[from herald of freedom: essays of nathaniel peabody rogers, radical abolitionist and american transcendentalist. posted in response to twitter query: 'where's the anti-capitalism?']
[From the Herald of Freedom of March 15, 1844; Writings, 285]
This is similar in some ways to Proudhon's What is Property?, published four years before, but unassimilated by any American, as far as I know, in 1844. Probably the first American deeply influenced by Proudhon was William Batchelder Greene (1819-1882), a wildly eccentric Transcendentalist who published the remarkably sensible Mutual Banking in 1870. It is also strikingly similar to Josiah Warren's arguments in the same period, though Warren does not get rid of property entirely (neither did Proudhon, I think). There is no evidence that Rogers and Warren were aware of each other, though both often connected the state to slavery and advocated "self-sovereignty."
I hazard the opinion here, that mankind have got to abandon it, in practice and in idea, or they can never live peaceably or honestly. And what is more, they cannot have a living. There cannot be enough raised on the earth, under any conceivable degree of cultivation, to feed the race, and keep off starvation, on the property system. If the whole earth's surface were a garden, there couldn't be. Vast multitudes would have to starve to death, and nearly all the rest would live in fear of it. And the few who didn't feel apprehensive enough of coming to want to lead them to occupy their minds and cares almost constantly, through life, in getting a living, would run for relief from their lonely, rare, and strange condition, to suicide, in some of its forms. Property can't give mankind a living any way you can fix it. I throw out the idea.
Every human creature is entitled to the means of living - ex officio - from the fact that he is here on earth. It won't do to starve an infant - or an idiot - or an old man past his labor - or any body else, who from deficiency or incapacity of any kind, can't get a living. If he is put here, or found here - if he is here, he is ipso facto entitled to comfortable means. He is entitled to it consequently, whether he earns it or not, for he is so when he cannot possibly earn it. It is not charity (unless of that kind they call good will, the kind friend Paul speaks of, where he puts it ahead of hope and faith.) It isn't supplies furnished to a pauper. He is entitled to it - no thanks to any body. He is as much entitled to it - free and above-board - as a trout is to a brook, or a lark to the blue sky.
He can eat and drink, as independently, as he can inhale the air, or see the light. Why not? If he can't, he better not be introduced here. Is it well to put a human young one here, to die of hunger, to die of hunger, or thirst, or even of nakedness, or else be preserved as a pauper? Is this fair earth but a poor house, by creation and intent? Was it made for that, and were those other round things we see dancing in the firmament to the music of the spheres - are they all great shiny Poor Houses, with chance of escape to the few upon their respective surfaces, who can manage to monopolize the wherewithal, and become the overseers of the poor, for their spheres? I don't believe pauperism is the natural condition of humanity. It is the inevitable, as well as actual condition, wherever the means of living are transmuted into "property," and held as such.
The very fact of propertyizing the means of livin will turn mankind - or whatever kind - into paupers, and overseers of the poor. It cannot be avoided. One fair glance at human affairs, shows it has done it for the race, now. One retrospect, through the tube of history, discovers it so in all the past. And no expedient, no varied effort, no shifting of machinery can make it otherwise. Make air the subject of ownership - of exclusive property - and there isn't enough of it, in our forty-five mile stratum round the earth, for the lungs of ever so scanty a population - much less for the hundreds of millions now panting upon it. Make property of the sunshine, and nine tenths of the human race would have to grope in unintermitted darkness, and the other tenth have their eye-sight dazzled out by excess of light. Nobody could see by it. And there isn't water enough on the earth, fresh or salt, to give the population drink, if it were made property. And they would have made it so, if they could have guarded it from common use. And so of the air and sunshine. This hateful, wolfish principle of appropriation wouldn't have left a breath of air, or a ray of light free to the use of any soul on God's earth, if it could have possibly prevented it.
But air and sunshine won't stay owned. They can't be appropriated. Ownership has laid hold of humanity itself and appropriated it, directly and confessedly, body and soul, but it can't grasp the subtle sunshine and the nimble air, and hold them to self, "heirs, executors, and administrators." If it could, it would, and we should see air sold out by the breath, and sunshine by the ray for what they could be made to bring. And the mass of mankind wouldn't have a comfortable supply of either, and myriads would die for want of both. There would be as abundant a supply of all the other means of living - necessaries, comforts, elegancies - - luxuries if you will - as there is now of air and sunshine and water, were they not made property. That is, if there were good nature enough and good sense enough in exercise to leave them free.
To appropriate them, is to appropriate human life. To make them property is to make life property. To make them subject of ownership, of accumulation, of loss, of theft, &c., is to make human life subject to all these. He takes my life, says Shakespeare, who takes the means by which I live. I mention the authority, for people think something of him. To appropriate the land and its products, spontaneous or produced, is inevitably to debar mankind a living. I say, inevitably. Make these things property and there isn't, and can't be enough of them on earth, to keep people alive, be they many or few.
Henry Clay says "that is property, which the Law makes property." The brilliant creature was driven to say it, to maintain slavery, Law is the author of property, and it can legitimately make one common thing, or creature so, as another. A creature, as legitimately as a thing, and one creature legitimately as another. A biped, as a quadruped - a man, as an ox. Accordingly Custom Law has made man property. It has chosen the Negro. He is docile, and pliant, and will bear being appropriated - alias enslaved. It would enslave, alias appropriate. any other class of mankind, that could be kept and used in that state. The Law is no respecter of person or thing, in this behalf.
