Volatility

December 2, 2010

Corporatism (Hoarding, Profiteering, AT&T, SCOTUS)

 

We recently saw the spectacle of corporations reporting $1.659 trillion in profiteering in the 3rd quarter, as they continue to hoard vast amounts of cash, much of it looted through taxpayer bailouts, the rest looted through oligopoly rent extractions. This occurs simultaneously as permanent joblessness creeps toward (or over, according to some measures) 20%. Even the propagandist NYT couldn’t obscure the fact that these corporate “profits” were stolen directly from the people. These “profits” have mostly been hoarded unproductively or stolen in the form of “bonuses” and other personal looting.
 
This is definitive proof, if anyone needed more, that:
 
1. Trickle down doesn’t work. It’s not meant to work. It’s a fraud, and advocacy of it abets capital robbery. This incriminates both Washington gangs, the entire MSM, most of academia, and conservatism and liberalism as a whole. By now anyone who advocates any corporatist “solution” is simply a criminal.
 
2. Corporations serve no constructive purpose. Under conditions of social crisis and incipient Depression, if corporations are going to do nothing but hoard these windfall profits, all of it directly or indirectly looted through the Bailout, why should their profiteering be tolerated at all? Certainly, why should individual profiteers be allowed to hide behind limited liability? Corporations should be eradicated completely.
 
3. There’s no longer such a thing as valid profits among any of these oligopolies. If “profit” ever served a progressive economic role, it no longer does. (And anyone who still dreams of being the virtuous small entrepreneur who truly earns a profit, and who would oppose my anti-corporatism on those grounds, had better wake up – that’s not the system we have. While for the moment we may sometimes still have to practice “capitalism”, belief in it does nothing but condemn us to destruction by fighting on the enemy’s chosen, pre-mined battleground.) By now profits have zero moral, rational, or practical validity. These profiteering and hoarding data prove the impracticality, which by itself proves the irrationality and immorality, though these have many other proofs as well.
 
Capitalism doesn’t work. We’ve reached the end of it, the purely stagnant, unproductive stage of terminal oligopoly. By now every aspect of capitalism and propertarianism is meant to kill ideas, innovation, and freedom, to prevent anything new from growing, and to preserve the rancid power and wealth of this festering, rotting corpse. The events of the last several years prove its complete abdication, morally and in terms of serving any practical purpose whatsoever. What do corporations do? They grope, squeeze, suck blood, and often gouge, punch, and kick. They do nothing but hurt and destroy. What does government do? Nothing but help the corporations do this. It steals directly on their behalf and does all it can to enable their robbery, vandalism, and murder.
 
There can no longer be any doubt about the malevolence and worthlessness of government and corporations. The only morally and rationally valid principle going forward, and the only one which can possibly work, is positive democracy. Economic and political relocalization on the basis of direct democracy and cooperative self-determination.
 
At the moment things don’t exactly seem to be headed in that direction. Just as a little case study in the essence of corporatism as I just described it, let’s consider a coming attraction from the supremely corrupt court.
 
The gist of the case, AT&T Mobility vs. Concepcion, is that AT&T systematically committed flat out fraud and theft by tacking bogus charges onto bills. The goal was to cover up for these by slathering the contracts in fine print boilerplate jargon, forcing the customer, as a condition of the contract, to agree to “arbitration” in any dispute, and make the thefts small enough that the customer either wouldn’t notice or would consider it too much of a hassle to pursue a refund. And by keeping the victims informationally isolated from one another, AT&T hoped the thefts would all look like mistakes which at worst warranted crediting the customer’s account, not felonies which warrant punitive damages as well as prison sentences for company cadres.
 
There’s a lot here which shouldn’t be able to happen, according to the capitalist textbooks. According to capitalist ideology, a competitor should come along and take all of AT&T’s business by offering better service. This competitor will allegedly offer clear contracts, no fine print, which don’t require the customer to surrender his constitutional rights as the condition of the contract. (The contract should always be absolutely clear, as a matter of market efficiency. Anyone who makes the contract opaque is simply hindering the market, not behaving as a legitimate capitalist, and will hurt himself in the competitive marketplace. The ideology says so.) This hypothetical competitor will also be so good as to not, um, steal. The contracts which surrender the right to sue are clearly invalid, as they are unconscionable contracts of adhesion. Meanwhile a conscientious government, conscientiously enforcing a conscientious law, will see that the victim gets his day in court and will vigorously prosecute the wrongdoer. The system will be vindicated!
 
