Volatility

March 4, 2011

Corporatism Has Been A Neofeudal Coup (2 of 2)

 

One of the features of the Land Scandal has been the gutter sleaziness of the many of the bottom-feeder participants. According to Naked Capitalism, a lawsuit seeking class action status alleges that two leading mortgage service providers, Lending Processing Services and Prommis, in addition to all the usual crimes, also engaged in systematic fraudulent and illegal extraction of legal fees. The allegation is that when a mortgage mill retained by one of these service providers to do the legal work filed its fee request with the court, it would inflate the request and then kick back over two thirds to the service company. This is illegal fee-sharing and practicing law without a license.
 
Prommis has tried to pull the typical trick of claiming it’s just a holding company with no responsibility for its subsidiaries or contractors.
 
In another post Yves ponders how robo-signing, another typical piece of sleaze, became such a universal practice. After discussing how rampant it was at the Stern mill in Florida, she discusses the example of Fairbanks, a servicer who got very big very fast by buying a laundry list of other servicers along with their mortgage lists.
 

Tom Adams, a mortgage securitization expert, has suggested that the significance of miscreant servicer Fairbanks has not been recognized. Law professor Kurt Eggert provides a good overview in his 2007 article, “Limiting Abuse and Opportunism by Mortgage Servicers.” In 2003, Fairbanks had become the biggest subprime servicer in the US by acquiring other subprime servicers. Some of the servicers it had bought were affiliated with originators that had overstated property values and engaged in lax underwriting. That meant a lot of the loans were due to go bad. Fairbanks came under pressure, via litigation, downgrades in servicer ratings, FTC and HUD investigations, due to widespread evidence of serious servicing abuses.

 
So according to this interpretation Fairbanks undertook a rampage of M&As which no one could conceivably argue served any constructive purpose, solely in order to get big fast. Then when it inevitably found itself having bought all these junk loans perilously high, it was driven by the logic of its own criminality to undertake massive robo-signing binges. This, along with the same practice at dark slimy mills like Stern, contributed to the practice achieving critical mass and becoming the industry standard.
 
These are just two normal, everyday crimes in the MBS biz. Relatively minor details, really, of the overarching kleptocratic mortgage system. Here we see a similar mode of organization at a larger scale: The way (in theory, certainly seldom in practice) each loan had to go through the steeplechase of originator -> sponsor -> depositor -> trust. This was in order to ensure bankruptcy remoteness. In other words, participants were intending to go bankrupt and leave plenty of debt and liability on the table, while the assets would be long gone. IBGYBG. I’ll Be Gone, You’ll Be Gone. That’s how it’s meant to be. The banks were simply engaging in a shell game.
 
What’s the common organizational feature here? The corporate form enables a criminal to launder a criminal act or debt exposure through a series of corporate entities to push it as far away from his person as possible. He is personally the criminal, he is personally the debtor. But the corporation was formed to immunize him from these responsibilities, even as it multiplies his individual rights.
 
In particular, here we see examples of how the holding company, and the general policy of allowing one corporation to own stock in another, are meant to function. Probably most people think this practice is normal and natural. But it’s actually a radical innovation which was intended to revitalize the corporate form as a weapon of feudal privilege. Starting in the 1860s, this and several other key measures which empowered the hitherto weak and constrained corporation turned this musty antique vestige into a crypto-feudal dynamo. The comprehensive result of these radical policy changes over several decades can be summed up as a neofeudal coup against democracy as well as against capitalism according to classical economic theory. The result was to empower the corporate form as the vessel of rentier privilege and prerogative during the age of cheap, plentiful fossil energy and industrial abundance, forces which should have been aggressively egalitarian.
 
Before describing how this coup happened, let’s do a quick comparison of, in Ted Nace’s terms, the classic corporation (pre-1860) vs. the modern corporation (by 1900).
 