May-be I am impracticably fine here. May-be not. I am sick as death at heart, at this mortal, miserable struggle among mankind for a living. "Poor Devils" - they better never have been born, a million fold, than to run this gauntlet of life after a living - or the bare means of running it! Look about you, and see your squirming neighbors, writhing and twisting like so many angle worms in fisher's bait-box, or the wriggling animalculae, seen through a magnifying glass, in a vinegar drop held up to the burning sun. How base it makes them all - all but a few, rare, eccentric spirits, who, while others have monopolized all the soul that ought to belong to the human race. I know some it couldn't spoil.
But coming from house to printing office this morning, even in our small city, I felt dismayed at the aspect of the struggling and panting people, pushed to death for a living! Nobody is safe on the earth amid such a system. Laws as severe as fate can't protect any body. Let it be abandoned or let this be the the winding up of the generations, I say.
my splicetoday column is about living in rural trump country that is quite dependent on immigration. we could emphasize the economic dimension, but i might say that what i think is most hopeful is emergence of hybrid cultural expressions: wild mex musical gigs in east berlin pa, spanish-language catholic and evangelical churches, non-twee fusions of cuisine, babies raised between two cultures. i don't mean to imply that there aren't also some tensions, however.
i refer to the spanish speakers of northern adams county as 'mexicans' because it does seem to be almost 100%.
i'm spliced today, fomenting rebellion against the meritocracy.
data (from my twitter feed):
the average hip hop artist is far more verbally adept than the average perfect scorer on the sat.
the average trailer-park resident can kick the average technocrat's ass.
the average recovering addict knows more about human beings than the average psychology professor.
i missed the chance to nail the end. i should have come back to 'varieties of sheep.'
i feel both ways about brexit. i do love it when people sneak up and nip pollsters, not to speak of technocrats, elitists, professors, and such. and the bigger the system, all else equal, the less democratic: the further from any particular person's or community's input. i think these same professors and technocrats expect the whole world to unify into a super-state (habermas is in this spirit, for example), which would leave every particular situation so distant from power that no one could have any self-determination at all. i like localism: local cultural differences, vernaculars, folk arts, funky customs, and so on. a world where those things are being expunged in favor of standardized tests is a world i'd prefer to depart. so i am viscerally sympathetic to almost any secessionist movement anywhere; i'd like to see us fragment.
on the other hand, i'm no fan of nationalism, anti-immigrant fever, border walls, and the like. i want a spontaneous localism confident enough in itself to be happy with other localisms and to shift with new members and generations. nationalism has been an element in terrible wars and oppressions and exclusions, and it's not natural or inevitable; the nation-state emerged in history.
i'm unimpressed by the technocratic freak-out now in progress, which has plenty to do with sudden shocks in stock markets. this too will pass. this is not as wild or unaccountable a change as people are making it out to be this morning.
like i say, my very andrew-wyethy bit of rural pa is about 50% mexican. (i'd say 'latino', except it really seems to be almost all-mex). my favorite spot out here is tania's mexican restaurant (and jewelry), down near the big canning plants in aspers. when i moved out here four years ago, it was all-mexican in staff and clientele; it was hard to order if you didn't speak spanish. one time i saw some boys in a truck drive by, flying the rebel flag, honking the whole way and flipping the bird at the place in general. also it's kind of a community center.
but it has dawned on people. man it is good; you've never had good mole, i bet. some of the staff seems to have intermarried with the anglos, and there are babies. this evening, there were a couple of different groups of mennonites in there, and quakers i recognize from meetings. there was an asian dude, as well as a bunch of folks looking all-mayan.
i don't know how trump will really play out here; you do see signs and stickers. but if we know what's good for us, we'll roll down there and tear down any wall that may arise, for this area was dying - culturally and economically - before the influx. there are many abandoned old houses and stuff; a number are being rehabbed and inhabited by mexican families with small children. i think the whole situation is paradigmatically american, actually.
once again, all the world's call girls and rent boys have descended on davos, switzerland. oh, and all the world's sex workers are there too, one would think. characteristically, the richest and most powerful people in the world want to be dominated and humiliated. at any given moment, no doubt, a substantial percentage of the participants is being flagellated and roundly verbally abused, possibly in their diapers. on the other hand, there are certainly plenty of rapists among them as well.
there is nothing sadder than american progressivism. first of all, it was never coherent: the only plan was to help people by subordinating them. all day every day for what's coming up on centuries now, the left gets a bunch of experts together to tell us how to fix...black people. it has not changed in decades; there are no ideas, no imagination, just autistic repetition. de blasio is going back to the high-rise housing project. the first time around, it was a straight-up reservation system, and the indian reservation was also a progressive program for the uplifting of a backward race riddled with pathologies. the basic model of the 'great' 'society' was the internment camp, built by demolishing actual streets, houses and communities. in this case it was the imposition of a completely state-dominated concrete environment designed by evil cretins, i.e. experts: just the sort of people who rise in our meritocracy. then you wondered why the residents tore the place up. let's see...it must be their pathologies! we need professors to tell us how to fix them again. and again. and...
or how about some forced residential integration? in both these cases, allow me to point out that community cannot be imposed on people through sheer prescription, backed by force or even incentive. perhaps there is a bit of energy on the left just now. i am just begging y'all not to use this energy to run backwards to the same old disasters. also i am saying this to you straight up: you don't know how people do live, and you don't know how people ought to live, and the only decent situation is one in which people decide that for themselves, not where harvard professors decide it for them. the first datum for any actual movement toward social justice has just got to be this: people's autonomy must be respected. it's their account to themselves of themselves that matters; to think anything else is just to perpetuate the privilege to which you purport to be opposed: your own privilege, bill de blasio; your own, rahm emanuel.
daniel patrick moynihan, let's say, was what we might term an internal colonialist, bwana in a pith helmet on safari to uplift the dark continent within and bring to it the blessings of civilization.
