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March 28, 2012

Liberals and Lies

Filed under: Reformism Can't Work — Tags: — Russell Bangs @ 1:54 am

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Liberals have long been notorious for considering empty words, lies, “a seat at the table”, and other such nonsense to be actions in themselves.
 
Thus, for example, if Obama were to say something mildly critical of the 1% (a rare enough occurrence), and then commit a typically extreme pro-1% action, the liberal view wouldn’t be, “He lied.” It would be, These are two actions, one good, the other not-so-good.
 
(I’m talking here about the “progressives”. Of course, by now there’s no lack of brazenly pro-corporate liberals who would openly support the pro-corporate action. These corporate liberals are at least somewhat more honest, intelligent, and coherent than the “progressives”.)
 
These two alleged actions are implicitly equated in principle, and in practice the empty words (that is, the lie) are trumpeted as the more important action. “Obama and the Democrats mean well. They’re somehow forced against their will into these not-so-good [i.e., evil]* actions. Never mind that for two years they had a de facto one-party dictatorship.”
 
It goes deeper than this. The liberal ideology is so morally deranged, it actually converts lying into a virtue. When a malefactor lies the lie is taken, not as further evidence of malignity, but as the opposite, evidence of an underlying goodness. To a liberal, if a con man lies to you in order to steal your money, you should take the lie as a counterbalancing good action, to weigh against his bad one in stealing. Thus the lies of Obama, of all other Democrats, of liberal media and academic hacks, and of the Leadership of liberal corporate front groups, are all reinterpreted as Good Deeds.
 
Again, this bizarre “morality” is a conscious corporatist scam on the part of the corporate liberals, a real piece of idiocy and depravity on the part of the “progressives”. Either way, it’s one of the many proofs of the malevolence of liberalism. It’s one of the many proofs that the neither liberal cadres nor liberal ideology can play any constructive role in the movement to eradicate corporations and build positive democracy.
 
[*Even someone I know who seems basically anti-fascist, in discussing the savage police assault on Occupy Oakland, referred to a “mayor who’s acting against her principles”. I said “She did?” Everything I saw from the Oakland administration was exactly what I’d expect from any Democrat in power.
 
What is progressive ideology? First and foremost, it’s pro-capitalist and pro-government. That’s all you need to know to predict outcomes. In the end, the only difference between a liberal and a real fascist is willingness to follow through on the basic logic of one’s ideology. If he wouldn’t go as far as a fascist, that simply means a liberal adds cowardice and contemptibility to the fundamental evil of his “principle”.]

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February 21, 2012

Corporate Liberals for Monsanto (the CSPI, et.al.)

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Not that I have much use for petitions, other than as educational media. But this one, calling for the removal of Monsanto cadre Michael Taylor as government “food czar” (which the Food Control law empowers him to be), has a simple, benevolent demand. It fits the definition of a worthwhile “demand” on the system in that it would be easy for the system to comply, yet the system will refuse.
 
But this benign simplicity is far too much for our corporate liberal front groups. The so-called Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI – but they’re actually anti-science and most definitely against the public interest; but they certainly do support Centralism, so that part of their name is accurate) is leading the counterattack of a bunch of typical myopics, in the form of a pro-Taylor, pro-Monsanto and pro-GMO “Open Letter” asking MoveOn to back off. (To be sure, this petition is rather daring by MoveOn standards. So maybe some blowback from colleagues among that rancid system-liberal class might persuade them.) 
 
The CSPI has been notoriously soft on almost all of the most critical food issues. If you go to their website you’ll look in vain for much concern with workers, citizens, democracy, environmental destruction, CAFOs as pandemic vectors, animal cruelty. As for GMOs, they were pushing the “co-existence” scam even before Whole Foods took it up. One might think they’re just focusing on the nutrition issue, but no – they aggressively attack broad-based citizen activism, as we see here. They’re at best “useful idiots”, objective corporate front groups. More likely they intentionally chose this deal with the devil.
 
This is well-demonstrated at CSPI’s Biotechnology page, which is straight corporate propaganda.
 

That unique technique for manipulating hereditary traits can provide significant benefits, but also raises environmental, food safety, and societal concerns. Genetic engineering has the potential to decrease adverse environmental effects of conventional agriculture, increase yields for farmers (especially in developing countries), improve the nutritional quality and taste of crops, and contribute to sustainable agriculture.

 
These touted “benefits” have all been disproven, and are now flat out lies on the part of anyone who spews them, for example that GMOs increase yield (disproven by the Union of Concerned Scientists, among others). Meanwhile the brochure also expresses support for the continued enslavement of small farmers, especially in non-industrialized countries, to corporate commodity agriculture. You’d think the historical record would already have proven the evil of this, but that can’t stop our CSPI technocrats from continuing to call for what’s already been proven not to work, if the definition of “working” is the betterment of humanity and democracy.
 
As for the claim that doubling down on GMO monoculture, the ultimate oil-dependent and biologically vulnerable hothouse flower, makes for “sustainable agriculture”, the CSPI’s idiocy and malevolence speaks for itself.
 
Meanwhile, the CSPI is all about food labeling, so they must be for GMO labels, right? “Providing consumers with better label information”, as their Food Labeling page says?
 
On the contrary, few things could be more eloquent than the CSPI’s absolute silence on the GMO labeling efforts citizens are launching all over America. Just look over this list of “press releases and resources” going back to 2008. 
 
At best, CSPI is a statist “reform” organization. All its policy advocacy involves begging government for better top-down regulation. Corporatism as such, and corporate domination of our food, they take as normative. They just want it better regulated. They don’t call upon us to take back our food as democratic citizens and human beings. At most they make the meager suggestion that we be Better Consumers, to pay more attention to the nutrition labels on processed “food” in the big box aisle. The big box, and processed food in general, they represent as normative and desirable.
 
So it follows that whoever is in power, like this Taylor thug, they’ll look to as their Master and grovel before him, begging him for Kinder Gentler Tyranny. They’ll demonstrate their obedience and loyalty by attacking anyone who wants to abolish tyranny as such and create democracy.
 
This fundamental difference between the appeasement and collaboration mentality, vs. the human citizen mentality, is demonstrated in this amazing statement from the Open Letter:
 

Frankly, the petition represents the baldest sort of character assassination and plays right into the hands of those who are bent on convincing the public that all government officials are corrupt.

 
That all government officials are, not “corrupt” but pro-corporate and anti-democratic by their very nature, is a self-evident truth. But to the corporate flunkeys who signed this letter, to state such truth is “bald character assassination”.
 
Here we see an unbridgeable divide between those who would live as free, prosperous human beings and citizens of a community, and those who are dedicated to our terminal atomization and enslavement. There can be no compromise across such an infinite abyss. 
 
The letter is loaded with concern trolling. “Some of us” oppose this or that, are concerned about this or that. But the letter’s real message is that its signers oppose democracy and are concerned about citizen action. If they’re so upset about a picayune petition, imagine how they must get the vapors over anti-GMO direct action, or the Occupy movement, or any other real activism.
 
Monsanto has “some bad policies”? I challenge anyone to name a single good one. The fact is big corporations as such are evil, the corporate form as such is evil, the revolving door as such is evil. To stick up for them is to side against humanity and the earth, and to side with our enemies.
 
This is a lie:
 

It is far more relevant that in the Clinton Administration he headed the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he stood up to the meat industry and fought for strict controls that help keep E. coli and other pathogens out of meat and poultry.

 
On the contrary, the Clinton administration sought to increase concentration in the meat industry. The HACCP has had that result. Since it hasn’t been revoked, and was instead extended to produce in the recently passed Food Control law, proves that such concentration and domination was its real intent. Corporate food outbreaks, meanwhile, have increased.
 
This is an Orwellian statement:
 

Since joining the Obama Administration, Taylor has been working extraordinarily hard to transform the FDA from a reactive agency that chases down foodborne‐illness outbreaks after people fall ill, to a proactive public‐health‐based agency focused on preventing foods from becoming contaminated in the first place.

 
What this really means is that the FDA will handle Big Corporate producers with kid gloves while aggressively “policing” (i.e., acting as a corporate goon against) small producers, for example real milk dairies. The Food Control law seeks to empower the FDA to escalate this war on the small producer.
 
We see here that part of the motivation is astroturfing for Obama:
 

While the Administration has not accomplished everything we food safety advocates would like to see done, Mike Taylor, along with President Obama, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen, and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, have made great progress on food safety in a rather short period of time. They deserve the chance to keep on doing it, despite the conspiracy mongering to which Mr. Taylor is now being subjected.