 

TABLE 7.1
Differences between the Classic Corporation (before 1860)
and the Modern Corporation (after 1900)
Attribute Classic Corporation Modern Corporation
Birth Difficult: requires a custom charter issued by a state legislature Easy: general incorporation allows automatic chartering
Lifespan Limited terms, usually 20-30 years No limits
“Shape
Shifting”
Corporations not allowed to own stock in other companies; restricted to activities specified in charter Corporations free to pursue acquisitions and spin-offs
Mobility Usually restricted to home state No restrictions
Adaptability Restricted to activities specified in charter Allowed to pursue multiple lines of business and initiate or acquire new ones at company’s discretion
“Conscience” Actions constrained by shareholder liability and by threat of charter revocation Fewer constraints due to limited liability, disuse of charter revocation, and tort reforms
“Will” Managerial action hampered by legal status of minority shareholders and of corporate agents Legal revisions enable consolidation of management’s power            
Size Limited by charter restrictions Asset limits removed; anti-trust laws generally not effective
Constitutional Rights Functional only Steady acquisition of constitutional rights from 18861986

 

 
In each of these cases, corporations used the clout and wealth they gained through Civil War profiteering and control of war infrastructure to launch a campaign for legalized corporate power aggrandizement at the expense of democracy and the people. As Nace says, each step is a redistribution of power and rights from citizens to the corporation.
 
The most important elements of this coup were (1) changes in state chartering legislation which triggered a race to the bottom, (2) as I mentioned above, allowing corporations to own stock in other corporations, (3) the rise of management power at the expense of the shareholders, (4) the invention of fraudulent corporate “rights” by rogue courts.
 
1. The most important conceptual changes were automatic general incorporation in place of the individualized state charter which once had to be issued, and incorporation for any purpose in place of the restrictions* on corporate activity which were originally the norm. Corporations were only supposed to be chartered in sectors like capital infrastructure, for projects like canals and railroads which allegedly were too big for families and partnerships to tackle. Often the very existence of non-corporate going concerns in a sector was sufficient proof that incorporation was unnecessary and therefore disallowed*.
 
New York was the first to allow general incorporation in 1846, and was also the first to allow incorporation “for any purpose” in 1866. But NY still imposed other restrictions. It was New Jersey in 1889 who was first to combine general incorporation, all-purpose incorporation, and the lack of all other restrictions. From there the race to the bottom commenced in earnest.
 
[*When we use terms like “disallowed” in this context, we should always keep in mind that this never refers to state-imposed restrictions on economic activity. Anyone was always free to go into any business as a sole proprietor or partner. It only refers to the limits on the special privilege that the would-be incorporator is demanding from the state at the expense of the non-incorporated and the citizen. It’s the corporate practitioner who wants big, aggressive government. He wants it in order to hold a neofeudal privilege. Only we who oppose corporations and want to limit or abolish them are true advocates of shrinking government.]
 
2. It was Pennsylvania in 1871, at the behest of Tom Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which first legalized the holding company.
 

The fissures that ultimately cracked the containment vessel originated without notice in the back rooms and committee chambers of state capitols during the early 1850s, as lobbyists for the newly emerging railroad corporations began exacting concessions from state legislatures. Scott, a legislative manipulator without peer, was responsible for one such concession, which at the time seemed hardly earth-shattering. It was quite simple: convincing the Pennsylvania legislature to relax the long-standing prohibition against one corporation owning stock in another corporation. Perhaps it is fitting that Scott was a math prodigy in his youth. This inconspicuous change – one corporation owning stock in another – is something like the introduction of the zero by unknown Arab mathematicians: a minimalist placeholder, but nevertheless a monumental invention.

 
This simple expedient of the corporation being allowed to own shares in another corporation made possible all the subsequent machinations and criminal laundering and legalized abdication of responsibility which became the everyday practice of corporations in the 20th century. It also went a long way toward the monumental growth in corporate size and power, as one invested corporate dollar could amass far more shareholder power than that of a single individual.
 
This difference between individual shareholders and corporate shareholders was at least a momentous as the more recent “innovation” of corporate political speech and the corporation’s “right” to give money to political candidates.
 
Here too, this holding company power was first combined with complete license and lack of any other restriction in NJ in 1889 and 1890.
 
3. New York in 1890 was the first to absolve corporate management of the common law “right of unanimous consent”, by which significant changes in a corporation, especially sale of assets, had to be approved by the unanimous consent of the shareholders. Federal court decisions had been heading in this direction since 1884.
 
This represented a huge transfer of power from shareholders to management. Here too a race to the bottom ensued among the states. This played a big role in corporate concentration.
 