probably folks like those think that they have devoted their careers to remediating the hierarchy they are themselves perched atop, and they propose to remove it specifically by its ever-more thorough exercise. they are enjoying it, claiming it, and imposing it. and simultaneously they are identifying it as the problem they're trying to fix. spend the next few generations in withering self-examination instead of other-examination, alright?
black people and poor people or trailer trash or whomever you're thinking of: they are far more qualified than robert reich to decide how they should live, and unlike robert reich they have a right to. i'm serious: there is no ph.d. that will help you know how people should live; there are no ethical qualifications, no certifications, no expertise except living your life with other people in your place. for example, cass sunstein prescribes the nudge, but the whole thing just effortlessly assumes that people like cass sunstein understand what each of us should be nudged toward. there are no experts on that but each of us. and you should contemplate the extreme arrogance of people who simply take it as a given that they know how everyone should live. that's an ethical failure, a golden rule violation. but it also just shows the breathtaking incomprehension, self-regard, and unconscious evil of the privileged, and helps reproduce the structure of that privilege generation after generation. and the program is supposed to be egalitarian. no doubt they're off rocking davos on behalf of the oppressed.
people like reich and sunstein exemplify the ways class and race are articulated or actually made now: they move back and forth from academia to think-tank to state, through the archipelago of social-science expertise, epistemic prestige, and real power. (and i am telling you that even rahm and bill are future distinguished professors at the kennedy school of government or whatever as they wait to cycle into the cabinet.) but reich and sunstein, for example, take on the neutral voice of the social scientist and they are chock full of statistics. this voice is an extremely central example of the 'unmarked' position of privilege: they do not implicate themselves in their advocacy. but the social sciences - overlapping with a medical model of pathologies and also a criminal-justice discourse - have been the nexus of racial and class construction since the early twentieth century. (before that they measured your skull and tried to fit your people into the sequence of evolution: somewhere between slug slime and nature's crowning achievement rutherford b. hayes.)
all the state-implemented racial transformations, each layer of new welfare and housing programs, each new war on poverty and discrimination, has been justified by the social sciences. many have been unalloyed disasters, but expertise always gets it right this time, by its own account.
the thing about expertise, especially the (pseudo-)scientific variety: you ought to be silent before it: you have to bow to the facts; the claim is to a special power to declare what is real. and yet the categories of the statistical tables just recirculate and reinforce the wretchedly problematic race and class taxonomies, and the whole thing presupposes that we have a right to gather information on them so we can address their problems: their problems as named by us. the power dynamics are completely inbuilt, the numbers a kind of spectral emanation of the a priori stance and categories. and a long century of this has left us fundamentally untransformed. these hierarchies are more extreme and intransigent than when y'all started. how have democratic administrations done at ameliorating income inequalities, for example? i will say again: that's because the solutions and their rhetorics are imposed by direct exercises of domination by the very people who are the problem, from the very top of the power hierarchy. that just is not going to have liberating effects: not last time or the time before that and not next time.
[note to post-marxists: guess what? political hierarchies and hierarchies of knowledge are as real as economic hierarchies, and in general they coincide. it is not necessary for robert reich to be the richest man in the bay area for him to be a person of tremendous privilege in more or less every dimension.]
how are we going to get better on race and class and so on? start by giving up. you have no status that entitles you to re-locate people or re-educate them, to watch or cure or name them. until it's their own voices, not the experts and political authorities speaking on their behalf, it's all sheer cultural domination or even annihilation. let go. let people make their own lives.
My dad told me that a good manager was right more than 51% of the time. I think he was right -- great managers and leaders probably get it right around 60% of the time, and generally get the big things right. Republicans tend to get facts and theories and bullshit confused and are seldom right but their voters don't care that much. Like heroin, most Republican voters lose in the long run, but it's all about the rush! Quants generally get all the minor shit absolutely spot on, but punt the big things. Go figure.
My buddy Eric "El Norte Chingasa" Garland or something like that makes his living doing predictions, and he tends to be right often enough that he gets calls from moderately important people who ask him reasonably important questions for which he must provide reasonably coherent answers (Shit, man, who knows...it's all stuff. Stuff happens... Not acceptable.) that are mostly correct. Eric is not an economist. He's close enough to right to supplement his wife's income as a physician.
Crispin is a philosopher and card trickster. He doesn't care about being right until he does, and then it's usually too late. But, Crispin is right about 50% of the time and when he's wrong, it's usually due to some misplaced faith in human beings.
I'm right reasonably often -- I am not an economist. I don't get paid to be a prognosticator, so it doesn't matter. But, the only guys I'm aware of who've reasonably correct over the past few years have been the Keynesians. And of course, nobody including the US did what they recommended. So, although long, worth reading. Even considering the source...
i do love a commie. the approach is to prevent people from buying and selling staple goods in tiny quantities on the street, which they are doing because the gov can't get them into the shops.