Of course, in reality the opposite happens. In reality the telecom sector matured, congealed, and calcified. It concentrated into a stagnant oligopoly with full government assistance. All the oligopolists collude to impose the same opaque, unconstitutional adhesion contracts upon the prostrate customer. The government encourages them to do this. No competitor is likely to arise. The government helps set up the insurmountable barriers to entry. There is no competition. “Competition” is just another Marie Antoinette “let them eat cake” term – “You don’t like the contract? Go to the competition!”
 
There is no competition. In almost every sector, a few oligopolists have a stranglehold, and they collude to impose this grip with no escape, no alternative. The government does all it can to help them attain this death grip. Capitalism is a failure and a fraud.
 
And how is this fraud working in the AT&T case? Once enough victims of the fraud learned about one another and combined for a class action suit (the only way to render it economic to sue for a vast amount which is nevertheless a small amount for each individual class member), the adhesion contract was supposed to get the suit thrown out peremptorily. Failing this, AT&T argued other bogus obstacles to the suit’s standing. This “standing” barrier is one of the most common weapons of corporations and rogue jurists.
 
Hearteningly, AT&T’s conduct was so brazen and extreme that every court so far, starting in the California state courts and extending into the federal courts, has rejected the adhesion contract and allowed the suit to go forward. California found that the contract is indeed unconscionable, and the federal courts agree. Which has now brought AT&T and the people to the corporate criminal’s last and best resort, the rogue “supreme” court. Here there’s definitely four votes in the bag, at least three flaky ones among established corporatists (Breyer, Kennedy, and Ginsburg) who sometimes shrink from the more extreme results, and the still largely unknown quantity Sotomeyer. And then there’s Kagan making her debut in a big corporate case. Her prior record, such as it is, doesn’t offer much grounds for optimism, but we’ll see.
 
The fact that this case has even gotten this far to hang in such jeopardy, at the mercy of a handful of autocrats who have zero sovereign legitimacy, is a testament to derangement of kleptocracy.
 
In any case study of corporatism, we’ll find the same two factors:
 
1. The government sees its mission as to empower and enable corporate domination and corporate crime.
 
2. The government assaults and obstructs democracy in order to prevent us from exercising our rights as citizens, wherever those rights conflict with the lawless, anti-sovereign corporate prerogative.
 
Even the original Framers, as dubious as they were about democracy, clearly excluded corporations from any constitutional standing. They took seriously the ideal of sovereignty and government’s necessary obligation to exercise it, if it’s to have any legitimacy at all. So even by Hamiltonian standards, what we have today is a rogue, illegitimate, anti-sovereign corporate flunkey, not a government. It’s a terminal kleptocracy. 
Advertisements

19 Comments

  1. The implications of the AT&T case are disturbing.

    On a somewhat related note, earlier this week I was asked by one friend and encouraged by others to submit an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in a patent case that will be argued next year.

    At first I was hesitant to do so, primarily because it often feels like the fix is in, much as you describe in this post.

    And then I thought, when will I have a better opportunity to speak directly to power? So I’ll be making my bar membership active again and get admitted to the Supreme Court bar so that I can file the brief on my own behalf, which (a) saves me a lot of money and (b) allows me to speak more freely than attorneys who actively practice law and must be careful what they say for fear of alienating existing or future clients.

    If I find the experience rewarding (which does not depend on the result but the process), I will likely expand the types of cases for which I file a “friend of the court brief.” The AT&T case is an example of something that I probably would consider weighing in on.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — December 2, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

    • That’s great, Tao. Glad to hear it.

      I read that the court intentionally took on a big corporate-oriented caseload. That can only mean one thing…

      Comment by Russ — December 2, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

  2. Please clarify: You state “…positive democracy. Economic and political relocalization on the basis of direct democracy and cooperative self-determination.”
    To what size (population, goegraphically &/or number and type of political subdivisions)do you picture in your mind that an independent state can grow and still be able to function as you describe in the partial quote above?
    There is a balance between being so large as to become too centralized and corrupt, which we are currently experiencing here in the U.S., and too small and weak, consequently, unable to survive as an independent entity.

