Then there’s the fact that many of those who went on to post-graduate study did so expecting to be hired at asset-appreciating rates by the very educational system which was making these promises for these assets. Yet everywhere today we see the schools themselves failing to hire in sufficient numbers, and low-balling those they do hire, and seeking neoliberal structural adjustments for professors and teachers at every level.
It’s there that the loan fraud is most stark, direct, palpable.
So I’d love to see class action suits against the universities by the distressed student debtors, and a parallel political campaign unmasking this systematic lending fraud on the part of the schools and the very government which makes it impossible to discharge the debt, but wants to turn it into indentured servitude.
While here it’s not legally possible to jubilate the debt from the bottom up (the way it is with e.g. mortgage debt), it’s possible to politically demonstrate it to be predatory debt, the victims being the children (and by extension the parents who have to keep financially helping them) of the very middle class who would be the target audience. And this way may lie some kind of political relief, some kind of top-down acquienscence in the demanded jubilee.
(Meanwhile, I don’t know how legally viable such lawsuits would be. The law is no doubt rigged against them, and even if not it would still depend upon non-corrupt judges, judges who aren’t pro-bankster. But I think the main point of such suits would be political. Money shouldn’t be a problem, if we have all these unemployed lawyers. All you need is enough of them who recognize that the most likely  path to relief is political, and that such suits can be part of that political campaign even if they don’t prevail in the proximate legal sense.)
Beyond that, this is yet another stark lesson in the fact that the government and system institutions have become on the whole enemies of the people. What other conclusion can be drawn from the fact that they’ve taken the education aspiration itself, something which throughout history was the shining emblem of socioeconomic advancement, always right at the core of the work-hard-and-play-by-the-rules propaganda (and let’s recall how just a few years ago the likes of David Brooks were trumpeting the notion that America needed to aspire to universal college attendance), that they’ve taken this and turned it into another malevolent dead end and debt trap.
We know what Hobbes said the person who has been cast out and placed back in the state of nature should do, what he’s morally entitled to do, if the sovereign unilaterally breaks the social contract. The student debtor, the victim of top-down loan fraud and the target of indenture, should recognize that the existing system first lied to him and then unilaterally declared war upon him. He should regard it in kind.

November 20, 2010

Guns, Butter, and Bonuses (Money, Deficits, And MMT) 1 of 2

Filed under: Corporatism, Globalization, Sovereignty and Constitution — Tags: , — Russ @ 3:33 am