4. The door to corporate Constitutional rights was first opened with 1819’s Dartmouth vs. Woodward. Some further “rights” gradually accrued until the 1886 watershed Santa Clara vs. Southern Pacific Railroad, which snuck “corporate personhood” into constitutional jurisprudence through a shadowy back door.
 
Within months the SCOTUS was openly citing this fraudulent “personhood” precedent, and for the next fifty years the phony rights piled up. Case after case expanded corporate rights and restricted citizen and human rights where those conflicted with corporate arrogations.
 
From 1937 through the early 60s was a hiatus, and then the process crept forward again, debouching with the 1970s’ “speech is money” and “corporate speech” decisions. (The ACLU’s aggressive anti-democratic role in this has been despicable from the start. That’s more evidence for how existing groups, even the best of them, are fundamentally against the people.) From then to this day the anti-democratic, anti-constitutional onslaught has advanced tempestuously. Citizens United was just the latest atrocity.
 
Putting all this together, we see how the postbellum era was the time of corporate consolidation. Rentier neofeudalism wanted to preserve itself throughout the life cycle of capitalism. It would do so primarily through the instrument of the corporation as empowered and unleashed in those decades following the Civil War, which in retrospect we can see as having been fought to clear the way for them. The increasingly corporatized industrial power of the US put through a coup in the state legislatures and federal courts to protect monopoly rentierism against the creative destruction fossil fuels, industrialism, and capitalist theory could unleash upon it. This is the true core of the term and concept, conservative. At the deepest level, it meant conserving as much of feudalism as possible through the storm decades of capitalism; the disruptive forces of bountiful energy, cheap technology, and easy innovation; the cohering political consciousness of the proletariat and its subsequent labor activism, as foreseen by Karl Marx; the political and organizational need, in cheap oil’s heyday in the mid-20th century, to allow a mass middle class to arise in the West; the inevitable death of capitalism at the hands of Peak Oil and the maturity of all economic sectors. Any and all of these were mortal threats to the feudal prerogative.
 
Today we see the results. Wealth inequality and concentration of real assets have reached disastrous levels, and continue to get worse. Social mobility continues to deteriorate. The position of all workers has eroded in recent decades, while the mobility of unskilled labor has been rendered extremely flexible at the command of the top. (Mobility of labor is a capitalist rather than feudal phenomenon. But the system carefully controls this mobility through debt policy and immigration policy. It stands poised to restore feudal restrictions on mobility at any time.) Privatization has largely restored much of the phenomena of feudal fiefdoms, from private police forces to HOA constraints on behavior. I would not be surprised to hear of an HOA which requires church attendance. We have the classic feudal two-track legal system, one for the rich and one for the poor. The kleptocracy no longer even bothers to conceal this anymore. We have onerous taxes on labor with little or none on capital, land, inheritance, and other parasitism. This last, a licentious parasite-heir policy including an absurdly low parasite tax, has played a major role in the de facto restoration of hereditary aristocracy. The political system is also meant to entrench this, as both corporate-owned political parties serve as nepotistic conveyor belts.
 
Feudal recrudescence is most stark where it comes to the terminal enclosure process the globe is now undergoing. The IP regime is just the space age version of the age-old enclosure of land, resources, and all real assets which is now recurring. The only difference is that whereas the original European enclosure was meant to provide the original accumulation for the rise of capitalism, this final enclosure is intended to be the permanent restoration of a calcified landed nobility, but in the form of corporate CEOs and large shareholders. Finally, we’re seeing the restoration of a regime based on debt slavery.
 
Corporate form and corporate power played a major role in making all this possible, and they must play the pivotal role in completing the final refeudalization process.
 
The rise of corporatism was, therefore, a neofeudal counterrevolution within the revolutionary age of fossil fuels, industrialism, capitalism, and democracy. Just as those, including the birth of the democratic consciousness, were features of the Oil Age, so was corporatism a necessary countermeasure if the feudal parasites were to carry their poisoned chalice through the dangerous age.
 
Now all of those except one must decline and perish. In prospect we perceive the feudal core now rising again in the form of post-capitalist corporatism, and we experience whatever’s left of the democratic consciousness which is the one shining legacy of the fossil fuel age, the greatest lesson humanity has ever learned, the most marvelous gift we bestowed upon ourselves out of the seemingly endless and pointless travails of history. It’s now up to us to either embrace this democratic heritage and go forward boldly living it, or reject it and adhere to the noxious residue as eternal slaves in the darkness.
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33 Comments

  1. Your 2-part description of the ‘corporate coup’ to attempt to recreate a feudalist state/society seems quite reasonable; I enjoyed reading your historical analysis and synthesis.