    Comment by jm51 — December 2, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

    • I don’t know a hard and fast answer to that. It seems like it would depend on lots of things.

      The actual process of how things decentralize, whether that’s a structural collapse or a political transformation, how fast it happens, differing speeds of change in different regions, wisdom and will of the people, the population density, the kinds of neighbors, the ability to federate with neighbors and regions, the energy availability, status of the soil, pre-existing climate, significant effects of climate change if any, water…

      Sorry if I sound too vague, but for now it seems to me that we’ll probably have to adapt to change more than we’ll be able to adapt it to preset blueprints.

      As far as what’s possible, agrarian co-ops and industrial syndicates of various sizes existed and functioned well in 1930s Spain following the revolution. And in Russia the soviets, as organized by workers, soldiers, sailors, and peasants, scaled very well, from Petrograd and Moscow down to the small village.

      (Tomorrow I should have an interesting little post on the subject, since I found an interesting old map I want to share.)

      Comment by Russ — December 2, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

      • In your reply you say “The actual process of how things decentralize, whether that’s a structural collapse or a political transformation, how fast it happens, differing speeds of change in different regions…” & later “but for now it seems to me that we’ll probably have to adapt to change…” (the remainder of the sentance is a topic for another time).
        Both statments indicate a wait and see stategy. I submit that in order to bring about any substantive change in any meaningful timeframe, the forces of change must control the agenda, otherwise we are all just kibitzers in the grandstands of life playing the game of “aint it terrible”. The replacement agenda must include a framework for a society which recognizes the inherent rights of human beings and ensures sufficient safeguards to prevent society from degenerating into a corrupt criminal enterprise and to guarantee the accountability of both the government to the People and the People to each other, individually and collectively. The framework must then be distributed. Over what area or population? That was my question.

        Comment by jm51 — December 2, 2010 @ 11:43 pm

      • OK, I misunderstood your question. I thought you were talking about what I expect to actually happen, not what we should aspire toward.

        In an nutshell, I’d call upon people everywhere in America to start forming councils now (while if possible also taking over the pre-existing “official” local governments; at any rate seeking to coordinate and work with them).

        We’d try to do our best to start a national movement in the sense of providing a basic ideological and policy framework for economic relocalization and directly democratic structures, but we’d stress the necessity for locally determined application, and try not to get hung up on extraneous issues.

        As I said, the “correct” size for these councils is going to be determined by the local/regional conditions. But they should immediately start entering all vacuums left behind by bank dereliction on the land itself and service cuts on the part of local government. They should do this with the conscious sense that they’re constituting a new government through action on the ground. Constructive doing, and nothing else, confers legitimacy.

        At least elements within the organizing cadre should be aware of that, even if in some cases it might be jumping the gun to publicize that resolution.

        Instilling that sense of responsibility and legitimacy would be one of the tasks for the “national” organization.

        From there, the goal would be to set up a parallel, resilient structure, whose goal is to relocalize economic production, accomplish as much land redemption as possible on a food stewardship basis, flow into all vacuums as the existing rotten struture degrades. Again, a national movement could provide basic guidance which local activists would then apply to their own cases. The structure would be truly federal.

        In a perfect world, the existing system wouldn’t use totalitarian aggression to try to repress this movement. But to whatever extent it does, the movement would need tools for evasion and resistance. This too would need to be federally coordinated.

        That’s a basic template for what I have in mind. I think most of what I’ve written on this blog would fit into one or more of the functions listed above: Analysis and basic political philosophy, for the coordinating framework (because every movement needs its characteristic ideas); the relocalization imperative, along with suggestions on what to do; suggestions on which are the pivotal political fights going forward, and so on.

        Comment by Russ — December 3, 2010 @ 3:37 am

  3. You said:

    Here there’s definitely four votes in the bag, at least three flaky ones among established corporatists (Breyer, Kennedy, and Ginsburg) who sometimes shrink from the more extreme results, and the still largely unknown quantity Sotomeyer. And then there’s Kagan making her debut in a big corporate case.