 
Yes indeed, in just a few short years Obama and his thugs have accomplished more on behalf of GMOs, CAFOs, ethanol, Big Drug (as pusher of hormones and antibiotics), corporate concentration, and Big Ag monoculture as such, and against small farmers and the food relocalization movement, than George Bush did in 8 years. That’s an accomplishment indeed, and we see the record of what the criminal signers of this letter consider “accomplishments”.
 
(I’ll remind the reader, however, that the petition itself is to Obama. So to some extent this is a squabble among those who claim to consider Obama a decent citizen and Better Leader rather than what his entire record establishes him to be, a criminal against humanity.)
 
If this is shaping up to be a fight to the finish (and it is), I want to obliterate everything obscuring the line of fire. We have two trenches, and between them should be nothing but no-man’s-land. But front groups like the CSPI want to run interference, obstruct our shots, and help the corporate assassins fire from cover.
 
Nor am I much interested any longer in the difference between premeditated front groups and stupid liberal myopics who are “just” objectively pro-corporate tyranny. If anything the latter are even more destructive.
 
The petition points out that one constant throughout Taylor’s career has been his aggression against transparency and consumer information, one of the fundamental elements of democracy and true food safety. So he fits right in with the Obama administration’s vicious hostility toward transparency and whistleblowers. Meanwhile we see what kind of citizen information the CSPI and allied groups support, and what they really mean when they use the Orwellian term “food safety”. They, just as much as Monsanto, mean safety for corporate profits and state power. That’s what this ironically titled “open letter” is all about.
 
 

March 4, 2011

Newspeak vs. Euphemism

 

Orwell’s concept of Newspeak was actually relatively naive and unsophisticated compared to the real life practice among the purveyors of euphemism.
 
If we can say that there’s a roughly finite body of knowledge which is critical for most people to know, then Newspeak sought to artificially diminish the knowledge itself by paring down the number of words which could be used to communicate it.
 
Capitalist euphemism has gone in the opposite direction. It wants to vastly expand the number of words and terms beyond the extent of the actual content they convey. I’m not referring to similar denotations with different connotations. Connotation is content, and is the lifeblood of literature, philosophy, and all expression which makes us human.
 
By bloodless euphemism I mean terms which not only do not connote but which attenuate even the denotation.
 
This thought was sparked when I read this comment at this thread (an excellent blog with good comment threads, although I haven’t commented there yet):
 

“Spatial deconcentration” Now that’s a bit of Newspeak for you! Your point about the paradoxical double object of urban renewal is well taken. As I recall, when there were plans to build a stadium for the 49ers out at Hunters Point, there were similar plums offered about better housing and shopping amenities for the African Americans who already lived there. It didn’t sound believable then either.

 
“Spatial deconcentration”. It’s not really meant to convey any content, is it? Rather just a vague sense that something will be done which the good middle class citizen shouldn’t investigate too closely. If one’s social indoctrination is sufficiently intact, such terms are sufficient narcotics. By conveying no content it touches no inherent emotional buttons. It doesn’t generate innate resistance. By sounding innocuous and very boring it also tends to repel interest in its underlying subject, whatever that may be.
 
By contrast Newspeak has too much brutal honesty to it, and even the earlier generation of euphemism like “urban renewal” was too specific, conveyed too much meaning, promised too much.
 
That post was also interesting in how it was another manifestation of the liberal collaboration with predator capitalism, like I had just read about at Naked Capitalism regarding the pro-MBS alliance of the banksters, corporate liberals like the CAP, and alleged “progressives” like affordable housing advocates.
 
Here’s part of my comment there:
 

Yves: “For reasons I cannot fathom, the traditional affordable housing-banking coalition is still holding together on this issue. It should be clear by now that affordable housing programs and mortgage finance are two separate beasts, and the extent of the sops demanded by the banksters mean affordable housing goals will take a back seat.”

That’s classic liberal behavior, which in turn is part of the neoliberal corporate strategy. Most of them are corrupt and just want a cheap reward for helping with the scam, while the idealist “progressives” are cowards who cling desperately to the few crumbs they can still get through this collaboration, even when it becomes clear that the crumbs themselves will be taken away.

No matter how many times history proves this will always fail, the liberal pathology keeps repeating it, calling themselves “pragmatic” by way of delusional compensation.

 
This is similar to the argument I keep having with liberals and technophiles over the green energy scam. How under kleptocracy taxpayer subsidy of “green energy”, electric cars, etc. will never result in an egalitarian deployment of solar and wind energy and a People’s Electric Car (if that could work, why wasn’t oil deployed that way?), but will only go to prop up the luxury of the rich and the police state. Therefore any such subsidy is a loss to the people, both in the money stolen from us and in how the result is a further weapon against us. I wrote about this at greater length here, here, and here.
 
One big difference is that at least where it comes to housing and energy technology we’re at least talking about actual things in the real economy. But the GSE “debate” is over purely fictional, vaporous, parasitic financialization – securitization and mortgage debt. As I said in the first part of my comment there:
 

The only reason anyone would want to prop up the very existence of MBS is to serve the banksters, since we know securitization serves no social or economic purpose whatsoever, but is purely destructive.

So this entire debate is false and demented, since it’s purely over what’s the best way to continue enslaving humanity to the banks. Assuming the continued existence of mortgages at all, there’s only one rational, moral, and practical answer here: End securitization and restore the old way of local lending, local filing, and local repose of the loan. No one can give an answer which hasn’t been proven to be a lie as to why we need or want anything more than that……

We need to break the bank tyranny completely and abolish all concept of REO and mortgages.

What we really need to do is transcend this antiquated ideology of landed property and debt completely.

 
It’s clear that we need to abolish both financialization and capitalism itself. Since liberalism inherently supports and seeks to aggrandize both of these, it follows that we need to transcend liberalism. At best it’s a failed ideology and strategy, and by now it’s far worse. It’s intentionally pernicious.
 
Toward the goal of true political and economic democracy, even Newspeak would be an improvement over the euphemism adored by liberals and other corporatists.

March 3, 2011

Corporations Are Feudal Manifestations (1 of 2)

 

Contrary to propaganda, there’s nothing modernistic about corporations. On the contrary, they’re a carryover phenomenon from feudalism. This feudal vestige persisted through the early heyday of capitalism, soon becoming the preferred mode of organization to prevent the full textbook logic of capitalism from developing. The result was that the economy never evolved beyond a feudal-capitalist hybrid. And once capitalism reached its terminal stage starting in the 1970s, where the combination of Peak Oil and the terminally declining profit rate threatened to attenuate forms of economic domination completely, the corporation became the basic unit of class war, and the anti-social, anti-political, anti-sovereign form around which full feudalism is intended to be restored.
 
The corporation originally arose out of medieval guilds and the monopoly charter. This charter was also called a “searching and sealing patent”. It had nothing to do with production. The charter-holder, generally some royal crony, didn’t produce or do anything but merely took a cut of some production process, nominally for “certifying the quality” of the product. We can compare today’s Food Control Bill, with its myriad FDA impositions, fees, and forced purchases of corporate electronic equipment for small and medium producers. On its face this isn’t to ensure better food quality (if it were, there would be rigorous enforcement of existing law against the big corporate producers, and a total ban on CAFOs), but to “certify” smaller producers and extract “searches and seals” from them. Or better yet, drive them out of business altogether.
 
The main goal of these medieval institutions and practices was always to restrain economic activity in the interest of the existing power structure. The goal was always monopoly and economic control by setting up rent extraction points. The first corporate innovation was pooled capital, first used for the Russia Company (chartered in 1553), although it wasn’t fully developed until some fifty years later, by the British East India Company. Limited liability followed soon after, at least as early as a 1662 Parliamentary grant to investors in the BEIC.
 
Although these corporate forms were sometimes organized by the rising bourgeoisie, they were also seen by the obsolete feudal structure as a way to protect its wealth and economic prerogatives, by channeling bourgeois activity through the controlled corporate form. 
 
In addition to the adaptation of the guild form and the monopoly charter, other medieval practices which now evolved with the times included piracy now becoming chartered privateering and the carryover of private taxation. Eventually the BEIC’s tax extractions from India exceeded its trade revenues. Corporate rent extractions, where not explicitly called “taxes”, are really the government de facto alienating its taxation power in favor of the corporation. Today we’re seeing the increasing recrudescence of de jure tax farming at the IRS. Meanwhile the health racket Stamp mandate is the new model for a government-mandated, IRS-enforced private tax extraction. Even the administration, in arguing for the mandate in court (public money and resources being used to argue on behalf of a private corporate prerogative), now explicitly calls the penalty for refusing to buy the Stamp a “tax”.
 