As we sink into economic depression, everywhere we hear the deficit and public debt crisis alarms summoning us to cut spending, raise taxes (on the non-rich, while those for the rich are cut further), “sacrifice”. This sacrifice is never to be undertaken by those who have already monopolized the vast majority of the wealth of the country. The top 1% of the rich hoard one third of America’s wealth. The top 10% has extracted two thirds. Yet all the calls for “austerity” fall on the lower cohorts, and the lower on the wealth and income scale one is, the more onerous the burden. This is as clear as class war and civil war can get short of the actual shooting.
The question, as in every other case where then non-rich act against their own interests, is why are so many people going along with this scam that there’s such a thing as a “deficit problem”? It’s manifest that no one among the elites actually believes this. Everyone, without exception, of whatever nominal politics, implicitly agrees that this government, sovereign in its own currency, spending in a Depression economy, can spend as much as it wants, at will.
The Bailout, the wars, the Pentagon’s obscene budget, Big Ag subsidies, corporate welfare in general, prove this.
So the only question is, will the government spend at will to further enrich and empower the parasites and criminals, or will it spend to help the productive people?
The only, indirect way in which deficit spending destroys the real economy is that corporatist government spending further empowers the criminals to steal yet more real wealth from the productive people, and it imposes the opportunity cost of spending foregone which could have benefited the people as we sink into an economic Depression.
It’s not really an opportunity cost, though, since that implies a trade-off had to be made. The government could easily spend on guns, bank bonuses, and butter. It could loot on behalf of the corporations at the same time that it spends to restore to the people (“trickles back down”) some of the wealth which was stolen from them. But the spending on guns and bonuses and the refusal to spend on butter are all part of the same class war strategy. As is the whole deficit terrorist line of propaganda.
MMT educators stress the accounting identity involved here. In a closed system where the government runs a sovereign currency, a government deficit or surplus has to equal the private sector surplus or deficit. Adding globalization spreads the accounts among many governments and national private sectors, but the globe itself is still closed. (Indeed viewing globalization as a de facto One World Government in terms of MMT can help highlight the class unity of the global elites and the vicious war they wage on all the world’s peoples.)
The best MMT resources include Naked Capitalism, Warren Mosler, Corrente, Kansas City, and the Billy Blog.
So here’s the right way to look at this identity: If we let the public sector = A, and the private sector equal B, and any surplus on one side must be matched by a deficit on the other side, by accounting identity we have A = B. The real question isn’t the “is A sustainable?” of the deficit alarmists. It’s very clear that every single elite and flack, no exceptions, implicitly claims that deficits in A are no problem at all where A is corporatist spending and B is corporate hoarding and the ratholes of the rich. It’s only to the extent that A still includes any public interest spending whatsoever that they suddenly go into deficit shock mode.
So let’s join this battle but make the terms explicit. Everyone agrees deficits are no problem, and only tactically tells lies in a particular situation (where they want to impose “austerity”). So clearly there are actually two kinds of A = B. There’s A2 as corporatist spending, with the surpluses of B made up of corporate hoarding (let’s call that C); and there’s A1 as public interest spending, where the B surplus could eventually become savings on the part of the people.
So the question becomes, given that we all act as if A is unlimited, will we let the criminals continue to make the identity be A2 = C, or will we compel the restoration of some legitimacy and rule of law by forcing it back toward A1 = B?
So activists can leave aside the “is A sustainable?” question as moot. Instead we say, “for whatever A, and no matter what the posterity of A, the real fight is to smash the A2 = C paradigm, and compel the A1 = B.” That’s given the current political circumstance. As I’ll get to in part 2, the real goal is a healthy economy where the velocity of money would be such that A and B would always be close to equal, with the decentralized money supply always just a little out front of productive capacity, which would always be fully engaged.
For this post, I want to discuss further the reformist nature of MMT and its explicit prescriptions. It’s reformist because it’s based on continued large-scale taxation in the sovereign currency administered by a central government. It recognizes that under our status quo the private banks create money out of thin air, at best in anticipation of deposits. They do not lend multiples of existing deposits, the way the popular misconception has it. MMT states the politically incorrect obvious: Governments could do the same exact thing, and do it far more efficiently. The banks produce nothing but merely erect a toll booth and drag a chain across the river. The government could directly produce the same fiat money the banks do, but wipe out all the middlemen, purge all the rents, and render the money creation and distribution far more rational, efficient, and fair.
We see how apologists for the banksters have no problem with the most profligate spending out of thin air on every kind of bailout and bonus and boondoggle, as long as the money creation out of thin air is channeled through the banks. But they throw a fiscal conservative fit over any spending which might benefit the people. So here the fact that private banks create money out of thin air is a dirty little secret everyone agrees to keep quiet, and no one sees as dangerous. But it’s a scandal if someone suggests the government sovereign in its own currency can do the same thing based on actual economic production.
MMTers just want to do as Alinsky said, “make them live up to their own rules”. The government can freely and openly act according to the exact same principles and practices which it and the banks currently act upon surreptitiously. The difference being that actual stimulus could possibly help reform and restore the productive economy, while bailouts, war, the Pentagon, and all other forms of corporate welfare are purely destructive spending, just cannibalizing what’s left of the principal. The banks don’t manage the money supply toward economic health and a fair distribution. They manage it only toward stealing as much as possible. Pure robbery.
The is antithetical to the standard view that the elite parasites create wealth. The fact is that the productive people create ALL wealth, and a legitimate government would create money to reflect that. A legitimate government would do so for the benefit of productivity and prosperity. This means the money supply should always reflect the capacity of the real economy, and should especially be a vector reflecting productive potential.
An anti-sovereign rogue government, on the other hand, alienates its money sovereignty to banks and even to globalization cadres. It does so for the benefit of parasites and criminals, to put money creation and management in their hands. In this case the criminals hijack the natural fiat money creation to financialize the economy, and/or to artificially restrict the money supply, as in the case of a gold standard (more on that in Part 2).
The truth is:
1. Money is created out of thin air. This creation may or may not be based on the productive capacity of the real economy. The money may or may not be deployed for the benefit of the real economy, as opposed to thrown down rent-extraction ratholes while the real economy depresses and dies. So there’s two kinds of accounting identities, the legitimate, benevolent A1 = B, and the hijacked, destructive A2 = C.
2. There’s no natural limit on rational, effective A1 deficit spending so long as there’s capacity underutilization and unemployment.
3. We do in fact have profligate thin-air money creation and rampant deficit spending, but it’s irrational and ineffective spending. It’s simply the government embezzling from the people and acting as corporate bagman, conveying the loot to private racketeers.
The fact that all this spending is taking place with little objection from the “fiscal conservatives” proves that all their fear-mongering about Social Security and other social spending is a lie.
4. So the rational, moral, and practical course of action is to end ALL corporate welfare and instead create the money and spend it on a real jobs program and a real infrastructure transition to the post-oil age. That’s MMT-style reformism.
The fact that the fiscal terrorists in the media and think tanks get everything exactly backwards proves their malevolent agenda. They’re enemies of the people.
In Part 2 I’ll discuss that further, and explore the real possibilities of this reform agenda.
Older Posts »