    Perhaps I am wrong, but that seems to me to be 100% in reverse of what actually is reality regarding what I think we both agree is a corrupt, moribund and misinformational Left vs. Right dynamic.

    You printed up the names of the Corrupt Whore Court the members who are likely the LEAST established Corporate Whores (given that they all are Corporate Whore to some degree).

    Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito and Kennedy are all far far FAAARRR more established Corporate Whores than the names you mentioned.

    Could you clarify your thoughts on the five felonious, criminal Corporate Whores masquerading as Justices that I have mentioned and why you think those guys wouldn’t be at the very tippy tippy TOP of any list of criminals masquerading as judges willing to burnish AT&Ts codpieces with their tongues?

    Just curious. When the case is decided and AT&T has won, the votes will tell.

    Comment by buckle — December 2, 2010 @ 1:41 pm

    • 4 + 3 + 1 + 1 = 9

      4 in the bag (unnamed)

      3 flaky (Breyer, Kennedy, Ginsburg)

      1 largely unknown (Sotomayor)

      1 complete unknown (Kagan)

      That make the four unnamed Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito.

      So, I’m not seeing where the disagreement it . . .

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — December 2, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

    • Sorry I wasn’t clear, Buckle. Tao explained it.

      I figured the four who were probably in the bag were obvious and didn’t need to be listed.

      As for Kennedy, Breyer, and Ginsburg, each has been inconsistent, but each definitely supports corporate personhood and corporatism in general. That’s why regarding the Citizens United case I differentiated the “judicial activist corporatist” majority (who basically manufactured the opportunity to make the decision by ordering the litigants to relitigate on a broader basis) vs. the “passive corporatist” minority who dissented, not against corporate personhood as such but really just against the activism of the majority in that case. (Too many people were wrongly castigating “the majority”, setting themselves up for attacks from decision supporters who could rightly point out that the minority didn’t dissent on anything like the grounds that most citizens did.)

      And the reason I still hope we can call Sotomayor an unknown quantity is because I do recall her somewhere saying that at least in principle she could question corporate personhood. Of course I’m not holding my breath about that leading to any particular effect on the court.

      Comment by Russ — December 2, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

  4. Capitalism is alive and well!

    It is in reality a decoy ideal used to hide the machinations of the gangsters. That you rail against capitalism proves its efficacy as a decoy and gives the gangsters that dress themselves in it their false stature and power as capitalists and not the gangster scum that they are.

    So too do you empower the scam ‘rule of law’ with your attention. You legitimize and validate it.

    The “definitive proof” that you have from the corporate profits reported in the New York Slimes is that the government is non responsive to the will of the people.

    That is not because government is “malevolent and worthless” as you say, that is because the corporations, having empowered themselves through deceptive past corruption of government, have expanded their initial corrupt foothold and now own and control the government and they pit that government against non government citizens in a divide and conquer scheme.

    Work to deprogram from the neo-liberal bullshit. The ‘private sector’ and the ‘public sector’ are divisive constructs used to create societal friction. A government is an alliance of ALL citizens that respects the collective self interest of the group as well as the individual. When private individuals seek to become more, by forming new separate corporate alliances, those new alliances should be subject to citizen control proportional to their size. The accumulation of personal income and asset wealth should also be controlled proportionately to the power that they wield over the base government alliance.

    Government size as well should be similarly restrained. The larger the government the more local representation will be required.

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    Comment by i on the ball patriot — December 2, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

    • The critique of capitalism goes back to long before the advent of neoliberalism. And there are many ways to attack the gangsters.

      Your definition of government is idiosyncratic, and is not the way I use the term. In the context of neoliberal centralized pseudo-democracy, I use it as a synonym for State. So if I cared to attack your terms as “legitimizing and validating”, I’d do so.

      Comment by Russ — December 2, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

    • In the last few days, I’ve also come to the conclusion that capitalism is a deception, not so much because capitalism cannot exist or has not existed, but because what we have today is not capitalism but what I call financialism.

      The realization started with something I wrote a few days ago entitled “Economic Theory Is a Pathological Lie Carefully Constructed to Normalize Evil,” which documents how economic theory has continually shifted to “disappear” realities that are inconsistent with its claims.