    The problems with attempts to confront the sort of challenge which your efforts suggest seem almost insurmountable – several points which I perceive include the following. The American general public has been subjected to censorship, mis-information, ‘shock and awe’ events, degeneration of ethics at all levels of governance, conditioning to accept incompetence at the highest levels of governance. Further, they have been the objects of terrorism within their own society as the poorly written laws have been abused by both members of the legal profession as well as the military and the policing organizations at the local through the federal levels. Without detailing all of the negative contributions by corporations, it is fairly obvious to most people that environmental, as well as cultural, degradations are now easily recognizable facts of life. The people who serve as politicians (either party) are generally only qualified as pimps for their more affluent financial backers’ financial interests. The corporations have the money and they control the casinos (Wall St/Congressional ‘bailout’ committees) which make the economic decisions as well as related rules and law enforcement. Without going into further delineation of the scope of the challenges to the American citizenry to attempt to deal with these undesirable situations, one has to consider that the majority of Americans are so concerned with basics that they do not wish to be called upon to act in such a manner as to lose their jobs/livelihood in order to undertake change of the system? It seems as if that is the nature of the immediate challenge which needs to be addressed.

    Comment by William Wilson — March 4, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

    • Thanks William, and thanks for that analysis. You’re right, getting enough people to be willing to make a new start will be the hardest part. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

      It might help that the main thing I want to start with isn’t a direct challenge to TPTB, but the indirect steady erosion of their power involved in relocalization. Indeed, it seems like many of the people I know who are involved in it don’t even consciously think in terms of how economically and (implicitly) politically radical it is.

      Comment by Russ — March 4, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

  2. I was reading your blog a while ago, and I noticed you were saying roughly the same thing. You also write roughly the same thing in comments on other blogs. Do you ever get tired of repeating yourself?

    Comment by Jignesh — March 6, 2011 @ 12:51 am

  3. Russ, distracters are always welcome; they just need to hear the message more often. How can we move the industrial company to a mutual, credit union, cooperative structure? Cheers, tawal

    Comment by tawal — March 6, 2011 @ 1:46 am

    • Yes, that’s funny. I doubt I repeat myself any more than anybody else does. Probably rather less than most. But unlike almost everyone else, I’m actually expressing true ideas which oppose the system.

      It’s true that things do need to be repeated, over and over. The key is figuring out how to do it effectively. Now that I’ve almost completed the exposition, it’s time to hone, whittle, streamline the message.

      How to move to co-ops? That’s now what we need to figure out. Every opportunity is there. There can be no doubt about the idea’s growth potential.

      Comment by Russ — March 6, 2011 @ 2:42 am

  4. […] Part 2: Corporatism has been a neo-feudal coup […]

    Pingback by The neo-feudalism of corporations | The Bovine — March 6, 2011 @ 1:12 pm

  5. The Story of Stuff folks created a new video called “The Story of Citizens United v. FEC”.

    http://storyofstuff.org/citizensunited

    They have started a petition for a constitutional amendment.

    http://democracyisforpeople.org/

    You’ll see the typical inane defense of the status quo, which I believe you have addressed in other posts, in YouTube comments like this:

    “We are not and never have been a Democracy. We are a Republic. Please do your homework. The founders were against democracies.”

    Comment by Karl — March 6, 2011 @ 5:50 pm

    • Thanks Karl, that looks good. I’ll check it out.

      Comment by Russ — March 6, 2011 @ 6:14 pm

    • I saw your link for the amendment but it looked more like a donation site than anything.

      Comment by Chembrovich — March 7, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

      • The site has lots of stuff: Information, a petition, suggestions for activism, as well as the usual request for donations. Nothing special about that.

        Comment by Russ — March 7, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

      • Petitions like that don’t have a chance in hell, and anyone who puts their faith in paper proclamations like a constitution is a fool. But some people like that kind of stuff. *shrug*

        I thought the MechaGodzilla corporation crapping out WalMarts in the video was a nice touch though.