“These right-wing contraband groups are still at work, with their anti-national and parasitic spirit, riding on the backs of the people and sucking their blood,” Maduro said Tuesday, assuring TV viewers that the government “had neutralized the perverse effects of the economic war”.
we had a hundred years of this dreck. why is maduro pursuing this? to help ordinary people.
anyway, the 'thinking' is a problem, but what i will never forgive the communists for is the rhetorical bilge. to this very day, the worst rhetoric in the world is produced by the communist party of china and north korean state media. back in the day they poured it out from capitals and party offices all over the world in heaping helpings, 24 hours a day, at their captive populations and at the world. it's a grim attempt to manipulate people, incessant, a dead sea of drivel, infinite in expanse. and yet the only thing it shows - and it shows this with crystal clarity - is the moral and intellectual level of the people who utter it. it makes their mindlessness and slavishness and murderousness evident to anyone who is listening anywhere at any time. no one believes or supports whatever might be clothed in the gibberish: i have no idea what that would even be like. all anyone ever did was capitulate or try to resist. people seem to be nostalgic for this idealistic moment. i'm afraid i can't understand who you are, or why, or how.
or, let me speculate. it seems impossible that anyone could want to produce language like that emitted by communism through the 20th century, or want to hear it, and if no one did, how could it happen at all? i think perhaps what it promised was an erasure of subjectivity, a cure for loneliness. if we all talk the same way at the same time, we will join together into a single subject, stomping with our giant feet into the future. this unity of all and erasure of each is actually the rapture for many political tendencies, left and right. but it's not enough to yearn to be one thing altogether. i think you'd better think about what sort of thing that is. in this case, it's a collective subject who talks like someone suffering simultaneously from paranoid schizophrenia, extreme stupidity, and murderous rage. it hardly matters though because then i won't be alone.
one of the central places we experience one another as subjects, and hence a place at which we experience both our own distinctness from one another and the various real dimensions of unity, is in linguistic communication. so i think the idea might be that if we all say the same words in unison, we would really have become one person. both the desire and its practical outcome should be critically examined, and what it amounts to on the ground is a simulation of unity achieved by the merest coercion. that draws people away from, not toward, one another.
i think totalitarian collectivists, left and right, thought that they were in a war against subjectivity. they experienced the idea that there was a private sphere of interiority as a threat, and they often denied that there coukld be any such thing. this in turn might suggest that there is no good distinction between sincere belief and external enactment, a position explored in many flavors of philosophy and psychology in the same period. (turning test; behaviorism; pragmatism (belief means 'willingness to act'); wittgenstein; various flavors of economic or materialist determinism; some forms of social constructionism that focus onn language as the site of the reality.) but then there is no real distinction between a bunch of passionate people all chanting a slogan they find compelling at a demonstration, and a huge mass of persons, forced to attend, chanting the the officially prescribed slogan under the eye of machine-gun emplacements. communism transitioned without apparent self-consciousness from one to the other. it is not necessary to believe in an integral or private self in order to reject this whole line of thinking. indeed, i hardly know where to begin to refute it, or why to bother, really; it is a sequence of howlers and unexamined metaphysical assumptions.
we might try a genealogy. on the level of intellectual history, we might say that both left and right collectivism - like the left and right themselves - emerge out of and reject romanticism in various ways. so, a clear early version of leftist collectivism is rousseau; on the right we might try herder. (we might focus on the emerging sites of general will or collective consciousness as essential to the left/right distinction: class and nation (the class is not in rousseau, quite).) but romanticism emerged in part out of a rejection of the enlightenment project, which did have elements of collectivism: for example it focused on rules of inquiry that we could all defer to. and a main thrust of romanticism as it emerged was the most extreme individualism ever articulated, an attempt to carve out an authentic sphere of subjectivity. here we might mention emerson, fuseli, poe, carlyle, kierkegaard, caspar david friedrich, baudelaire.
in addition, philosophy even of the enlightenment had been busily enclosing consciousness. we only know our own ideas: descartes, hume, and schopenhauer were agreed on that, anyway, and man did it get bad in german idealism. but also german idealism was always searching for a way out. the basic problematic in kant is how to get a world out of representations in consciousness, though i think he just made the problem more intense. hegel did find it in forms of collective consciousness, marx in a return to an actual external material world knowable by science: an enlightenment epistemology with a romantic and post-romantic politics. for the romantics were also characteristically apocalyptic and also yearning for justice. here we might go second great awakening, evangelical abolitionism, utopianism a la owen or fourier. hegel's philosophy anticipated the end of history; emerson kept hinting at it; nietzsche seemed to think that we were about to be transfigured.
what 20th-century totalitarian collectivism of both left and right brought forward was an extremely complex response to this material. you couldn't have real collective identity in a worldthat for each person consisted in that person's representations. so it took the form of disenclosing consciousness, or opening it to the social, the nation or class or race or whatever it may be (i wish it had consistently also placed the social i the wider world). but it was responding not to our primordial enclosedness; we are not enclosed; but to the philosophical dead end of hyper-intense individual consciousness found at the height of romanticism. both the self-enclosed idealism and the erasure of individuality entirely were fantasies, though: we've never not been distinct and non-distinct from one another and the rest of the world. the representational theory of mind was false, and the solutions assayed were quite the over-reaction.
this would all be but an interesting series of ideas or mistakes or whatnot were it not for the millions of corpses.
you and i are exactly as isolated from people and exactly as joined together with them as ever: both can be problems. no amount of coercion can ameliorate this, but i understand that everyone will keep trying. for god's sake get better writers next time round, though.
they tried to make people write novels in that key, or poetry, or symphonies. they tried to base university curricula on its shining exemplars. in the words of elvis costello: maybe they should be hung by their tongues.
as you may know, i think most leftists who are left of, say, obama, are post-marxists, whatever they may say: they are still trying to make marx's predictions come true, still trying to read history through his lens. no empirical data can budge or change this at all: it has nothing to do with reality, but with the emotional momentum of a century-and-a-half old quasi-relgion started by a prophet/messiah with the power to foretell the future (admittedly, he asserted that it was scientific, but so did many eschatological preachers of the 19th century).