With all sorts of examples of artificial barriers to entry and restrictions on activity, as well as subsidies and other preferences for entrenched rackets, we see today the continuation of the original mercantile colonial system, wherein elites strictly controlled the allowed range of economic action for all colonials and other non-elites. This was a primary wellspring of the American Revolution. The chartering of monopolies and corporations was a major part of this control system. The 1773 plan for the BEIC to set up a vertical tea monopoly in the colonies, through chartered commissioners, was a classic example.
 
Today’s internal mercantilism seeks the same end. The difference is that the alien monarchical/corporate monopoly is nominally our own government and “our” corporations. But in fact the policy and aggression of a Walmart or a Wells Fargo is exactly the same as that of the British East India Company. The community is a colony to be exploited and drained of its wealth.
 
Remember the axiom, which applies in spite of every lie about “investment”, “ratables”, or any other trickle-down fraud: No big corporation would enter a region unless it expected to take out more wealth, usually far more, than it put in. Otherwise its shareholders wouldn’t let it enter in the first place.
 
The role of government, starting with chartering the corporation in the first place, is to aid this internal colonization, if necessary using constraint and force to enforce this corporate-colonial prerogative. Globalization started as the extranational, NGO form of this enforcement. With the advent of the EU and NAFTA, the stateless, alien bureaucracy has begun to rule within the West itself. The WTO extended this anti-sovereign process. This too is redolent of the old feudal nobility, prior to the rise of the nation-state, who squatted uselessly and destructively on the land as a purely alien presence, parasitic and predatory.
 
Another consistent feature, albeit in a frequently changing form, has been slavery. The basic status of the exploited medieval peasant was as a serf. The supposed evolution to capitalism saw both the change from serfdom to indentured servitude (for most Europeans), as well as the recrudescence of ancient direct slavery in the Western Hemisphere. The black slave and the white indentured servant gave way to the proletarian wage slave and the sharecropper. After a brief mid-20th century interlude of relative economic redistribution, we’re now rapidly returning to indentured servitude, debt slavery. The corporation is the main engine of this process. It dominates the real economy, subordinates the real economy to the finance sector, and forces us ever deeper into debt merely to continue to economically exist. 
 
The most consistent continuation of feudalism throughout the nominally “capitalist” era has been the necessary repetition, at ever-shorter intervals, of the process of primitive accumulation, AKA direct robbery in order to amass seed capital. The great European land enclosures are generally considered a defining feature of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. In fact, this enclosure process has needed to be repeated several times. 19th century imperialism was the first great round. Then post-WWII saw the next great assault as Western governments and corporations scrambled to establish capitalist dominance in the aftermath of the collapse of conventional colonialism. Starting in the 1970s, the final enclosure process began, all over the world including in the Western countries themselves. The land grabs are so far overt and large-scale only in the Global South, but there can be no doubt about the intended end stage in the West as well: 100% of the land, resources, and infrastructure are to be in the hands of a few private rentiers. The corporation is the main engine of this process, as its imposed debt slavery renders it more and more impossible for anyone not rich to hold onto any real assets.
 
These are some of the main ways that corporate rent extraction has always, throughout the nominally capitalist era, served to set up bottlenecks within the real economy, create forced markets, crush actual innovation, and prevent egalitarian market entry. In all these ways the corporation helped keep alive the spirit of rentier feudalism.
 
All this is why corporations were excluded from the Constitution, although as we’ve learned to our misfortune the exclusion wasn’t rigorous enough. We now need to amend this Constitution to render it exemplary of the true sovereign people’s constitution. This means abolishing these feudal atavisms.
 
What has ideologically justified not only the existence but the radical empowerment of the reactionary phenomenon, corporations? Here too, we find a feudal rationale.
 
Although the SCOTUS and corporate ideologues have worked their way through a menagerie of justifications for the corporation and corporate “rights”, the basic ideological premise is contained in the natural entity theory. This remains the implicit concept, although it’s seldom been explicated since the 1920s. This theory arose out of the late 19th century German organicist movement. Looking back to medieval times, liberal German scholars saw the key to all of its social and economic vitality and freedom in organized “collective personalities” – various clubs, guilds, lodges, the church flock, etc. They looked at how capitalism and the modern state have crushed the integrity and cohesion of such social and economic organs and concluded that the answer wasn’t to get rid of centralized power concentrations, but to create more, intermediate concentrations. (Madison had already formulated this scam in Federalist 51.) They wanted, not for us to assert our citizen and human rights against concentrated power as such, but rather for new corporate rights to be created for these intermediate structures as against the centralized state. The citizens would remain as disempowered as before.
 
The correct answer to this problem would be to break the centralized state and replace it with confederations of the lower-level community organs. But as always, Big Government liberalism was here in cahoots with corporatism from the start, in principle.
 
The practical result of this theory, once it reached the US, was to justify an expansive new view of corporate “rights” and prerogatives. The people were supposed to accept the existence of the corporation as god-given, natural, by definition good in principle and practice, and at any rate something we have no choice but to accept. It’s a circular, might-makes-right argument: The corporation is here and is playing a dominant, good-by-definition role, so it ought to have all Constitutional rights. And why should it be allowed to play such a role at all? Like the theory says, you’re forbidden to ask that question, but if you insist, it plays that role because it has the right to play it.
 
It’s the same rigged logic as in the federal courts which found the Stamp mandate constitutional (Congress can create a forced market, which is then dogmatically called a natural market, over which Congress naturally has full regulatory authority etc…), or of “libertarians” who want to normalize and legalize the crimes of primitive accumulation. Once the robber stops to formalize his plunder as “property”, it’s no longer the proceeds of crime, but now has a retroactive mystical validity going back to Adam and Eve. The propertarian now has the full “right” to idly hoard, bequeath to a worthless parasitic heir, etc.
 
Since the Constitution self-evidently rejects this “theory” (otherwise it would have enshrined these intermediate corporate bodies and described their powers and immunities), the SCOTUS never explicitly relied upon it much. (Indeed, it went through a series of rationales for corporate “rights”, discarding one and taking up the next, before basically giving up and just going ahead instrumentally, ad hoc, might-makes-right fashion. That’s all it could do in the end, since corporations obviously have no constitutional rights whatsoever, so how can anyone come up with a coherent theory of such rights?) But to this day it remains the implicit foundation of corporatist jurisprudence.
 
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So corporations were one form in which elites tried to continue their feudal prerogatives into the 19th century. Ted Nace describes the circumstances of the first half of the 1800s.
 

What is not as well known is that, long after the ratification of the U.S.
Constitution and the adoption of the Bill of Rights, most aspects of employer-
employee relations continued to be regulated by a common law
legal structure that continued to enforce principles of privilege and hierarchy
derived from the feudal society of the late Middle Ages. As explained
by political scientist Karen Orren, “The original, mainly
landholding, masters had long since been overtaken by business owners
and managers; however, their privileges remained, passed on to their
successors largely intact.”

This system of workplace regulation, also known as the “law of
master and servant,” was similar to that applying to husband and wife,
parent and child, and guardian and ward. The power of employers over
their workers was considered a private relationship, where normal constitutional
rights did not necessarily apply. Thus, common law permitted
measures of enforcement that were unacceptable in other social
realms. For example, it was not until 1843 that American courts stopped
permitting employers to beat their employees.

Industrial relations in the United States were rooted in their English
antecedents. (p.142)

 
This is the atmosphere in which feudal practices were being carried over into the age of nominal capitalism and nominal democracy. The corporate form would play an important role in maintaining this employer-based tyranny and residuum of feudalism. The corporation was meant to serve as an anti-democratic fortress during the age of cheap, plentiful fossil fuel energy and industrial abundance, both of which ought to have been radically democratizing forces.
 
Nevertheless, at first it looked like this feudal vestige as well would wither away. Adam Smith despised corporations as a stagnant feudal holdover, as did influential physiocrats like Turgot. Through them the disparagement of corporations as an obsolete form came to America through Ben Franklin. The US Constitution shunned the corporation, and corporate charters were highly restrictive. Classical economists from Adam Smith to Karl Marx assumed corporations would play no significant role in the capitalist future. They were destined for the scrapheap.
 
So what happened? A reactionary corporatist coup took place in the US. This coup radically empowered corporations and, through them, the feudal rentier, now disguised as a productive capitalist. In Part 2 I’ll trace how that happened.

December 27, 2010

The Stamp Racket Mandate (Part 1)

 

The health racket Stamp mandate was crafted by the Republicans (the Heritage Foundation via Romneycare; Obama bragged about this) and enacted by the Democrats. It will never increase actual coverage nor control costs, and was never intended to.
 
“Health insurance” doesn’t even make sense as a concept. The goal of any insurance is to maximize premium extractions and minimize payouts. That can’t possibly work in the case of health care. There’s no possible way you can have a pool based on profiteering which isn’t automatically a conflict of interest between the racket and its customers, between the racket and the public interest.
 
To recap, the bill is:
 
1. A bailout for the insurance rackets. In spite of the antitrust exemption which protects them from market competition (and which explicitly forbids the “interstate commerce” which racket supporters fraudulently claim characterizes this Congressionally commanded “market”), these parasites are increasingly unable to compete with rational and morally justified non-participation.
 
So the bill is a command economy measure which creates a forced market with only one willing participant.
 
It contains no credible restraint on Stamp rates, and isn’t meant to impose any such restraint. On the contrary, it’s meant to use the government power to extort these costs from the people so the insurance rents can continue to exist at all. It’s just like the Bank Bailout, only it’s a direct robbery instead of an indirect one.
 
2. It’s an austerity bill whose goal is to absolve private employers of responsibility for health “insurance” and drive people as atomized individuals into the individual “market”. At the same time government gets to continue to abdicate on its core function responsibility to provide Single Payer.
 
As even the NYT has been steadily documenting (e.g. here and here), this process of corporate exemptions, insurer concession takebacks, and setting up individuals to be driven into the individual market, has been gathering momentum all year. These broken promises constitute the metric of Stamp austerity.
 
So here again, the bill will not control costs and was not intended to. Like ever austerity bill, it’s meant to increase costs while shifting all costs from corporations to the individual.
 
(To the extent any promised benefits of this bill materialize at all, they’ll simply be paid for by jacked-up Stamp premiums across the board. None of this will be cost-free to the people. Nowhere will the rackets have to relinquish one cent of extractions; at worst they’ll shift some of them from the poorest to the somewhat less poor. By design the bill doesn’t require one cent’s worth of contribution from the rackets. On the contrary, it promises to increase their extractions.)
 
This is exactly the outcome Obama wanted, as all the evidence of his state legislative career (where he was already a lackey of the Stamp rackets) to the present day proves.
 
3. The bill is a Poll Tax. Like all poll taxes, its goal is social and economic control. I’ll say more about this in a subsequent post.
 
So we have clarity on how irrational, impractical, and immoral this bill is. It illegitimate props up an irrational, impractical, and immoral system. When we consider the full extent of the policy’s corruption, and the systemic corruption of the entire fraudulent market, we also achieve full moral clarity on the issue.
 
Any individual has the right to refuse to pay this corporate extortion yet still demand necessary health care. If the government has failed to provide Single Payer, that’s its own abdication. Since a profiteering health care market is an automatic market failure, provision of Single Payer is a core government function. That this government refuses to recognize its responsibility is proof of its own illegitimacy. None of this reflects poorly in any way on the individual who has been abandoned and then victimized by a criminal system. On the contrary, anyone who would cast such aspersions is simply a pro-racket criminal himself.
 
Therefore, no one who supports this corporatist bailout bill, or who supports the very existence of the purely parasitic, purely destructive insurance companies, has standing to utter a word about individuals who allegedly free ride or shift costs. The insurance rackets are free riders infinitely worse than all uninsured individuals put together could ever be, while corporate employers and derelict government are the ultimate cost-shifters. Given these facts, to say a word about individuals is automatically to demonstrate one’s bad faith and complete lack of integrity.
 
By definition, anyone who cares about free riding and cost shifting, and reform itself, demands the complete eradication of the Stamp rackets and the institution of Single Payer. Everyone who’s even modestly informed about the issue knows this is the only moral, rational, and practical solution.
 
So the second any hack starts in with any anti-citizen argument (here’s several such swine at the NYT), we should reject him automatically and immediately. His position is a fraud on its face, and he’s clearly nothing but a criminal. That “opinion” has no right to exist.
 
So to recap: The Obama/Republican (Heritage Foundation) bill never intended anything but to:
 
1. Maintain and enhance insurance rent extractions;
 
2. Enable employers to shift their costs onto individuals;
 
3. Enable government to continue to abdicate its core responsibility;
 
4. Force atomized individuals into the individual market, which Obama’s own CBO says will become more expensive;
 
5. Where the government goon will force them to buy worthless “policies”, Stamps.
 
The bill is not designed to control costs and will not do so. It was designed to increase costs, but shift them all onto the individual.
 
Meanwhile the quality of care delivered will continue to deteriorate, since the bill is also not intended to force insurance to provide affordable care. The Massachusetts experience has already proven that.
 
What should we say is the ideological nature of this bill? It’s not classically “liberal”, since it enshrines the abdication of a core government function. But it’s not classically “conservative”, since it does enshrine a massive extension of aggressive government goon power. It’s strangely redolent of economic “libertarianism”, which wants to gut government in all the things a government is supposed to do, while aggressively expanding all its goon and thug dysfunctions. It’s really a radical enshrinement of neoliberal corporatism (which is the same thing as conservatism in practice): Government should be big and aggressive, but only as a corporate deputy. All its actual public functions should cease to exist. It’s classical tyranny, a usurpation. Such a government is clearly nothing but a parasite and a predator, exactly like its corporate masters.
 
So there’s the first reason to reject this bill and refuse to purchase this Stamp: It’s the enshrinement of corporate tyranny.
 
And even if one is a slave by nature who accepts neoliberal ideology and corporate tyranny, health insurance still makes zero sense as a concept. It doesn’t work. (Most people who go bankrupt for medical reasons have insurance.) So there’s the second reason.
 
In part 2 I’ll discuss the third reason, the fact that the Stamp mandate is unconstitutional.

November 18, 2010

Krugman: Austerity-Lite

Filed under: Disaster Capitalism, Reformism Can't Work — Tags: , — Russell Bangs @ 5:29 am

 

I don’t intend to start in again on the pernicious Paul Krugman, and I’m not going to write another long post on the likes of him.
 
I just wanted to point out another example of the standard Krugman ploy, this time in his post, Why I’m Soft on Sales Taxes.
 
Consider (as Krugman invites us to) a country like Sweden or Denmark which started out with a more socialistic mindset, always maintained a strong safety net, and always had consumption taxes as a major part of the revenue mix.
 
There’s obviously no comparison between that and imposing a massive, alien sales tax on a country where the safety net is being shredded, and where the mentality is a Hobbesian shooting gallery. Under those circumstances such a tax would be viciously regressive. Yet Krugman is now taking the lead in calling for such taxes.
 
This is the same scam Thugman pulled when he was astroturfing for the health racket bailout, another reactionary austerity measure, when he claimed that the “exchanges” had something in common with the systems of Switzerland and the Netherlands.
 
But again, this is a vicious lie. Such comparisons aren’t even on the same planet, let alone in the ballpark. But here’s Krugman trotting out the same lie, this time as part of the austerity-lite initiative exemplified by his own death panel proposal and the Rivlin/Domenici counterproposal to Obama’s Star Chamber plan. The goal here is to get reactionary “austerity” enacted by making it look reasonable by comparison to the Obama commission.
 
Thugman actually has the nerve to tell what he has to know is a criminal lie:
 

All of which says that if I can trade a somewhat regressive VAT for guarantees of decent retirement and universal health care, I’ll take it.

 
He knows damn well this is not the intent of any VAT proposal from the elites, and will not be its effect. He knows damn well any such revenue will go right down the rathole. He’s a despicable, criminal liar.
 
We need to be clear, that by now ALL taxes on the non-rich are purely predatory. Every cent of taxation on the non-rich is simply stolen from us and redistributed upward to the banksters and corporations. We need to become neo-Norquists, presenting a united front intoning an absolute NO to all tax increases for the non-rich.
 
This obviously includes all new regressive taxes and all regressive increases. We have to oppose these Krugman taxes.
 
Once and for all the people need to eradicate two equally pernicious ideas: We have one mob who wants to destroy all non-violent aspects of government in order to liberate the corporations. We have another, even more stupid, who thinks increasing the size and power of a corporatist government will somehow do anything other than further empower the corporations and further impoverish the people.
 
We need to reject both sides of this evil coin. We need to recognize the corporate tyranny and the government tyranny as the same tyranny. The corporations are completely dependent upon the government’s violence, overt as well as implicit, and they own the government.
 
So one part of the strategy has to be to starve government toward the goal of starving the corporations. This means, among other things, forcing it to continue borrowing instead of taxing. This will accelerate the government’s financial collapse, and that in turn will deal a mortal blow to the corporate parasite.
 
So read our lips. No Taxes for the Non-Rich. 

November 15, 2010

Krugman Watch 11/15: The Austerity-Mongering is On

Filed under: Bailouts Only Propped Up Zombies, Corporatism, Health Racket Bailout — Tags: , — Russell Bangs @ 10:21 am

 

“What’s going on here? I don’t think you can resort to class war arguments.”
 
I would have that be seen as the defining quote of Krugman’s career. True, there’s competition from the likes of “In Praise of Cheap Labor”, but I think this best sums up Krugman’s role as corporate liberal astroturfer. He epitomizes the historical mission of system liberals: When the going gets tough for the criminal elites, and there’s some risk of their facing real resistance, their first choice is to bring in the liberals as consultants, agents of misdirection, astroturfers. (The second choice is fascism, if the liberals fail.)
 
To come in and say things like, “I don’t think you can resort to class war arguments.”
 
I called my shot on Krugman a long time ago, in posts like Schizoid Krugman and Krugman Watch on Sarajevo Day. I said he didn’t really oppose the Austerity offensive in principle, but only questioned its tactical tempo, and perhaps the vehicles being proposed. He thought they were jumping the gun.
 
I said then and I still say that in the end he’ll support the gutting of Social Security. You just watch.
 
Now we’re starting to see Krugman’s maneuver in that direction. Before I get to his current advocacy of death panels and regressive taxation, let’s first go over today’s column. It’s a typical batch of Thugman nonsense and lies, and I don’t normally bother, but since we’re already here…..
 

On Wednesday David Axelrod, President Obama’s top political adviser, appeared to signal that the White House was ready to cave on tax cuts — to give in to Republican demands that tax cuts be extended for the wealthy as well as the middle class. “We have to deal with the world as we find it,” he declared…..

But the bitter irony goes deeper than that: the main reason Mr. Obama finds himself in this situation is that two years ago he was not, in fact, prepared to deal with the world as he was going to find it. And it seems as if he still isn’t.

 
Krugman correctly calls out Axelrod’s crackpot pragmatism. Let’s be clear about what pragmatism really is, as opposed to Orwellian “pragmatism”.
 
If you have the nominal power to push through your agenda, but you unilaterally scale down your goals because of the merely political resistance of the enemy, and perhaps the disapproval of the MSM, you’re already a coward. Then there’s the fact that the historical record proves that the enemy won’t credit any of your concessions, but instead will treat your self-diminished position as the outrageous primal extreme.
 
If, under those conditions, you still seek appeasement and compromise, then cowardice has escalated into morbid stupidity. No rational, modestly self-respecting person under those conditions would do anything other than use his power to ram through his entire agenda, knowing that there will be no political reward for doing anything less. Not to mention that there may very well be a tremendous reward for aggressively doing it all, that you’d galvanize your base and compel the respect and even admiration of many who hadn’t previously supported you.
 
What really happens, assuming the alleged “progressives” are really at all progressive in intent, is that if their only options are to either give up their goals or to force their way through to their goals, but in such a way that they’d have to endure being shrieked at by their enemies to the right, that’s too much for them to endure. That’s the elemental cravenness which goes into defining the progressive “character”. And out of that, by way of self-justification, arises the rationally absurd crackpot “pragmatism”, which is the least pragmatic course of action from the point of view of reality.
 
All of that assumes that the “progressive” is somewhat sincere in his own mind. Of course that’s seldom the case with system elites, who are for the most part conscious criminals who use crackpot pragmatism in an Orwellian way, to pseudo-justify their liberal lies and help astroturf the well-meaning but cowardly base.
 

In retrospect, the roots of current Democratic despond go all the way back to the way Mr. Obama ran for president. Again and again, he defined America’s problem as one of process, not substance — we were in trouble not because we had been governed by people with the wrong ideas, but because partisan divisions and politics as usual had prevented men and women of good will from coming together to solve our problems. And he promised to transcend those partisan divisions.

 
Crackpot pragmatism is a good complement for the liberal “process” mentality. They both serve the parallel goals of camouflaging liberal corporatism and psychologically consoling the feckless rank and file, keeping them in the fold. Obama knew what he was doing during the campaign.
 
Of course, here we see the core Krugman lie: He pretends Obama is one of the feckless, rather than one of the criminals.
 
But the fact is that Obama is a perfect example of those who rule with “the wrong ideas”. That is, a criminal. (It’s also a core part of Krugman’s project to represent all elite criminals, even the Republicans, as merely misguided or crazy. After all, “I don’t think you can resort to class-warfare arguments.”)
 
The fact is that Thugman himself is one of those who rule with criminal ideas. For the prime example, he supports the Bailout. While opposing the Bailout isn’t sufficient to signify that one has the right ideas, it is necessary. (He was also Hack #1 pied piping for the health racket bailout and austerity bill.) 
 
With that, we reach his call for death panels and regressive taxes:
 

So, what I said is that the eventual resolution of the deficit problem both will and should rely on “death panels and sales taxes”. What I meant is that

(a) health care costs will have to be controlled, which will surely require having Medicare and Medicaid decide what they’re willing to pay for — not really death panels, of course, but consideration of medical effectiveness and, at some point, how much we’re willing to spend for extreme care

(b) we’ll need more revenue — several percent of GDP — which might most plausibly come from a value-added tax

…But medical costs must be controlled somehow, or nothing works. And is a modest VAT really so much more implausible than ending the mortgage interest deduction?

 
1. What deficit problem? Why is Krugman suddenly echoing Republican talking points? Very interesting…
 
There’s certainly no deficit problem which can’t be helped most of all by ending the Krugman-supported bailout and restituting all the trillions stolen in the Krugman-supported looting binge.
 
2. Is there any fiscal problem at all? The solution is obvious:
 
Total Austerity for the Criminals, Not One Cent More from the People.
 
But of course, that would have to mean acknowledging the class war being waged upon us, and Krugman has decreed that we can’t resort to that. But that conveniently forestalls all the right ideas and leaves in place only “the wrong ideas”. The same bad ideas Krugman is always claiming to deplore through his crocodile tears.
 
3. As I’ve written before, no matter how good something like a VAT sounds in the good civic wonk textbooks, we know for a fact that under kleptocracy ALL government revenue represents nothing but wealth redistribution from the productive people to the corporate criminals. The same would be true of a VAT.
 
So when Krugman whips out the wonkery and calls for the good civics playbook, all he’s doing is advocating class war robbery by other means. Why does he recite conservative talking points and advocate a regressive tax on the same web page where he pretends to deplore the extension of the Bush tax cuts? That juxtaposition is no accident. It indicates that he supports regressive taxation as the primary revenue stream going forward, once profligate borrowing becomes impossible. (His incessant China-bashing is meanwhile meant to provide a scapegoat for the soon-to-come collapse of the dollar.)
 
4. Meanwhile the great advocate of the bailout for the “insurance” rackets is now echoing the NYT party line, that the only allowable path to cutting health care costs is to cut services for the non-rich. This is austerity with a vengeance. This criminal now regrets that he was so impolitic as to crack a joke about death panels (remember how under Bush he said we should revile anyone who laughs at our impoverishment and misery? so how should we regard your death panel joke, scumbag?), but the idea remains the same: In order to maintain the ability of the insurance racketeers to extract enough to remain luxuriantly “profitable”, the health care system will have to crush the people.
 
That’s the health racket bailout Krugman always consciously supported before, and that’s the bailout and austerity assault he supports now.
 
So Krugman now indicates that he sees the limits of the Bailout on the horizon, and that in order for the finance sector to maintain its extractions, it will need to move to more direct robbery methods. In a word, “austerity”.
 
Thugman is on schedule. He’s “waffling” (i.e. insidiously maneuvering) with regard to austerity itself, via the masked austerity of the regressive VAT which he advocates in the same breath that he sighs over the foregone conclusion of the extension of tax cuts for the super-rich. And he’s doing the same when he joins his home NYT in pushing for austerity via the health racket bailout when he attempts misdirection toward the provider side. The real goal, of course, is to force people to buy worthless “insurance policies” while those policies don’t actually pay for care. That’s the death panel Krugman advocates here.
 
What’s going on here? I think it’s clear to any honest, moral human being that we must resort to class war arguments. Paul Krugman is a class war criminal. That’s why every step of the way, from day one of the Obama administration, he has systematically advocated bailouts and austerity, while seeking to obfuscate the class war reality. As I said above, that’s the historical mission of system liberals. Krugman has been one of the best at his pernicious job, which makes him in reality and morality one of the worst.

November 12, 2010

Crime Blotter

Filed under: Corporatism, Freedom, Internet Democracy — Tags: , , , — Russell Bangs @ 5:15 am

.
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I wanted to clear some clutter I had saved, so I’ll do one of those link dump/quick hit things:
 

Researchers at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, are studying how to create an infrastructure out of human beings interconnected by wearing sensors, gateways and radios, resulting in a “body-to-body” network. Because human beings are so easy to come by, the networks could potentially be massive as well as high in bandwidth…..Long term, actual functioning body-to-body wireless networks could render cellular base stations unnecessary in heavily populated areas.

 
Note on crowdsourcing and cooperative economics: If we’re all going to be unpaid crowd-sources, that can only be equitable and can work at all only if we all purge all profiteering. It can’t be: rent-seeking for me,  anarchism for you. But that’s the way they currently want it.
 

Every quarter, content delivery network Akamai delivers a State of the Internet report looking at the Internet in terms of traffic, speed and connectivity. The latest report shows that the rest of the world is continuing to outpace the U.S. in terms of speed, while the U.S. becomes the leading source of “attack traffic” worldwide.

According to the report, the U.S. “became the top attack traffic source in the second quarter of 2010, account for 11% of observed attack traffic in total.”

 
The US is the world leader in “attack traffic”, while it continues to fall further behind in actual productive performance. Why does that strike me as typical?
 

As for whether the student was ever reimbursed, a spokesman for the law school issued a written statement to ABC News saying that the school was “deeply concerned about the job prospects and general well-being of our students and our recent graduates” in the downturn. “But no institution of higher education can make a guarantee of a job after graduation.” It added, “What we can do is provide the best education possible, and work together to provide as many career opportunities as possible.”

 
You made an implicit guarantee that if the student was reasonably conscientious, had reasonably good grades, graduated and jumped through whatever other credential hoops, and there was no other self-inflicted reason he couldn’t find a job in the field your degree trained him for, then he could find a job. This is fraud, predatory lending and a lemon product, period. Meanwhile the student debt isn’t dischargeable even in bankruptcy. Basically the victim of this scam has been placed in the state of nature vis the system and the corporate universities. Since this is the only way to fight back, everyone ought to sue on this ground.
 

I mean more than that. I mean that Zuckerberg subscribes to an entire hacktivist information-freedom-fighting culture that values truth and transparency for its own sake. But it’s not enough for him to hold and promote that ideology by striking against the powers that be in any way he can, like Julian Assange; Zuckerberg’s means are more nefarious. He imposes his ideology on users, seductively, through the architecture of his tool itself. People who like this ideology and are happy to see it inflicted on others through the tyranny of architecture are MarkZists.

 
Indeed. Zuckerberg’s a totalitarian, but a kiss-up kick-down snivelling gutter bully worm of a totalitarian. Compared to him the Bond-villainesque evil of Monsanto looks downright majestic.
 
Compare the citizen philosophy of Assange:
 

This information has reform potential. And the information which is concealed or suppressed is concealed or suppressed because the people who know it best understand that it has the ability to reform. So they engage in work to prevent that reform . . . .

There are reasons I do it that have to do with wanting to reform civilization, and selectively targeting information will do that — understanding that quality information is what every decision is based on, and all the decisions taken together is what “civilization” is, so if you want to improve civilization, you have to remove some of the basic constraints, which is the quality of information that civilization has at its disposal to make decisions. Of course, there’s a personal psychology to it, that I enjoy crushing bastards, I like a good challenge, so do a lot of the other people involved in WikiLeaks. We like the challenge.

 
And finally more from liberalism, an ideology which just looks more and more on the ball all the time, doesn’t it?
 

The name of the principle is the “cultural defense” — the argument by a defendant that his or her allegedly criminal behavior should be excused or subject to a lesser penalty because in the culture of origin that behavior is an accepted and even commanded norm….In a way, the person pleading the cultural defense is saying that he has brought the tribunal of his religious faith with him by virtue of having deeply internalized its precepts and imperatives.

 
I guess it’s not surprising how so many liberals like Greenwald and the ACLU supported Citizens United. The liberal ideology seems like among other things a template for enshrining corporatist double standards – a bankster should be allowed to steal, because “that’s how they do things.”
 
Like MERS tried to tell the judge in Ohio:
 

“Plaintiff’s ‘Judge, you just don’t understand how things work,’ argument reveals a condescending mindset and quasi-monopolistic system where financial institutions have traditionally controlled, and still control, the foreclosure process…

 
“Cultural defense”:
 

The question raised by the cultural defense is, “When people come to America [do] they have to give up their way of doing things?”

 
Or in this case, do we have to give up America and all aspects of civilization and humanity when we enter “the market”, which is totalitarian and seeks to impose itself upon us everywhere, at all times. 

November 1, 2010

The Cult of Voting

 

“Why should essentially powerless people want to engage in a humiliating farce designed to demonstrate the legitimacy of those who wield power?”
 
– Dmitri Orlov
 
That’s the mystery at the heart of the cult of voting under “representative” pseudo-democracy, a system which is a proven failure on a practical level, and is now known to have been a criminal plot by larcenous elites all along.
 
It’s true that citizens really do care about voting. Many cherish the act. But the right conclusion they should draw is that representative democracy, under which their votes are hijacked to the ends of criminals, is a proven failure and scam. So if they want voting to be meaningful and productive rather than a grotesque self-mockery, they must get rid of the sham elitist “democracy” and deploy true positive democracy. Real democracy, direct democracy, participatory democracy, most of all economic democracy. Only here is voting worthwhile, since here voting is the formalization of a living process, instead of the rote robotic sterile ratification of an elite-imposed process which never consults the people or has any reference to their desires or health whatsoever.
 
Under representative pseudo-democracy, voting is just robo-voting, stamping a meaningless, pre-written sheet thrust in front of you, regarding which you have, by design, no knowledge, no input, no reason or even basis for hope or desire, no basis even for understanding. Your role is nothing than to robotically sign the affidavit, certifying your formal ratification of a passel of crimes beyond your ken. And if the gangsters ever run into any trouble, they simply roll out the fraudulent papers bearing your name and proclaim it as ratification of their legitimacy.
 
That’s the role of voters and “voting” under neoliberalism. It’s a calculated part of the scam.
 
Here’s an obvious question: If, as the elites contend, the people aren’t qualified for direct democracy, then how can they be qualified to elect representatives? You’ll look in vain for a good answer in The Federalist, which is the Gold Standard argument for representative “democracy”. If the answer isn’t there except for the same old boilerplate about formal debates, the deliberation of properly constituted legislative bodies, the ratiocination of alleged elites when they confer among themselves, and all the other crap which was disproven thousands of years ago, then that’s strong evidence it doesn’t exist at all. So from that we can infer that the republican elites were always conscious corrupt authoritarians who regarded republicanism, pseudo-democracy, as a scam which would make their power and crimes look more legitimate in the eyes of the people.
 
I’d never validate this rotten system by “voting” in one of its rigged elections. Those who do so, by collaborating with the scam, become collaborators in the system’s crimes. In a sense they forfeit all right to complain. (But I’m more inclined to tell the complainants, “Learn the lesson of what’s happening. If you now find cause to complain, then make sure you don’t fall for the scam again. Because that’s the real target of your complaint.”) The astroturfed voters become a claque who objectively applaud the robbers and vandals as they destroy the country.
 
The voting cult also tries to emphasize the negative over the affirmative. But I’d never be willing to vote “against” something. The systematic activism of relocalization contains vast negative implications. And if we ever found those insufficient, there’s always direct action. How myopic to let one’s vision of negative action be limited to the picayune act of voting against someone or something. I need something to vote for, if I’m going to compromise myself by voting at all. (And how silly when the robo-vote cultists implicitly admit that the system is 99% rotten but insist you should “vote for” the alleged 1% that’s good. Thanks, I’ll treat my refusal as a de facto vote against the rotten 99%.)
 
The fact is that there’s no moral or rational basis for the argument that if one marginally prefers one party or candidate over the other, that’s sufficient reason to vote for them. This is disproven by subsequent events each and every time, as those who were allegedly less criminal proceed to new prodigies of crime or fecklessness. This argument for voting is nothing but an authoritarian assertion which boils down to, do as I say because I say so.
 
“Get out the vote” propaganda is, as Dave Cohen said somewhere, not good civics but sentimentality. It’s romantic and reactionary.
 
Why would I “vote”? I reject representative democracy completely, and my goal is to convince others that this is the best way, morally, politically, and economically. I do not authorize anyone to “represent” me, and the vote cultists can’t authorize anyone to represent me either. They and their system have no legitimacy. The same is true vis the citizenry as a whole. The system these hacks impose upon us is simply an anti-sovereign, alien structure. The only reason it can exist at all is that enough people are still inertial enough that they suffer it to exist, and still fall for the sham of “voting” for it. I stress that this kind of voting is a de facto vote for the system as such, while failure to vote at all is a de facto vote against the system as such. Each phony election is therefore a plebiscite on the system, far more than it constitutes any choice among legitimate options. These alleged options and the alleged choice among them is almost never real.
 
For voting to be a value, we must go much further toward positive democracy, since negative “representative” democracy has failed in everything it claims to deliver – political participation, liberty, social stability, sense of security, the physical health of the citizenry, economic prosperity. Pseudo-democracy, which promised to deliver all these things, has instead not only failed to deliver, but has been used as a potent weapon in assaulting them all.
 
Nor is this an “abuse”. On the contrary, right from the inception, in the seminal Federalist papers, Madison and Hamilton openly said that the purpose of the Constitution, as they saw it, was to protect the criminal elite against the people, and to set up misdirectional ploys to divert the people from their unified interest.
 
So “voting” is actually bad for us. It demoralizes us while giving false legitimacy to the system. We must judge all actions and policies according to the metric: Does it strive to bring us closer to true democracy, or does it hinder that goal? Indiscriminate voting doesn’t meet this standard. An anarchist may be able to vote in a targeted way only, as a particular tactic. For example, if there were a particular referendum which did offer a real choice, then it might be worth going to the polls to vote on that referendum only. And perhaps at the local level representatives, while still not truly legitimate the way they would be under true council federalism, may still be accountable enough that it could be worth voting for one over another. That’s tactics. What we cannot do is believe in representative democracy in principle, in the voting ideology in principle, or act according to such false beliefs.
 
“Voting”, both in reality and symbolically, is the alienation of our own sovereignty and power. Like Rousseau said of the British with their parliamentary elections, they exercised their freedom once every five years, and each time their only act was to relinquish it.
 
The fact is that in principle a parliament or congress is a bourgeois institution conceived according to bourgeois needs and set up to help solve bourgeois problems according to bourgeois procedures amenable to the bourgeois mindset and always intended to accomplish pro-bourgeois outcomes. It is inherently anti-producer and anti-citizen. It’s structurally opposed to the interests of the people. The stuff that happens there isn’t an “abuse”. The system itself is structurally antagonistic toward citizen well-being and public interest policy. Congressional legislation will address these only under duress, only where circumstances force this upon it. And legislation will move to rescind any such concession on the parts of the elites the moment circumstances allow.
 
If we look at the circumstance of how much government elites must respond to the will of the people, as Rudolf Rocker says this is always a function of how assertive the people are, from the bottom up. Only direct action ever spurred legislative change. All worthwhile legislation was just a formal validation of existing facts on the ground. And the system will always rescind this validation the moment it believes this citizen-imposed fact on the ground no longer exists.
 
So “voting” is a perverse mirror image of this pantomime. Just as real citizen action can temporarily force legislative change, so the failure of citizen action, including the apathy of regarding “voting” as an acceptable substitute for citizen action, encourages the elites to disregard the people and trample their interests.
 
Lest anyone argue that “this demonstrates that representative democracy can work, we just need to be vigilant”, I respond that the people can never maintain that level of vigilance indefinitely. The chronic war of attrition being waged on the people by “representatives” who want to be corrupted and corporate lobbyists who want to corrupt them will always be won by the criminals sooner or later. It’s the same phenomenon as “reformism” against corporate rackets. In both cases (actually different forms of the same case) if we allow the rackets and the structure set up to accommodate them to exist at all, they will always wear us down, and we’ll always end up in the same cesspool. So it makes no practical or rational sense to keep repeating the same experiment. It has been empirically proven – freedom and prosperity cannot coexist with corporate rackets, and they cannot long exist under neoliberal pseudo-democracy.
 
(I’ll add that even if someone thought the war of attrition could be indefinitely “won”, this still should be morally repulsive to any human being. Why should we be willing to demean ourselves by submitting to such a struggle for no reason at all other than to allow a few disgusting criminal vermin the “freedom” to try to get away with their crimes? That’s not freedom at all, but a vile slander and trampling of it. If we the people want verily to be free, we need to start by freeing ourselves of the existence of all gangsters, and the whole repugnant struggle they force upon us. So even if the war were in theory “winnable”, it still wouldn’t be worth fighting, since with a flick of the wrist we can stop fighting it once and for all.)
 
Where the rotten system empowers only two gangs espousing the same ideology, anyone outside this ideology, and all of its victims, is disenfranchised. When the non-rich submit to “the vote”, they really just let a phony vote be palmed off on them. It’s like buying a raffle ticket where the prize doesn’t exist, because the organizers already stole it.
 
A few words about the liberals who spew pro-“voting” propaganda. Many are conscious criminals simply shilling for one of the gangs, namely the Democratic Party. For the rest, the cult of voting is characteristic of how shallow and feckless “progressives” are. They may sense the inadequacy of their mindset and action, but they’re too cowardly to break with the system, even to form an alternative party, let alone to engage in direct action. They try to assuage their conscience over how voting evidently leads to the same hermetic pro-corporate outcome. It’s the same dynamic as the way many “progressives” supported Citizens United. (BTW, Citizens United was a formal proclamation confirming the whole dynamic I’m describing here. That’s how confident and/or reckless the criminals have become, encouraged in part by the submission to the cult of “voting” I’m describing here.) Since their process liberal myopia renders them incapable for fighting for true free speech, they console themselves by making a fetish of the “process” of it. So it is with the fetishizing of the process of “voting” itself. In both cases, the substance and goal are drained from the term, which is applied only to a mechanical process. But a fetid cultish romanticism is wound around the term and the process, and this is intended to befog the fact that the outcome is the substantial opposite of what the ideal is supposed to mean. This fogging often works in their own minds, and the result is that they become objective collaborators with and astroturfers for the criminal elite.
 
Then there’s the pro-elite technocrats, mostly pro-Democratic, who like to sneer at discouraged voters the same way they sneer at the unemployed as “discouraged workers” and strike them from the unemployment statistics. They use terms like “apathetic” and “enthusiasm gap”. This demonstrates how liberal elitists hate what they consider the peasant scum, hate the idea of elections even as they try to convince the peasants to vote, and see the voters as another commodity, another metric.
 
Many liberal elitists claim to agree in principle that a high voter turnout is needed to confer legitimacy on the system. But they mean by this the same thing that’s meant where it comes to fraudulent plebiscites in totalitarian countries. Ever hear of the classical “99%” vote in a fascist plebiscite? That’s the essence of tyranny, and that’s the dream of the hack robo-vote advocates. Some even want forcibly enforced turnout, like in Australia where non-voters are fined. To the best of my knowledge, even Hitler and Mussolini didn’t carry their “innovations” that far. So that’s one for the pseudo-democratic liberals.
 
It’s typical that the turnout = legitimacy argument only goes one way. If enough voters turn out, the hacks and flacks will claim that legitimates the system. But if not enough turn out, they’ll implicitly (or in some cases explicitly) say in effect the voters aren’t worthy of the system.
 
That’s a basic distinction between a liberal and a true democrat. There’s no level of voter turnout which could be so low that the liberal would admit that prima facie the government is illegitimate. Where it comes to such things, a liberal will always side with the government. But nevertheless they still prefer the robo-voting facade, and this is the basis of the pro-voting ideology and propaganda. It’s the source of the whole “if you don’t vote you’re a bad citizen” fraud. What they really want is the complete liquidation of the people as citizens. That’s the basis of liberal elitism.
 
On the other hand, it’s a fact that voter turnout is always higher where a system has something more like real proportional democracy, as opposed to the winner-take-all de facto one-party system we have in the US. So anyone who believes in voting and who sincerely deplores low voter turnout ought to be fighting for change there. He ought to be doing all he can for improved ballot access, not just restoration of the Fairness Doctrine but enhancement of it in favor of alternate parties, better public financing of campaigns with lower threshholds to qualify, and most of all to help organize alternative parties themselves.
 
But on its face one can’t legitimately argue “voting is important” in itself, but support the two-gang status quo. That’s a self-contradiction, just like the “pro-lifers” who are pro-war and pro-death penalty, or the “defenders of marriage” who seem to have no problem with liberalized divorce laws.
 
So our course of action as citizens is clear. We need blunt tools, simple rules. Boycott all federal elections, and never vote for any Washington candidate. If you really want to take part in the act of voting, then do it to write “None of the Above”, or leave it blank if blank ballots are tallied. If there truly is a ballot question worth answering in the form of a vote, then do it. And I already mentioned how local elections may have a different dynamic.
 
But we should reject the cult of voting in principle and as bad practice. We should regard participation in their sham ritual as a disvalue, only to be undertaken in the case of the targeted tactical exceptions I mentioned.
 
For the big picture, our citizen activism is the activism of changing our way of life, relocalizing our polities and economies, both on a true positive democratic basis. Where system aggression forces us, we must engage in passive resistance and direct action. This is the only path to rebuilding our communities and the redemption of our democracy, our prosperity, our freedom, and our human dignity.
 
Robo-voting won’t help with any of this, and can only do harm.

October 15, 2010

Positive Freedom: Nietzsche, Marx, and Anarchism

Filed under: American Revolution, Freedom, Marx, Nietzsche — Tags: — Russell Bangs @ 9:13 am

 

One of Nietzsche’s core ideas, and one of his most misunderstood, is his contrast of noble morality vs. slave morality.
 
The essence of the distinction is this. “Noble”, or what I’ll call positive morality, defines itself as the good and seeks to act affirmatively based upon that definition. It only derivatively defines “the bad”, and reacts, according to what contrasts with itself.
 
“Slave” morality, by contrast, starts out reactively, defining “the masters” and any other alien as “evil”, and only derivatively defines itself as the good. In either case its action is merely a reaction.
 
So to use Nietzsche’s description, the positive morality defines itself and the good according to what it calls honesty, loyalty, courage, principle, gratitude and revenge (in both cases paying back what is owed). It derivatively describes the bad, the slavish, according to the antonyms of these: lying, faithlessness, cowardice, cynicism or nihilism, the unwillingness to pay what is owed out of some despicable lassitude – ingratitude, laziness, cowardice.
 
By contrast, the slave morality starts by revaluing the “noble” virtues as vices. What they call honesty it calls haughtiness and arrogance. What they call loyalty it calls a stupid or childish adherence to dead ritual. What they call courage it calls aggression and recklessness. Principle becomes either stubborn impractical “purism” at best or a complete fraud at worst. Gratitude or revenge become empty interest-seeking.
 
It then revalues its own traits, considered contemptible by the positive morality, as “the good”. Its lying and faithlessness become humility, cleverness, prudence, the measure of intelligence. Its physical cowardice becomes virtuous pacifism and its moral cowardice becomes a salutary will to compromise, to be “inclusive”, to “find common ground”. Its lack of principle becomes “pragmatism”. Its ingratitude becomes the sense of entitlement, and its inability to avenge becomes “tolerance”.
 
Nietzsche’s ideas here are crystallized in Beyond Good and Evil section 260, and he develops them at greater length in On the Genealogy of Morals, Essay I.
 
Nietzsche himself wrote about psychological, spiritual, and creative issues, not about politics and the economy. (Indeed, he affected to despise the latter, and one of the inferior elements of his writing is his intermittent attacks on political radicals, for whom he used “anarchist” as a catch-all term. He was basically ignorant about politics and economics and didn’t want to know about them.) But although I no longer subscribe to his spiritualized cult of aristocracy, I’m finding that if I transpose his ideas on spiritual and intellectual creators to an expression about producers in general, then almost everything he says can be redeemed for anarchism.
 
By producers I mean producers who have political self-respect and the will to fight.
 
So I’m thinking out the idea of transposing the master/slave morality in this way:
 
Master morality = Positive freedom, the bottom-up assertion of political and economic democracy, the assertion through day-to-day action of freedom and human dignity, and worker self-actualization. This is not primarily a “rebellion” against the criminals, seeking “liberation” from them, although it is that as well. It is first and foremost a Renaissance of our humanity, a rebirth, a revolution in the classical sense of “revolving back” to the primal human order.
 
Slave morality = The fetish of negative/bourgeois freedom (negative freedom is a wonderful thing, but only as a tool toward some human goal, not as a value in itself), the desire for “enlightened” elitism, “benevolent” despotism, the rancid dream of trickle-down (political, economic, spiritual, cultural), everything that is characteristic of liberals and conservatives.
 
One of the many parallels between Marx and Nietzsche is the shared philosophy of the producer. Marx wrote about the worker, but conceived him as a producer seeking fulfillment through his self-owned and -directed work. He conceived his ideal society based upon this. He didn’t see the worker as the consumer, except derivatively. He didn’t view people as naturally experiencing work as a chore to be endured and completed so they could get on with consumption.
 
We can see here how he had his own idea of the positive morality of the worker as creative producer, vs. the slave morality of the consumer. This is an extension of the labor theory of value, which Marx didn’t invent but expanded into a vision of society. The best society is that in which the laborer has freedom over his labor, where he produces as a free human being. Any coercive elitism, any hierarchy, any extraction, alienates the worker from his work.
 
And so it’s true in general. All parasitic elitism, all wealth and power concentration, stands between us and our freedom, between us and our labor fulfillment, between us and our humanity. It aggressively alienates us from our birthright. The criminals have taken what could have been such a wonderful world and turned it into a place of, at best, bare struggle and tension and fear, and at worst, more often, misery and slavery and violence.
 
Similar to Marx, Nietzsche wrote about art and philosophy, but wrote about them from the perspective of the artist and the thinker, and that’s the audience for whom he wrote. He didn’t write primarily for the art lover and reader of philosophy.
 
So in a sense it’s an “elite” mindset, but for the active strata among the productive populace. Both despise parasites, wasteful idlers, rentiers of every sort. It’s just a different emphasis. So in both cases the “elitism”, if we can call it that, overt in Nietzsche’s case and implicit in that of Marx, is that it’s a philosophy of, by, and for the producer, not the consumer. It envisions a social world constructed for the self-actualization of the producer, not the comfort of the consumer.
 
By contrast, every kind of what can be called passive elitism, all concentrated wealth and power, every trickle-down political and economic ideology – corporatism, capitalism, liberalism, representative democracy, etc. – seems focused on the hedonism of the consumer. It wants to pander to passivity. (And of course none of it works the way it claims. The comfort of the consumer, as we’re now seeing, was only provisional and temporary.)
 
The best of Marx’s self-directing worker (without the contradictory centralism) and Nietzsche’s self-directing thinker and creator (without the ivory tower snobbery) are combined in anarchism, which also revalues the seeming “elitism” of the affirmative producer philosophy through the egalitarianism of direct participation, equality of opportunity to work, to create, to seek human fulfillment.
 
Here’s some ideas from the Anarchist FAQ, an excellent and encyclopedic resource on every aspect of anarchism. These are quoted from sections 2.7 and 2.16.
 

Direct action has an empowering and liberating effect on those involved in it. Self-activity is the means by which the creativity, initiative, imagination and critical thought of those subjected to authority can be developed….

Society, while shaping all individuals, is also created by them, through their actions, thoughts, and ideals. Challenging institutions that limit one’s freedom is mentally liberating, as it sets in motion the process of questioning authoritarian relationships in general. This process gives us insight into how society works, changing our ideas and creating new ideals….By changing the world, even in a small way, we change ourselves….

Anarchists, however, do not think that self-liberation must wait for the future, after the “glorious revolution.” The personal is political, and given the nature of society, how we act in the here and now will influence the future of our society and our lives. Therefore, even in pre-anarchist society anarchists try to create, as Bakunin puts it, “not only the ideas but also the facts of the future itself.” We can do so by creating alternative social relationships and organisations, acting as free people in a non-free society. Only by our actions in the here and now can we lay the foundation for a free society…..

Revolution is a process, not an event, and every “spontaneous revolutionary action” usually results from and is based upon the patient work of many years of organisation and education by people with “utopian” ideas. The process of “creating the new world in the shell of the old” (to use another I.W.W. expression), by building alternative institutions and relationships, is but one component of what must be a long tradition of revolutionary commitment and militancy…..

In other words, anarchy needs anarchists in order to be created and survive. But these anarchists need not be perfect, just people who have freed themselves, by their own efforts, of the superstition that command-and-obedience relations and capitalist property rights are necessary. The implicit assumption in the idea that anarchy needs “perfect” people is that freedom will be given, not taken; hence the obvious conclusion follows that an anarchy requiring “perfect” people will fail. But this argument ignores the need for self-activity and self-liberation in order to create a free society. For anarchists, “history is nothing but a struggle between the rulers and the ruled, the oppressors and the oppressed.” [Peter Kropotkin, Act for Yourselves, p. 85] Ideas change through struggle and, consequently, in the struggle against oppression and exploitation, we not only change the world, we change ourselves at the same time. So it is the struggle for freedom which creates people capable of taking the responsibility for their own lives, communities and planet. People capable of living as equals in a free society, so making anarchy possible.

 
This is the essence of positive democracy, positive freedom. Posted in honor of Nietzsche’s birthday (1844- ).
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