        Comment by Karl — March 8, 2011 @ 2:03 am

      • I agree that in a perfect world of direct democratic confederation we’d dispense with a written constitution as superfluous. We can envision that as an end goal.

        But as you acknowledge, the advent of the democratic movement among a people always brings this cherishing of constitutions. In America the people remain reverent toward the Constitution as a symbol if nothing else.

        Since you carry out a revolution with the people you have, it seems probable to me that a reinvigoration of the spirit of constitutionalism is likely to be an important part of the mix, assuming the project is possible at all.

        From your tone, I gather you think this post

        https://attempter.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/the-constitution/

        and its subsequent comment thread are foolish.

        But here I think we have a right to ask, if you want to throw away such an obvious tool, then you’re obligated to provide an alternative. So what’s your idea for a political vehicle, an engine of revolutionary symbolism, etc.?

        Comment by Russ — March 8, 2011 @ 3:27 am

      • The US constitution may have been cutting-edge social thinking in it’s day, but frankly it just looks pathetic now. The entire social edifice is decrepit. We need to take the role of rodents living among dinosaurs, not trying to nurse the dying beasts back to health. Any organizational structure you would build to play politics can be better used in teaching people how to provide for themselves. Change the economic equation and politics will follow.

        Lidia’s comment was the only thing that caught my eye in that thread. GDP is not a valid way to measure prosperity, she says. That’s the kind of awareness I want to see in people. It’s time to re-evaluate everything. Most people are going to think in terms of the existing structure, but trying to appeal to them will put a severe limit on the changes you can propose.

        What is an “engine of revolutionary symbolism”? Symbols are most of the problem (e.g. money as value). People’s minds are so inundated with non-real concepts that the sanity of the entire race has to be questioned. Which reminds me, I need to get back to reading my copy of “Science and Sanity”.

        Comment by Karl — March 9, 2011 @ 4:43 am

      • I’m sure not trying to nurse anything back to health. As I said, I regard the Bill of Rights and some of the subsequent amendments as the only parts which have any small-c constitutional validity. I want to add amendments which would essentially render the articles of the main body obsolete. And the main reason I want to do that is as a movement-building exercise toward breaking free of the fetish of written documents completely.

        What’s revolutionary symbolism? (Maybe “engine of” was redundant verbiage.) Every movement throughout history which has ever accomplished anything had its ideas, imagery, slogans, symbolism, mythology. We need this as well. It seems obvious to me that the ready-made source for all this is the first phase of the American Revolution itself, including its proclaimed ideas and at least part of the iconography of the Founders and the Constitution. Especially since the basic democratic ideas are the core humanism for which we fight, regardless of how faithful all the original practices were. I know a lot of people consider themselves too cool for that, which is part of the reason the people keep losing.

        But like I said, I’m all ears if anyone has a plausible alternative.

        You still have questions about the sanity of the human race? It looks like in some things you’re not so far along in figuring all this out as the rest of us. 🙂 I have no doubt at all we’re all crazy.

        Korzybski sounds interesting. Another elaborator of some of Nietzsche’s ideas, I gather.

        Comment by Russ — March 9, 2011 @ 5:10 am

  6. Thanks for this discussion, Russ. I’m not familiar with Nace’s work but your analysis and link to his book should prove very useful. One thing that’s still unclear to me is how the American legal fiction of corporate personhood became internationalized. Was it true that the same developments happening in the legal status of the corporation in the US were simultaneously occurring elsewhere? Or simply that American economic dominance allowed American corporations to foist acceptance of their norms on others? It seems to me that the invention of the transnational corporation is a whole other layer to this scam, one that fits in with your wave function theory- assets and responsibility are wherever the corporations want them to be, under whatever jurisdiction is momentarily most favourable, and definitely cannot be affected by the little people with claims against the corporations. I’m really not sure how that came about, though. Were the American corporations of the late 19th century permitted to own stock in foreign corporations?

    Comment by paper mac — March 7, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

    • Hi paper mac. I don’t know the answers to those questions offhand; Nace and other things I’ve read only discuss the history of American corporations (and the British pre-1776 history), as well as how foreign corporations just as much as “domestic” ones are empowered over America’s abdicated sovereignty. (And when I read The Arms of Krupp years ago, I wasn’t focusing on the corporate history in Germany, so I don’t remember what it said about that.)

      If I had to bet, it was probably the same race to the bottom. Since Nace doesn’t say that US corporations ever lobbied based on better deals corporations were getting in other countries, I’ll take that to mean the US pioneered this corporatism, and then other countries must have had to follow.

      As far as corporate personhood and such, I’ve haven’t heard, one way or the other, whether that’s common in other countries. Kind of odd, now that I think about it. You’d think someone somewhere would have thought it to his advantage in the debate to cite how other countries do or don’t have it. But in all the stuff I’ve read, I don’t recall seeing it mentioned.

      I suppose once US corporations had the restrictions on owning stock in other corporations as such lifted, there were no restrictions on our end as far as owning parts of foreign ones. I don’t know about restrictions in other countries.

      Comment by Russ — March 7, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

      • After doing a little more reading around, it seems like the majority of common law jurisdictions have very similar basic corporate law, all of which enshrines the corporation as a seperate personal entity. The timeline is pretty similar to the United States. It seems that the old imperial monopolies served as the general model in all cases, and that varying degrees of corporate personhood were in place by the late 19th century. The situation in Canada is a little more complex than I had thought:

        “Legal Creation of Corporations

        Before 1970, there were 2 basic forms used by the various jurisdictions in Canada for the creation of companies. Both derived from English law. The first was by grant of letters patent from the Crown. This form was the direct descendent of the great monopolistic Crown companies of the 16th and 17th centuries in England such as the HUDSON’S BAY CO. The second type of companies statute involved incorporation by registration of memorandum and articles of association. This form derives from the English Companies Act of 1862.

        The 1970s saw a wave of law reform in corporation law in Canada. In 1970 Ontario enacted the Business Corporations Act modelled primarily upon the corporate law of New York State. In 1975 the federal government enacted the Canada Business Corporations Act. A modified form of this legislation has since been adopted in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. This form of legislation has therefore become the dominant form of incorporation statute in Canada. British Columbia and Nova Scotia continue to use a memorandum of association model of incorporation statute, while Prince Edward Island continues to use a letters patent statute.”

        So it seems there is some province-to-province variation, but the Federal law is modeled on modern American corporate law, so I doubt the provincial variations amount to much.

        Comment by paper mac — March 7, 2011 @ 7:34 pm

      • Thanks for the research. It sounds like Canada was late to “reform” its corporate law? Just in time for neoliberalism, of course.

        It’s ironic yet potentially helpful that the US corporate Eldorado is the place where corporations are least federalized in principle. From any honest and historically knowledgeable point of view, the Constitution rejected the notion of the federal government being significantly involved in corporatism.

        Instead, this has been illegitimately imposed by the rogue SCOTUS. The outright fraud regarding how “corporate personhood” was dictated was just the most extreme example.

        One of my purposes in writing these corporatism posts now (I have a few more to go, finishing them over the next week or so) is to establish this principle before going forward with the discussion of constitutional amendments we can enact now.

        Comment by Russ — March 8, 2011 @ 1:22 am

  7. Russ – have you ever read Christopher Lasch? He reminds me a lot of the stuff you write on here. He’s basically a critic of “progress” coming from the left. Although, one of his main points is that those terms (left and right) are basically meaningless now since it’s really just an argument over how to go about endless development (but sans questioning the “endless development” paradigm.) Anyways, sorry if you’re already familiar with him, I’m a wee first year at college so…

    Comment by dictateursanguinaire — March 7, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

    • Hi dictateursanguinaire. I haven’t read Lasch but I’ve heard of him.

      He thinks growth can be infinite? Growth is already finished. We’ve had nothing for at least ten years but financialized “growth”.

      Just like with oil production itself, we’re at the high point, at what Peak Oilers call the bumpy plateau.

      But if he says that left and right were just factions among those arguing about what to do with an enlarging pie when the pie was still getting bigger, that’s correct.

      But now that the pie will be shrinking*, the only true sides left are those who want to steal the whole thing (and whoever sides with them) vs. those who realize that we who actually make the pie should, can, and must distribute it among ourselves only.

      *Fossil fuel descent does not necessarily mean food production has to decline in an absolute sense. Agricultural studies have proven that food production can be maximized even as fossil fuel inputs diminish, under these circumstances:

      – Organic production.

      – Much greater crop diversification (ending monocropping).

      – Based on smallholding.

      So it follows that we can continue to feed everyone post-oil if we move to a society and economy based on organic agroecology, on the basis of smallholding and small to mid-size co-ops.

      So feeding everyone means that most of us become food growers ourselves. And if we do it on the basis of economic democracy, then it would also provide full, meaningful employment.

      Political democracy and social vibrancy would follow based upon this thriving, bounteous economic democracy. Food Sovereignty isn’t just a principle for food production, but the blueprint for a truly democratic, human civilization.

      Comment by Russ — March 7, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

      • Russ/dictateursanguinaire,

        Christopher Lasch was an interesting writer. I read “Culture of Narcissism” many years ago and still remember it as an important critique of capitalism and consumer culture.

        Lasch suggested “that Americans had much to learn from the suppressed and misunderstood Populist and artisan movements of the nineteenth and early
        twentieth centuries.”

        Here are two quotes from him, in this vein:

        “The tradition I am talking about … tends to be skeptical of programs for the wholesale redemption of society… It is very radically democratic and in that sense it clearly belongs on the Left. But on the other hand it has a good deal more respect for tradition than is common on the Left, and for religion too.”

        and

        “…any movement that offers any real hope for the future will have to find much of its moral inspiration in the plebeian radicalism of the past and more generally in the indictment of progress, large-scale production and bureaucracy that was drawn up by a long line of moralists whose perceptions were shaped by the producers’ view of the world”

        (I had to look up the above quotes on wikipedia, as it’s been over 20 years since I read anything by Lasch.)

        And so, dictateursanguinaire, based on what I remember and the two quotes above, I can see where Lasch’s writing might remind you of Russ’s work, however admittedly this isn’t much for me to go on, and so I’m not sure Russ would agree.

        Comment by Frank Lavarre — March 7, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

      • Based on those quotes, it sounds like he’s on the same wavelength.

        Comment by Russ — March 7, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

  8. no, sorry, that was confusingly worded – I meant that he was a critic of the “infinite growth” idea

    Comment by dictateursanguinaire — March 7, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

    • I get it – you mean (most among the) left and right were the ones not questioning it.

      Comment by Russ — March 7, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

  9. Russ, here is some minor revolutionary action recently:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/07/953594/-Wow:-People-Take-Over-Bank-of-America-Branch-in-DC

    “National People’s Action, one of the more aggressive progressive advocacy groups, has been deeply involved in street protests against foreclosure fraud and corporate greed. And today, they escalated those actions. 600 activists with NPA took over a DC branch of Bank of America today, handing over a “tax bill” to the large banking institution that they believe has cost states billions through tax avoidance and reckless speculation”

    This group (NPA) seems to be limited in scope (trying to get the debt system to work ‘better’ for minorities and the poor), but any kind of similar protest will get ordinary people thinking that maybe they don’t have to “take it” anymore.

    Comment by Lidia — March 8, 2011 @ 6:45 am

    • I just read about that at Naked Capitalism. I had the same thought you did – while the stated aims of these demonstrations are so far minimalist, anything that gets people used to the idea of direct protest is probably symbolically productive. Eventually we’ll have street protests making real demands.

      That’s also what I think of Wisconsin. The actual demands are still seeking to prop up the status quo, not radically change anything. (Although it’s in line with my slogan: Total Austerity for the Criminals, Not One Cent More From the People. Except that the unions already caved in to a significant extent, offering all sorts of “concessions”, i.e. self-flagellations. That’s what capitalist unions will always do.)

      But the exemplary value of such a sustained physical demonstration is likely to be high. Now we need to figure out how to get people into the streets to make truly transformative demands.

      Comment by Russ — March 8, 2011 @ 7:50 am

    • For what is worth, Rachel Maddow alarms us to rights and resources being granted to business by bold legislation and at the expense of individuals. This is crazy scary stuff.

      Comment by iy9g86 — March 12, 2011 @ 7:48 am

      • Naked Capitalism, Kleptocracy, Plutocracy, call it what you want, witness rule by thieves at the expense of the wider deluded population. What will it take to sober a population still high and craving ever more happy bubbles?

        Comment by iy9g86 — March 12, 2011 @ 8:21 am

      • Thanks for the videos. It sure is crazy. I think this population may need to hit rock bottom before it sobers up, given how people keep putting up with these assaults.

        Comment by Russ — March 12, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

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