so here are some aspects of the content. first of all, since we haven't flown as predicted into the commmunist ecstasy at the end of history, we must still be in the phase of capitalism. so we don't even notice that capitalism and socialism have merged: that it's state/corporate economic/political/military power that's the problem. but, it has to be odd for any marxist to think that capitalism has avoided the terminal crisis as the prophet predicted. starting as long as a hundred years ago, marxists referred to the contemporary phase - whatever it was at the time - as late capitalism, a lovely expression of wishful thinking. seems like you'd get embarrassed about that as the decades tick by, and i would have suggested a number of other dialiectical phases: "late late capitalism," "extremely late capitalism", "unbelievably late late capitalism" and so on.
maybe they got too embarrassed by this approach, though they are not folks who are easily embarassed. so now we're in "neoliberal capitalism" or perhaps since we're thirty years past reagan and thatcher, we're in "late neoliberal capitalism." well the power of capital and political/miltary systems connected with it just keeps consolidating, shows no sign whatever of disintegrating: quite the reverse. so this is where climate change comes in: it will provide the terminal crisis of capitalism: it is the realization of prophecy. people, i must say, are sitting home wanting it to be as bad and imminent as possible, and asserting - while brooking absolutely no dissent - that it is as bad and imminent as possible. it's still science, too.
anyway, i have no idea why you'd want to enter into this line of thought, or even how you'd go about making yourself believe stuff like that, but it is very pitiful. the left has just got to got to got to grab something else, or worship a new messiah or something, cause this shit is boring and ridiculous and interminable.
i was listening to diane rehm today. they were talking about 'inversion', in which an american company merges with a (much smaller) overseas company, then officially moves its headquarters to avoid paying corporate income tax in the us. people calling in were incredibly outraged; one called it 'treason'. but very few people of any sort anywhere voluntarily pay more taxes than they are legally obliged to, and there is absolutely no moral reason to. taxation is merely coercion or extortion; by all means evade it if you can. oh we have to help those furthest down, pay for infrastructure, etc. yeah plus we are supposed to be morally obliged to pay under coercion to have ourselves surveilled without our own knowledge, for drones, to maintain a world-annihilating nuclear arsenal, for elected officials to yap at each other like parrots and try to manipulate us with jive, to intern tens of thousands of latino immigrants, for the prison-industrial complex. we are morally obliged pay for policies devoted to moving all the wealth produced by our society to wall street. we are supposed to pay to have ourselves put into fatal chokeholds because we are selling lillegal (=untaxed) cigarettes on the street, or to fund the abuse of our children.
but we are in this together! what about the collective? yeah what about it? because this sort of universal coercion makes any authentic collective action impossible by definition. if you believe yourself to be morally obliged to capitulate, i guess go ahead and pay all you have to realize the projects of the wealthy and powerful and murderous, which according to you embody your very identity. but you're operating with a moral code according to which coercion is cooperation, extreme enforced hierarchy is egalitarian, violence is order: in short, according to which evil is good.
why might new york be the unhappiest city in america? well just speculating now, but there are way too many people there. homo sapiens has extreme sucking issues, which are hard to avoid in nyc. and of course the more people you have, the less each one counts. also the glorious human gazpacho of the world's greatest place entails way too much concrete and garbage, way too few trees. (i imagine nyc also has the country's least happy trees.) plus of course contemporary art and literature make people miserable, and there's a lot of that there.
also, clintonville is the scene of grotesque continual enactments of extreme inequality. now we're in this meritocratic phase, and the basic idea of that is people get what they deserve, and what they deserve is shown by their standardized test scores or those of their children, or what colleges they got into or graduated from. see, if we lived in a meritocracy, $$$ would be proportional to desert, which is definitely, for example, how the nypd approach the enforcement of the law. (in fact, probably there are more laws and more cops than in most places. you might reconsider your basic bloombergian view that that is itself a source of human happiness.) so when a rich person struts around new york, she conveys sort of by every movement that she deserves so so much more than you do, itself a beautiful refutation of the whole picture on which it's based. it's all very hilarious, and yet still some folks might find it somewhat irritating.
there's been a lot of criticism directed at obama for invariably attending fundraisers galore as the world dissolves. but i think that it is very important that he do so, in order to take direction from the people who are running the country. obviously, the pres needs to maintain close ties to the super-rich who govern us. barack and hillary and other members of the billionaires' staffs are going to devote the next few years to addressing economic inequality, by enjoying it immensely every day.
the common core is an extremely good political issue, or an extremely good reason why atomic weaponry should be available to every consumer, every parent, every teacher, and every child. dirtier the better. now, the rhetoric around the damn thing is egalitarian. it was written by the bill and melinda gates foundation, or in other words the egalitarians are turning your child's head over to the very richest man in america. why are they doing that? because egalitarians such as arne duncan and barack obama measure merit in cash money. indeed, the other purpose, besides the 18 billionth disingenuous attempt to equalize us all, is to crank up our capitalism so's we can compete with china. the picture is 'meritocratic' where merit means 'filled in the right little bubbles, so can work for microsoft'. you probably think this is progress!
one thing that's hard to miss out here in rural and small-town pa: berkshire-hathaway signs are everwhere. they seem to be sellling whole towns (carlisle, for example, or york), as well as rural regions. the sudden uptick in housing prices circa '11 or '12 was key to any sort of recovery, and i've always wondered about the sudden shift. i think warren buffett bought everything, literally propped up the economy. the whole thing makes sense: if you're big enough you buy buy buy, prices increase, and you sell (now) at a handsome profit. only what if you created a demand that doesn't exist, and now can't unload and prices collapse? however, if berkshire-hathaway has a huge chunk of the us housing market, never has there been a better candidate or bailout at need, or anyone better-positioned than buffett to obtain one. it really is de facto guaranteed, like fannie mae or citigroup.
i hope that elizabeth warren runs for president. obviously that's not because i agree with her about everything. but look: even though, judging by the incomprehensible partisan standards of today, she and hillary are on the same side, seem demographically similar, and so on, she cannot possibly want hillary clinton to be president. that's because, as well she should, warren does not like the fact that the democratic party in the clinton and obama administrations has been annexed by the banking industry. and nothing could be more obvious than that they have been; they literally just hire representatives of the biggest banks to run the economy, and then send them back to the banks afterwards. when they're back in the private sector, they contribute massively to democratic candidates, issue groups, and so on, and hillary and co spend their days sipping champagne with them and telling them how great they are and how much they can do for them. (after that, they pretend to wonder why economic inequality is increasing, to which the only possible answer is that they are trying to increase it.) it has got to have occurred to warren that when it comes to matters like this, she's no more happy with hillary than she is with paul ryan or whomever. elizabeth warren out on the stump for hillary clinton is elizabeth warren repudiating in every way except rhetorically everything she ever advocated about the economy. right, i hate the left-right spectrum and think it's senseless. but i would rather have a proper leftist than people who talk equality and then spend all day kissing the ass of the fatcats and doing their bidding.
this pikkety thing is rather amazing, but i don't think you can really claim something to be a classic of economic or political theory if the solutions are so primitive: a world tax on wealth. right, we're always taking every opportunity (climate change, say), to work toward a world state. why? because we are a nightmare species engaged in endless self-devourment. it might seem obvious that if wealth inequality is a problem, you need a power sufficient to redistribute. but this is just an abstraction: you are only beefing up the hierarchy you are trying to address. so really, say you put angela merkel or hillary clinton in charge of redistributing the world's wealth. here is who hillary is redistributing it on behalf of: goldman sachs. when we're not happy with her, we can turn it over to paul ryan and the oil industry. what would it take to teach you that constituting ever more intense hierarchies of political power is just a version of the very same problem you are using it to address? de blasio, warren, etc: you just can't be coming with that shit again. for real?
if there were a world redistribution scheme, it would be run by, say, dominique strauss-kahn, dedicated to blowing the rich and fucking the poor. or you could put it into the hands of a maoist, i guess, and start opening camps. anyway, it will be in the hands of someone(s), around whom a new or the old world power/money hiearchy will configure. just picture the staff/vehicles/offices/prestige of the world cash distribution institution. we'll all be put to tribute, and we'll all have to live all day with the insanely empty, self-serving jive that the institution will emit. all the children of privilege will want to do is enter this hierarchy and climb, etc.
marx, giving his positive program in the manifesto:
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.
it is pure totalitarianism, the very model for the forced collectivization of ag, etc etc. here, in short, is the formula for achieving equality: introduce the most extreme assymmetries of power, the most excruciating hierarchies, that the world has ever known. here's the formula for liberation: extreme oppression. it's scientific!
when democrats talk about income inequality, all they want is political hierarchy. when republicans talk about individual rights, all they want is economic hierarchy. neither party's ideology is compatible with even a vaguely sincere egalitarianism.
there are many striking formulations of the fact that extreme inequality is devouring our species, but this is a good one: the richest 85 people in the world have as much as the bottom 3 billion. we spend a lot of time admiring, loving, and rewarding those 85: think of how people treat gates or buffett or that fuckwad whatshisname who ran apple. but there is only one possible solution: all forms of hierarchy must be simultaneously dismantled. you can't use the political hierarchy to ameliorate the economic hierarchy, because the two are completely intertwined. understand that the political state and international multi-state organizations are what has made this degree of inequality - which is a completely absurd moral disaster - possible. beefing up the state sector to redress the injustices of global capitalism is exactly as plausible as beefing up the governments of spain, portugal, france, and england in 1670 to redress the injustices of colonialism.
release elizabeth warren on this and you just reinforce the sorts of mechanisms that made it possible in the first place. try equalizing on a state-control-of-the-economy basis and one thing you get is this: chinese princelings stashing their nation's wealth in caribbean havens. that is how marxism-leninism-maoism-etcism has turned out in the real world. seriously, this thing where we're going to use political power to equalize wealth is an article of faith: it is empirically absurd. look at the actual intertwined histories of capitalism and the state. nothing has ever been more obvious. 'davos' is a good name now for this identity. it is the place where all hookers gather to fellate the corporate state, which is really the hobby of all of us, essentially our whole lives. communism is just a slight permutation of this, and historical communism is yet another demonstration that political and economic hierarchies are mutually reinforcing.
people appear to be mystified that inequality increases under both democratic and republican administrations. oh my god! you've got to stop listening to what these people say about themselves. right? they both have entirely hierarchical orientations. they are both up inside wall street like tapeworms in your intestines. dems and reps, right and left: they have different adjustments in mind for your pension. and that appears to be enough to make y'all absorb your whole lives screaming at each other. they have massively the same political and economic orientation. surely you see that. america at the historical crossroads: hillary clinton or jeb bush? oh for heaven's sake.
the only coherent position, and the only position that is responsive even vaguely to reality has to be: oppose all coercive hierarchies. otherwise i'm telling you this just gets worse and worse. it gets worse under neocons. it gets worse under leftists: they all have the same position, really, and it is underlain by the desire to subordinate and to be subordinated. i don't actually see the distinction between the positions of paul wolfowitz and mao. or rather i hear their opposed rhetoric and i see their identical reality. i think that paul ryan and elizabeth warren have the same position, stated in slightly different ways for slightly different audiences. they do not know this about themselves, but they are perfectly complementary: we can oscillate between reinforcing the state hierarchy and reinforcing the corporate hierarchy, but these are the very same hierarchy. but also the tea party and occupy don't know this about themselves either, but they are on the same side too: the only other side.
so, bill de blasio and the whole dem party is shifting to the issue of economic inequality. quite the urgent issue, not that it's atypical of any large state-dominated society in the history of the world. but i do not believe that what they are proposing - insofar as they are proposing anything - can have any effect on structural inequalities, and i suggest that this is as demonstrable as anything along these lines can be. so what do you suggest? more food stamps? longer-term unemployment benefits? do these things change people's basic social or economic status? (right, it is important that they might enable hungry people to eat!) going to try again or pretend to try again to equalize education across poor and wealthy communities? what in the world would make you think that this has any effect on the basic structural or relational situation? has the welfare state or compulsory public education redressed structural inequalities? i would like to see the evidence. i would point you toward a century of dicking around with education to no effect. giving poor people more benefits can slightly ameliorate their situation. but it does nothing to change the structure, and indeed i suggest that it freezes the situation into place, that it and also public education, for example, makes the basic structure chronic. public education has been a caste system and a reproducer of the class structure in the next generation since it was instituted. if you look squarely at the real history of these programs, i believe that's what you see. well, maybe you are going to do them better this time. no, you'd have to actually do something comepletely else.
The Times has an interesting article this morning on the conflict between the Japanese concept of lifetime employment and the whole Milton Friedman "Shareholder value is not the most important thing, it's the only thing!" approach. The UAW had negotiated a similar package for its members in the 50s and while it cost money, it did keep the social fabric in places like Detroit and Flint and Gary and other places devastated by the goat rodeo that was the auto industry in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s. As that program was downsized and ultimately eliminated by through contract negotiations, bad situations got worse. Similar approaches were used by other firms, including professional firms, where "excess" engineers, planners, business managers and so on would be assigned to social programs or to nonprofits to help the recipient organizations cope with their challenges. I assume the corporation was able to write off that time on taxes as a charitable contribution, although I do not know. It certainly showed community involvement and was effective PR.
Ayn Rand and Vlad Lenin, Kim Il Sung and Barry Goldwater, Barack Obama and Rand Paul, Francois Mitterand and Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Fidel Castro, Friedich von Hayek and Leo Trotsky, Alain Badiou and Augusto Pinochet, for all I know, disagreed on several matters. But they agreed on this, or said they did, or have been represented as saying they did, even if they acted entriely incompatibly with it: the state was a force that was historically pitted against private capital. To reduce one was to increase the other and to increase one was to reduce the other. They vary inversely and the balance between them that you recommend constitutes the fundamental way of characterizing your political position. From an anti-authoritarian, anti-statist, or anarchist point of view, this spectrum stretches from authoritarianism on the one end to authoritarianism on the other, with authoritarianism in between. It makes anything that is not that incomprehensible. It narrows all alternatives to variations on hierarchy, structures of inequality, or profoundly unjust distributions of power/wealth. And also as a single ideology, it is merely false. Massively, quite obviously false; throughout the last five centuries, economic and political hierarchies have been massively mutually reinforcing. This is not to say that in some local moment the balance could really shift according to some left or right political progam; it is meant to point out that the choice is extremely constructed and incoherent.
as anselm argued, that is a vocal performance than which no greater can be conceived in soul music, proof of the existence of god. it's dynamic, baby.
that's - yes! - little beaver and willie clarke doing everything from b.b. to shaft.
one way to construe the left-right spectrum is as state vs capital. but this distinction is a single ideology shared by ayn rand and vald lenin. look and see: they are not distinct and you will not be pulling them apart.
Both left and right accepted an ideological framework in which state and capital were opposed; indeed to a large extent the left-right spectrum just is this idea. And yet as soon as this opposition is questioned empirically with regard to any particular fundamental development in practical political economy, it disintegrates. Panitch and Gindin adduce also the world financial crisis of 2007-2008, which was created in part by the American government's support for home ownership and the development of financial instruments based on them. Of course the American government and those of other nations, as well as international coalitions of bankers and officials massively infused the specific private financial concerns with cash in repsonse to the crisis. The United States government purchased and then re-sold domestic car manufacturers.
The interlocked histories of the corporation and state war machines, for example Krup to Germany or Halliburton to the USA must on any account be regarded as fundamental to the nature and growth of both the modern state and the modern corporation.
State repression of striking workers, for example the severe outbreak in the US in the 1890s, or the less violent outbreaks in Thatcher's Great Britain or Reagan's United States, is a tried and true tradition. State regulation of business concerns increases barriers to entry into the market and hence helps consolidate markets in established hands. This effect increases exponentially when the regulators are themselves essentially representatives of those very firms, who after all are the only ones who understand their segment of the market, and the health of which depends on their activity.The way the FCC has actually imposed corporate oligarchy on communications is entirely typical; in the public interest and so on they auctioned off and licensed first radio and then televion frequencies, and now cellular bandwidth made the networks possible, and for some time most Americans had perhaps four sources of information, all basically purveying the same interpretation of the world. The state enforced copyright laws in such a way as to limit publishing or the dissemination of music to a few large corporations. But it did the same with the railroads and mineral rights in the 19th century, for example, leading directly to the great American personal fortunes of that period. By the 1890s the American economy was being bailed out by J.P. Morgan, a gesture which it has repaid to the financial sector many times, and in response to which the idea of a central or national bank was expanded to include unidorm regulation of currency under the Federal Reserve. These mechanisms for mutual stabilization of state and capital were refined and internationalized throughout the twentieth century and still have their little drawbacks at times. One effect of a state that conceives itself and which is conceived by the population primarily as a distributor of benefits is that it stabilizes the supply and demand or manufacturing, sales, and consumption, by, for example, giving many people a certain amount to spend evry week or month. Consumption can be increased by increasing such benefts, for example in a slump with regard to unemployment benefits; this assures retailers, for example, of a certain minimal level of sales. To look at state and corporate interests as opposed in these dimensions is distorting.
The main historical point I want to make is this: the rise of capitalism is not explicable without state power, which has increased throughout the capitalist period. The modern state and capitalism have the same origins, or arose together, or really - simplifying slightly - are one thing. In many economic histories, the rise of capitalism is atributed fundamentally to colonialism, and state/corporate hybrids such as East India companies have appeared continuously in myriad variations. They are appearing still. The idea that free markets are historically distinguished from - or even are the very opposite of - large, powerful government is a completely ahistorical ideology, shared by the capitalist right and the communist left. In this regard and in a number of others, we might think of the left-right spectrum as a single ideology rather than as a taxonomy of opposites. Thus, the left-right or Democrat/Republican splits, which define American politics as a hyper-repetitive, mechanical set of partisan bromides about free markets and positive government programs with egalitarian results, depend on a historical mistake. It is one so obvious that it is actually hard to see how anyone, much less everyone, made it. Indeed, the entire history of capitalism is utterly bound up with the configuration of the state, and I do not believe that capital accumulations on the vast scales it has achieved are possible in the absence, for example, of pervasive domestic policing and the ability to project military power. The idea that you get to something like the British colonial economy - one capitalist apogee - without a state, is obviously absurd. The American robber-baron period is often held to have been to have led to hyper-concentration of wealth in a few private hands and to have been constrained ultimately by the state. I think that if you looked at the actual procedures employed by a Vanderbilt, a Rockefeller, a Carnegie, you would see that they depended fundamentally on state sponsorship and state violence, which such men were in a position to command in virtue of their wealth. That this underwent various adjustments for various reasons in the so-called Progressive era does not indicate that at that point state and capital went their separate ways, putting it mildly. And if this oscillation toward state over corporate power (sort of perhaps her and there) increased equality, I would like to see the evidence.
Many leftists hold that we live in an era of 'late' or 'global' capitalism. As they gear up to equip the state with ever more power to regulate economies (their proposed solution), redistribute wealth, and so on, they are simultaneously aware that all of these developments depend fundamentally on state power, sometimes in multi-state configurations: on central banks and currencies, for example; on the projection of military force to secure resources. This is central to the left critique of our situation, but to conclude from it that we need to funnel more resources and powers to the state and create programs that make many more people much more dependent on it is bizarre. If one thought a bit more carefully, for example, about the way that government energy policies and private energy concerns are interlocked, one would get less and less sense of any distinction. American democracy, or American politicians, depend on corporate cash, and any president who really tried to move decisively in other direction would be vitiating the economy and dooming his presidency. Just to say the obvious: regulators and corporate lobbyists and Congressional staffers are all the same people. You could go Soviet, but the most you do is sort of get rid of some of the lobbyists: you just hand your banking system and energy sector to state bureaucrats, who three minutes after that are the wealthiest people in the country, with the power to break you by raising their eyebrow.
Little Crispy's Big Law (LCBL): hierarchies tend to coincide.
Corollary: resources flow toward political power, and political power flows toward resources.
Economic power coincides with political power. This is not because economic power constitutes political power, any more than the other way round. So say you were looking for a political solution to your economic inequalities. Well, constituting the state as controller of the economy, or beefing up its mechanisms to redistribute wealth on a fairer basis is - apparent appearances to the contrary - liable in the long run to have the opposite efect. The more state control of the economy you have, other things being equal, the more entrenched and extreme the economic hierarchy. Putting it mildly, the left is confused about this. And also it is not subject to information: it does not matter what actually happens anywhere: the left will still demand intensified political hierarchy in order to pursue economic equality.
In fact, whatever hierarchies there are will tend in the long run to coincide. As a practical matter, if you recommend any hierarchy, whether of experts, races, capitalists, the Party, etc etc, you are in reality recommending hierarchy in every dimension. So, if a hierarchy of education or expertise is important in your society, then resources and political power will flow toward experts. Same with a hierarchy of beauty or athletic prowess or race or gender, or whatever it may be. But the fundamental dimensions are economic and political. I'd say it's obvious that LCBL is roughly true, and everyone knows it to be true. A white-suprematist polity in which black people were wealthier than white people, for example, would be extremely surprising. It would be no less surprising if there were no regulatory capture, for example. You could keep trying to institute reforms to pull economic and political power apart: I wonder what it would take empirically to show you that this was counter-productive. It's counter-productive because when you beef up the state to control capital, you only succesed in making capital more monolithic, more concentrated, and more able to exercise a wide variety of powers.
as i have said for so long, the one thing that everyone agrees on is that we should spend more through infinite deficits. or rather, everyone agrees about this except 'tea party republicans.' essentially we are almost reaching the point at which there are two parties: boehner/obama/macconnell/biden democratic-republicans, and the tea party. now, with regard to this issue at least, you should not listen to all the continual 'extremists,' 'hostage-takers,' 'ideologues,' and so on: they are the only force in any opposition to the ever-growing state and they had to jump ship here. they really are conscience-bound to fight on the debt ceiling, and i think they should. as soon as you hear terms like 'extremists,' invoked at once by everyone, your ears should prick up; it's obviously mere propaganda, yes? and really stop to consider the argument that we never really argued about the debt ceiling before. so what? it's never been now before. or maybe that was a mistake and people should have been focusing on that all along. anyway, the arguments need to be better than mere manipulative strategies.
now of course one might also point out that a good percentage of these tea party republicans are much more committed to tax cutting or no tax increases than to controlling the deficit, so their net contribution is less than zero anyway. if deficits and debt could ever get you concerned under any circumstances, you should be concerned now.