      The realization culminated today when it became clear to me that even the former orthodoxy of classical economics was constructed to disappear the evil of debt-financed speculation, which Adam Smith apparently had identified back in 1776 as a major problem and made recommendations to prevent its spread.

      It is both immensely cynical and tragically ironic that the constantly shifting orthodoxy always claims to follow the legacy of its harshest critics (e.g., neoliberalism and Adam Smith, Keynesinaism and Keynes, etc.).

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — December 2, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

      • It sure is something to contemplate, how by today’s standards Smith would be completely driven out of the public discourse (into the “sphere of deviance”) with his insane rantings about the need for regulation and even more insane rantings about morality of all things.

        As an anti-capitalist, I do confess to some Schadenfreude over the way the very name “Keynes” has become an all-purpose epithet among the very swine he so ardently wanted to save from themselves.

        The company you keep….

        Comment by Russ — December 2, 2010 @ 7:45 pm

  5. With respect to Adam Smith, I’m sure you know that perhaps his most aberrant stance-at least when juxtaposed against today’s tawdry standards-may have been the less than charitable attitude he held toward joint stock companies.

    Tao wrote:

    “It is both immensely cynical and tragically ironic that the constantly shifting orthodoxy always claims to follow the legacy of its harshest critics (e.g., neoliberalism and Adam Smith, Keynesinaism and Keynes, etc.).”

    Claims by present day operators to being followers of the aforesaid, are generally as transparent as cellophane. Reagan’s followers used to wear ties with the likeness of Adam Smith upon them, but The Gipper’s economic miscreants simply cherry picked what they found useful amongst Smith’s writings and pretended the rest didn’t exist.

    Keynes, who I have little affinity for, is, in fairness to him, likewise subject to the same mistreatment.

    Somehow his position that governments should run surpluses during the good times as a pretext to running deficits during the bad times never seems to be part of the dogma of those who claim to be Keynesians.

    Comment by Edwardo — December 2, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

    • I do believe Krugman when he claims that today’s economists have never even heard of all the real Keynesian work which was done.

      As for Smith, Locke etc. (I’m not whitewashing them, but compared to today’s criminal scum they were paragons of humanism), I doubt the average “conservative” could pass even a basic knowledge test.

      (Even the famed “invisible hand” was not only an offbeat throwaway comment, but probably a sarcastic one, according to researchers who found that contemporary usage of the term was uniformly ironic.

      It should really go something like:

      “Yeah, an invisible hand is going to accomplish all that. And pigs will fly..”)

      Comment by Russ — December 3, 2010 @ 3:47 am

      • Did you ever track down the paper that documents the sarcasm?

        My bet is we’ll find that there were actually two sides. On the first side, there was people like Adam Smith, who were trying to convince the public that laissez-faire will work to the public’s benefit. On the other side, there were people saying “yeah, right, and pigs will fly.”

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — December 3, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

      • No, I just searched again and can’t find anything exactly like that. One reference to a New Yorker piece from 08 which is behind a paywall, but where the author is said to have argued that Smith’s usage was “wry”.

        Maybe that could have been it, if it wasn’t always behind the paywall. I don’t remember.

        There were several pieces tracing the metaphor before and after Smith wrote. A very cursory look indicates that nobody particularly noticed Smith’s use of the metaphor until US “libertarians” starting in the 1930s. Surprise surprise.

        (That would be the same thieves who in the 20th century stole the very term libertarian from the anarchists, who had used it since the 1850s. They just steal everything in sight and never produce anything of their own whatsoever.)

        Comment by Russ — December 3, 2010 @ 3:50 pm

  6. […] […]

    Pingback by Corporatism is Legalized Crime « Volatility — March 14, 2011 @ 5:35 am

  7. […] coerced upon a weak party by a much stronger party, and are therefore invalid.   Earlier I wrote a longer post on this case. Here’s an excerpt, to give the basics of the issue.  The gist of the case, AT&T […]

    Pingback by The Latest SCOTUS Assault: Lochner’s Back (AT&T vs. Concepcion) « Volatility — April 28, 2011 @ 10:07 am


RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: